I stand in the pharmacy holding a basket full of pain medicine with my mother talking about love. Her words from yesterday echoing in my mind.
“Baby, are you sure you want to do this? You will never be able to go back,” she says, taking in a shaky sigh, her eyes closing for a moment. “Is it all because of that man? If it is, then I’m going to have to put a hard no on this appointment.”
“No, it has nothing to do with him. You were there when it happened.”
“I know, Baby. I know, I was there during the accident, but you can just let this thing be. You’re still so beautiful…” We sit in silence before she lets out a long sigh. “Fine.”
The fluorescent lights turn my skin to an icy blue, and I’m fighting my thoughts as I look at her. I feel that urge once again, that desire for time to melt and solidify into something beautiful, something worth remembering, but then she goes on and on telling me to learn how to let go of him.
She tells me that I need someone closer to my age, which is always what it comes back to. I remember the last time I sat down with him, when I pulled down my face mask, and the shame filled me. I looked at him steadily, swallowing my pride. I remember his eyes inspecting and I almost heard the disturbance in his voice. It’s not long before he said he had to leave, and the shame was tight in my chest as I turned away from his shrinking back.
When I’m home in my apartment again, I step into my pink room, put away the bags of skincare and prescribed medicine, put away the day’s jewelry, change into my Victorian nightgown, and take a seat on my bed facing the corner. I avoid the vanity in front of my bed and instead look at the dollhouse left over from my childhood.
It is the same one I’ve had since I was eight. The dollhouse had five rooms and all of the walls had different pink patterns. The first room at the bottom of the dollhouse was patterned with the delicate image of white swans. The second room next to it was decorated with a pattern of myrtle. The room above had the image of white doves stamped all over the room. The right room next to it was decorated with the cross section of pomegranates. As I grew older, the pomegranates looked like female parts more and more. At the top of the dollhouse, the very final room was an attic with the pattern of women all intersecting at the hip, all looking like they were trying to escape. They were in a shade of pink slightly different to the original pink of the dollhouse. If you didn’t look closely, you would not notice the girls trapped in the wall.
The dollhouse was furnished with Elizabethan furniture. Classical brocaded material and gold lining all over the couches, chairs and beds. It also came with a fridge, an oven, sink, a toilet, a bathtub, three beds, bedside tables, a crib, a changing table, a high chair, regular chairs and couches. I would rearrange the rooms all of the time, trying to find the perfect order, but I always kept the room with the trapped women as the master bedroom, for the parents.
The dollhouse did not just come on its own, it came with a doll family. There were four members of the family and a maid. The father was a brown-haired man in a black suit with a red tie and the mother was a paper-white blonde. She had blue eyes and a floral dress on. They came with two children, a toddler and a young girl. The toddler I always assumed was a boy because of his brown hair and brown eyes like the father and the girl was a blue-eyed blonde like her mother. They came with a maid who was tanned-skinned with brown hair and eyes and her clothes dirty. I always kept her in the lower rooms as a child. I found them to be the perfect family.
When my mother gave it to me, she told me, I hope this is how beautiful your own house and family will be one day. I remember her glass eyes as she looked at me. The built-in music box played a little song in the background, the same one it’s playing now. I prayed every single night for a house and family just as beautiful. Now the dollhouse sits in the corner of my room, the wall behind it a purple bruise like the little world of the dolls is constantly setting. The chandelier, with its semi-broken bulbs, casts flecks of light across the purple room, like fat stars.
I finally turn to my vanity and the mirror on the wall. It is cold and silver, doing nothing but observing me. It watches me do what I do everyday, peering into myself, into a flat face, thin lips, crooked nose, wide eyes, and brown hair. It sees me looking at my profile, drawing a line from my forehead along my crooked nose, down my thin lips and into my receding chin.
Insecurities flare up like a bad rash as he sits across from me, inspecting my face. It is silent at first, and I sit scratching at the scar on my thigh.
“It’s beautiful, like you.”
My face is red as I stop scratching at my thigh. As I look at him, I remember that day on the beach last year, when I laid with him, the sun tanning my skin, feeling more beautiful than ever. “It’s my favorite poem. Everyone loves Poe’s short stories, but it’s his poetry that always got me.”
His eyes linger too long on my face, but unlike the times before I don’t feel beautiful when he looks at me. He’s staring at it, the disfigurement on my face. He’s trying not to say anything, but I know he wants to ask. It’s not long before he tells me that he has to leave.
Once again, I sit in front of the mirror, flat like a solid lake. As I peer into it again, for the first time since, it ripples and something new is reflected. The face peering back into me is almost the same, but the girl is older, her lips are plump, her nose is small, her eyebrows are plucked and her hair has highlights. I almost don’t recognize her, and grief fills my chest. The feeling fades into a moment of silence, where the chilling realization sinks in; something has irrevocably changed.
Sarah is here tonight. She has been my best friend ever since the first grade, she’s the only one who understands what it’s like to be in my head right now. She is the only one other than my mother to come see me right after the accident. She held me that night in the hospital bed when my mother fell asleep on the couch and I couldn’t stop crying. She’s the only one who understood. In the summer after she graduated college, she had lost her younger sister in a car accident. Her sister was coming home from school when a drunk driver crashed her car; he made it out alive but she didn’t. Sarah has been the caretaker ever since, for both her mother and me. I take care of her too, but ever since the accident and the disfigurement, I have not been the same.
