Featured Review on this writing by Jeff Bezaire

Perfection

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: BoMoWriCha Prompts


Yesterday I posted a story called 'Petite' for the BoMoWriCha weekly prompt. I messed up the required word count, so here is the much expanded upon story, now called 'Perfection'.

Submitted: June 27, 2018

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Submitted: June 27, 2018

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A A A


PERFECTION

All female subjects should be short, slim; delicate in other words. That was the decree and everybody tried to follow it. After all, the future looked so much bleaker for those that failed to achieve the right look. A life of servitude beckoned, with not the slightest chance of love.

Those lucky enough to be born male could just grow; tall, strong, nobody had laid down any rules of perfection for which they had to strive. Thrive and develop, that was the male motto. Some were very much of the opinion that to be bigger was to be better, while those with a less imposing physique would aim for brain-power instead.

And didn’t they take advantage of it. Food galore, served by the tiny waitresses of course, who forever acted subservient. This is how things used to be, once upon a time, and it was way past due for it’s return. Now, fifty years on, women were once again becoming what they were intended to be; soft, delicate, and feminine. None of that ‘we are equal to men’ nonsense that had somehow taken hold and almost wrecked male society.

It was an act of dominance, of seizing back the power. Women had taken over all the jobs, women had the babies; women had made men almost redundant. And hadn’t the desire to climb the career ladder seen to a big, big reduction in the population. Women did not want to take a career break, have to stay home and care for a child, then be forced to catch up on what they had missed. No, that was not the way to achieve job status. Eventually, men had enough, closed ranks, and forced all females either back to the home or into low-skilled jobs where their primary function was to serve.

Once they got started, it did not take long for those radical changes to take place. As more and more of them claimed back the power, more stringent laws could be passed. Within fifty years, society had changed completely, and for those that did not accept it, there was always prison. There were a lot more women’s jails than men’s now.

Of course, the conditioning started straight after birth. The baby boys were allowed to wear loose clothing, to have the free space in which to stretch and to grow. They were encouraged to develop interests and talents, which would lead in some ways to their social position.

The females, on the other hand, were segregated, and they were treated entirely differently. They were swaddled tightly from birth, almost from head to toe. Their nutritional requirements were meticulously calculated. Just enough to keep them developing but to also suppress growth at the same time.

The babies were removed from their parents immediately; after all, they could not be trusted to stick to the strictest of regimes. Those that worked in the nurseries, at least the girls ones, maybe they were selected for their deafness. Unable to hear the pitiful and desperate cries, they could easily stay firm and resist the temptation to give in. The infant girls, cries unheeded, soon learned to suffer in silence.

Give birth to a boy, though, and of course he would stay with his parents. Who better to care for him and cater to his needs. If they were to be over-indulged, all the better. For did that not create men used to getting their own way. The nurseries could only work under strict rules; no such thing existed for the boys. Better to encourage differences, diversity. While girls, well, so long as they learned to carry out the necessary ‘tasks’, all they needed to know was ‘obedience.’ Wider education, now a career was not an option, would be a waste of time, money, and valuable resources.

In spite of all the early efforts, the girls all grew. Once too big to be swaddled, they would be dressed in clothes that bit too tight, making them pull themselves in, uncomfortably. Restrictive clothing could be almost as effective in shaping growth and development as swaddling had been. Shoes, well, two sizes to small, those were best. That way the feet were discouraged from growing bigger, at least for a while. So it might be difficult to walk; never mind, they’d not likely need to learn to walk too far, at least the ones that managed to achieve the desired petiteness.

The beds had more in similarity to drawers. They were surrounded, enclosed; no stretching allowed. With just enough room to lay down, the girls could barely move at all. And the drawers were piled close together, row upon row of them. The strange thing was that all through the night, every night, there was not even so much as a whimper.

Should one of the girls begin to sprout up in height, immediate action was taken to discourage it. After a lecture about how small is beautiful, small is feminine, small is what the men would want, the girl would be fitted with the ‘contraption’. What a monstrosity of a thing that was? It weighed down both shoulders, and the top of the head, exerting a constant downward pressure. It was pure agony to wear, the urge to push against it was strong, irresistible, but impossible. Not even one of the stronger boys would be able to resist it’s downward pressure.

Many of the girls resorted to stooping or bending slightly at the knees, anything to avoid being fitted with what was commonly regarded as being ‘the weight of the male world.’ The constant inspections of their posture soon found them out though and then would follow months of misery. The weights were only to be removed on getting in to bed. The natural physical impulse was to stretch out the depressed and crushed muscles but how could one, when sleeping in a made to measure drawer. On rising, the weights were instantly replaced before there was a chance to even yawn. .

Once puberty began, the regime was tighter still. Thick bandages, with no elasticity, were wrapped everywhere that was to be kept slim. The male version of the perfect female figure was what was to be aspired to. You had to stick out in all the right places and never in any of the wrong ones. Legs would be strapped together, to encourage small, ladylike steps. No striding or running for women these days, not for those that made the grade anyway.

It wasn’t really that far back in history when women were taking over the workplace, taking all the jobs. They took part in all sports, infiltrated every single part of male life. They had even run entire countries! Never, again, men vowed. They could never be allowed to even think of reasserting themselves, discovering their own personalities and wanting to be treated as equals.

For hadn’t that entire time almost killed the male of the species off!

Further back in history was to be found the answer. Women were to be servants, slaves, men’s property once more. There would be no more independence for them.

And why not take it that bit further. The demands were there for beautiful women to fulfil the men’s needs. They would be the lucky ones, the chosen. The rest would always be carrying a label that said, ‘Reject’. They’d be the servants that did the real work. They’d be the mainstay of servitude in society, working in factories, in the catering and retail industries. But only on the lower grades, never given a chance for promotion. The chosen ones, providing they pleased their men-folk, would be cosseted, and cared for. They would have one job and one job only and that was to keep themselves perfect for their man.

No effort was too much effort. Creams that were guaranteed to stop wrinkles from forming were always in demand. Some of them were highly toxic and others caused considerable skin damage. Oh, dear, one female to be replaced then, as she is no longer pleasing to her man’s eyes. But that was good, made space for some of the fresh young things so eager to please. Besides, the males tended to get bored with the females after a while and a new lease of life was always welcome.

Liposuction had been used in the past to try to eradicate any accumulations of fat. Sometimes it worked well, sometimes not. There was a new version of it now, increasingly widely practised. Some kind of acid was injected in to the flab, which, it was claimed, would burn away and melt the fat. Indeed, there were cases where it seemed to be remarkably successful. The fat disappeared and did not seem to come back. But also there were plenty of practioners that were not qualified in administering the treatment. What better way to get a sight and a feel of these aspiring ‘perfects’, after all. Burning, scarring, muscle damage were the mildest of consequences. However much the damage was, it was a one way ticket to the ‘reject’ pile.

It was all done in the name of men. All done to make a woman beautiful, desirable.....petite. Apart form ‘perfection what else was there to aspire to?

* * * *

The date was nearing. There was one day a year when the ‘perfect’ young women, from each area were led out like cattle. They would parade, strut their stuff and hope for selection. The men would be gathered, looking for their partner, the one that they would always like to share their bed with. The one that would become their ‘wife’ for as long as she could keep up that facade of beauty. Divorce, and disgrace for the woman involved, was almost as common as marriage itself for no matter how much effort was made, time and age would always win out in the end.

Justine was going to find a husband. She knew she would; that this would be the day. At sixteen years of age she knew that she had reached her pinnacle of ‘perfection’; within a couple of years she was going to have to work so hard at maintaining the image.

Her feet were bound from when she got up. Squashed so tight, the shoes two sizes too small felt reasonably comfortable after the bandages were removed. She could walk gracefully in them, those tiny steps that she had been taught to use from such an early age.

Then came the corset. Well, that’s what they called it but really it was a contraption of metal rods, webbing stretching tightly between them. It looked exactly like what it was, an instrument of torture. Two servants helped her in to it, gripped it firmly from behind and pulled.

Justine felt as though her ribs were breaking. “Enough! Please!”

Her cries went unheeded. The straps were tugged on so hard that she could barely breathe. The women stopped pulling and started fastening only once they were satisfied they’d done enough. Dress on and Justine had to admit that the reflection that greeted her was much improved. After all, was she not more prominent in cleavage now, and was that not one of the main attractions. Perfect breasts, just what these men were looking for.

