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            Three months into the world of performing in places that weren’t wooden stages in beat-up neighborhoods, in halls much bigger than the vaulted ceilings of the Cruz church, and the Soul Madonnas had developed a routine. Getting ready together was as familiar as the bedroom Yolanda, Mylene, and Regina all shared together on nights like this.

            They didn’t have a boudoir or anything like that yet—they had to get ready at home and then ride the subway, all glammed up, divas and angels travelling in tagged-up cars. Mylene would talk and talk while they brushed out their hair, about how soon enough they were gonna go straight to the top, have personal dressing rooms and everything. For now, though, they zipped each other into their costumes, sequins glittering under the flickering light.

            Mylene was first, which never bothered Regina and Yolanda. Someone who dreamed so big deserved the spotlight and they were both simply along for the ride. Regina would grab one of her hands and choose the most extravagant nail polish and set to work, gossiping about the latest trends and the girls at school. On the other hand, Yolanda was always intensely focused when doing Mylene’s makeup, quiet and contemplative. She’d spent her whole life flipping through fashion magazines and Mylene was always willing to sit still and let Yolanda test her newest idea of eyeshadow combinations. She was always a little reluctant to put makeup on herself, but Mylene’s face was a canvas she could work on forever. The little spark of excitement she would feel when Mylene would gaze up at her after she evened out her eye makeup, dark and feathery lashes complemented by the glittery hues, was indescribable. Yolanda both hoped and dreaded Mylene noticing how long she would leave her hand on her face, how close she would pull her in to apply blush, how she would sometimes just stop and look at Mylene and feel the strange rush of adoration wash over her. Mylene would stare back just as intently sometimes, her eyes roaming across Yolanda’s face before making a comment like, “You look damn good, Yolanda. The boys are gonna go crazy tonight.” As if Mylene looking at her like that wasn’t enough to make her go crazy anyways.

            Regina was always more composed, never one to wear her heart on her sleeve, at least when it came to falling in love with people. If she blushed, she didn’t show it. Just relished in the sensation of holding Mylene’s hand, leaning close to blow on the nail polish to dry it. Mylene would sometimes watch her do it, the precision that Regina would focus on her hands. Maybe she knew and maybe she didn’t—the thoughts that went through Regina’s brain were all about how Mylene’s hands looked perfect in so many ways. Zeke was lucky to be able to hold them because they looked like they would fit right into anyone’s open and willing hand, a bird in a nest, a cherry on a bush or whatever the fuck. It just looked like her hands, nail-bitten though they were, should have been clasped in Regina’s own.

            Regina was the second one and once Mylene’s nails were dry, she would get to brushing Regina’s hair for her. Long and dark and without the texture Mylene sometimes found frustrating in her own. A smooth dark river that flowed easily, ending in a little wave, the junction between fresh and saltwater. Mylene would probably never tell Regina how she thought she looked like the Virgin Mary—Regina would probably laugh it off. But the way that her hair framed her face, the way her pink lips pouted down into something almost pious when she wasn’t making a quick remark, was genuinely beautiful. When they had finished performing and confetti was raining down on them, the silver and gold bits stuck in her hair looked like the stars on the Lady of Guadalupe.

            Perfect colors and doe-like eyelashes were Regina’s specialty, so Yolanda never really helped with her makeup. Instead, Yolanda would help pin parts of Regina’s costume in the right places. Her costume seemed to fall out of place more often, probably because she was the most excited about the dance moves and the costumes were not always designed for staying together. It reminded Yolanda of when they used to put on her mom’s outfits, twirling around in ill-fitting heels and dresses. Now though, Regina had grown to fit so many different outfits, always ahead of the fashion game. After all that time though, Regina and Yolanda would still pose with each other in mirrors, holding tops up to their chests and deciding which looked the best. They shared clothes so often it felt like being sisters, but Yolanda wondered to herself what it was like to share a closet like Dad and Mom did, two fancy outfits they would wear out to dinner together, hanging side by side. Regina and Yolanda spent so much time together that Yolanda was practically in Regina’s back pocket. She was sharp, funny, and always surprisingly tender when you needed it. She was quick to reply with a joke about poking in the wrong places if Yolanda accidentally angled a safety pin the wrong way, but Yolanda would never dream of doing anything to hurt her for real. A playful little nudge never hurt anyone though.

            Yolanda would be last, but not for lack of care—it was because she spent so much time on the other two, who would eventually push her down into her chair and insist on making her look just like a star too. She would blush and giggle at their compliments and eventually relent to sitting and having them doll her up. Then it was Mylene doing nails and costume fixing and Regina doing makeup. Mylene was fascinated by Yolanda’s hands; smaller than hers, yet deft and nimble. Tapping a rhythm here, rearranging the clutter on the table there. Two weeks ago, Ra-Ra had bumped into Yolanda and caused her to slice her finger while chopping vegetables. The scar was beginning to turn into a pale mark, probably gone by the next week, but for a moment all Mylene wanted to do was to kiss it, gently enough to wish it away. She was fiercely and strangely protective over Yolanda and Regina both—knew they could handle themselves but wanted to keep them close to her, safe and sound, anyways.

            Regina was always joking around with Yolanda, sometimes saying things just to scandalize her and Mylene, earning a playful slap on the arm. But Yolanda always laughed along, her eyes crinkling in a way that made Regina’s heart jump. She thought she would do anything to make Yolanda laugh, passing notes in class with stupid little sayings or doodles that would make Yolanda snicker. Right now, her face was calm and still, trying to make Regina’s job easier—Yolanda was always trying to make other people’s lives easier and that was one of the kindest things about her, even if she did sometimes bat her brothers around. It made Regina want desperately to be a better person. She carefully filled in Yolanda’s lips with lipstick and lipgloss, leaning back to get a good look at her work, even though she wanted to lean in and close that gap between their lips instead.

            None of them ever breathed a word of bond they had to each other, but right now they didn’t have to—knowing that if one of them was ever to fall, the other two would be right there to catch her; especially if it was falling in love.