Chapter 3: Chapter three - edit one

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 41

Chapter three - Posing in Pink: Person or Prop?

****I'm quite worried about the flow of this one, especially in the first scene. So let me know if you notice anything ridged/disjointed/cluttered - even just sentence to sentence****

I creep up the stairs one by one, careful to avoid the creaky spots; one wrong step and it’ll be a siren calling to Morgan and her lecture on perfection.  I can’t run from this dinner, but maybe I can escape the extra hassle that goes with it; all I have to do is get past this last step. I lower my foot onto it, it feels firm so I ease my weight down. The wood dents beneath me, a squeak sends a shock up my leg and I wince, pulling it back.
Still suspended in my position, I listen out for the clatter of heels against the laminate… nothing. A sigh of relief escapes me, I ease my foot onto the edge of the step and continue to my room on my tip-toes.
I edge my door shut and turn to my wardrobe to get ready; only to find a dress already laid out on my bed. I nearly get knocked off my feet when I see Morgan standing beside it, arms crossed and ready to chide.
She advances up to me; cloaked in a clingy velvet and hair tucked into an intricate plait-do. The only thing standing between her and posing for a magazine cover, is the scowl that makes her face recognisable.
“I got you a new dress to wear tonight. I’m not having you embarrass me looking like a troubled, gothic, trollop. Once you’ve put that on I want you to deal with this mess on your head,” she picks up a strand of my hair like it’s covered in vomit and lets it go.
“Take that thick eye-liner off and put on some foundation; I don’t know why you choose to have those blemishes on display but I want them covered up for our guests.” She pauses and looks me up and down, like she’s caught me holding a lighter under her law degree. I’m just a tarnish on her all-perfect image; that’s how she sees me at least, and she’s right, I don’t fit into her world. I may be an embarrassment but I never asked to be a part of it.  
I don’t get a chance to respond before she marches out of my door, she knows her authority doesn’t leave when she does, she knows I wouldn’t dare challenge it – so why waste time waiting for a confirmation?
I slip on the dress, straighten my hair and plaster makeup over my flaws; her voice following me through every step.
 At the final stroke of eye-shadow, I hesitate. I see the girl in the mirror, the one with hair so much like silk you wouldn’t know the difference between them, the one with all her flaws tucked beneath the surface; and I see the picture tapped beside her.
She’s smiling there, goofy and unashamed; her imperfections are on display and next to her is her mother, the woman who taught her to love every one of them.
I look back to the girl in the mirror, the mould – the prop of ideal beauty. Is this me? Is this who I should be?
Each one of my flaws calls out to me in an echo of Morgan’s voice. It says that my ebony eyebrows make me look “manly”, “unkempt”; that my wide eyes give me a face like Kermit, and with my unusually small nose and plump bottom lip I’m as disproportioned as a Picasso painting.
I look back at the girl in the picture, the mess – the chaos of free spirit. Isn’t that me? Isn’t that who I want to be?
And with that question, the tone of the voice changes, it’s me now; and I say those “flaws” make me stand out; they make me unique. No matter how many times I get told I should, I won’t stop liking that about myself. What I see in the mirror is someone I don’t recognise; a violet haired version of Morgan, and it brings nausea to my stomach.
I fling my hands up to the straps on my dress, ready to rip it off; but the burn on my arm - Morgan’s mark to remind me what happens when I disobey - it begs me to stop.
So I drop my arms, smooth out my sickly pink dress and stitch on my perfect-daughter smile; leaving the acid to bubble and burn the lining of my stomach.
The guests are probably here by now; I don’t want to keep everybody waiting.

When I enter the kitchen, the uproar of businessman chatter goes dead and the wine glasses are placed down on the island. The heads turn to me and I pander to the scrutiny; I stretch my spine to the ceiling like a porcelain doll on display.
The couple look like a blander reflection of my foster parents. The woman is just as poised, but seems more docile and submissive than Morgan, and the man’s features are lined with the same arrogance, but his belly hangs further over his belt and his anger seems to be far more repressed than Maurice’s.
The man studies me more carefully than the rest; his eyes travel over me, taking in every detail as if he’s measuring me up against something. I’m not quite sure why so much attention is on me, it’s not me who’s trying to be partner.
“This is Albert and Andria Myer,” Maurice lifts his head to speak, suddenly taken over by a refined man. “Albert is the senior partner at your mother’s firm.”
My mother? The dark lord’s whore?
 
