Friday, August 12, 2011

FICTION: Without You by Maggie Doonan

With practiced ease, she traced the edges of her lips, the red pencil shaping the curve and pout of her mouth. Taking extra care at the points of the Cupid’s bow, she drew the tip of the lead to sharp, delicate peaks. It was important to get the bow just right. If it was unbalanced it could ruin the whole look. Pausing, she surveyed the symmetry of her work then nodded, recapping the pencil and returning it to the top right drawer of the oak dresser. The silver lipstick tube felt light in her hand as she plucked it from the varnished countertop, reminding her that it would soon need replacing. Hopefully the pharmacy still carried the colour. She hated it when a company pulled a product; it always seemed to be the one she was using. Cherry Squash slicked her lips as she filled inside the lines with three sure strikes, finishing with a kiss blown to her reflection. Smirking at herself, she leaned to the far end of the dresser and tucked the tube into the clutch perched there. Returning to the drawer, she retrieved the mascara wand and, jaw slack, she ran the bristles over her lashes in a third and final coat of the Blackest Black Revlon produced. Lifting her chin, she tilted her head from side to side to examine her efforts. Pursing her lips, she glowered at the ashen hue of her cheeks, tossing the mascara back into the drawer.

“Well that just won’t do.” She forced a grin and seized each resulting apple in her fingers and twisted and pinched the skin. A bead of moisture at the corner of her left eye threatened to ruin the carefully applied kohl and, gasping, she gave a last tweak before dropping her hands and blinking furiously, flapping at the air in front of her face. A minute passed before she exhaled slowly and glanced back at her reflection. Blood thrummed through her cheeks, infusing them with warmth. Smiling, she fluffed the yellow curls that fell over her shoulders then stood, a hand smoothing the non-existent crinkles of her black satin hemline. Reaching for the clutch, she marvelled again at having managed to find a purse to match her lipstick. Sometimes she just had the best luck shopping. Stepping into a pair of black pumps, she adjusted the belt at her waist and left the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

She could hear the television downstairs. The ad for funeral insurance was being aired. She’d seen it a thousand times before; the woman crying over selling the house to pay for the cremation. If only the dead husband had spent two dollars fifty a week on funeral insurance. Rolling her eyes, she moved towards the staircase at the end of the hall. Two fifty a week was a hundred and thirty a year. She had worked it out one day on the couch, when the woman’s bawling became too much to ignore. A hundred and thirty was a lot. A hundred and thirty was last season’s flares. The ad reverberated through the house as she took the steps lightly, heading straight for the den when she reached the bottom, flicking lights on as she went.

“Jesus, Mark, how loud do you have to have it?” She snatched the remote from the coffee table and jabbed the volume down to thirty.

“That’s better.” She turned to the couch. Mark sat straight-backed, facing the television. “I don’t know how much more of that woman’s snivelling I can handle. Did I tell you I could buy two Ziggy cardigans for the money they’re asking for?” She threw the remote lazily at Mark. It smacked his chest and dropped into his lap, the force of the blow dislodging a piece of his jaw, which fell on top of the remote.

She sighed. “I know, I know, you’re right.” Fiddling with the cross that hung from her neck, her long nails clicked against the chain. “I shouldn’t say things like that.” Walking to the couch, she sunk into the suede next to Mark.

“I mean,” she leant into his shoulder, “what if something happened to you?”

Nuzzling his blue flannel sleeve, a soft popping sounded as the remaining sinew of Mark’s shoulder collapsed. The fabric fell, gathering softly at his elbow. She inhaled deeply.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

The smell of rotting veal drifted through the den. Sitting back from his shoulder, her nose scrunched.

“Oh my god Mark, did you just let one go?” She waved a hand in front of her face. “That’s disgusting, what have you been eating?”

Shaking her head, the end of her nose pinched between forefinger and thumb, she stood and strode to the adjoining entryway, clutch tucked under arm.

“I’m meeting the girls, okay? Don’t wait up. Oh, and Mark?”

Mark slumped a little to his left. Yellow fluid pooled in the well of his collar.

“Love you, babe.”

No comments: