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Walking a Mile
IT'S NOT EASY BEING BLONDE
Sam McPherson never did anything half-assed. When she made a decision, she executed it with crystal clear precision even if that attention to detail is what proved to be her undoing. In the long run, most of her head-strong decisions ended up causing more grief than good. However, that was the furthest thing from her mind when she picked up the box of hair dye.
She decided to skip fourth period, head there and come back to campus to do the deed. She didn't realize how difficult it would be to shop for hair dye. She'd seen countless people do it on her trips to the grocery store with her mom. She watched as blondes, brunettes, red heads and others took what seemed like hours to find just the right type, color and shade. She often laughed as people took time to read the box, compare different ones and ultimately throw one back on the shelf to grab another before they ran to the till.
"I can't believe I'm doing this." Sam sat in the middle of aisle eight with more than ten boxes of hair dye scattered before her. She didn't even notice the look of shock on other customer's faces as they passed by her on their way to grabbing shampoo, conditioner or the occasional hair gel. She surveyed each box, went over the color, imagined what she would look like as a blonde and then threw the box aside for the next one. This went on for more than half an hour before she decided on the right color.
"Why would someone as beautiful as you be dying your hair, young lady?" the older woman asked as she checked out. Sam smiled at the cashier, wondering just what she was doing, too.
"It's for a... school project," she replied. "We're studying natural selection in biology." 'I guess that makes sense,' she thought, 'This will prove that blonde comes out on top, after all.'
"Natural selection?" the old woman rose an eyebrow. "And you're dying your hair because of it?"
"Yes." Sam nodded, trying to convince herself this was a simple science experiment. She wanted to prove a point, and sometimes you went to great lengths to prove it, a good journalist uses facts to tell their story. Sam was using hair dye as a means to an end, to prove once and for all that being blonde did in fact have consequences beyond beauty. She wanted everyone to see that and then applaud her for being the one to unmask it for all; she wanted her fame, her glory and her byline. This was how Sam McPherson told her stories, she lived through them.
"I see." She looked at the digital screen, "That'll be $15.14."
"Fifteen dollars?" Sam replied incredulously. "You've got to be kidding me..." She cursed under heart breath realizing she was about to give up the last of her pocket change for the next couple of weeks. 'At least I didn't have to buy it for everybody,' she throughout, still angered by the prospect of missing out on a new movie Friday night.
"That's the price you pay for beauty nowadays," the woman replied as Sam handed over a crisp twenty. "You didn't even pick an expensive one."
"Maybe I should've?" Sam's first response and then mentally berated herself. 'I don't need to look like Princess Diana.' The old woman laughed to herself, bagged the hair dye and handed back her change.
"I hope your experiment goes well." The old woman shook her head as Sam said goodbye and headed out to her car still angry that she succumbed to this type of logic.
Before she had time to dissuade herself, she headed back to Kennedy and let herself get as lost as she could in the soft rock station playing through her crackling speakers but trying to get lost in the music proved to be futile for Sam.
She turned off the station and rolled down her window to let the wind blow in her face. What exactly was she doing? Who was she kidding? Why was she so adamant on upstaging Brooke McQueen?
Things were relatively smooth between them. Occasionally, there was an argument that turned into World War III. For the most part, the ceasefire between the two had brought them closer to the moniker friends than either one of them wanted to admit to themselves least of all each other.
It was during these moments of ceasefire that Sam's mind would wander. She tried not to let herself go to that place, but every so often and with more frequency, she found herself thinking about Brooke in a way that no longer frightened her. She knew she felt something, but she rarely let herself categorize it into something more, but when it came down to it, Sam McPherson was hopelessly in love with Brooke McQueen.
She didn't know when it happened or how it happened, but it just happened, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. It had been so long since she allowed herself to open up and feel freely. Ever since her father died, she vowed she'd be the strong one, she'd take care of her mother and she'd carry on the McPherson name with the same dedication and effort her father took to maintain it. All she wanted was to make her father proud. Her mother, too, but at the end of the day the only thing she wanted more than life itself was to be half the man her father was to the world.
