Shedding

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Michael stepped into the warmth of his house, shutting the snow and bitingly cold air out behind him. He strained his ears against the unusually silent welcome of his home as he shed his coat and boots.

Running a hand through his short black hair to dust off snowflakes, he called out to his wife, “Miranda?”

The hush surrounding his usually acknowledged return from work caused a flurry of worry to bloom in his chest like ugly flowers. Walking heavily against the disturbing tranquility, Michael headed towards the living room. Beige couches crowded red walls, interrupted by bright windows and colourful paintings, but the usual indent where Miranda would be found emerged in a novel, with her hand absent-mindedly twirling her hair, was abandoned. The gathering snow drifting urgently past the windows against gray skies outside caused creases of anxiety to bracket Michael’s young blue eyes.

“Miranda?” he called again, his voice more demanding than curious now. Pacing backwards and gripping the railing with a frozen hand, he mounted the stairs quickly.

Michael heard Miranda’s soft whimpering before he saw her. Softly opening the bathroom door, he took in the disaster of his beautiful wife standing in front of the mirror.

Small hands cupped uselessly below her face shook alongside her sobbing shoulders. She stared at Michael through blurred hazel eyes, her youthful face crumpled in disappointment, her soft mouth a twisted grimace.

All the rigidity of building stress released itself from Michael’s solid frame, his muscles relaxing into a gentle sympathy to yield to her trembling body. He stepped towards her, arms open for comfort, and she flinched back away from him, her hands flying to cover her face weakly.

“Don’t!” her voice worn and cracked, “Michael. Oh God, Michael - what have I done?”

She collapsed once more into a fit of sobs and Michael enveloped her soft hands in his own, anchoring them down. He studied her tearful face. The damage had certainly progressed. Above Miranda’s right eyebrow, the hairline was pushed back past her ear. The brunette hairs there having been worried at and plucked, unintentionally and gradually. It now left Miranda with a cleanly expanding, balding patch. A part of Miranda’s impulse control disorder, making her a trichotillomaniac - causing her to tug away at her hair in a stressed, subconscious manner.

Michael had been well aware of this part of Miranda when he married her six years before. They had met in university, Miranda catching him with her enticing smile and lively eyes. She had long, dark hair then. Every now and then, Michael, with his quiet manners and steady gaze, would catch Miranda teasing at her hair or pulling at her eyelashes. She would not be focused when she was doing this, a clouded gaze under a brow pleated with thought, and occasionally Michael would gently pull her hands away. Now, as years had worn past alongside prodding fingers, the once seemingly harmless act had turned into a ruin.

Miranda tore her hands from Michael and pushed past him into the bedroom.

“I need to cover this - I need to fix this.” She had begun to tear through the closet with trembling hands and frantic urgency. “I can’t go anywhere like this. Oh Jesus, Michael, what did I do?”

Grasping a blue toque between her pale hands, she rushed back to the mirror in the cramped washroom. The wide-eyed mess before her made her flinch, and she pulled the hat over her head with desperate agitation.

Michael’s concern had peaked, and he anxiously gripped her wrists, halting her hands as they pulled the hat down further. “Miranda, just stop. Please. Breathe.”

Miranda’s wild eyes fixed on his clear gaze, blue in a way of constant comfort and understanding for her. She stopped struggling and tried to control her breathing, to stop the air from rushing in and racing out of her lungs. He gently released her and lifted the hat from her head.

In another frenzied charge of actions, Miranda struggled hopelessly to put the hat back on. Scratching thoughtlessly, she screamed, “Look at me! Are you even seeing me? Michael, look what I’ve done! Look!”

Michael had to throw that hat behind him and firmly seize her shoulders to steady her small, fragile body twisting in anger. It took only a few short moments for Miranda’s spasm to end in inevitable defeat. He then wrapped himself around her, holding her securely and swaying soothingly until he was sure of her surrendered anger.

Tenderly pulling away, Michael brushed her flushed cheek and pressed his lips to her soft scalp. “I never stopped looking, Miranda, I couldn’t.” He tilted her face upwards to meet his gaze, “I couldn’t because you’re beautiful. And I love you.”

The image of his sincere face blurred and swirled behind her damp eyes, the anger seeped from her exhausted body and she leaned gratefully into him, safe and loved.





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