Drama Romance American

Story’s first line came from The First Line Magazine

CW: allusions to war and death

Rayna sat in front of the mirror removing her makeup and wondered who she would discover underneath. She reached over and flicked on the alarm clock radio on her husband’s nightstand. The soft whooshing sound of dead air began to echo in the empty bedroom. “I saw Tinny today. Had lunch,” Rayna mused while she began to wipe the darkened brows from her face. “She isn’t doing well. That boyfriend of hers always runnin’ around. But will she admit it?” queried Rayna as she held her right index finger aloft like the torch of the Statue of Liberty as she answered her own question aloud, “No, Sir.”

She heaved a dramatic sigh remarking, “It’s easier to just pretend that it never happened.” Rayna pressed her cherry lips together; it was difficult to think of parting with them tonight. So she began to work on her forehead instead-wiping the foundation slowly, as if that might slow the wrinkles. “I had a salad. You’d be proud of me. Gotta keep that figure for when you get home, as you always say,” Rayna let out a giggle. She pushed her black chair back from its home against the boudoir and stood. She sucked her belly in and turned her body to the side so she might get a better idea of how those sit ups were helping. She released the breath she was holding and cringed as she realized they weren’t helping as much as she thought. 

“OK, OK, I admit it. I had a snickerdoodle cookie after the salad. But it was so good! And they were beautiful-all round and dusted with the perfect amount of cinnamon sugar,” her voice raised higher as she confessed her sin.

“Yes, yes, those cookies, the ones as big as your hand. I should have waited and split it with you,” she said. The radio responded with waves of white noise. Rayna sunk back into her chair. She plucked a new wipe from her supply and began to remove the blush coating her cheeks. It left huge, red blotches on the wipe-like the kind children get on their cheeks naturally after crying too hard. She pushed the wipe to the side and her head in her hands. Rayna cocked her head to one side, then another, taking in the woman before her. 

“Do you think I have crow’s feet?” she asked the room. The combination of her bright overhead light-the one her husband never let her have on because it was, “too obnoxious”- and her ring light on the boudoir certainly made it seem like she had crow’s feet. Rayna leaned into the mirror, so close the tip of her button nose grazed the glass. The button nose he so dearly loved to kiss. She shook her head, allowing her long, black hair to fall like a curtain around her. 

“No, I think you’re right, no crow’s feet yet. Although,” she said while pinching her cheeks and rubbed the corner’s of her mouth, “Laugh lines, certainly.” She frowned dramatically, then smiled while paying close attention to the wrinkles that disappeared and appeared. 

“Mother says those are good, though. ‘Laugh lines mean you have lived a life full of laughter.’ If she bothered to see me in person, she’d tell me I’m not making them any deeper lately,” Rayna mused. 

Even with the radio on, the world seemed silent around her. A wave of sadness filled her heart. She felt the physical pang in her chest. Rayna loudly cleared her throat. As if that would manage to clear the pain away. 

She began to take away the red lipstick. She watched as her lips went from cherry red, to deep pink, to light pink. Her makeup wipe looked like a bloody mess, tossed in the corner of her boudoir like evidence of a crime. “Mother says,” began Rayna, “That it’s about time to let this all go.” She watched her lips moving in the mirror as the words left her mouth, “She says it’s simply time to move on. Because you’ve done your duty, served your country, ‘presumed dead in the name of patriotism.’ What bull…”Her mouth closed. 

Rayna stood from her seat, aggressively grabbed the makeup wipes, and marched into the attached mast bathroom. When she turned on the light, her eyes blinked rapidly to adjust to the brightness. She made a beeline for the sink on the left. The counter was littered with beauty products including creams, perfumes, and of course, red lipsticks. Rayna had amassed an entire rainbow of red lipsticks. They ranged from her natural, pale pink, to glittery pink, to dusted rose pink, to Chardonnay red, to a shade some could argue was violet. Amongst the chaos was a single, black wash cloth. It was neatly folded into a tight little square which was promptly unfolded each evening after the water had been turned on to allow it to warm. 

Rayna stuck her index and middle finger into the water rushing from the tap. It sounded scarily like the radio waves. And white noise is white noise. She adjusted the cold water tap on the right to restrict it while musing on her outfit for tomorrow. She would wear that little, black and white office dress. She would pair it with white heels.