But now, there was something more, she wanted something more than make her father proud. It scared her and made her feel ashamed at the same time. Somehow, Brooke McQueen wedged a chisel into her heart and was slowly pushing her father out of it. Slowly, but surely, she could feel her father slipping away from her all because she began to have feelings for another girl. This made Sam feel ashamed, and it lit the fire in her to continue to go after Brooke in any way she could. She wanted to make an impression, she wanted to make her presence felt, even if that meant hurting Brooke in the process.
"Not just another girl," she reminded herself, pulling into the Kennedy parking lot. "She's not just another girl. She's Brooke McQueen." Sam parked, rested her head against the steering wheel and held back the tears that threatened to spill over. "Not again," she sighed. "I have to stop doing this to myself. Being blonde isn't going to change a thing."
She envied Brooke. Envied her more than she cared to admit. Going blonde was just one more way to pick a fight, to push her away, to cause trouble so that she could hide what she was really feeling. Brooke could turn her feelings off and on like a light switch. If only she could do the same thing. Maybe being blonde would give her that...
"Do they even write these instructions in English?" Sam said aloud, tilting her head to the side as if she was reading Japanese. The map-like instructions were in front of her and despite her vast intellect, she had no idea what she was reading. It was like a road map or some sort of hiking trail guide in a foreign language she had no hope of ever comprehending. Then again, most things such as fashion and hair styling weren't Sam's forte. She wanted to bring down the brass, not file her nails while waiting for the tide to turn.
"It would help if you turned it right-side up," Carmen pointed out. "I don't see why we're doing this anyway. I like being brunette." She hesitated, "I mean, for the most part, I don't mind being at the bottom of the totem pole. It's not so bad down here."
"That's not the point!" Sam turned around, ripping part of the instructions in her haste. "Damn it," she sighed. "Why can't this be... simpler?" Sam felt like an idiot. She took pride in her intelligence, in being able to figure out how to do things and how to take down the obstacles in her way. She could put together a computer, she could write a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper article and she could figure out how to program a VCR, but for the life of her, she couldn't figure out how to dye her own hair.
"Here, let me see," Lily took the instructions from Sam's hands. "Here we go, this isn't that hard." Sam appraised her with a roll of her eyes. "I think we use that one first," she pointed to a bottle.
"Yeah, I think that's it," Carmen said, "Then, we wash it in, let it sit and then wash it out. Can't be too difficult. I mean, if Mary Cherry can do it, why can't we?"
"Carmen!" Lily slapped her in the shoulder and just stared like she'd been hit in the face, not knowing how to respond to the contact.
"Oww, what was that for?" she rubbed her shoulder and frowned.
"Do not mention the She-Devil's name in my presence! It makes me want to hurl!" Carmen shrugged, still rubbing her shoulder. 'For a little girl, that Lily sure could pack a punch,' she thought.
"Sorry." Carmen rolled her eyes and approached the mirror, running a hand through her hair to work up the courage to dye it.
"Enough," Sam stood, as confident as she was going to be about this, "Let's do this." They each held a box of hair dye in their hands nervously. Carmen's hands were shaking, Lily's threatened to rip the box in half and Sam's were the pinnacle of steady. Anybody who knew Sam knew that meant she was anxious; she would never show it to the outside world but her insides were threatening to spill over any minute now.
The three of them nodded and then made the journey from brunette to blonde which turned into more of a mess but nonetheless a success for each of them. They rinsed, washed, repeated until their hands cramped up from running through their hair and eventually drying it as they took turns with the same blow dryer.
Sam was still blow drying her hair as the others admired their new color in the mirror. She still didn't want to believe she was dying her hair blonde to impress Brooke. There was no way she could admit that to anybody else, why should she admit it to herself? After all, dealing with the aftermath would be the least of her worries, at least internally. The longer she delayed the inevitable, the longer she could go on believing that she was dying her hair for anything but Brooke, the easier it would be for her to stay objective during her scientific experiment with natural selection.
