Marie sits in front of the mirror, her reflection beaming back at her. Tomorrow is a big day. Lucy has invited her out with Martin’s friend. It is a perfect opportunity to mingle and maybe even meet someone.
Her fingers pat the top of her head and follow her hair to its end. Imagine if she was blonde and not a cross between a chocolate brown and a bunt umber, and if the sun tinted her skin in shades of amber and not bleached her pink.
She traces her lips, her pinky finger rubbing the rims of her mouth. So thin and flat—hardly inviting. She is no oil painting, well perhaps an early Picasso but no Monet. She has come to terms with that from her years of analysing her interaction with the opposite sex. At school the boys saw her as an invisible shadow, light reflecting on her when maths homework was due.
“Maria, you gotta help us out.” Carl would shout. You could hear the deep rattle in his voice—manhood was looming. “Cheers, Maria.” He would smile, snatching the homework off her and giving it back to her without a glance.
At university, the males befriended Marie to get closer to Lucy. The curvy beast, they would joke. Sarcasm at its finest. Lucy was anything but a beast. Her mermaid hair tumbling down her like a waterfall after a storm and those curves sticking to her wafer-thin frame.
Marie strokes her bosom and the stretched fabric sitting between each breast. “At least I have personality.” She tells her reflection. But not really. Shyness is a disease. It is crippling. Her inability to her talk and the battle she has with her mind to come up with ideas before it is too late.
Her mother calls her daily. “Woman only have a brief window Marie, you got to put yourself out there. You are not that bad looking.”
“Okay, Mum.” She would agree, the phone moving closer to the hook. “I will try online dating. Love you.” She would hit the red button and the knots in her stomach would tighten, moving their way up to her throat. Her mother was right, she had to try. Just like she tried in her exams. Try to meet someone.
Marie picks up the notepad balancing on the edge of the sink and with the pencil in her hand taps the page.
What do you do? I am a lawyer. Yes, I make lots of money, but I spend it just as fast.
No, I don’t ski. I have two left feet.
I am an only child, that’s why I like to spoil myself, and you if you are lucky.
Oh, wow, you have a huge family. You must be very low maintenance. Let’s get married.
The pencil scratches the page, and she sighs, her shoulders dropping into her chest. She is going to be single forever.
“At least you have a nice nose.” Lucy would grumble, her finger tapping the wide bridge between her eyes. But who cares about noses? It has to be about her personality.
The pencil jumps back into her hand.
I like quirky independent movies with great soundtracks. I believe every good movie has a soundtrack to match. Have you seen Drive? Yes, it is brutal but brilliant. Ryan Gosling’s character—the alluring charm of a man who barely utters a word and that intensity between him and Carey Mulligan. That’s what I am looking for, where our eyes speak more than our words. And did you realise you never know his name, like he is so mystifying he doesn’t need a name. And what a soundtrack.
A crooked smile forms across Marie’s thin lips and reaches her cloudy blue eyes. She has nailed it.
“Now learn it like a script.” She shouts at her reflection. Her eyebrows meet and deep lines materialize across her forehead. “Oh f*** that is how you get wrinkles.” She shrieks, patting the skin above her brows.
Her choice of outfit was not ideal but Christmas was just about over and another lonely New Year’s Eve forced to her eat a full box of Roses and drink her wine collection.
She pulls the cotton dress over her head, breathing in as it passes her hips. She wouldn’t call the colour grey more like a silver. A shimmering silver that only sparkles in the daylight.
Marie returns to mirror, her mobile phone replacing the notepad. Her eyes cruise over the saved internet pages.
Take the lip liner and follow the shape of your mouth, but make the line above your lips.
Her hand works quickly, responding to the instructions.
And pile on the lip gloss.
She picks up the tube of cherry gloss and places a generous layer over her thin lips.
“Well, I look like a clown, so maybe they will find me funny.” Marie grunts as she fights with a strand of hair caught in the gooey lip gloss drippling from her mouth.
Her phone vibrates, a grumpy Uber driver appearing on the screen.
“You have got this Marie.” She smiles. She takes one last look in the mirror and the curve of her smile shrinks slowly back into a straight, narrow line.
The aggressive wind throws her hair backwards. “Not the dress.” She cries, brawling with the fabric to stay in place. She hauls herself into the bar’s entrance only to be greeted by flawless Lucy, surrounded by a forest of males.
“You made it.” Lucy throws her arms around her chest, squeezing Marie so her hands can meet. “There are so many single guys here.” She whispers.
Marie browses over the collection of men hanging around Lucy. The tall ones peer over her, cold hard expressions gripping their faces, but the shorter ones meet her eyes, smiling slightly as they rock their heads back and forth.
“How is Marie?” Martin pushes his way through the forest of men and greets her with a kiss on the cheek.
“I am well thank you Martin.” Marie replies.
“Have you met Jim?”
A giant of a man with a beard to match steps backwards. “Hi.” He mutters, his eyes falling to the ground.
“Hey.” A male dressed in a pinstripe suit with a forehead you could slide across joins Jim.
“And don’t forget Chris.”
Chris is the odd one out. The shortest of the bunch with hair that looks like it is set on fire. And tracksuit bottoms in a trendy bar?
“Hi.” Marie's eyes dart away from Chris and over to Jim and Micky. She takes a breath, her hand searching for the piece of paper with her notes sitting in her jacket pocket. She can’t read it, but touching it might help her remember.
“So, what do you do?” Micky asks.
The blood pumping through her body boils, warming her skin. “I am a lawyer.”
Silence, like it is toxic to the ears, sweeps through the trendy bar. She needs to say something. Anything.
“Oh, you are not boring them with your job.” Lucy interjects. Her mermaid hair hits Marie in the face and she places herself in between Micky and Jim.
“Thank you for saving us.” Micky giggles, patting Lucy on the shoulder.
Their laughter is infectious. A chorus of amusement with a soprano Lucy, a tenor Micky, a baritone Jim and hisses from Chris.
“Anyone for a drink?” Marie stutters.
“We will have an expensive bottle of Pinot Noir.” Lucy replies, her plump lips curling upwards.
“And I will take a beer.” Chris smiles.
Marie finds herself against the bar, her body crumbling inwards as her mind replays the car crash that has just existed. “The most expensive bottle of Pinot Noir.” She mutters to the bar lady. “Oh, and the cheapest beer.”
“Maria, you gotta see her.” Chris appears behind her. His raspy singing forces Marie to flinch.
“My name is Marie.” She corrects.
“I know I just like the song.” Chris grins. He takes a step closer to her, his face like red berries mushed together in full sight. “So, you are a lawyer?’’
Marie tries not to engage but his turquois top rubs her jacket and his oddly shaped freckles appear in her eyeline. “Yes.” She replies. “Here is your beer.” She throws the drink in his direction and hurries back to Lucy.
Jimbo, Micky and another guy with butter blonde hair and spartan shoulders laugh at every word Lucy says, even as she teases them with a delicate fondle of her wedding ring. There are lots of touching—gentle rubs on the arm and their eyes as if they are listening to their desires move around Lucy’s body, across her face. Oh, how Marie wishes someone would look at her like that.
She imagines it for a second. Someone is looking at her like these men admire Lucy. She would definitely stroke her hair, caressing the ends and her tongue would her wet her lips. And she would smile, a cheeky smile where she taps her button nose and purses her mouth.
“What are you doing, Marie?” Lucy shrieks.
Oh, sh**. Talking to yourself and playing with your face is only for the mirror. “Just loving the wine.” Marie lies. She takes a generous gulp of the Pinot Noir and as it cascades down her throat, she feels it battling to go the other way.
“It was a disaster. I was a dreadful tornado colliding through the bar. Everyone that spoke to me, the copious number of good-looking males, all except from Martin ran the over way. They needed to take cover.” Marie sits back in her chair, glaring into the mirror. Water gathers in the rims of her eyes. “Oh, and the chubby redhead.” Just the thought pauses her tears. “He was like a foul smell that won’t go way.”
Marie is not wrong. The night was a disaster. It would horrify her mother. I brought you up better than that, she would scold.
Her hand pats her jacket pocket, and she pulls out her notes. The conversation she was meant to have with Lucy’s handsome entourage. She rips it apart, watching it plunge from her hands onto the floor. As it lands, the tears transform into anger and it builds below her chest.
“What’s that?” She shouts at herself, her glare remaining with the floor. She would never use lime green paper. She is a lawyer and green is too tranquil, too hippie for her.
Her fingers snap up the slice of lime green paper and as the anger simmers, she unfolds the message scribbled across the note.
Maria (joking) Marie, I mean. It was nice to meet you tonight. I have to say you are quite beautiful. Chris.
Ugh, Marie shakes. “The redhead with those weird freckles and about five chins thinks I am….. beautiful.” The words sit uncomfortably at the end of Marie’s tongue. “Beautiful.” She repeats.
It takes Marie a careful inspection of herself to see it. She never really thought about how her pale skin contrasts with her peachy cheeks. It reminds her of her Nana’s doll collection. And how her rolls, those extra layers of flesh sit in all the right places. Her breasts are full, bursting out of her chest and soft like a cuddly toy. Who would you rather nuzzle up to Lucy or Marie? And her hair, though an odd colour, magnifies her cloudy eyes. And yes, she is shy. But she is funny.
“Yes, I am beautiful.” She smiles. “To a chubby red-head who dresses like he is a colour-blind drug dealer, I am the most beautiful person in the world.”