Now they are going to start on her hair, her face. Justine will just have to grin and bear it as they tear through any tangles they find in her almost black, long hair. They tug it so hard that it feels like it is being torn from her scalp by the roots; Justine knows her eyes are tearing it. That means more pain, because if her eyes look red, she’ll get the whitening drops, and whatever they are made from has a really sharp sting. The pull and twist, pinning here and there, regardless of whether her scalp is being pierced. Several times she is convinced that they must have drawn blood, but no matter, it is hidden from view. At last, that is over, her hair has been successfully styled.

Eyes must be enlarged. The bigger they can be made to appear, the better. Large eyes speak of openness, obedience, innocence. Nose and chin, well, if they need it, they can be made to appear smaller, a dab of shading her, a spot of lighting there, but Justine is fine. Her eyebrows are plucked and shaped and her eye lashes lengthened to draw attention to the eyes.

The biggest job is the mouth, the lips. They must look desirable. A man has got to want to kiss them, to feel them....They have to be perfect! Blotting first, then an outline. So many colors to choose from. Justine wants black but knows better than to say it. There are deep reds, purples, blood reds, even candy pinks, but for her they choose a deep red to make those lips stand out. Perfectly colored and then some carefully placed gloss, and look, those lips really are crying out to be crushed against anothers.

Finished with now, Justine sneaks a glance in the mirror. Is that really her? Not that she has had much of a chance to ever study her reflection. Perfection is to be aspired, but not her own. There is a set standard and others are more able to judge whether she is getting towards it or not. Besides, mirrors, self-examination, can lead to vanity; and vanity is far from being a subservient trait.

She takes up a place, in line with all the other cattle, er, women, who are about to take to the stage. Not good at counting, she guesses there are about fifty of them all in all. The chatter and laughter coming from the other side of the curtain would suggest that there were far more men than women. For a moment Justine wonders if money changes hands; if she is about to be sold off to the highest bidder. If that is the case, who gets the money? Perhaps that is better not to know; not to think about even.

The men in the audience are hard to make out. Some seem gentle, some rough and ready. Some look nice while others are down-right ugly. They are shadowed, shaded. The stage is brightly lit to display the women to the best advantage.

Each will be called forward, instructed to turn this way, that way, to take up certain postures. The men jostle forward to get a better look until one makes up his mind and disappears to make his claim. There are always fights, when more than one man wants to claim the same woman. Of course, sometimes that gives a third individual the chance to sneak in and make his claim while they are otherwise engaged.

There is no swapping once the deal is made, but the man can decide to lend out his wife or to share her with a friend. She won’t have any say in it, for is she not nothing more than a piece of his property with which he can now do as he wishes.

All Justine can do is hope that she gets selected because life with any of them has to be better than being a ‘reject’ doesn’t it? Some of them must be good men, considerate and kind. There have been tales though of brutes. These men buy their bride, but after a few nights grow tired of her novelty. The perfect image is so easy to spoil; a punch here and a kick there and there is instant grounds for replacement.

There is nothing wrong with what he does, not in this new and improved ‘male-dominated’ society. Would a man be imprisoned for scaring the surface of a piece of furniture? Of course not; and there is really not much difference is there. No, the woman will become a ‘reject’ and will take on any role that is assigned to her while the man will get to chose again.

Suppressing a shudder at such a possible future, Justine put on a smile and stepped forward. Turn left, turn right, how about a back view now....lean slightly forward. Justine then turned front again, and once more was instructed to lean forward, to show off her assets. It was easy to see that there was more than one man interested in taking a closer look. But at the back of the room, she could just make out a figure approaching the claim view.

Someone had picked her? Or was it a late claimant for the girl, the woman in front? With no way of knowing, she carried on, pandering to their requests until it was time for her to move on and make way for the next specimen.

As she left he stage, Justine found herself whisked away off to the side to be presented in person to her new ‘husband’. He said his name was Derrick, and she imagined that he was almost twice her age. From his clothes he appeared to be reasonably wealthy, not that that meant that he would be any more caring or gentle.

Derrick took her by the hand, then crushed her to him, hard, his mouth seeking out her own. She responded in the way she had been instructed to; appearing to both enjoy and respond to his treatment although really wanting to turn and run away.

There was nowhere for her to run to. No parents, and the place that had brought her up would have it’s doors closed to her now. For better or worse, Derrick would now become her life.