But she knew deep down at her core that she was anything but objective.
"I can't believe how good I look," Carmen ran another hand through her hair. "I just can't believe this."
"Yeah, I know," Lily grinned. "I'm a blonde bombshell akin to some of the late, great pin-up beauties."
"I look..." Sam trailed off, looking away from the mirror. Both Carmen and Lily waiting for a response from their fearless leader, their confidence fading with every second she remained silent. 'I look like a moron,' Sam thought, 'I look like a freak. What was I thinking?' "I look good." Carmen high-fived her and Lily patted her on the shoulder.
They emerged, victorious, from the Novak as newly minted blondes. A fresh confidence flowed from within as the girls walked down the hallway and towards the cafeteria to show off their new dos.
Somehow, though, all Sam could think about was Brooke's reaction. As much as she didn't want to admit it to herself, she couldn't help but ponder just what the blonde would think of her platinum locks for just a split second. All that talking herself down earlier all tumbled down around her as she reached the cafeteria doors. 'So much for that,' she scolded herself, 'So much for not doing this for... her...'
BLONDES HAVE MORE FUN
"Oh. My. Gawd!" Mary Cherry's jaw dropped. Nicole tilted her head to the side, jaw dropped, too. Brooke McQueen stood, clinched her jaw and rolled her fists into the tightest mass she could without bursting an artery or vein or both.
"What the fu..." Nicole trailed off. The three girls watched as the whole cafeteria's attention snapped to the three newly crowned blondes that waltzed through the corridor into the rush hour of lunch at Kennedy.
"Is that really Sam McPherson?" someone asked.
"Wow!" a group of freshmen boys cat-called.
"Yowza!" some jocks started hollering.
"Is that Carmen? Carmen what's-her-name?" one of the chess club freaks asked.
"Check them out!" Josh pointed and laughed as they strolled up to the popular table.
"Look at Lil' Lily!" Mary Cherry snapped out of it. "They're blonde, y'all! Like ourselves!" She petted her own hair and waited for Brooke or Nicole to say something for her to go along with.
"They're nothing like us!" Nicole spit out viciously as the girls made it to their table. She couldn't believe the three girls standing before her were now blonde and trying to upstage them on their own stage. Nicole Julian would have none of that. Not on her watch.
"I beg to differ, Satan," Sam smirked. "What do you think Brooke?" She crossed her arms and waited for her to say something. Anything. The longer Brooke went without saying a single word made Sam's stomach lurch. There was really no facial expressions or even a look of disgust in her eyes; Brooke McQueen was as blank as a Barbie doll freshly unsealed from its cardboard and flimsy plastic box.
"Wow," Brooke said calmly. She didn't know what else to say.
That's all she said. She wasn't quite sure how to respond as her brain slowly wrapped around the idea that a very blonde Sam McPherson was standing less than three feet in front of her. Never in all her daydreams and fantasies did a blonde Sam fit into the equation, and now she just had no clue what to make of it or what to say.
Sam couldn't be more upset by her lack of response. 'I did this for her!' she screamed at herself, 'I did this for her to notice me, and she doesn't even care.'
"Wow? That's all you have to say?" Sam burst out, throwing her hands up in the air with a puzzled look overcoming her face that slowly shifted into attack mode.
"Yeah, wow." Brooke was unimpressed. If she knew anything about Sam McPherson it was this: When the going was rough, Sam did anything she could to prove a point, even at the cost of looking ridiculous. And that's what she looked. Downright ridiculous.
"I can't believe you!" Sam spit. "I can't believe that's all you have to say. Don't any of you have anything to say?" Sam was beyond furious; she wanted to upstage Brooke, she wanted to take away the limelight and spotlight, but even going blonde wasn't enough to change the tide. 'All that work for nothing,' Sam thought angrily, balling fist at her side ready to punch the first solid surface that she came into contact with.
