Margo was talking to herself in the mirror again. She was surprised by how animated her face was as she practiced her speech. It made her wonder if she should tell him at all when the words would leave so many expression lines on her face.
Maybe the words themselves would stay etched around her lips and perched below her eyes. Would she see “I don’t love you anymore” every time she looked at her face? Would other people see those words peeking out of her pores and utter them back to her?
That was when she decided to stay with Peter and pretend. It would be better. She repeated that to herself a few times to make it feel firm, almost solid.
When she had loved him, she was full of expression. She had full-faced smiles every time she saw him. Laughs scrunched up her eyes when he delivered what he signaled were punch lines. Margo was able to make everything about him endearing back then.
Every day she sent him red lip-puckered photos on top of lace bra cleavage. Every week he bought her more lace. He loved the exchange. Maybe in the transition to pretend love, she could be serene. Her face more placid. It could become a place where she could hide. A piece of herself she could keep, a piece she could draw lines around without devaluing her commodity as a beautiful woman.
But could she stop sacrificing her hours with face masks and leg wax? He expected her to be so polished all the time. The makeup used to be fun, but it had become an arduous chore.
And if she stayed, would his whispered voice no longer lead to text canceling messages to friends? If she stayed without love, wouldn’t her heart last longer if it no longer raced when he took her hand? Hadn’t it stopped dancing for him already? There was so much at stake.
A part of Margo wanted to keep her love and take his. It was a fair exchange. Over the past two years, his love had been like a puddle, barely enough to wet her toes. She had given him so much. Now it was a wonder to her than her love hadn’t run out sooner.
The black credit card he gave her at the start of their relationship seemed a symbol of his limitless love. That was how he presented it to her. But she only used it for clothes, hair appointments, and facials. Weren’t those all for him?
When she was on his arm, she kept the world from seeing his faded virility. She shined. She gave him new life. She could stay because what did he need with her heart? He’d go on assuming he had it because he was him.
She closed the lid and sat down. The mirror couldn’t look at her any longer. Her image was fading. Margo took a deep breath. Free of judging eyes, she could feel her heart beat without the little hops that too often punctuated her solitude. Her body felt light, untethered.
Margo let out a sigh from deep within her belly. Following the truth of your heart sounds good on paper. Like the words she used to write in her journal when she was still in school. They flowed from a warm fountain pen full of silky dark blue ink sketching a poem on fibrous paper in delicate strokes and fanciful flourishes. Love had been so ideal then when she was all alone with her imagination.
She took another deep breath and pictured the tips of Jon’s long fingers, pulling colors across the canvas to get them just right. Margo hung his art at the gallery Peter bought for her to run. She’d never seen Jon at work, but she imagined him in his studio before she fell asleep each night. His art made her want to surrender herself at his feet. In his eyes, she could see tiered cakes and baby feet. Fights where wine glasses flew through the air. Impotent jewelry taken to the gold dealer to quiet the pile of unopened bills that screamed at them from the kitchen table. His paintings were brilliant. The one or two he managed to finish every year.
Could she have her cake and eat it too?
If she kept him on the side, she wouldn’t have to love Jon. She wouldn’t have to give him her heart either man. A few stolen afternoons would stay sweet on her tongue after moving in with Peter. The gallery in her heart wouldn’t have to hang happy pictures that commemorated the nights when their love made them throw off the covers in the dead of winter. She wouldn’t have to place sea glass found on their trips to the shore on the shelves in their loft between a dormant orchid and a blooming Christmas cactus.
Maybe its what her yoga teacher meant by “love and light.” Those words sounded so separate when she spoke them. Perhaps she could light her face and keep her love in her heart safe in the shadows.
Involuntarily, Margo’s eyes took an inventory. The mirror was dull. The lights were frosted with dust. The counter was covered with jars of creams and gels. There were open palettes of eye shadows and blush. Sparkling highlighter gold dust glistened in the piece of sun that made its way in through the torn roller shade. Green foil envelopes of foundation and primer samples were strewn around like seaweed that had just washed up from her cracked ceramic sink.
There was a hollow echo in the distance. Footsteps of a neighbor; dreams walking away from her body. When both her thighs were stinging with numbness, she stood.
Margo knew what she had to do.
She looked in the mirror and practice again, but with fewer words.
“I’m sorry, Peter, it’s time for me to move on.”
2020, A. Breslin. All Rights Reserved
Image Credit: Henri Matisse