TAMPA — Alexis Miranda was in a hurry.
The last time she would ever get ready for school, she didn't even have time to clean the scattered mess of makeup and beauty supplies on the bathroom counter.
But she did have time for a selfie — staring straight ahead, hips cocked, signature kissy face. The self-portrait had become a morning ritual after her makeup and hair were done.
A few minutes later, as her grandmother drove her and two friends to school about 7 a.m. Tuesday, traffic came to a halt along busy Busch Boulevard.
She couldn't be late again. A week earlier, she was turned away at the door when she arrived after her GED class began at Chamberlain High School.
The trio decided they would hop out in the middle of the traffic jam, as they had many mornings before, and walk the rest of the way.
She spritzed on some Victoria's Secret perfume as she got out of the car.
"I love you," her grandmother Toni Burnside said.
"I love you, too," Miranda said, then shut the door.
Moments later, according to police, she was struck by a Cadillac driving in the center turn lane.
Police told the family she died instantly.
She was 17.
• • •
If there was one thing people need to understand about Alexis Miranda, her mother Valerie Jones said, it was this: she was headstrong.
"Little boss," her family liked to call her.
Jones, 42, remembered her daughter's struggles when she was a student at Gaither High School. She butted heads with teachers. The girl wasn't afraid to speak her mind.
Jones remembered the acrylic nail set she gave Miranda for Christmas, how her daughter dreamed of becoming a cosmetologist.
Miranda had decided she didn't belong in high school. She was determined to earn her GED.
"If it was something she wanted to do," Jones said, "she wasn't going to fail."
Miranda left Gaither High during her sophomore year. She wanted to make money to support herself, her mother said, so she started working at Burger King.
"She never played a victim," Jones said. "She knew her consequences brought her either good or bad, and she was smart about that."
Miranda had grown up fast. But she had no choice.
Jones, a recovered drug addict, spent time in and out of jail. She lived for six months in a rehabilitation facility. Her daughter visited her there, and even participated in talk sessions to help Jones through rehab.
Those intense experiences, her mother said, helped forge their close relationship.
"She was always there," Jones said.
• • •
At night, Jones lies in her daughter's bed.
"It keeps me close to her," she said.
She won't let herself break down in front of Burnside. Miranda's grandmother already feels enough guilt.
So Jones waits until night, when she can be alone with her grief.
She runs her daughter's brush through her own hair. She stares at the pile of beauty supplies left in the bathroom.
" 'Don't make a mess,' " Jones recalled telling Miranda. "Oh God, I wish I could see that mess again."
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Michael Majchrowicz at (813) 226-3374 or email@example.com. Follow @mjmajchrowicz.