"Well, for starters, being blonde doesn't mean you can sit at our table. See this space," Nicole pointed her finger around the imaginary barrier that separated the so-called popular table from the rest of the cafeteria populous. "This space is our space. That," she pointed to some random corner on the other side of the room, "Is where wannabes, such as yourselves, sit during lunch."
"Yeah!" Mary Cherry agreed, shaking her fist like an angry old grandma, "We don't need you contaminatin' our space!"
"Pipe down, Mary Cherry," Nicole barked. "But, seriously, can you move out of our light before we're hideously blinded by your little trip down blonde lane-"
"-We aren't going anywhere, you little blonde whore!" Carmen seethed.
"Bring it on, Carm," Nicole motioned for her to come at her. Carmen nearly lunged over the table that separated them, but Lily put out an arm to stop her and keep the peace before responding.
"That's right!" Lily chimed in, "We're going to show you just how blonde we can be!"
"And what, did you steal that line from Uncle Sam?" Nicole replied, smirking and turning to Brooke. "What's your little blonde fist going to do?"
Brooke and Sam were locked in an intense contest of wills. Neither one of them willing to break away from the other's gaze or interact with the others in the slightest. Backing down at this point would prove that one was weaker than the other, and the point of natural selection was survival of the fittest. Brooke hadn't spent her whole life as queen of the castle to be knocked down by a pawn. Least of all a pawn named Sam McPherson.
"Uh, hello! Earth to Brookie!" Nicole waved a hand in front of the blonde who blinked, her concentration broken, and she snapped her attention to the shorter blonde with a puzzled look on her face.
"What?" she responded a bit more sharply than she intended.
"Could you stop staring at Spam for just five seconds to help me out here?" Nicole said venomously, crossing her arms and waiting for her so-called glorious leader to make the first move to break the stalemate before she hired a hit man to take out Sam, Lily and Carmen before they even left Kennedy grounds for the day.
"Help you out with what?" Brooke asked, not realizing Sam was smiling at the break of contact. 'I win,' she celebrated with triumph, 'I always win.'
"With our little problem... we can't all be blonde..." Nicole didn't understand why Brooke wasn't getting it. There popularity was on the line. If everybody was blonde, then, they had to do something to upstage the blondes in school to stand out from the crowd.
"Oh." Nicole had a point. They couldn't all be blonde especially if that meant the newly minted blondes were soliciting the same attention the popular girls always received from the masses. Nicole, Mary Cherry and Brooke had to do something, anything, to regain their foothold on the Kennedy High food chain.
"You're really not going to say anything, are you?" Sam chimed in. Brooke turned her attention back to Sam and shook her head with a smile slowly overcoming her face. The last thing Brooke McQueen wanted to do was dye her hair brunette, she loved her blonde locks and going dark would do nothing to prove that she was better than anybody else. She never thought her hair color had anything to do with her coming out on top, and it surprised her that others thought it did. Maybe she was just oblivious to the subtle differences between treated her with in comparison to Sam, but she never had a reason to question it.
"You look ridiculous." Brooke said it evenly, no venom or malice implied. She didn't even care if Sam responded or not; she was getting tired of this game.
"What..." Sam's jaw went lax and her mouth went dry. The cafeteria went silent. 'Ridiculous? I look ridiculous. That's all she's going to say...' thought Sam, 'Of all the scenarios drawn up in my head, this was not one of them...' So, Sam did the next best thing she could think of: She went on the offensive and hit below the belt. It was the only defense mechanism she knew how to counter with, it's the only thing that protected her from the world at large, and she used her superior wit to inflict maximum damage to the people she loved the most.
"Well, at least I had the guts to see if blondes really do have more fun," she spewed, "Unlike you, who has proven time and time again that the only fun your blonde little fun has is watching the people you love run in the opposite direction or did you forget that your blondness really didn't keep mommy around, now did it?"
