“Jacqueline, how do my legs look?”
I stared at her skeletal limbs for the slightest of moments and met her eyes, trying to conceal my repulsion. They were bony; I could see every corner, every sharp edge that made up her body. I peered into her eyes, which met me only with hope, the thirst for a positive response. Yet underneath that wishful surface was a certain villain-like quality, a quality that I knew would prove dangerous if I refused to abide by her rules.
“They look great, Mother.” I flashed a toothy smile for good measure. Mother liked to be reminded of how blindingly-white my teeth were now; she had taken me to get them perfected last week, and hadn’t stopped boasting about my mouth to her friends since.
She sauntered over to my chair and patted my head curtly. Her cold hands lacked everything that a mother’s should. Softness, warmth. Affection. I bit the inside of my lip so as to stop myself from vomiting; I felt the metallic taste of blood tickle the perimeter of my tongue and seep into every inch of my mouth.
Mother bent down at her hips, bringing her face next to mine. I was staring into her dark, soulless eyes. They were black, as if her pupils had swallowed the blueness of her eyes whole.
“Is that the truth?” Her voice was calculating; she knew what I would say next.
“Pet.” She tucked a brown strand of hair away from my face and behind my small ear, an ear that she took pride in for she had locked a beautiful pair of pearl earrings through its holes. Although I was prohibited from doing so, I longed to remove them, to remove any trace of her from my body. I didn’t want to be something that she could simply approve of.
Clack. Clack. Clack.
Her pointy heels slapped the hard wooden floor as she climbed the stairs to go to a dinner party. I blinked my eyes closed, wrinkling my eyelids as I shut them tightly. I felt the mascara that coated my eyelashes rub off and onto the tops of my cheeks. My heart beat faster, and I felt a sort of thrill run through my body. I was never allowed to take off my makeup. Mother washed the face paint off at a late hour, then yanked me out of bed at dawn so that no one would be able to see my naked face. She brushed my teeth, combed my hair, and picked out my clothes. I glared at the dress that I was wearing, my eyes full of hatred.
To calm myself, I turned on the television and comfortably sat back into the couch, letting the worn leather mold to the shape of my body. Image by image flashed onto the screen, and it made me dizzy. I closed my eyes, for Mother always told me that she didn’t want me to form stress lines. She told me that they would make me ugly. Being ugly only meant a lifetime of suffering. “Worse than death,” she had said.
But I decided to open them. My eyes were glued to the faces that appeared before me. They were youthful. Pretty.
I wondered if I was pretty, too.
In pure curiosity, I glanced at the door by Mother’s bedroom. Often I found myself staring at the knob, just itching to turn it; however, I already knew what lay within those walls: mirrors. I asked her about it once; I still have the scar. Mother didn’t want me ruining her hard work, she had told me then. She told me not to ask again, that looking at those mirrors would hurt me somehow.
The television screen turned black with a single click of a button, and the pretty faces were gone. I rose from the couch, the leather possessing its original form once more. I looked to the windows, my portal to the world beyond this quaint house. Normal children went to school, but Mother didn’t want me to go to school. Mother said that it would make me ugly because I would worry too much; she only let me go out when I had parties. But while others were at school there were none, and when there were none I was to stay at home.
The only thing I could do was watch the pretty faces talk.
Ding. Ding. Ding. It was twelve o’clock, so I started laughing. Laughing was the best medicine, and it made you pretty.
I forced the giggles out of my throat, ripping them out of my vocal chords until my lungs burned. I gasped, for the action was dizzying. Soon, I found myself sprawled on the floor, and an aching pain overtook the side of my stomach. I lifted my dress, only to find a blue and purple spot that was about the size of my palm.
I had ruined Mother’s work.
I looked to the door; it wasn’t locked. My fall had opened it a crack, and a beam of light shined through the black crevice and onto the wall, a perfect spotlight on a forbidden room. I leaned forward, careful not to fall once more yet curious to see what was in store for me on the inside of this private room. One bruise I could hide; two I was doubtful about.
‘Go ahead,’ I thought to myself, ‘When will you ever seize this chance again?’
I pushed the door open slowly, and each movement forced out a loud creak that made me wince with fear. I jumped; was that a noise? No, it was just the wind.
I filled my lungs and exhaled, my breaths shaky. I could feel the blood rush out of my face, the veins in my forehead popping. What would happen if Mother saw me here again?
But my desire to see myself was stronger than my worst fears.
I shoved the door open, scampering inside, and turned to face my reflection. My hair stood on end and I could feel my eyes bulge as I looked at what was supposedly myself. I wanted to vomit more than ever.
I was the spitting image of my mother.
The icy, almost-white blonde hair that graced my head and ran down my back was gelled with precision so as not to free any flyaway strands. My freckles--the ones that I was sure I had--were concealed underneath a thick coat of pale foundation that failed to match my skin tone. My eyebrows were complete with every stroke of pencil and every existing hair, and the rest of my body was completely hairless. The only hint of imperfection was the rubbings of mascara underneath my eyes.
But that didn’t erase the fact that I was my mother, and the inhuman girl that I stared at in my mother’s forbidden mirrors was me.
A tear slipped down my cheek, and before it could fall off of my chin, drop onto the floor, and betray my secret, I swiped it off and succumbed to my hopelessness. With a swift motion, I stepped outside, closing the door and its horrible insides behind me.
I sat against a wall near my bedroom, and my eyelids fell together. I could feel myself relax, and soon, I was a goner.