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Sad Contemporary

Aria was perfect, at least that’s what her mother said. She didn’t feel perfect though. In fact most of the time she probably felt the opposite of that. However, her mother said she was, and her mother was always right. At some point or another, Aria simply submitted to the fact that it was true. She was perfect and that was final. 


***


Aria finished up the last touches of her makeup in front of her irregularly large bathroom mirror that her mother had especially installed for her. 


“I always want you to put 110 percent of your effort in your appearance, darling. Never leave the house without makeup. It makes you seem indecent.” Aria recalled her mother saying as she capped the premium rose red lipstick tube and shoved it into her make up bag. 


Pushing her long, silky black hair behind her ears, she rubbed her lips against each other and forced her lips into a strained smile. “I am perfect.” she told herself into the mirror. 


Aria slid the bathroom door open and stepped out. Walking down the halls of the mansion, she sauntered into the kitchen where her mother was….cooking breakfast?


“Mom? Why are you cooking breakfast? Where’s Miss Perkins?” Aria asked, raising an eyebrow as she crossed her hands over her chest. 


Her mother glanced up, diverting her attention from the oatmeal in the steaming pot to her daughter. She wore a black vintage dress with a cape shoulder sheath; Her ebony colored hair was tied up on her head in a neat bun without a single loose strand in sight - which emphasized her sharp cheekbones and tall nose.  


Her mother honestly looked more sophisticated, cooking a casual breakfast for Aria, than other mothers would be attending their daughters wedding.  


“I told Miss Perkins to take a break this morning, dear. I decided I wanted to cook you breakfast on your first day back to school.” her mother said laconically as she reached for a china bowl from the cupboard and began spooning oatmeal in it. The smell of burnt cinnamon filled the air.


“You never cook, Mom.” Aria said bluntly. “Like never. In fact, the last time I saw you set foot in this kitchen was...scratch that, I’ve literally never seen you in the kitchen.”


Her mother shook her head as she placed a silver spoon into the bowl and set it on the dining table. “Just because I’ve never done it does not mean I can’t do it. Every mother can cook for their child, and I don’t see why I should be the exception to that.”

Aria rolled her eyes as she walked over to the table and slid into the chair casually. As she pulled the bowl towards her, the stench of cinnamon grew stronger. Yes, it was definitely burnt. No doubt about it. 


“You're my mom, Mom. You don’t cook. You just don’t.” Aria pushed the bowl of burnt oatmeal away from her. 


Most Mom’s probably would’ve been hurt by the comment, but her mother didn’t even blink. She took a deep breath and calmly said, “Alright. If you don’t want the oatmeal, why don’t you grab a jelly sandwich that you can eat on your way to school. We’re running late anyways.”


Aria nodded and got up from her seat, causing a loud screech of the chair rubbing against the floor. 


Her mother frowned, “That’s unacceptable, Aria. What have I told you about getting up. Never make that sort of sound. It’s very irritating and disrespectful, and you, my dear, must never be disrespectful.”


Aria sighed and feigned a smile that made her mouth hurt, “Okay, Mom. Sure.”


Her mother smiled back, “Remember Aria. You are and must be perfect.”


***


Aria waved goodbye to her mother as she stepped out of the car and onto the sidewalk of her highschool. 


“Be my perfect girl, darling!” her mother said calmly as she began pulling away from the curb.


Aria inhaled, holding her breath for three seconds, then exhaled deeply. “I am perfect.” she repeated to herself again as she walked towards the entrance of the school. 


Although her lips were already far too tired from feigning a smile at her mother the entire morning, Aria forced her lips upward as she entered the school. Immediately, a couple of her friends approached her. Chelsea, who was arguably her best friend, pulled her into a light hug.


“Oh my gosh, Aria! You look fabulous!” she exclaimed. 


Aria’s other friend Layla chuckled, “Doesn’t she always look fabulous?” she remarked, not unkindly. 


Chelsea nodded, “You’re right.” she said, “One of these days you’re going to tell me how you do it!”


Aria shrugged, “It’s nothing. I do my makeup, get dressed, and come to school everyday like everyone else.” she said simply. 


However, Aria didn’t mention how her mother had begun training her to do her makeup before she could even write. She didn’t mention the long, tedious, and tearful nights she spent with her mother who had used that time to teach her how to pick the perfect outfit and present herself in the most extravagant way. She definitely didn’t mention what it took to keep her going everyday, what it took to keep her sane. Just thinking about it sent chills down her spine. 