Brooke couldn't even look at Sam. She felt like her very core was on fire and that any moment she could spontaneously combust; she had to get out of there, she had to get away from her, she had to be anywhere but there. She did everything she could to keep from throwing up as she practically ran out of the cafeteria for her car.
Luckily, she had her car keys in her purse, otherwise, a trip to her locker would've made her a target for anybody close enough to see the tears falling down her cheeks. She didn't want anybody to catch up with her, and before anybody knew what to say or do, she was gone. Brooke was raging inside and the only thing she wanted to do was curl up in bed and die. 'Sam's right. The only thing being blonde has done is made the people I love run away,' she thought as she drove, 'That's the only thing I've ever done. Is push her away. Push who I love away. And then they run... just like Sam...'
Meanwhile, Sam stood, alone, in the parking lot desperately looking for Brooke. She'd miss catching up to Brooke by a good ten minutes. The moment the words came out of her mouth, she regretted saying it. She didn't even have to finish the sentence to know she'd want to gut herself over saying it aloud. Now, she wouldn't even have a chance to say she was sorry, because she delayed running after her and the first place she checked was her locker knowing that the blonde wouldn't attempt to go where anybody could find her.
"Damn it!" she cursed before heading to her car to speed back to the Palace. "What have I done?" she threw her hands in the air, leaned her head back and took a deep breath. "What the hell have I done?"
Brooke had made the transformation from blonde to brunette. She went to the pharmacy down the street, picked up the first box of dark brown hair dye she found, paid and left in such a fury she didn't even realize she left the car running in front of the store.
The new brunette now admired her handy work. If there was anything she knew how to do in life, it was how to make herself look beautiful. Not superficially beautiful, where the only people who enjoyed how she looked were the people around her, but she knew how to make herself feel beautiful when the time was right. Right now was one of those times. Looking into the mirror, for the first time in the last year, she felt at peace with herself despite the tumultuous lunch time encounter.
Brunette locks framed her face, and she couldn't help but smile that she actually felt good about herself with darker hair. 'Wow,' she thought, 'This looks... natural.' She tossed aside the box of hair dye and washed her hands, all the while letting the wet locks graze her cheeks and humming to herself.
She began to blow dry her hair trying not to think about what Sam said to her in the lunchroom. She didn't want to cry again, and more importantly, she didn't want to try and convince herself that she was doing this for any other reason than she wanted to. After all, admitting that Sam truly did have an impact on her would be akin to flying the white flag in your own camp before the enemy even began to overrun your troops. She refused to give in, she refused to let herself go there, but deep down inside, she knew the truth. She was doing this for Sam. She loved Sam. She wanted Sam to notice her, and she wanted to tell Sam how she felt, but she knew the only thing holding her back at the moment was her anger masked by her fear. She was enraged, and as soon as Sam showed up she hoped to put aside that fear; she was going to give her a piece of her mind.
Brooke McQueen wanted more than anything in the world at that very moment to prove to Sam that she was worth just as much as a brunette as she was a blonde. And she was going to do just that, even if it killed her.
YOU REALLY ARE A NATURAL BLONDE
Brooke was still blow drying her hair when she heard the gentle knock on Sam's door to the bathroom. She ignored it, continuing to run her hands through hair as she dried it in parts.
"Brooke, I know you're in there," Sam leaned her head against the door, knocking again. "Please, let me in." She jiggled the handle again to no avail. "Brooke, please, I want to apologize."
"Go away, Sam," Brooke replied, wanting to cry but knowing better. She set the blow dryer down on the counter and ran both hands through her hair one final time before resting them on the counter and looking into the mirror thoroughly.
"Please, Brooke..." Sam pleaded, her forehead now resisting on the mahogany door, "Please, just let me in, let me explain..."
"There's nothing to explain," Brooke closed her eyes and replied. "Just leave me alone, Sam. I don't want to talk. Just go away. Leave me alone. Get a hint."
