Candace Linfoot was proud to say that she had a perfect life.
She lived in a white-painted house with a white-painted fence. Her grass was always trimmed, and her flower bed was always vibrant with the soft hues of the lavender and the radiant yellow of her daffodils.
Everyday, her husband would leave the house at seven o'clock sharp to go and work in the city. And then, Candace would be left alone with their perfect daughter, Breanna Linfoot.
Breanna truly was Candace's child. She had inherited her mother's thick lashed ocean eyes, and her blonde tresses that spiralled into luxurious curls that framed her face. Candace woke her daughter, pulling the curtains open and letting the buttery sunshine fill the pink-papered bedroom.
Breanna was five years old and had never been to preschool. She never would. Candace wanted to keep her little angel at home for as long as she could.
"Good morning, princess Breanna!" Candace called in a sing song voice. The little girl rolled over groggily.
"Guess what day it is!" Candace said, crouching down by her daughter's spray-tanned orange face.
"It's pageant day!"
Breanna sprung up, excitement shinning in her big eyes. Candace lead her into the bathroom and set to work.
It was a familiar routine for Candace and Breanna. Candace turned on the radio behind the toilet. Cyndi Lauper's shrill voice erupted from the speakers. She opened the drawer and applied all of the basics. She caked Breanna's orange face with paint-like makeup. She painted her lips ruby red and covered her eyelids with blue powder. She dusted glitter on her daughter's face and made sure the freckle on the toddler's chin wasn't visible. She glued a row of fake eyelashes onto her petal-soft eyelids, and coaxed the girl to put in her fake teeth.
Now was the hard part. Candace sat on the closed toilet and gripped the girl's slim body between her legs. Breanna squirmed and writhed, but Candace held her tight as she brushed out her hair and put extensions in.
At their first pageant, she had thought that maybe, Breanna's natural hair would suffice. But realized as soon as she arrived that she had made a mistake. If you wanted a crown at the pageant, your daughter's hair had to be big, plastic curls that shone like gold in the sun and did not frizz.
After the extensions were in, it was time for Breanna's favourite part of their routine. She ran, her chubby toddler legs heavy on the hardwood floor. Candace frowned. Maybe she should start looking into weight-loss programs for children.
Breanna rushed to the closet. It was larger than the kitchen, pink wallpaper plastered on the walls. Dresses were hung, floor to ceiling, an array of colours, each glimmering like a diamond in the sun.
"Which one, Mama?" Breanna squeaked.
Candace reached for the top row of dresses. It was frilly and orange like a tangerine. It was strapless with padding in the front to make it look like the wearer was a developed woman. The bottom consisted of tangerine ruffles that cascaded to the floor. It came along with a pair of custom made satin slippers.
She unhooked the dress from its place and helped Breanna get into it. She did a little twirl, flashing her pearly white fake teeth at her mother.
Candace grinned at her daughter. She brought Breanna into the kitchen and sat her down on the couch, plopping a plate on her lap. It was a sorrowful breakfast; a pathetic pile of yellow eggs, an apple slice, and half a slice of bread with butter. The most important part of the meal was the drink, or the 'smoothie,' as Breanna called it. It was a mixture of coffee, sugar, and ice cream. It always did the trick to give Breanna energy.
While Breanna ate, Candace made her way to the bathroom. She smiled at herself in the mirror, admiring the curve of her newly constructed nose. She had just had it done a month ago, and the bruise had finally faded. She brought a finger to it, and recoiled. It still hurt to touch.
She drew a red lipstick over her plump red lips. She lined her eyes with black, and doused her lashes in mascara until they resembled spider legs. She dusted her tanned cheeks with blush and brushed her teeth. She spritzed her elegant neck with perfume, and finally, changed into her black silk pantsuit and took her hair out of the rollers. She gave her reflection one last look over the shoulder, pouting in the mirror, and turned off the radio with one manicured finger.
She waltzed into the kitchen, in a fabulous mood. She dumped the dog's food into its bowl, pushing the creature off of her when it jumped up, barking, begging for attention. She didn't want fur on her pants.
Breanna was watching a movie that Candace had never heard of. A scantily clad woman strode across the screen. Breanna's eyes were wide as she watched the woman walk, her hips swaying to the steamy lyrics of the song that blasted from the speakers.
"That's how you're going to walk at the pageant, right?" She said, looking to her daughter.
Breanna did not respond, her eyes glued to the screen.
Candace laughed and picked her daughter up, shutting the television off. "Did you finish your smoothie?"
"Yes, Mama." Breanna said, letting her mother carry her out the front door. The dog tried to scurry through Candace's legs when she opened the door, desperate to escape the sweltering house and frolic in the august sunshine. Candace kicked the dog sharply in the snout, shutting the door in its face. She strode to her car, high heels clacking against her cobblestone driveway. She fumbled with her car keys, struggling to hold up Breanna and open the car door at the same time. Eventually she managed, shoving Breanna into her car seat and buckling her in.
"Good morning, Candace!" Someone called from across the street.
Candace rolled her eyes and leaned against the car's frame. "Hello, Annette."
Annette Giles was the one flaw in Candace's otherwise perfect life. She lived in the house across from the Linfoot house, with her rich husband, dog, and five year old daughter, Juliet.
Candace surely would have let Breanna play with Juliet if she wasn't their competition. Juliet was darling, with big, green eyes and silky black hair, a vision straight out of a fairy tale. She was naturally tan, and was stick-thin. Her cheeks were always rosy, her lips the perfect shade of pink. She was walking at her despicable mother's side, dressed in a jade gown that made her eyes shine like twin emeralds.
Annette smiled at Candace. "Taking Breanna to the Little Miss Colorado Pageant?"
Candace nodded falsely. "I am! And are you taking Juliet?"
"Of course! It's so nice to have a local pageant!" She crooned. "I'll see you there!"
Candace beamed in Annette's direction. "See you!"
And with that, the two women got into their cars. As soon as the door was shut, Candace groaned with agitation.
"That woman is a nasty piece of work." Candace snarled, turning the key in the car. "I can't believe her."
"Did you see that dress, Mama?" Breanna asked innocently.
"Juliet's dress. That green one. I like it."
Candace turned to look at her daughter. "But what about your orange dress! It's so beautiful!"
"I want a green dress, Mama." Breanna whined.
Candace nodded, watching Breanna in her mirror. "Yes. Alright. I'll get you a green dress."
And the two were silent for the rest of the ride.
Candace pulled into the parking lot of the Grand Denver Hotel, nearly hitting a mother with two pageant daughters in her arms. She found a parking spot far from the entrance, and had to walk hand in hand with Breanna to the Hotel doors.
Walking into the lobby was like walking into Cinderella's closet. Everywhere you looked was another little girl wearing a sparkling gown. Some girls were wearing themed outfits, some wearing crowns from past pageants, Candace even caught sight of a girl wearing a bejewelled snake wrangler costume with a live snake draped over her neck.
Breanna was going to be on in ten minutes, stage four. Candace pulled a pink suitcase behind her and found a quiet spot in the corner of the hallway, and opened the suitcase. It was filled with makeup. Candace tended to her daughter's face, reapplying the lipstick that had rubbed off and sticking rhinestones to the corners of Breanna's face. She was finished, and not a moment too late. Candace pulled Breanna by one arm through the crowd, rushing to stage four.
Backstage was a long line of girls. She took Breanna's registration papers from her purse, and found that she was number twelve. She found her daughter's place in the line, and bent down so that she could look the toddler in the eye.
"Do you remember your dance, Breanna?" She asked.
"Alright." She said, patting her on the head softly, careful not to mess up her extensions. "Remember to smile. And don't rub your face!" She said, pulling her daughter's chubby hands from her caked face.
A familiar green dress caught her eye. Right in front of Breanna, was Juliet Giles, in the number eleven spot.
"Hello, Juliet." She chided. Juliet looked up at Candace with her big green eyes. "Hi." She said gently.
Candace's lips turned into an ugly sneer as she found a seat in the crowd. She watched, almost mockingly as contestants one through ten went onto the stage. They were all obvious first-timers, two of the girls with barely any make up, three wearing dresses with not a single jewel, and one even bursting into tears. They preformed their pathetic routines, their parents coaching them from the front rows. They all received a polite platter of applause when their song faded from the hotel speakers.
"Contestant eleven, Juliet Giles!"
Juliet strode onto stage, beaming. She took her place in centre stage, her gaze lingering in the bright lights that shone on her.
Whitey Houston's voice leaped across the crowd, exclaiming that she wants to dance with somebody who loves her. Juliet twirled and skipped across the stage, holding a fake microphone to her pink lips, lip syncing as she moved.
Candace froze, fury bubbling up in her chest.
The song stopped, and Juliet receiving significantly more applause than the other girls. Candace pushed her way through the crowd, making her way to the judge's table.
"Excuse me," She hissed in the centre judge's ear. "That was my daughter's song!"
The woman turned to look at Candace. "My apologies, madam. We can't guarantee that your song won't be repeated." She raised an eyebrow. "And C'mon. It's Whitney Houston! You can't expect to be the only one!." She added with a smile, as if this were a joke.
Candace simmered, glaring at the useless woman. She made her way back to her chair, watching the curtain open.
"Contestant twelve. Breanna Linfoot!"
Breanna burst onto the stage, and Whitney Houston blared from the speaker for the second time in a row. She watched grudgingly as Breanna danced, doing the routine perfectly. But Juliet had lip-synced, and Breanna had not. It was humiliating, almost as though Breanna was striving to be on Juliet's level, but wasn't there yet.