Rayna’s fingers danced along the caps of the lipsticks, she would pair it with Wind Down Wednesday. This shade was slightly brighter than the Chardonnay red, but very close. It worked well with a gloss in the summer, but since this was December it was best to wear it matte. Rayna’s fingers pulled the lipstick to the front of the counter, for easy access tomorrow morning, and tested the water again.


She created a cup with the palms of her hands and began to notice a slight reflection which caused her to splash her face very quickly. Water seeped everywhere. The majority landed on her face, but quite a bit ended up on the counter top and the floor and her silk pajama blouse. Since Rayna’s eyes were closed tight, she simply dove in for a second rinse. And a third. And a fourth. 

While sputtering out water from between her lips, Rayna reached for her black cloth. She gently dabbed at her face. Then, she mopped up the counter and the floor. She tossed her cloth into the laundry bin holding all her dark clothes and returned to the bedroom. 

She snatched up the black pencil skirt she wore today and neatly hung her black sweater back up for tomorrow. It was meant to be another cold day. The soothing sound of the radio embraced her as she turned off her bathroom light, and then her overhead bedroom light. Rayna pulled back the red comforter and tossed the decorative pillows that depicted the Christmas Tree Farm with the red truck to the side. 

She slipped between the cool sheets and the comforter. She wiggled her toes. Scrunched her feet up so that her knees were bent, then let her legs fall and she bounced them up and down. 

Beside her the radio continued it’s lullaby.

“They called you for 90 days straight, my love. And you couldn’t answer one time?” Rayna’s voice cracked.

“That’s just like you,” she chastised as thick saliva began to build up in her mouth, “You’re too stubborn to let anyone know you didn’t die for the cause-didn’t die for your freedom. But I know…”

She nodded her head three times, “ I know you’re out there. And someday, you’ll answer me. Until then, bin voyage, my love.” Rayna closed her eyes, letting the tears fall down. 

Then, she rolled on her side and turned the radio off with a click.

October 22, 2022 01:08

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AnneMarie Miles
02:35 Oct 24, 2022

Hi Amanda! I love the simplicity of this. All in all, it's just depicting Rayna's nightly routine, taking off her make up, preparing for bed and the next day. But there's an interesting tone here as she's talking to herself in her empty room. At first I wondered if maybe she was a little mad, like she seems to have this almost sarcastic cheerfulness. But then realizing she's lost her partner, her self-talk resonates as loneliness. And certainly loneliness can definitely drive a person a little mad! Your writing is very easy and smooth. The ...


Amanda Lieser
20:50 Nov 30, 2022

Hey Anne! Thank you for your kind words. My ultimate goal with writing is to create the human experience through a series of singular moments. I’m so glad this one hit home for you! Thanks for your time!


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Graham Kinross
07:45 Dec 23, 2022

I can feel the loneliness in this as I read it. Wondering constantly how she’s changed since he left and what he would come back to if he came back. She has that hope and sadness from not knowing what happened to her husband. Not having closure is an awful thing, left in limbo.


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Sophia Gavasheli
01:49 Oct 31, 2022

I agree with Michal that Rayan's nightly routine represents the faith in her husband that she keeps alive. I like the details in this story, like the lipstick colors and the outfit for the next day. I think focusing on little things like that distracts Rayna from her loneliness and grief. The radio also represents this; she turns it on to create the sensation of conversation, but the radio only responds with white noise, just like her husband. The final lines were especially heartbreaking. Well done, Amanda! I did notice that the sentence s...


Amanda Lieser
20:45 Nov 30, 2022

Hey Sophia, Thank you so much for the kind comment. This story was one that had tugged on my heartstrings for a while. It needed a home. And I’m glad it found one here. Thank you for your time!


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Michał Przywara
21:01 Oct 24, 2022

Almost immediately I got the sense that something was up. She's taking off her makeup, which is such an innocuous, mundane thing, but then she puts on the static on the radio, and she's explicitly talking to an empty room. We might assume the husband is just in another room, but as it goes on we know that's not the case. Actually, I got a sense almost right off the bat that he was dead, but I was wondering if she did it. Particularly because of all the talk of Tinny's boyfriend running around on her. Anyway, that didn't pan out - she didn'...


Amanda Lieser
20:40 Nov 30, 2022

Hi Michal, Thank you for sending the tragedy in my moment of monotony. I thought that you captured exactly what I wanted so well in this comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and that the story was something you just truly “got.” Thank you for the kind words.


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