"I can't," Sam breathed out so only she could hear it, slamming her head into the door ever so slightly. She walked back to the center of her room, punched the air and then headed out of her room and to Brooke's bedroom door. It opened without hesitation and before she knew it she ran into Brooke as she headed into the bathroom from the other side.
"What the hell?" Brooke jumped back when she ran into Sam. "What are you doing? What are you doing in here?" Neither realized at that split second that Brooke was naked. She figured Sam wasn't home, and she wasn't going to get in if she did show up, so, she went without a towel when she stepped out of the shower.
"You left your door unlocked." Sam's eyes raced over Brooke's once golden locks and she just stared at the brunette before her.
"Oh." Brooke shrugged, turning to face the mirror again, dismissing Sam. She didn't want to get into this now, not right now, not when she put her defenses back up.
"Oh!" Sam pointed, coming to the realization that Brooke was naked and covering her eyes like a teenager who walks in on her parents having sex. "Oh. My. God-"
"-I don't look that bad, do I?" Brooke suddenly realized she might've made a big mistake.
"No, no, of course not," Sam blurted out, still covering her eyes, before realizing she should just turn around. She turned, crossed her arms and tapped her foot widely.
"Oh. My. God!" Brooke exclaimed, furiously reaching for her robe before wrapping it tightly around her frame and blushing profusely. "I didn't... I'm sorry... I wasn't even..."
"You really are a natural blonde," Sam said just loud enough for Brooke to hear here. It wasn't her intent, it just slipped out with the lack of oxygen and the arousal billowing up from her center.
"What did you say?" Brooke asked, puzzled. Sam shook her head. As smart as Brooke was sometimes her sheer blondness, for all intents and purposes, proved the adage of how dumb blondes really were.
"Nothing. Nothing at all," Sam shook her head. "We need to talk."
"Okay..." Brooke was still confused. Sam couldn't help but laugh at the goofy grin on Brooke's face as she tried to wrap her head around what she had said. "I don't get it. What did you mean by that?"
"Think about it Brooke." Sam's cheeks flushed, too. "Just take a minute and think about what I said." Sam watched as a new flush washed over Brooke's cheeks the moment she understood what she heard.
"Oh," Brooke didn't know what else to say. "Oh..."
"Wow." Sam nodded. "I didn't know you were... checking me out the whole time I was naked!" Brooke threw a bottle of lotion at Sam who barely ducked in time as the bottle cracked against the door frame.
"I'm sorry!" Sam threw her hands up in the air in defeat. "Really... I couldn't help it... you were there, and I..." Brooke picked up a bottle of hand sanitizer and held it menacingly. "I'm sorry, Brooke! Truce! Truce!"
"Fine," Brooke set down the bottle, crossed her arms, "So, did you like what you saw?"
"What?" Sam wasn't expecting that type of talk. She was expecting to talk out what happened in the cafeteria, she was expecting to apologize profusely and then some; she wasn't expecting to discuss if Brooke's assets lived up to their reputation. "Now, I think I'm the one that's confused."
"Are you going to apologize?" Brooke looked disappointed that Sam didn't jump down her throat with the last question. 'Maybe now's not the time,' she thought sadly, 'But when will it be the time?'
"That's what I wanted to do," Sam stuttered a bit, "I just... I don't know what I was thinking. I really am sorry, Brooke. I was out of line, and I'm just... I'm sorry."
"Apology accepted." Brooke pointed to the door. Her heart sank. Sam just never saw it. She never dived deeper than her own little warped view of the world around her. Even now, she didn't get where Brooke wanted to go, and why should she give in and lead the journalist down that road? "Now, I need to finish getting dressed. Do you mind?"
Sam merely nodded, left the bathroom and headed into her room. She slammed the door behind her, heard Brooke lock her bedroom door and unlock the bathroom one. Sam sighed, sinked to her bed, threw herself onto her bed and began smothering herself with her pillow in an attempt to end her misery.
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