Subconsciously, Aria’s hand found her pant pocket, and she felt around for the small capsule she always carried with her. 


As usual, they walked to class ; Chelsea, blathering on about the newest fashion trend; Layla, listening indifferently; and Aria maintaining the perfect smile on her lips, making sure she looked, felt, and was in fact, “perfect”.


***


Chelsea stared at Aria’s tray as they sat down at their table in the cafeteria, “I still don’t understand how you manage to eat that much and not get fat.” 


Aria looked down at her own tray : a hamburger (plain as she liked it), small fries, a fruit cup, and a carton of 2 percent milk. 


Then, she glanced over at Chelsea’s tray and noticed that contrary to yesterday, Chelsea had decided to omit the hamburger she’d eaten yesterday with lunch which meant that today, Chelsea was going to have to survive the next six hours before dinner on nothing but a fruit cup. 


“I don’t understand how you manage to eat that less and not pass out.” Aria retorted, feeling slightly guilty inside. Chelsea didn’t know why she could eat what she ate without getting fat, but she knew; However, she wasn’t about to tell Chelsea. 


Layla sat beside them with her own homemade lunch which consisted of a turkey sandwich, an apple, and a bag of lays chips. As they ate, Aria could feel Layla eyeing her sympathetically as she devoured her sandwich and fries. Did Layla know?


After Aria finished the last bite of her meal and sipped her milk carton empty, she got up from the table bench they all sat at, preparing to leave.


“I’m gonna use the restroom before class. I’ll meet you guys over there.” she said briskly. 


Layla stood up abruptly, “Could I go with you?” 


Aria took a step back defensively, “No. I’m perfectly fine using the restroom. Thanks, Layla.” she said. 


“I need to use the restroom too.” Layla responded, zipping up her empty container and shoving it into her lunch box.


Aria pressed her lips together. At that moment, she wished Layla to disappear, but obviously, that wasn’t going to happen. She could feel other eyes at the table turning towards them, and she had no choice but to yield.


“Fine. Let’s go.” Aria said. Without waiting for Layla, she began pushing past the swarms of people who were getting up to leave too. 


Moving quicker than usual, she managed to conceal herself in the crowd, blending in with everyone else until she was sure Layla had surely lost track of where she was. 


Then, when she finally squeezed through the cafeteria door and out into the halls. With her toes and heels racing, she walked towards the restroom at the very back edge of the school, the restroom she knew hardly anyone ever went to. 


Racing in, she made her way down to the stall farthest from the entrance, swung the door wide open, then locked it shut once she’d stepped in.


Aria perked her ears up, listening for footsteps of anyone that might be entering. As usual, all she could hear was the slow breaths of her own breathing. 


Then, she emptied. Sticking her finger down her throat, she hovered over the toilet, allowing everything to pour out. The burger, the fries, the fruit, and the milk. 


Once she was sure she’d cleared her stomach of all the garbage, she stood up right, wiped her mouth, and flushed the toilet submissively. 


Unlocking the stall, she stepped out to the sink and washed her hands again and again and again. She brought a handful of water to her mouth, gurgled, then spit it right back out. 


Hot tears began flowing down her cheeks as she did this. Her throat burned, the acid still crawling up . 


Layla knew. Aria didn’t know how, but she knew. That must’ve been why she’d looked at Aria that way when they were eating lunch, why she had been so insistent on coming to the restroom too. 


Of course, Aria couldn’t let that happen. She had to do it, or else, she wouldn’t be perfect. Her mother surely would not approve of her eating such an unhealthy lunch, but Aria had been so tired of having to shovel bowls full of raw salad down her throat. So, she’d found a way to get around that, without ruining her perfect figure. She’d told herself it was okay to eat what she wanted, as long as she got rid of it afterwards. 


“I am perfect.” Aria repeated to herself even as tears dripped from her eyes, ruining the makeup she’d spent hours preparing in the morning. 


Taking a few deep breaths, she wiped her face with the makeup remover in her purse, applied new concealer, and touched up her face with the supplies she had at her disposal. Then, she took the capsule out of her pocket, unscrewed the lid, and popped two perfectly sky blue pills into her mouth, swallowing them without any water. 


Aria stared at herself one last time in front of the mirror, “I am perfect.” she said. This time, however, she sounded more like she was trying to reassure herself that it was actually true, her voice wavering ever so slightly as she spoke.


***


Dragging herself to her room, Aria felt her legs grow heavier and heavier as she moved. Her head spun, and she swore she saw stars on the roof and walls as she walked. 