Justine began her new life as the wife of Derrick. She did not know the details of his employment, only that it was something in finance. He had to have a good job, though as the house they were to live in was in one of the better areas. Not a mansion, but more than big enough for them and the staff who were ‘rejects’. They would be doing all the work, while Justine would be involved in doing nothing more than keeping herself as she needed to be.

The days were both long and lonely. Derrick was out for long hours, six days out of seven, and the staff were not allowed to approach her. She had no one to talk to at all, nothing to do, and that kept her eager for her husband’s return.

She would do anything for him, be anything for him. She belonged to him and it was for her to make him happy. As time wore on, there were more and more procedures that she was forced to put herself through. No longer sleeping in a drawer but in a luxurious bed, the desire to stretch was immense. She could not give in to it tough, not even once. Petite was beautiful, petite was perfect. No man wanted a strong, tall woman any more; one that might become confrontational instead of obedient.

More and more hours were spent on maintaining her image, presenting herself at her best. Sometimes Derrick’s colleagues would be entertained. Justine always hoped for the times when the other wives were present; when there was nothing more than talk, laughter, food and drink. The times when the men turned up alone she dreaded, for did she not have to obey Derrick’s wishes. If he wanted to share her among his friends she had no right at all to refuse but must obey with the appearance of willingness.

Then came the day when Justine found out that she was pregnant. Derrick presumed that it was his child that she was carrying. After all, if he was not in fact the biological father, whoever was had been granted his permission to ‘use’ his wife. Derrick quite proudly announced that he was to become a father.

* * * *

Hungry! Justine was always hungry. In spite of the life growing inside her, she could not permit herself to eat much more than a morsel more. Her body changed and how she hated it. As her stomach grew she had to smear oils and creams all over it to stop it growing to large, to stop those horrible marks appearing once it was all over.

She hated to see herself, dressed in big loose floppy clothes. During this time she dreaded her husband being home for he liked to see her ever -growing breasts and stomach, and she could not refuse to display herself, even if he brought home company. She would swallow her shame, acting just how she was instructed.

One day towards the end of her pregnancy, Derrick brought home a particularly large piece of bloodied meat. Not for eating, as she had presumed, but for some kind of ritual. One of his colleagues had told him that the stripping of his pregnant wife, and the placing of the raw meat on her belly would encourage the birth of a son.

Could they really be so ignorant? Justine, although barely educated, knew that boy or girl was decided at the moment of conception. No amount of raw meat, or anything else at this stage, would make the slightest bit of difference. She could not say anything though, had obediently subjected herself to his ritual, even though the smell of bloody meat made her stomach heave.

Perhaps that was what brought on an early labor; where once more, Justine found herself, placed among other women who were all to be treated in the same impersonal way.

Screaming was not allowed. That would be a definite violation of the ‘perfect’ image. Agony it might be, but it was to be endured silently, willingly; just like the performance of any other task for their husbands. Hours and hours passed as her body was shaken by painful contractions. Maybe the smile was more similar to a grimace at times, but it still remained in its place, on her face.

Worn out and unable to stand it a moment longer, Justine gave birth. Please let it be a boy, she prayed, as all the others did. But her prayers were not answered. Justine’s baby girl was whisked away before she even laid eye on her.

She would be sent home almost immediately, with her sense of failure, where she would be met with Derrick’s disappointment. The baby’s existence would not be mentioned by either of them.

Back would come out the corset. The metal rods would dig in to tender and weakened flesh, the straps pulling it in, making any loose skin become tight again. She needed to exercise to get herself back in to shape. Derrick would have very limited patience, would not wait for long if she did not regain the ideals of perfection.

But exercise was forbidden to her. Exercise encouraged growth, strength; both of these were discouraged, if not outwardly banned. No, she had to achieve it all another way. Along with the corset, out came the bandages, wrapped so tightly Justine could hardly move.

Then there were the visitors. They must be supplied the names and addresses through the birthing place for there they would be. Baskets of remedies, of cures to all kinds of imperfections. None bore labels, showed a list of ingredients. Justine was tempted on more than one occasion to purchase a tin of cream, a tube of ointment, but instead, continued with her binding instead. It had worked for her as a child and it would work for her now.

But it didn’t work, did it. Not enough, anyway. She only had to look towards Derrick to see his dissatisfaction with her now. She wasn’t what he wanted, what he desired. She no longer reached his levels of ‘perfection’.