Breanna finished the routine, bowing deeply. She gained applause, nowhere nearly as loud as Juliet's. Candace watched her daughter exit the stage, and hurried backstage to find her.
Two hours after that, Candace sat once more in room number four, Juliet bouncing on her knee. The room was crowded and noisy, hopeful mothers holding their grouchy daughters close as they waiting for the results.
One judge stepped onto the stage. Silence fell over the crowd.
"The princess crown goes to...contestant forty five...Eileen Coroway!" The judge shouted. A little brunette girls jumped onto the stage and was presented with her third place awards, a sash across her waist, a bouquet in her hands, an a small tiara in her hair.
"The queen crown goes to...contestant twelve...Breanna Linfoot!"
Breanna started at her name. Candace set her on the ground and tapped her lightly on the back, urging her to run for the stage and claim her prizes. Everyone clapped as she waved at the crowd, a slightly bigger crown placed on her head. Breanna was steered to the side of the stage to make way for the first place winner.
"The winner of the Little Miss Colorado title and the Ultimate Grand Supreme crown is...contestant eleven, Juliet Giles!"
Candace seethed as she watched Annette Giles walk little Juliet to the stage. Juliet beamed as she was crowned, the tiara easily the height of an adult's arm. She was presented with a trophy, a bouquet of roses, and a sparkling pink sash that, in Candace's opinion, clashed horribly with the green dress.
Breanna was sleeping in Candace's arms as they were leaving. She had been avoiding Annette all day, but as fate would have it, the women exited the hotel's entrance at the same time.
"Hey, Candace!" Annette said perkily. "Congratulations on Breanna's title!"
Candace gave a toothy smile. "Yes!" She said a little too loudly. "I couldn't be more proud of her!"
"Funny that we chose the same song!"
Candace had to bite her lip to keep from screaming. "Yes. Funny."
Annette laughed. "Well, see you soon! If you'd like, I can get Juliet to teach Breanna to lip sync!"
Candace narrowed her black-lined eyes. "Mm-hmm.I think I'll be able to teach her just fine."
With that, she stormed off to her car, throwing Breanna in the back seat, not even bothering to buckle her up. She revved up the engine, speeding out of the parking lot, her old car sputtering all the way.
Her husband, Jeffery, was sitting at the couch when they arrived home. He was shovelling mashed potato into his mouth, watching the same movie Breanna had been watching that morning.
"How'd it go?" He said, his mouth filled with food, as Candace marched down the hallway, towards Breanna's bed.
"Awful." She cried. "A disgusting woman, Annette Giles is! She somehow found out what song I had submitted for Breanna and copied us. Breanna got second place."
"Second place is alright." He said.
She froze, turning slowly to look at him. "Second place is the first place loser, Jeffery." She snapped.
He raised his eyebrows, throwing up his hands, exasperated. "Well, tell me what I can do to make it better."
And as she carried Breanna to bed, washed off her makeup, and changed her into her silken pink pyjamas, Candace Linfoot hatched an evil, evil plan.
She would never win a first place title as long as the Giles were involved in pageants. She tucked Breanna into bed and went into Jeffrey's office. She took a bottle of liquor from the shelf and took his gun from the wall.
They enjoyed a drink together, Jeffrey not battling an eye when Candace told him her plan. She handed him the gun, making sure it was loaded.
Before he went outside, she stopped him. "One more thing, Jeffrey." She said. "There's a green dress that Breanna likes."
He nodded, and shut the door behind him.
Candace went to the bathroom and took a bath, lighting candles and playing relaxing piano music. When she was done, she brushed out her hair, and poked her nose. It still hurt. She changed into her silk nightgown and crawled into her bed.
As she was falling asleep, she heard four resounding bangs.
The wife. BANG.
The husband. BANG.
The dog. BANG.
The daughter. BANG.
A small smile crept upon her lips. She rolled over to one side and went to sleep.
The following morning, she found the dress at the foot of her bed. She washed it in the bathtub, staining the white porcelain red. She stitched up the circular hole, and threw it into the dryer. It was ready to be worn a mere ten minutes later.
She woke Breanna.
"It's pageant day, Breanna!" She crooned in her daughter's ear. "Are you ready to go?"
Breanna rolled over, grinning at her mother. "I'm going to win ultimate grand supreme at this one, Mama!"
Candace smiled her perfect pearly smile. She lead Breanna to the bathroom, applying her makeup again until she looked like a glass doll that you'd find in your grandmother's garage.
"Breanna! Look what I got for you!" She exclaimed when she was done with her hair.
The girls' face lit up. "The green dress!" She cried. Candace pulled the dress over her daughter's head, cringing at the tight fit.
She gazed at her daughter in the mirror, admiring her beauty. She stroked Breanna's fake golden locks.
"I love you, Breanna." She said.
"I love you too, Mama."
And Candace Linfoot smiled, basking in the glory of her perfect life.