Posing in Pink
I step through my front door to the chaotic sound of my foster parents clanging around in the kitchen and a wave of relief washes over me. Maybe they won’t know I’m home. I edge the door shut and start to creep up the wooden stairs on my tiptoes, anxious not to step on any of the creaky spots. After today I need to have some alone time with my imagination. I need to escape.
I get to the tenth stair, only two left. I ease my foot onto it and it dents beneath me. Shit. “Elena.” I cringe, still suspended in my position in hope that they might ignore it; but just as I go to take the next step, I hear a clatter of heels against the laminate flooring.
Morgan clacks over to the bottom of the stairs in her skin tight, red velvet dress. Her hair is tied in a posh plaited up-do, every strand flawlessly twizzled into the next. If it wasn’t for the ugly scowl that made her face recognisable, she could be on the cover of a fashion magazine.
“Elena. Get dressed. We have dinner guests coming over in fourty minutes.” She shoves her arms over her chest; the first warning sign that tells me I should prepare for the incoming lecture. “I want you to listen to me and I don’t want any back talk, understood?”
She doesn’t even wait for my reply, not that I’d expect her to. She already treats me like some miscreant that can’t keep their behaviour in check. I suppose she doesn’t notice that I spend all of my time typing in my room; not that it would save me from her endless chiding. No doubt she’d criticise me for idleness.
“Now I laid a dress out on your bed, you go to your room and you put it on without any complaints. I want you to look presentable. I won’t have you be seen in those clothes that make you look like a troubled gothic trollop. And I want you to do your hair and makeup right. I don’t want to see a single hair un-straightened,” Morgan commands.
She stares up at me with a look as if she’s just caught me holding her law degree over a lighter. I guess that’s how she regards me, a tarnish on her all-perfect image. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I am an embarrassment.
“If you come downstairs looking like anything other than the daughter of a well-regarded lawyer, you’ll be scrubbing the floors until your knees bleed. And remember, you wear far too much dark eye makeup and not enough foundation. You don’t want those blemishes on display for our guests.” Again, she doesn’t wait for a response. She heads back towards the kitchen, assuming I’ll follow her every request. She knows I wouldn’t dare challenge her.
The sigh of relief that greeted me at the door is replaced with a sigh of discontentment. I trudge up the stairs to get ready for whatever hell was in store for me this evening.
I hesitate in the mirror. The picture of me and my mother tapped to the edge stares back at me. My hair wasn’t violet back then, but it’s had the same scruffy light waves every day since that photo. Every day but today. The girl I see reflected back at me has hair like a wax sculpture; every strand identical to the next. A texture so much like silk you wouldn’t know the difference between them.
The girl in the mirror wears a girly lace dress, perfectly designed to show off the lady-like attributes that the gentlemen desire. The dress wasn’t made for us. It was made for them. Each thread of the needle was stitched to mould us into this unchanging image, a prop of ideal beauty. If that wasn’t the intent, then perhaps my lungs would have room to expand, and I wouldn’t have to fight against it to take a breath.
I look again at the picture and back at the girl in the mirror; the resemblance between the two diminishing the longer I compare them. In the picture, my makeup was limited to eyes and lips, my flaws in tact. It’s always been a tool to bring my quirks to the surface, not a way to edit and re-sculpt everything that makes me human. But the person in the mirror, they’re not human. Not a single crease in the dress, not the faintest mark from an old spot on the cheek, all imperfections neatly folded away beneath the surface.
But every comment I hear echoing around the room says otherwise.
My eyes flicker up to my ebony eyebrows and the phantom sound of Morgan’s voice stings my ears with insults. They make me look “manly” and “unkempt”. But the pain I feel from every word is replaced with disgust; because I actually like the way they accentuate my dark eyes.
Her voice won’t stay quiet.
She comments on my wide eyes and the way they gave me a face like Kermit, and how along with my unusually small button nose and plump bottom lip, I’m as dis-proportioned as a Picasso painting. But my rage only burns brighter because despite how through her eyes I may look like a worthless peasant, through mine I see a girl who stands out from the crowd. And no matter how many times people tell me I shouldn’t, I actually like that about myself. I like being unique.
The picture reflecting back at me brings nausea to my stomach. That girl does look like every other girl in the street. I look like every other girl in the street.
If I let her turn me into this, then I’ll lose who I am. And that’s one thing I won’t stand for.
I jerk my head away from the mirror and begin to rip the dress off of me. I grab at the sleeves and yank it past my chest, but as I go to push it to the floor, the cigarette-shaped burn on my arm begs me to stop.
Morgan doesn’t appreciate it when people disobey her, and as much as I want to stay true to myself, I’m not going to risk getting on her bad side again. I pull it back over me with an uneasy shiver and not a moment more of thought.
I do a once over, brush away my disturbed frown and start to venture downstairs.
However my composure briefly falters through each step down. Every step that clinks my baby pink kitten heels feels like a step of betrayal to myself. This outfit is a symbol of the beginning of her control over me and I’m not sure I want to find out what it’s leading toward. After all, it was a single assassination that paved the way for World War I. Every mountain starts with a single atom and every abusive relationship starts out with one move.
I glide into the kitchen with a poised façade and a forced smile stitched onto my face. I stretch my spine towards to ceiling to pose like a porcelain doll on display. Because that’s exactly what she wants from me.
Morgan’s eyes travel over my ensemble with a less disapproving eye roll than I’m used to and I’m hit with a sedative of relief.
“This is Albert and Andria Myer, Albert is the senior partner at your Mother’s firm.” Maurice, my foster father declares, threatening me through his deadened eyes to stay quiet.
I nod politely in response and widen my fake smile to greet them without words; while my head fills with rage at the denotation of the dark lord’s whore being my mother.
“And this is their son.”
My suburban daughter mask is blemished when the corner of the room steals my attention. My mouth drops at the blending blue and green of the eyes piercing into me.
“You two go to school together, don’t you?” Andria steps forward, delight brightening her eyes.
“Yeah we’re real close, aren’t we plum?” Brian boasts to me, his cocky smirk lifts higher and he struts towards the counter.
“Well I should hope so,” Maurice scoffs. “That is why we’re here isn’t it?”
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