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Living the Dream

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In the morning, she decides, with the sunlight slanting softly through the windows, the tiara looks best. And that’s when she feels her best too. Full makeup still in place, the day not having emptied her yet. She walks carefully about the house, in sweatpants sometimes, sometimes in jeans. But always with the tiara. She’s not ashamed. Why should she be? It’s hers. She earned it. Years of looking beautiful, of talking to the right people, of well-timed emotions. This is how they chose to reward her. Homecoming Queen. And they chose right, she thinks as she runs a manicured hand down the bannister and enters the kitchen. The counter used to be clean enough to reflect her diamond-studded tiara back at her. Lately, though, no one is never home enough to pay attention to that kind of thing.

It’s not her problem. Today, least of all. Today is her special day. She took extra care with her hair, extra care with her posture. If only the girls could see her now, she thinks to herself. She puts a maple and brown sugar Poptart into the toaster. Why not? Today is her day. The lever sticks as she shoves it down. Damn toaster. Always sticking.

Her headache starts up again. She tosses down two pills. That should stop it. She wishes someone had gotten up to welcome her. She is underappreciated, always has been. She’s not what she used to be, she’ll admit that faster than anyone. Ever since Andy knocked her up. She remembers that night perfectly. Who could forget the moment she was crowned the most popular girl in the entire school? They won the Homecoming game, of course. Andy was quarterback. He was unstoppable. She remembers the girls staring jealously at her, at them together. Living the dream.

Her breakfast is ready. She gets frustrated, realizing there are no clean plates. Eating on a dirty plate? It will ruin her day. Who starts off the most special day of the year eating off of a dirty plate? She solves the problem by not using a plate and watching Days of Our Lives with the Poptart balanced on a glass of milk between her knees; the table is too crowded with bills. It’s a rerun, but that’s okay. She likes knowing that the characters won’t actually die in the crash.

She wonders what everyone is up to today. The sun is fully up, bright in that way only winter can make it, shining off of the branches of the sycamore tree outside the window. She thinks about how that sycamore tree is older than her. It’s been there as long as she can remember, since she was a kid. Her face, so grown-up now, stares back at her from the window. It makes her feel sad. Empty, more like. She adjusts her tiara. She can still feel the fall breeze across her face as they placed it on her head and she can still smell the red red roses that they placed in her arms. The camera lights flash for a second… Then the advertisements come on the television and shake her from her dreams and back to the present. It will be a good day, it has to be a good day today.

She takes a deep drag on her cigarette.

It is her forty-fifth birthday.





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