Pulling a brush through knotted hair, she lifts sections of it high and straight. The bedroom light shames her roots, picking out thin white lines against chestnut brown, blending into one shade of hair dye then another. Through to the ends and out, she studies the hairs that cling to the bristles. More than yesterday. Setting the brush down on the narrow shelf, she remembers long, glossy waves that used to turn heads.
She touches index fingers to soft under-eye skin, drawing down her lower lids. The reflection of her face becomes its ugliest self. Thin red lines crawl over the whites of her eyes, green irises suspended in a tangled web. She closes them, tugs at papery skin and sighs. Feline flicks framing second-too-long stares at men she wants and men she doesn’t are a thing of the past.
Stepping back for a full-length view, she stands, naked, gooseflesh rising from the draft blowing though the open window. She frowns at her small breasts, cups the curve of her hip bones, then turns to assess the size and shape of her buttocks and thighs. Acceptable, but not attractive. Unhooking her gown from the back of the door she puts it on, pulling in the belt tighter and tighter, to see how small she can make her waist. She stops when it hurts – then pulls a little more and ties a tight knot. The hourglass figure is hers – until she needs to breathe. She loosens the belt and lets herself soften. Sliding painted toes into comfy slippers, she sits down on the bed, pushes her make up bag to one side and picks up her iPad.
Soft-focus filters, puppy-ears, doe-eyes, flower crowns, and editing apps that take off ten pounds aren’t enough, not when she knows the truth underneath, and she’s had her fill of lies. A quick search points her to a clinic just outside of town promising free consultations, finance options and life-changing outcomes. She makes her decision. The settlement will cover the cost, and she’ll be perfect again by the end of it, ready to start over.
ELISABETH ALAIN lives in Worcestershire, raising two daughters, reading, learning and writing poetry & short fiction. She has recently been published in Ellipsis Zine.