© 2003 Black Tangled Heart


He has her tube of lipstick stuffed in his back pocket.

She's driving down a seemingly endless road, watching the neon city lights slice through the darkness like the shining arc of a blade. She's been up since three. It's five now, and she's heading towards the unknown. She has said her goodbye to the hay bales and her father's tractor. She has pressed her face against the warmth of her mare's muzzle, without having to hold back any tears. She's ready to trade wool blankets for satin sheets. The hum and buzz of the city draws her like a moth to a flame.

She hasn't traced her lips in colour. Her green eyes are lined in kohl and the birthmark on her cheek concealed with powder. Her mouth is sweetly raw. When she stops for gas or when she gets to the city she'll find her lipstick and put it on. Present a fresh face to a fresh existence.

She hasn't so much as murmured a farewell to Brad. She knows their bed will still hold her body heat when he wakes. She is sure he'll reach for her, like he does every morning. The shower will seem empty because his fingers aren't curving across her skin.

Her body is a crisscrossed map; a scar snakes down her left side like a ribbon, still faintly red against her ivory flesh. A battle scar from a volleyball game three summers before, when another player had driven her hard into the ground. She'd arisen bruised and bloodied. The remnants of a burn kiss her left thigh; a cooking accident at the tender age of seven. Twelve years have passed, and still it lingers. Her heel is imprinted with a circle from stepping on a rusted nail last Fourth of July. Nobody else has seen the marks life has given her. In her new home, it'll stay the same.

She grits her teeth. The familiarity of her former life won't be her doppelganger. She wants to close her eyes and imagine a stranger's hands against the wounds. But not in the shower. It'll make her cry out for Brad. Make her ache for the one thing that could pull her back to their bed. He is her opposite. They must attract, after all.

But she isn't going back.

She's the one that got out. She's the one that fell asleep over her Biochemistry books because she studied more than she breathed. She is the one smart enough to earn a full scholarship to university in the city. She still doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, but she's escaped all that has prevented her from discovering her passion. She is the one prepared to step out on a limb, raise her arms and take flight, even if she will plummet gracelessly into noise and violence and pain.

Is she brave?

Most say she is foolish.

She wants to be a scientist; she knows that. She figures she needs another outlet, to adjust herself to city life. She wants to close the books for awhile and enjoy the last lingering days of summer. Trade Physics formulas for peach daiquiri.

Maybe she'll take up photography. She watches the sun burn the horizon red, wanting to capture the colour and spill it into the washed out palette of the life she's always known. Perhaps she can work for a cosmetics counter in her spare time; the tiny drugstore down the street from her old house sold her favourite lipstick, petal pink. She envisions the money in her bank account and the makeup swiped across her cheekbones. She can hear the music in the dance clubs and taste the cognac.

She puts a fingertip against her bare lips.

She remembers drinking cognac with Brad at Aimee's party three weeks ago. She knows it was the first time she noticed the blue in his eyes. Grey and blue, like a storm. She can feel the pressure of his mouth in the hollow of her throat, and the cascade of his wavy black hair sliding through her fingers. She hears his laughter, and what he told her after they'd kissed. "Buy some lipstick that ain't so cheap, Tracy." She remembers him snatching it away from her as she'd tried to reapply it, telling her to retrieve it when she was happy with herself, in bare faced beauty and a love of who she was.

She sees the sign that welcomes her to the city. She pulls over to the side of the road and kills the engine. She gets out of the car and stares at the suburbia, the smoky skyline, the bleeding sun. She reaches into her bag to find her lipstick. She sifts through wadded up Kleenex, grasping a silver charm bracelet and her wallet, but cannot find the slim black tube of matte colour.

Brad has her lipstick. She does not love herself, and will not without the one who is showing her how to.

Slowly, gets into the car. Slams the door. She listens to the sound echo through the silence. The sound of resolution.

She turns the key in the ignition, and heads home.