It had been 24 years since she'd last seen it but the place looked exactly the same. Mirrors cornered her, boxed her into her greatest nightmare. Eden spun around and the world turned into a kaleidoscope, fragments of crooked noses and asymmetrical jaws flew past her. As if she was spinning on a roundabout, it went faster and faster until the world turned into a sheet of brown; angles entangled together.
Her head started spinning, so fast she couldn't keep control. Her mind was a canvas of black. She didn't want to open her eyes, to let the nightmare cloud her vision once again. To see the face she's despised all her life. Herself.
Eden gripped her knees, bending over. White spots like light bulbs danced in front of her eyes. They slowly dulled as if they were losing power. She rested her elbow on a rectangular mirror parallel to her; gradually transferring her weight on her elbow.
The blurred colours; cream, dark brown, and a mucky green started to settle. Like rippling water, her reflection stilled onto a mirror. The world stopped spinning. She smoothed her hair, wiping the thick sweat that settled onto her upper brow.
Eden stared in the mirror. The nuisance that stood right in front of her. Her dark brown hair pushed down on her scalp, flat and dull like an empty road. Her eyes, two brown dots that sheltered under her bushy eyebrows like animals nestled in the shade of dispersed trees. Her left eye was bigger than the right, just a small error. An imperfection. She could search for many imperfections along her face. Like a test, marked with so much red sharpie she could barely keep track. Her nose arched up like a parrot beak. The patchiness of her cheeks; the skin wrapped her bones like a check marked blanket. Alternating between light brown, dark, and a faint currant red. The only checkmark on her face was her jaw, smooth as a blade. But there was also a small error there. The left side of her face had more of a square-looking stencil then her right.
A tear sprouted out of her eyes, making a salty stream down her face. Eden watched it travel, through the jungle of imperfections. All at once, a war started. Bullet wounds reopened in her heart. How she had been less pretty than her friend. How everybody liked her more. She braced herself for a grenade, her fragile body tucked in a shell. Then it came. Harsh and sudden. No one had liked her from Middle School to Junior High. No one had talked about her. She was known as the less pretty friend. The second best. Like a bottle of crystal pink champagne sitting next to a dollar-worth one. Silver; dull against a raw full gold. Second best.
Eden watched as an image began to form in a mirror, sewn together by her greatest imaginations. Chestnut hair with the volume of peaked mountains. The brown hair gripped around her neck, each strand positioned perfectly. Beautifully. Large eyes, two globes of light blue. Snow globes underneath the thin arched eyebrows. Her face was smooth as cream, flawless. This test was 100 percent. Maybe even 110 with bonus points. She could see no answers marked wrong here.
Eden had just landed on the wrong spot in the game of chance. Somewhere. Somewhere out there, there was a girl who looked like this. With flawless pink lips. And frosty blue eyes. An ocean of hazelnut waves. Anger coursed down her. A liquid river of molten flowing down her. Then sadness, tears bunched up in her eyes like watery bouquets. Then jealousy. They all mixed up together, envious green, hot raging red, and a touch of soft blue. Until she didn't know what her heart was saying to her. She didn't know what to do. Her chest felt like a hurricane. Storming emotions blending, the wind pulling her heart in different directions until her whole chest and stomach ached.
She was so ugly. Why couldn't she be beautiful?
Why? Why? Why?
Models that Eden had seen in magazines entered her head. Glowing skin. Flawless hair. Eyes that you could stare in for a million years without getting bored.
But then another image, the video that Lane had shown her. The before and after of a woman getting ready for the stage. First, they'd blot her face with a thick brown substance until it reached the perfect tone. Then line their eyes so they become more apparent. More striking. Then the lips, to make them powerful. Then the blush to make them pretty, sweet, and feminine.
Didn't they all do that? None of them were that pretty. They all had to go through a filter. She was like one of those women. What would she look like after she went through that process? But then they all had to put on makeup, to be judged fairly. Her head was filled, with water. Each thought seemed to be bubbly and rippled. It was like she was coming to a realization. Nobody is that pretty. They only look it, because of each lair of makeup they smother their face with.
But who was she to define beautiful? Why did beautiful need to be pink full lips, beautiful hair, and lighter skin? Why did it need to be a sharp jaw and blushed cheeks? Why did it need to be smooth skin and white teeth? Why couldn't beauty be personality? Or a smile or laugh?
The mirror in front of her turned into her real self. Each feature degrading. The pink shiny lips turning grape-coloured and chapped. The sinuous surfer waves of mousey brown turned flat and shapeless. Her eyebrows regained their bushiness. And every feature returned asymmetrically.
She couldn't change the way she looked. So instead she would change the way she saw herself. She was beautiful.
In her head, she started to repeat the line. Like a script, she was trying to memorize.
Eden is beautiful. I am beautiful. Fuck anybody who thinks otherwise.
And that was all that mattered.