Even though the knowledge was there, she still tried. From the moment she got up to the moment he returned home, all her efforts were put into becoming the ‘ideal’ once more, but maybe her desperation did nothing more than doom her evermore to fail.

The words, “I don’t want you any more. Consider yourself divorced,” although expected, still came as a shattering blow.

* * * *

Justine joined the ranks of the ‘Rejects’. This was not something she had ever been prepared for. She had always been a ‘petite’, a success in upholding the ‘ideal image’. And now she was at the very bottom of the pile. A divorced woman.

She’d had a chance at the good life, unlike a lot of the rejects, but she had failed. She’d let her standards fall and instead of being desired had become unwanted, cast out. No man would look at her now. And none of the rejects would view her with kindness or sympathy either. If it wasn’t for people like her, they would never have become rejects before even getting the chance to make a man happy.

She would need to find a job, but what sort of vacancy existed for one such as her. The only thing she knew about was the effort to try to stay perfect. Yet her own personal failure tainted her. She would not be considered to work for a wife, in a house of a couple, and the doors or the girls training institutes were firmly closed to her.

Secretarial work was available for the more presentable of the rejects, as was working in retail, in catering. Not only would she not have a clue as to how to go about any of these tasks, Justine knew that her stigma would forbid her such posts anyway.

There was only one option that was open to her and that was in cleaning. She would work in the offices when no one else was there; she would come in to contact with no one and would be paid a pittance. It was one step up from begging though, so she knew that she had to be thankful.

It was some strike of fate that found her working in Derrick’s office. She had strange feelings whenever she entered there, wanting to do some damage, to leave a mark to say that she’d been there. Justine did nothing of the sort though, of course she didn’t. It was not his fault that she had failed him. Was it?

She had been working there for not much more than a year when the pictures appeared around his office. A woman that bore a remarkable resemblance to the Justine that once was. Petite, pretty, subservient, willing.

And then there was the baby photos. She’d given him what Justine could not then, a son; a child that he could call his own. Derrick would be proud of the boy, she knew; he’d make a doting father.

Of course Justine had no idea of her name, the new wife, but following the birth of the boy she changed in the photos too. There was the same desperation, the same fear that she was failing apparent on the later pictures of the woman. Bearing a son did not absolve her from her responsibilities to remain perfect.

Derrick must have opted for another divorce. He had plenty of money and it was not long before the woman who had replaced Justine was herself replaced. Even in photos of the baby, the mother’s picture was replaced with the image of the imposter. At least, thought, Justine, she had been spared the pain and indignity of going through that.

Was it fate or karma that brought them together, the two women that Derrick had just tossed aside? They worked together, and slowly they began to exchange words. The bitterness, the resentment, began to find voice. Was it right that women should be treated as objects, possessions? After all, they too, were human beings.

Always whispers at first, they began to spread. There were more women than men. If the word could get around, if enough women and girls could be made to see that they had a value as individuals maybe things would change. Maybe men’s insistence on ‘perfection’ could be shattered, stamped under many pairs of female feet.

The history was hard to get hold of, and even harder to understand. Women had not been taught to read or to write, but some seemed to pick it up quite quickly. They learned that things not so long ago had been very different. Men had been seen no better than women and anything a man could do, a woman could do too.

It would take a long, long time, Justine thought, for women to pull together again. To learn their value as something other than to be possessed, looked at and handed around.

Margo, that was her replacement’s name. She had spent even less time with Derrick, becoming pregnant so soon. She was more adamant than Justine, at first, that things were due for a change. Perhaps it was the sight of that other woman replacing her in the pictures of her son that pushed her over the edge.

She tore them from the frame and ripped the woman’s image to shreds, leaving her sons image untouched. She searched for pictures of Derrick, ripped them and tore them in to tiny pieces; along with his certificates of achievement.

She knew that she would no longer be able to return to work, would no longer be able to even stay living in the area. A man could do what he wanted to a woman, but that did not mean a woman could in any way retaliate. She’d be arrested, sent to prison for damaging his property.

No, Margo would disappear, maybe spread the whispers a bit further afield. Who knows, eventually they might be able to form a large enough group to make a difference.

Justine knew that she would also come under suspicion, for had she not been married to Derrick too. She could stay, take a chance on being left alone; or she could leave with Margo and just maybe become part of something bigger.

It did not take Justine long to choose which option to go for.

 

(5010 words)


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