When she finally reached her room, she collapsed onto the bed and reached for the small capsule in her pocket. Pulling the lid off forcefully, she threw another two pills into her mouth. Or was it three? She couldn’t remember, nor did she care. 


Below her pillow case, she scavenged out another miniature bottle, popped the lid open, and put three of those pills in her mouth too. Or was it four?


Finally feeling at ease, she felt her head begin to clear up and all the headaches and pain began to dissipate into thin air. Aria felt her body go numb and for once in the entire day, she felt relaxed. 


Lying on the bed, her eyes stared at the ceiling. Even though her body was stiff, and she felt as if her breath would stop right then and there, she forced her lips into another smile, “I am perfect.” 


August 14, 2021 17:16

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18 comments

Eric D.
19:21 Aug 14, 2021

So sad, you are a great writer and it shows, can really bring about emotional stories and tug on the readers heart strings, I felt for her !

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Eve Y
19:50 Aug 14, 2021

Thank you, Eric! That means a lot. :)

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Andrea Magee
04:22 Aug 27, 2021

Aria poor Aria. What a terrible way to have to live. Good story 👏

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Eve Y
22:32 Aug 27, 2021

Thank you, Andrea!

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Anna. Can Drink
19:17 Aug 23, 2021

Wow....that was amazing You can really write,you write an amazing story. I really enjoy it😍 Reading this story make me feel like loooking myself into the mirror. Cause I always wanted to be "perfect". And I still want to...

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Eve Y
23:37 Aug 23, 2021

I'm so glad you enjoyed, and I know what you mean by wanting to be "perfect". That's something that I've struggled with as well. :) I hope you were able to take something away from reading this story. :)

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Francis Daisy
03:16 Aug 23, 2021

Eve, What an emotional story about a difficult topic. You wrote with such poetry and grace, it was heartbreaking to read about Aria's struggle. You are an amazing writer! :)Amy

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Eve Y
23:35 Aug 23, 2021

Thank you so much, Amy! That means a lot!

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Ananya Voss
15:58 Aug 22, 2021

I liked this. You've captured the angst & insecurity women in modern society have to contend with non stop.

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Eve Y
00:52 Aug 23, 2021

Thank you, Ananya. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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Ryl J.
12:15 Aug 22, 2021

Another great story from you, Eve! This was a really heart-wrenching one and I felt so bad for Aria throughout the whole thing. I hated the fact that her mother conditioned her to be like that; to be a machine almost and to be an embodiment of perfection, even though such thing doesn’t exist. It’s so crazy. Unfortunately, this does happen in real life and that’s probably the most heartbreaking thing. Also, Aria having an eating disorder was even more emotional and you can tell that she knows it—that she knows it’s wrong and doesn’t want to...

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Eve Y
15:43 Aug 22, 2021

Thank you so much Ryl J. ! Your insightful comments and feedback have been the highlight of my day so far! I'm so pleased that you enjoy my stories, and I hope to write more in the future. And yes, it is quite sad that things in the story occur in real life. I think I might just write this same story with an alternate ending where Layla does come and save the day. :) Great idea!

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Ryl J.
16:41 Aug 22, 2021

Oh my, yes, that would be amazing! I’m glad I was able to inspire you with the idea! Have fun writing :)

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Tanisha Kumar
07:53 Aug 15, 2021

This story gave me goosebumps…It’s one of those powerful stories which has the ability to elicit so many emotions - sadness, sympathy, fear… Just amazing 👏👏

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Eve Y
15:36 Aug 15, 2021

Thank you so much, Tanisha, for your kind words and praise! I really appreciate it. :)

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Keya Jadav
17:43 Aug 14, 2021

Oh my god, this was a really sad story empowering a hard truth. These things are actually pretty common. People, especially girls, get so engaged in impressing the world, they forget who they really are. I never really understood why people dab tons of make-up on their skin. And of course, it also highlights an important point - peer/parent pressure. The pressure and persistent expectations only take a child to its bottom and fill their minds with useless things like suicide. I loved your story Eve, it really shows you the true face of t...

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Eve Y
18:17 Aug 14, 2021

Thank you so much, Keya!! I'm so glad you enjoyed this story and found it to be insightful. I really appreciate the detailed and in depth comment that you took the time to write out after reading! I'm glad you were able to connect the story with the real world, as I think it is important to recognize that these problems do exist. :)

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Keya Jadav
18:19 Aug 14, 2021

No problem at all! It was my pleasure that I chose to read this story, and you totally made it worth it. :)

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