I remember watching her put her makeup on in the yellow light of the bathroom. With every color she put on her face, every line and smear, I knew she thought in the back of her mind that she would never be beautiful. No amount of makeup would make her feel worthwhile.
There were a few times I would tell her how pretty I thought she was, and she would smile like it meant something, but her silence and hard look in her eyes when she stared at herself was enough to let me know what she thought about that. It was hard for me to love her as much as I wanted to because she would never believe anything that left my mouth. I tried to tell myself it had nothing to do with the lies that had stained it.
Red lips and thicker eyelashes and a darker lining of them – those would give her enough confidence to smile before she left. When she returned from wherever she had left to, she would wipe her second face off, refusing the whole while to look at who was underneath. My heart squeezed in my chest when I watched her and I wanted nothing more than to give her my eyes just so she could look without disgust.
I couldn’t say I never wore any, myself. I liked my lips as red as hers, but I liked the paleness, too. I liked to coat my eyelashes in a thick black, but I liked them without, too. The mirror wasn’t a foe I hated, or feared or loathed. It was just something to show me what I was and it wasn’t anything I couldn’t accept.
Sometimes, though, I would look at myself and try to find her in the pieces of me. If I stared long enough, I would have her defined upper lip. I would have that same curve in an almost-smile in my still face. I would have her strong eyes.
When I would see her avoiding the mirror, physically turn her head at it, I would have to clench my jaw from yelling out. My tongue would coil in my mouth wanting to let her know that she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I would give anything for her face. I would give anything for her flaws and she couldn’t even look at herself.
So I would wait for that strained smile in the morning and wait for her to wash her face at night. Then I would bask in her light. Then I could forgive her for her self-shunning. Then I could love her as much as I wanted to.