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Living Fiction - Chapter 47
Here's where Chapter 46 left you:
I must have admired myself for longer than I thought, because the next thing I knew Jessie was knocking on the bathroom door.
“Can I come in?” and without waiting for my reply she opened the door.
“This is crazy, Mom. You look really good. I’m going to get ready and then we’ll go out to celebrate!”
“What are we celebrating, Jessie?”
“We’re celebrating the new you, Mom. And while we’re at it, we’re going to talk about some of the things the old you lied about.”
That girl can really take the wind out of my sails sometimes. Couldn’t she just let me enjoy my moment of glory?
“Okay, fine. Get dressed. Let’s go get some coffee. I know just the place.”
And now, Chapter 47 Continues.
“If we’re going out in public, I’m taking a shower first,” Jessie said, before wandering out of my bedroom.
“Hurry up!” I yelled after her, “I need caffeine BIG TIME!”
The closing of the guest room door was her only response.
I went back into my bathroom to admire my makeover again. Wow, Millie had really done a job on me…I looked pretty good. Okay, I’m just being modest. I looked darned good. So good that Jessie thought we should go out to celebrate the ‘new me’!
Narrowing my eyes at myself in the mirror, I took a harder look at my transformation. I poked at my hair. The reflection in the mirror showed no movement. I shook my head. Yes, indeed, my hair was petrified.
I looked at myself again.
Suddenly I knew what I needed to do.
I quickly slipped out of my clothes. What sweet relief as my fluffiness exploded from the confining garments. Ahhh… I could finally breathe again.
It took only a moment for the water to get warm in the shower, but it took much longer to undo Millie’s handiwork. I’m certain removing all the spray and styling product from the helmet on my head involved at least fourteen shampoos. Finally my fingers could slip through my hair without feeling like they were caught in steel wool. Then I scrubbed and scrubbed at my face until the washcloth was covered in beige, red and black streaks. That washcloth was definitely a goner.
When I wiped the steam away from the mirror I was both surprised and relieved. I was back. Was that a good thing?
I put a little styling mousse in my hair and blew it dry. It looked okay. Better than usual, but not nearly as spectacular as what Millie had done. I applied a little foundation and blush, some eyebrow pencil and mascara. A touch of lip gloss was my final step. I looked at myself again. I looked okay. Better than usual, and that was fine with me. At least I looked like myself.
I slipped on a clean set of underwear. Realizing that the other undergarments did a lot better job tightening and lifting, I dug through my lingerie drawer (Who am I kidding here? Sadly I just have a plain, old underwear drawer!) to find a slightly more comfortable underwire bra and a somewhat larger pair of control top undies. The black set had always been a destination for me…never an actuality.
When I donned the sweat suit I’d been wearing lately, it seemed downright sloppy, so I dug until I found a pair of jeans with that stretchy stuff woven in. Sure, they were snug and I had to leave the top inch of the zipper unzipped, but I’m pretty certain they were more flattering. A loose, bright red sweater covered the gap at the top of the jeans and made my face look brighter.
I was all set.
Just as I started down the stairs, Jessie opened the guest room door, “Mom! MOM? What happened to you? What did you do?!?”
I stopped on the top step and turned around. “I didn’t do anything, Jessie. I actually just ‘undid’ everything…,” and I continued down the stairs.
Still looking shocked, Jessie followed me to the kitchen. “Seriously, Jessie, stop. You look like a goldfish. Close your mouth! Get your coat! Let’s go! Chop, chop!”
I ignored her and grabbed my keys. “Should we take Edgar out before we leave?” I gestured toward the little fella sound asleep in his dog bed. I think Princess had worn him out. “Oh, never mind, he looks okay, let’s just go!”
“Jessie, come on! Get your coat! Why are you so surprised? I just did what you told me to do. Let’s go!”
“Oh for heavens sake, girl. Get in the car. We’ll talk on the way.”
Finally she started moving. The second she got into the passenger seat she started up again, though. “Mom?”
“Jessie, stop. You sound like a broken record…Mom, Mom, Mom! You’re the one that got mad because you said I was lying about everything. That woman with all the make-up and hair spray wasn’t me. That was just me trying to hide, AGAIN, by lying about my life. That was me…living fiction like I have for months now.”
