Portrait of a Lady by Ksenia Ryzhova

             Wide eyes blinked back in the mirror, lashes gently brushed with the mascara wand, her mouth a perfect O. In her self-studies she always found, to her surprise, that she liked her face well enough, that in her regular features and complexion there was a spark of immortality. The tiny shrine in the bathroom was crammed with creams, eye shadows, powders, kohl pencils, liners of every shade, cheek stain – every sort of product except the one she needed.

             “Where are you?” she muttered to her absent Chanel sparkly lip balm in Empreinte. Never mind how that thing cost more than eight Starbucks runs and she was almost afraid to open the shiny black container with the sacred interlocking Cs, she needed the nude lip to balance her heavily made-up eyes or else she’d look like a tramp.

             Drawers were opened and slammed, then the faint thunder of freshly pedicured feet as they marched across faded carpets to the bedroom.

             Nothing in her bag, in the discarded clothes on her bed or in the well-stocked suede DKNY makeup caddy. She pulled out her iPhone. It was 7:20 PM. She put on some music, a wailing, high-pitched voice singing about love and death and magic filled the house.

             The closet was a mess. She put it in order every month, but after a week it would get overgrown with her indecisive rejections and everything else that had no place in her room. The balm wasn’t in there either. A dull sense of helplessness filled her as she looked at the piles of clothing and shoes and belts and used notebooks and old Barbie dolls shoved in the corners. Why was it always so messy? Why did the piles always fall over and get rumpled? The music just barely covered the banging of doors and screams suffocating in pillows and the soft, soothing sound of falling fabric.

             A little color had come into her cheeks and a dull pounding filled her head. The music had stopped. It was 7:25. Did she take the blue pill or the red pill for headaches? Opening the medicine cabinet, she was surprised to find her little black tube hidden between two tall orange containers. She laughed then, her entire body relaxing with each rapid exhale.

             Coffee first? Long day today. She hit send.

             The balm sparkling on her lips, she pulled on her heels. And waited in semi-darkness, not bothering to turn on the lights or put the food her mother left for her in the refrigerator. She got terribly antsy while she waited with her every muscle tensed, ready to jump up at any flare of headlights. The fabric of her dress was itchy and so she began to scratch at her neck where the label chaffed the skin. It was a mindless habit of hers, scratching when she had nothing else to do. It led to the worst inflammations and scars and recently she had been so very good at not doing it, but today had been a long day. It was 7:32.

             Ready. Where are you?

             “The number you have dialed is currently unavailable. Please leave a message after the beep.” Instead of a beep there was the ping of a received text.

             Sorry, car trouble. Rain check?

             Dropping the phone like some parasite, she ran to the bathroom to check her makeup, examine her face again, to touch the porcelain smoothness of her cheek. It was all a waste. Only the fluorescent lights would shine on her face, the night air would not touch her skin today, would not be electrified with its immortality, the beauty youth lends all things.

             Black sludge silently bled down her cheeks and her skin turned splotchy so it all looked horribly ugly. So she took her pretty nude glossy balm and she scribbled it all away, trails of sparkly skin tone where her eyes had been reflected, a swirling nude mustache adorning her upper lip. Drawing on her beard she pressed too hard and the stick broke so she threw it away. The whole bathroom felt dirty and disgusting so she retreated back into her room.

             It was 9:00 when she left her perfectly clean bedroom, her eyes clear and sparkling once again, a little pink gloss on her lips. New makeup, new clothes, new plans, new friends and it was wonderful. Little smiles succeeded each other like waves and she felt light, like she was floating down the steps to the car and the new friend and they were all frozen in time because they were perfect and the night air was so intoxicating. They saw each other and they recognized their immortality in the glow of their cheeks and the night air that welcomed them and whispered secret forgotten things that only they could hear.