She sits on my bed behind me, looking into the mirror. My apartment is the only place on the outskirts with a balcony that overlooks the sky and the landscape of the city. The sky hangs above like a wide fabric of some sort of god and the land stretched below it is full of colors and ellusives, like burning passions of a lifetime.
“You’re beautiful, you know,” she says. “I don’t just mean looks.”
The words feel tender as she says them, and I feel a lump form in my throat. I don’t say anything, I don’t think to say it back, I don’t think to do anything but stand. She turns to look ahead, leaving a silhouette of her profile, backgrounded by the sky. Her delicate hair falls over one shoulder, everything so black and featureless. The shape of her keeps morphing and she goes delicately to my bed, vanishing into the covers and pillows. No sound, no movement, no touch.
The warmth from her words withers away slowly. It echoes in my head void of sentiment until the frigid air turns warm and my numb lips and nose come back to feeling. I think about when my next appointment is going to be.
I sit alone at my vanity, looking at the perfected face, touching the supple cheeks, gliding over the clear and poreless skin. The room is empty besides my own stuff. There’s heartbreak in the center of my chest. I’ve done everything to be perfect, how could this have happened? How could I not be the one who’s chosen?
I sit in his underwear, my sock-clad feet on my pink desk writing. I look so delicate, and I know he’s watching me from the bed, imagining what could be going on in my head, but nothing has changed from this afternoon. The sky is falling down behind me. I try to escape it. There’s a constant feeling of an ending in my chest, I don’t know what.
The mirror hangs reflecting the new image that greets it every day. I walk up to observe myself, see the plumped up lips, the hollowed cheeks, the tanned skin, the almond eyes and the long dyed hair. I say I love the simple things but every day there is a want that consumes me whole. Desires fill up this place like smoke and I follow the trail to its origins, to my demise.
There’s rouge on my lips, just a tint, and brown on my eyelids, so faint, you would not know it was there. I dab it all on with my fingers, blending the colors in together, putting the smallest dab of pink on my lips onto my cheeks and the bridge of my nose.
I observe my face in the mirror as I sit in the silence of my room, dabbing on the makeup. It’s so quiet, I can hear my even breaths. It feels like a movie, hearing the submarine sounds of breaths leaving my mouth as I look into a mirror that I do not recognize. My face starts to feel like ice, solid and chilling. Slowly melting and becoming the shape of whatever encapsulates it. Then, like water it’s self-effacing and leaves no trace of who it was behind.
Sarah calls my name as she walks into the room. Wearing her red dress, her brown hair in voluminous curls like a lion’s mane or a halo.
“Let’s forget ourselves tonight, okay? I want to drink as much as I can stomach and forget this shitty feeling in my chest,” she says, sitting on my bed to strap on her heels.
“Don’t have to tell me twice.”
The car ride to the party is quiet and feels apprehensive like something really bad is about to happen. I observe the stars in the sky, feeling whatever alcohol I have drunk numb my whole body. I watch the white stars in the red sky follow us like they’re watching our demise. They look so innocent. As I look up at them, I feel like an innocent. They blur in the tears that fill my eyes.
We spend most of the party with groups of girls, dancing in a landscape of different colors. It feels like a hazy dream, the music shaking the ground and our feet. What are men? What are toys? What are things I can’t avoid? The singer sings in a voice both heavy and dark, but also like a lullaby. What is joy? What is pain? What is this beating hurricane? I watch the singer, she has blue sparkles under her eyes that mimic tears. I feel so heavy that it’s strange to me when I get pulled in front of a group of men. “You’re as perfect as a picture,” one of the men tells me. “What?” I ask through the flurry of voices, a sob in my voice, trying to be heard. “You’re as pretty as a picture.”
Somehow the group of men swallow us in until their bodies become like walls blocking out the people around us. The first man starts directly talking to me, but when I respond it is like he hasn’t heard me. Him and his friends are huge, towering over me and Sarah. He says something else and when I respond it is like he hasn’t heard me. Soon he pulls me away with him and I turn to give Sarah a forced smile. I notice the men have all disappeared from around her.
She watches me from afar, watches me trying so hard. I try so hard that to him I look effortless. I try so hard to fit in that all the pieces break, and soon I’m crying into Sarah’s lap. The feeling of tears and crumbs of mascara on my cheeks. Sarah uncaps the pain medicine. I take three pills as I sob, feeling the scar on my thigh aching.
Thank you for reading this short story. This is an experimental piece that I have already begun editing and turning into a much longer piece. This story will hopefully turn into a novella soon, that will depict these characters in greater depth.
As this is a new account, I would like to explain my hopes for this account. I hope to write more stories about themes of love, heartbreak and then occasional experimental pieces like this one. I hope to post a short story every Thursday.
Don’t forget to comment and like. I would incredibly appreciate some feedback ❤
Noura BH Alsuwaidi
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