Jessie was silent as she digested my statement. “But Mom, putting on makeup and changing your hair doesn’t mean you’re living fiction!”
“Jess, trust me. When I saw myself in the mirror I didn’t even know who I was. Since your Dad…ummm…died…I’ve been hiding. Hiding from myself. Hiding from my pain. Hiding from what my life became when I was finally, totally alone.
“I didn’t want you to worry about me…but…honestly…I’ve been scaring myself…I’ve been so lost. Lost in my loss…in my losses…
“And I don’t think I can stand my life being defined by loss anymore…it feels like everything has been about loss for so long for me.”
“Mom, I know losing Dad has been so hard…”
“Jessie! You don’t know! You have no idea! And I’m not just talking about your Dad! You grew up! Your brother grew up! And then I had to deal with all the mistakes I made with your brother…Oh. My. God! How am I supposed to fix this? How am I supposed to turn back time? Where do I even start?”
My daughter looked aghast, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. After all, she’d been begging me and begging me to talk to her. I should have told her, “Be careful what you wish for,” but it was too late for that now.
“And here’s the thing…it’s now or never for me. If I don’t change things now, I’m afraid I’ll never be able to. I think I’ll just keep falling into this…this…abyss of despair until I can’t find a way out of it at all!”
“Abyss of despair? Mom! You’re scaring me. Why are you talking like this?”
“I’m talking like this because it’s true. This is my life and I don’t want it anymore. I don’t. I need to change. I have to change or…”
“Yeah, yeah, I know…abyss of despair.”
“Jessica Rose! Don’t be cruel. You asked and you asked and now I’m telling. My life isn’t always the perpetual smiley face that I’ve tried to wear for you since you were a child. I’ve always hid my worries and fears…didn’t want to upset you…didn’t want you to worry. And now…and now…” I stopped suddenly.
What was I doing? I started to back-pedal. I wanted to apologize.
But then I stiffened my spine. I was ‘cupcaking out’ again and I was tired of doing it. I think being the rah-rah Mom and wife for so long had made me invisible to my family. I’d always put a happy spin on even the grimmest situations and been everyone elses cheerleader.
It was only now that I realized that my selfless devotion to my family was not always reciprocal. It was in that moment that I recognized that the problem with always being everyone elses cheerleader meant that maybe, after awhile, people forgot to cheer for you.
For years I’d minimized what I wanted and needed. “Oh, it’s okay, don’t get me anything for my birthday,” I would say, and after awhile they had stopped. “No, no, don’t fuss over me. I can take care of myself,” I would tell them, and after awhile they didn’t bother to try anymore.
Maybe you could be too nice. Maybe being too nice really meant that eventually your expectations of everyone else lowered in direct proportion to their expectations of you.
I pulled up in front of the coffee shop and without turning my car off, I turned toward my daughter. “Jessie, it’s like this. I need to be selfish now. I need to save myself. You know how even the airlines tell you to put your oxygen mask on first so you can help other people put their masks on safely. I need to put my mask on now so I can breathe…so I can function. I’m not going to protect you from how I feel right now. I love you, and I understand if you don’t want to be a part of this. I do. I do understand. But, Jess. I’m a person, too, and right now I don’t have anything left in me to give to you or to anyone else.”
I paused with my hand on the keys. “Let me just take you back to get your car, honey. I don’t think I want coffee anymore. I just really need to think. I’m definitely not feeling like a celebration.”
Jessie reached across the front seat and turned off the keys. She pulled them out of the ignition and tossed them into her purse.
“Mom, seriously. C’mon, let’s go get coffee and celebrate anyway.”
She started to open her car door. I put my hand on her arm and stopped her. “Did you even hear a single word I just said? There is nothing I feel like celebrating right now!”
“Yes, Mom. I heard every, single world you said. But we are going inside. We are going to order coffee and when it comes we’re having a toast.”
She was really starting to irritate me. I don’t think she had listened at all. “Jessie? Why would we have a toast? There is nothing to toast, believe me.”
She looked me straight in the eye.
“Oh yes there is, Mom. For starters, we’re celebrating the first honest conversation we’ve had since I became an adult!”
To be continued on Tuesday, August 16.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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