issue 2

Chroma Charm, by Diane Callahan

The package promised “a different you in five shades!” Candice had bought it on a stupid whim. A month ago, she would’ve been more likely to wear clown makeup than lip gloss. But to win Audrey’s heart, she’d convinced herself she needed a perfectly painted smile.

Candice opened the silver box with Chroma Charm embossed on top. Nestled inside were five tiny tubes that shone peach, clear, red, green, and pink, their labels facing outward: Apocalyptic Sunshine, Secret Agenda, Lady Sinful, Vintage Disaster, and … The fifth name was obscured; Candice turned the bottle. Strawberry Fizzpop.

The next day at school, she tried the warm hue of Apocalyptic Sunshine, which tasted like mango. All through precalculus, she stared at Audrey’s kissable lips and admired how the brown waves of her hair undulated like the restless ocean of her soul. Every time she reapplied her lip gloss, the lights around Candice grew brighter, spotlighting her existence.

Her heart stuttered—she had stumbled upon magic.

Wearing sugary Secret Agenda, the absence of color, Candice became invisible and snuck into the orchestra room to listen to Audrey practice cello. The tart cherry Lady Sinful led her to belt out a siren’s song in the cafeteria, turning all heads. When she donned the sea-glass glow of Vintage Disaster, with its minty aftertaste, she parted crowds as if she were royalty. Yet still she stammered every time she tried to talk to Audrey.

Strawberry Fizzpop was the last in her arsenal, fruity and flavorful.

Candice spotted Audrey walking down the hall. “Hey—”

She touched the other girl’s backpack. It exploded, spraying textbooks and pencils like shrapnel. Candice dodged a flying protractor and bent to gather the projectiles. She looked up to see Audrey smiling at her, big brown eyes alight.

“Thanks, Candice. You’re so sweet. That lip gloss is really pretty, by the way.”

“It tastes good, too,” Candice said without thinking.

Audrey’s eyes widened. “I’m sure it does.”

Candice had scraped the colorful tubes dry, but by then, the only smile she needed was Audrey’s.

Diane Callahan strives to capture her sliver of the universe through writing fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. As a developmental editor and ghostplotter, she spends her days shaping stories. Her YouTube channel, Quotidian Writer, provides practical tips for aspiring authors.

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