Franka shrugs on her shirt and buttons it quickly, giving herself a quick once over in the mirror. Not bad. Just needs a little lipstick and… She rifles through the things on the dresser. Where the heck is her…
“Maria!” she calls out, exasperated to all hell. Her brother better be damn appreciative if he comes home to a living daughter, because it’s going to be a really close call.
A little guilty face pops into the room, red stains smearing chubby cheeks. It takes all Franka has to contain both the urge to laugh out loud at the little clown face, and to blister her butt.
“Maria,” she begins patiently, looking the child in the eye. “You wouldn’t happen to know where my lipstick is, would you?”
Maria shakes her head wildly, the movement carrying all the way down to her legs. “No, Tante Franka.” Looks innocent as an angel, blinking wide eyes at her.
“Hmm…that’s not good. I need to find it right away. That’s special lipstick, you know?”
“Special?” Maria asks, as she shuffles her way across the room to her bed.
“Yep. Made just for me you know. By Old Lady Eberstark.” That gets an immediate worried look just like Franka assumed it would. All the neighborhood kids think that poor old woman is a witch. Hell, she thought it when she was a kid too. From what Franka can figure, the woman hasn’t looked a day under 80 in her whole life.
“Old Lady Eberstark?” Maria parrots back slowly, watching Franka with big eyes.
“Mmmhmm,” she drawls out, enjoying the moment. “She made it just for me. Said that anyone else who used it would probably turn the color of the lipstick within …hmm…what did she say?” Tapping her finger on the dresser top slowly, she tries to hide a grin. “An hour I think. That’s just the first symptom, though.”
“Just the first?”
Franka nods solemnly. “We need to find the lipstick, Maria. After that…well it’s ugly after that.”
Franka gives her a sympathetic look and then turns back to the mirror to straighten her shirt, surreptitiously watching the little one. “Don’t you worry, Maria. I’ll find the lipstick before anything like that happens. Nobody’s lips are going to fall off.”
Coughing to hide a laugh, she turns to watch Maria frantically rubbing her lips. “Maria, sweetie, you’re looking a little red in the face. Are you feeling alright?”
“Tante Franka!” the little girl shrieks, throwing herself at Franka’s legs, blubbering about how she took the lipstick. “Please make it stop, please, please, please my lips are going to fall off.”
Franka kneels down and laughs hard, rubbing the lipstick off her face with her thumb. “You are such a little thief. And a liar. I’m going to blister you one of these days,” she says firmly as she gathers Maria in her arms and sets her on top of the dresser.
Maria sniffles loudly and looks at her with all the pathetic misery of a wounded puppy. How’d she get herself stuck with a con artist six year old, anyway? Ignoring the pout, Franka licks a corner of her handkerchief, rubbing harder at some of the stains.
“Mrs. Eberstark is not a witch, Maria,” she informs the girl gently as she wipes at the last smear. “Stop listening to the neighborhood kids. And no more stealing. Promise?”
“Promise,” the girl reluctantly agrees with a sigh.
Franka smiles and puts her back on the ground, smacking her lightly on the butt. “Now I need my lipstick, monster. Go get it.”
Maria runs out of the room with all the grace of a stumbling drunk, leaving Franka to eye the dresser for any other missing items. Everything else seems accounted for, though her necklace is definitely resting in completely different place from where she put it down. Brat child.
Loud galloping footsteps herald her return, the lipstick and a letter in her grubby little hand. “Mama said this was for you,” she offers with a little dance. Girl gets over her frights way too easily. Franka’s going to have to come up with better stories.
“Hand it over, monster,” she says with a little smile, as she puts her things in her bag.
You keep promising to let me take you to dinner. I expect you to follow through one of these days. Maybe Friday?
Starving in wait,
Franka can’t help the silly grin that spreads across her face. Stupid looking, she knows, thanks to the mirror right in front of her. And yet still, it won't go away, even when she makes an effort.
“Tante Fraaanka,” Maria sing-songs, skiping from one foot to the other. “What does it say?”
“It says you are insufferably nosy,” she answers back, trying for a stern look, but the damn grin won’t leave her face. “Now, c’mere.”
She quickly applies the lipstick to her own mouth and then lightly to Maria’s. “There you go. Now you look like a real lady rather than a painted lady.”
“What’s a painted lady?”
Franka blushes and grabs her bag quickly. “Ask your mother, monster. I have to go to work.”