Becoming Princess Fairy Sparkles
Steph’s mom bought her a Barbie for her fourth birthday. It was love at first sight. The Barbie – who Steph named Princess Fairy Sparkles – went everywhere with her.
Sparkles was tucked into the front pocket of Steph’s pink Barbie backpack for the first day of kindergarten, a beacon of comfort and companionship as Steph stood trembling while her classmates surged around her.
Sparkles snuggled in bed with Steph through the cold, waning nights of her parents’ marriage. Sparkles promised never to leave, even when Daddy did, just after Steph’s eighth birthday. Once, Daddy forgot to pack Sparkles back in her bag after Steph’s weekend with him, and she had to go six whole days without the steadfast presence of her best friend. Steph spent most of that week sick in bed.
In middle school, Sparkles was the only person who didn’t laugh when Steph wanted to join the cheer squad but couldn’t get the cheer skirt to zip all the way. Quitting was less humiliating than asking the coach to order her a bigger one.
Sparkles always looked content, grinning placidly no matter how many Oreos Steph ate or how many tears she cried. No matter how many awkward dinners Steph endured with her parents’ love interests, or how many nights she sat by her silent phone, Sparkles was always serenely loyal in her pink micro-skirt and heels.
Sometime around her fourteenth birthday, just as she and Sparkles celebrated their tenth anniversary, Steph began to wonder if being more like Sparkles would make her happier. After all, Sparkles had an array of impressive careers, her pick of men, and ironclad rule over her effervescent minions.
Steph stopped eating Oreos. For a while, she stopped eating anything, until she could fit into even the tiniest of the cheer uniforms. When she joined the squad again her sophomore year, no one laughed at her. No one really talked to her – by then, the social boundaries had been too clearly defined – but as long as she smiled like Sparkles, showed up to games on time, and shook her poms, no one bothered her.
As she neared eighteen, Steph began to leverage her father’s guilt for favors: money, mostly, but also, when necessary, parental consent. For the nose job, at least, she needed him to sign the forms. After it healed, though, she turned eighteen, and then all she needed was the money. Because there was the boob job that made her topple forward, the chin implant and sparkling veneers, the brow lift and contacts to giver her Sparkles’ glimmering blue eyes. She tucked and shifted and replaced her flesh, and her father paid the bills, and both of them felt better for a little while.
Steph knew one day soon, she’d be even better than Sparkles. She wondered how Sparkles would react to being the second prettiest after all this time.
Steph couldn’t wait to find out.
Jenny Birch is a middle school ELA teacher and freelance writer who writes primarily contemporary and YA fiction. She hails from Pittsburgh, PA, where she lives with her wonderful husband and two crazy-awesome sons. She is an active member of the SCBWI and Penn Writers. She can be found on Twitter @TheRealMrsBirch