Instead of letting my disgust show, I nod my head and widen my fake smile to greet them.
“And this is their son.”
I hadn’t noticed the blending blue and green of the eyes in the corner, or the cocky smirk below them. Brian steps forward and flails his arm to wave at me, his presence cracking my façade.
“I hear you two have been spending a lot of time together,” Morgan beams. Andria squishes her face up to smile at me and Albert and Maurice nod - while Brian purses his lips and gives me a clueless shrug.
“Well… uhm-“ I sputter and Maurice cuts me off.
“Let’s head to the table, we don’t want the chicken to dry out. God knows my wife’s breasts won’t disappoint,” he chortles. Morgan’s eyes widen and the vein on her forehead pops out. Thankfully Albert seems to have the same sense of humour, but Morgan still looks like she’s planning on murdering someone tonight.
I trail behind as they head into the dining room and Brian sticks to my side like an old piece of gum.
“I said to dress pretty Plum, I didn’t expect you to go all princess for me,” he whispers.
“If I’d have known it was you I was dressing for, I would have worn a potato sack.” I overtake him into the dining room, there are only two seats left. I take mine hesitantly with a pleading glance to Morgan but that goes ignored as Brian squishes next to me, stealing my appetite with the stench of his rich-boy cologne.
“So, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time, Elena?” Andria asks, pouring a fresh glass of wine.
“Oh she has a number of hobbies: sport, art, charity – it’s a challenge to get her to sit down and take a break,” Morgan gushes. I know she’s not an idiot, so she must just be lying.  
“And what about your grades?” Albert adds.
“Nearly at the top of her class,” Morgan crows, much to Albert’s satisfaction.
“Fantastic,” Albert says, him and his wife sharing a smile. Why is it starting to feel like I’m being interviewed?
Morgan starts to list off all of the careers I’m supposedly interested in, as I try to ignore Brian prodding me every minute with a different napkin animal he’s made. He’s like a five year old proudly showing his crappy stick-figure drawings to his parents.
Except for Brian, there’s a certain sophistication in the room – an ambience that imitates the pearl white spreading from the swirls on the ceiling to the pristine marble beneath our feet. Their teeth even glisten with the same lustre, but their smiles – that’s where the similarity ends. The charming curve of their lip is fraudulent, and I don’t just mean Morgan.
My head falls to my plate, away from it all. I was always taught to be genuine, to surround myself with genuine people, to stay far away from people like this. I poke the chicken to the side of my plate, their words blur with the scrapping of my fork against the ivy porcelain. The maze of spaghetti cages me, tugging me away from the conversation and the waves of the ocean fill the air around me. Something tells me that I don’t want to hear what they’re talking about, that the waves are a safer sound.
An echo of my name makes the waves turn violent against the shore.
“Elena, is that true?”
The ultramarine blue surrounding my plate jumps back into my periphery and I shoot my head up, dropping my fork to my plate with a clatter. Brian’s question reappears in my mind and I snap my head toward him. There’s a softer, more cautious expression on his face, one that I haven’t seen before, and I realise what I was avoiding.
“Oh yes, but lucky for Elena, she has us now. What an unstable woman her mother must have been and she made quite a scene too – a bullet to the brain, can you believe it?” Morgan chimes on, not a symptom of sympathy in her tone. Brian slips his hand under the table to try and comfort me but I shoo him off of me. I don’t want to be touched right now. The sight of my heart lying out on the table, spewing blood for all to see, it brings back that raw pain from the gaping hole in my chest.
“Let’s bring the conversation back to something lighter,” Albert suggests with a howling chuckle.
I can tell one of two things from his demeanour: either he’s never lost anyone that he’s loved, or he has such little capacity for love, that to him, grief is a foreign language.
He points his fork over at me and Brian, “the budding romance between our two troublemakers, perhaps,” he puts the fork back to his mouth and slurps off the spaghetti.
Surely I mis-heard?
“I’ve booked a table for the two of them Sunday evening at Coup de Foudre. Personal relationships mean a lot to me Morgan, I’m certain with things going the way that they are, you’ll be on course for partnership in no time.”
Albert picks up his napkin to dab away the sauce on his moustache, Morgan holds her dress in place to top up the emptying glasses, Maurice takes over the conversation with one of his tasteless jokes, and Andria tuts and shakes her head as the men laugh along.
And I wait. I wait for one of them to acknowledge me, to see me - notice that I’m not a prop, a doll, a puppet – but they don’t.
I look to Brian, he sees me, but he’s clueless. His eyes are widened, fulfilled. His smirk is brightened, boastful.
Maybe this is what he wanted, what Morgan wanted, but my wants are out of reach - beyond the walls of this box I’m trapped inside. My desires are confined like Schrödinger’s cat and no one cares to open the lid.

***Does this chapter end at a good point? Or does it feel a little sudden?***


Submitted: October 16, 2020

© Copyright 2021 A.K. Jones. All rights reserved.

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