Picture Perfect

*** Lana Del Rey – Video Games ***

Seated at your vanity, your hand shakes as you line your eyes with the dark liquid you only despise more each day. You take your time, making sure to apply it as perfectly as you can. You have to look perfect, because he likes it just so. “Please.” He had pleaded. “Do it for me.”. Like you had a choice. You thought you would be used to it by now, but you’re starting to realise you will never be.

You’re walking down the aisle, your father by your side, towards the most handsome man you’ve ever seen. All you can think about is how incredibly lucky you are as you grin from ear to ear, and he beams back. You can’t believe you’re marrying him, because he’s too perfect. But he loves you for you. Simple, plain, timid you. He’s swept you off your feet and filled your head with thoughts and promises of an amazing future together. As you exchange your vows, you think about all the wonderful times you’ve had together and smile even more at the prospect of an even more amazing future. “I promise to obey and submit myself completely to you, as I obey and submit to the Lord.”. You can’t wait for the ceremony to be over, to be his in the eyes of God and man.

Your face is now heavily powdered, your eyes are dark, and your lips are red. The hair on your head is blonde tonight, and not the usual brunette. As hard as you try, you can’t recognise the person in the mirror. He calls out to you from the bedroom, and you can hear the impatience in his voice. It’s always a mistake to test his patience, so you wipe the lone tear that is racing down your cheek, spray on some of the perfume he loves so much, and stand. With one final desperate glance at the vanity mirror, you head for the door. Tonight you will lose yourself again, like you’ve learnt to over time. The clicking of the heels you have on echo at the back of your mind as you try to empty it of all thoughts. He grins as you open the door and stand before him in the leather bodysuit he had picked out.

It’s a beautiful day in the park. The birds are chirping in the air and above you, the grass is green, the flowers in the trees are blooming, and you’re stretched out on a mat with your fiance, staring up at the sky. You’ve had a wonderful picnic, and you’re discussing your future together. You tell him you want to go on to teach at a nearby university once you get your degree, and he asks if you’re sure that’s the best move for the family the two of you are about to start. “How will you take care of our seven kids?” He asks playfully, twirling a strand of your hair around his finger. It hurts a little and you flinch, but you smile at him anyway and tell him you’ll teach sunday school at the church instead. He let’s go of your hair and stares at the sky, and you think to yourself that there is no way you’re having seven kids.

The sound of your baby crying wakes you up. You’re too exhausted from the night before to get up, but he’s yelling at you to go shut the baby up. Slowly, you start to rise out of bed, trying not to strain your already sore muscles, but he’s anger takes over and he kicks you off the bed. He gets up and storms out of the room, and experience has taught you to go after him. Your heart pounding furiously against your chest, you race to the nursery and find him smothering the baby with a pillow. You beat feebly against his back, and he sweeps you aside with an arm. Better me than the baby. you think as he approaches your petite, trembling form. He picks you up effortlessly and shoves you towards the cot. “Shut her up!” His voice thunders across the room, and you pick up your baby. There is no way you’re going to let him kill her like the one before. He leaves the room, and you sit on the floor, rocking the baby back to sleep.

Carnival music is playing really loudly, and the air is filled with laughter and excited squeals from little children who have probably had a little too much sugar. Your friends and fellow church members are gathered around you, commending you on successfully planning such a brilliant fund-raiser. They are pleasantly unaware that the shades you have on are more to hide the bruise on your eye than to block out the sun. You smile and thank them as your husband’s voice comes over the PA system. You smile and wave as he implores the crowd to congratulate you on a job well done. Pain wells up in your heart as he goes on to give a hypocritical speech about how important it is not to regard women as second class citizens. You hold back tears as he uses his “love and respect” for you as an example of how women should be treated.

The baby is finally asleep, and you lay her back in her cot. Your movement is almost robotic as you make your way back to your bedroom. You enter and find him lying face-down on the bed. Carefully, quietly, you retrieve his pistol from its hiding place in your underwear drawer – you’d hidden it theremonths ago after he had threatened you with it. Of course, he’d beaten you thoroughly when he couldn’t find it, but at least he hadn’t killed you. Standing at the edge of the bed, you point the gun at him. Your mind is consumed with thoughts and memories you wish would go away. Everyone had told you how lucky you were to be marrying such a good man. You call his name once, and he doesn’t respond. You think about how much you hate the person he’s made you become. How hard you try to please him, but always seem to fall short of his idea of perfection. You call his name again. Still no answer. You pull the trigger. Once. Twice. The red below him spreads quickly, soaking the beddings, and your heart smiles for the first time in a long while.

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