Shelby sat near the Princess phone in the house she shared with Nathan. While waiting for her fiancé to call about dinner plans she tried to decide which cosmetics were appropriate. Even now, six months later, she was completely unaccustomed to the makeup intended to enhance natural beauty.
“Makeup with no color,” She murmured, “What a waste.”
Shelby leaned into the mirror trying to discern the contours of her cheekbones, dabbing on light blush and trying to shake off her irritation.
Nathan phoned every Friday, even if he had to return to work after he took her to dinner. Recently, his habit was to ask several coworkers to join them and the dinner was suddenly a business meeting.
Shelby drew a troubled breath, turned to face the makeup mirror and opened her eye shadow. She went about her ablutions which were usually enjoyable, yet seemed an annoying imposition this evening.
The clock struck seven and chimed the time. Something in her wanted to pick it up and hurl it at the wall. Instead, she squelched the momentary urge and reached for the black mascara. She knew the drill. By the time she was ready to apply her lipstick, Nathan would call to tell her he was on his way.
Feeling troubled that his work hours were quickly usurping her time with him; Shelby wondered how long she would be in his company before she would be exiled to listening, not participating. She set about the task at hand lamenting the lonely hours she’d spent waiting for him, but she knew that her anxious loneliness wasn’t all that she was suffering.
Why do I feel so… so?
Lacking an appropriate adjective, she moved on to the distraction of choosing stockings and retrieving footwear from the closet. Shelby rolled her eyes and donned the high-heels she had dyed to match her dress, but couldn’t help eying her fuzzy bedroom slippers longingly. Again, she tried to talk herself out of the pall that had descended upon her,
I worked damned hard to make it into the upper-echelon; to be one of society’s elite. She screwed up her courage, all of her cunning, and leveled her gaze at her reflection, So it doesn’t feel quite right yet, so what? It will in time. So what if you don’t feel like sustaining the facade tonight? You will. You will because you have to!
Shelby pulled her shoulders square narrowing her eyes determinedly, but realized she was gripping the vanity with white knuckles, You can and you will, she chastised herself for even considering the alternative for a second, but She couldn’t drive one thought from mind; I miss being important. Call girl, hooker, prostitute, call it what you want, but I was desired and important.
“I hate this,” she whispered, “Why did grandma call it a deep blue funk? It feels more like red, like danger, lightning storms, and wildfires; like fire engines blasting earsplitting sirens; like screams in the night; like neon, city lights and prostitute-red; urgent, immediate and not to be denied!”
Shelby chafed at the feeling gnawing at her but reached for the coral lipstick, attempting to thwart the pull of the past she had buried, when an old nursery rhyme came to mind, One grammy told me, she thought smiling wistfully while reciting it in mind,
“Sugar and spice
and everything ni… nic…
red,!” She finished,
“That’s what real women are made of!”
Looking around her with fresh eyes, Shelby took in the sterile, white walls adorned with ornate crown molding, the closet doors slid on hinges that wouldn’t dare to squeak, the exquisite crystal figurines and bone china ensconced in the hand-carved breakfront with its shiny lacquered finish.
“I’m a utensil,” Shelby whispered in horrified recognition, “My purpose is for appearances, like this house and the other women traversing these circles. They’ve been dealt with; brainwashed!”
She stopped but her mind would not. They make elaborate dinners, entertain business colleagues and invite wives and girlfriends, no drones, she corrected herself, “They float around in chiffon dresses, throwing tea parties and garden parties for their men. They’re… I’m unseen; invisible!
Our lives are of use only for betterment of social standing; the social standing of our men, our husbands and their families,” Shelby said aloud, “This isn’t what I fought, scraped, scrambled, and scrapped for!”
Turning on her stool, the trappings of the room assaulted her senses; the California King bed with one corner turned down to reveal a precise amount of goose-down pillow in its frilly, embroidered cover caught her eye. She cringed at the white satin sheets under luxuriously rich linens, all of which were finished with a white-satin dust-ruffle trim.
I’m a grown woman trapped in a little girl’s fantasy, Shelby realized.
She longed for a man who was tanned from months spent working in the sun, a man who appreciated a hard day’s work and a longer nights play. Suddenly, Shelby hit her limit,
I would walk through fire to be held and loved by a man with a muscular physique; a rough, wind-scorched body that speaks of using his hands for more than pushing papers across a desk. I want a man who will fuck me wildly, like it’s his last chance; a man to take me roughly, make me crave his attention focused entirely on me. I want him to claim me with longing passion, grateful to give and take pleasure in moments stolen from this too-hectic world.
“I need a man who would sacrifice precious hours and see it as time better spent, even if only for an hour a week. There’s a lot to be said for time that’s heady with desire, lust, longing and hope,” She sighed, “After all of this, after everything I’ve suffered, I’ve dismissed the only identity that is actually my own.”
Her thoughts turned to Nathan’s well-timed niceties; the trinkets, jewelry, and flowers which now took the place of intimacy. She remembered that his hands were still softer and better manicured than her own, and how his mechanical, perfunctory lovemaking left her bereft and sad. Instantly, she was filled with remorse and revulsion.
Her future seemed dismal at best, not at all the picture she had carried with her in mind. Shelby thought that hers would be a Cinderella story. She had imagined newspaper headlines; a fantasy that had sustained her while she reinvented herself:
“Call girl retires to marry rich, eligible bachelor. Couple to honeymoon at exclusive resort in Florida’s South Beach.”
Shelby slumped before the mirror when the phone rang slicing her already frayed nerves.
“Nathan darling,” She answered stifling her sorrow.
“Where would you like to go tonight?” Nathan inquired good-naturedly.
Shelby paused to think. This life is a child’s fantasy; a fairytale. None of this is real and all fairytales end. Stay strong. Her breath caught and stuck in her throat. The only thing she knew with certainty was she could never talk to Nathan about it.
Finally, she gave him the first semi-honest answer she’d had in six months, “I want to go back to the last place.”
“Which place, dear?”
“The one that was red.”
“Oh yes, of course, The Red Lobster then?”
Shelby held her breath, unable to voice her life-altering decision.
Making her way to the walk-in closet, she found the only memento she’d kept. Pulling a red mini-dress from the hanger, Shelby placed the receiver back in its cradle, whispering, “I’ll meet you there.”
It was the last lie she would tell him.