Painted On

She danced around the truth, her eyes shining with the thrill of some unspoken game. She would laugh some twinkling laugh, smile some sweet painted on smile, but her eyes could always tell you. She wasn’t dancing around the truth, but tiptoeing around the lies. The same ones that could pour out of her mouth with no falter, just a hum, a well hidden secret. She was attracted to the thrill like a bee to nectar; it was the sweetest escape from a truth that wasn’t worth telling.

She could sell a bit of copper for a pound of gold, always reassuring, always smiling. Her hair, especially under the warm bath of sunlight that always seeped into her lungs during the summer, was weaved of just that: sunlight. But in the deepest of winters the sunny façade would fade into just what it really was: ashes. Ashes that would slip right through her fingers if she didn’t hold on tight enough.

It seemed someone was always there, helping, comforting. But she didn’t need the reassuring comfort of truth and a pillow of hugs. She didn’t want the black eyes that couldn’t help but judge as they ‘helped’. She needed the cold, hard wall of lies that protected her from her too-cruel reality. This wall was made of red lipstick and thick lines of eyeliner and high-heeled shoes. Made up colors and nail polish made of venom and the real colors that she tried so hard to see. The lines were blurred and the once black and white reality of her world was lit up with a rainbow of ups and downs and she had no idea where to look.
Her smile wouldn’t break; it was tied to her ears with the tightest string. But one day a year it would come undone. Her back stayed the straightest, always erect, but once a year, it would break. She was always there to catch, never letting anyone fall, but on that one day she would slip, with no one to fall back on.
She was my best friend. The sort of best friends that smiled at each other and just knew. And even if she didn’t want me to, I could see it. Behind the eyeliner that hid the bags of grey skin and the nail polish that hid the yellow nails, I knew what was there. I watched every lunch hour as she pushed her food away and walked to the bathroom, no doubt going to apply her makeup with shaking hands.
And even if I didn’t want her to, I knew she saw right through my smiles, as well. As every pound melted off her body and every muscle twitched on her face, my heart broke for her just a little bit more. I let a tear slip out of my eye every now and then, not bothering to wipe it off; there was no mascara or eyeliner to get in its path, as I didn’t wear it ever since she started to. Anyway, she wore enough to hide both of our pained smiles.
I tried my best to be there, but sometimes that wasn’t enough. I attempted to coax her into putting something in her body, but she dismissed me, and I had to turn away. It was then that I think she realized that I knew.
I wanted to do something. Her smile became tighter and her posture became straighter, but the light in her eyes diminished, like a star running out of its magic.
After she pushed her food away, I stood up and walked after her. Inside the bathroom, as an eerie silence fell over us and my eyes stayed trained on her quivering hand, I spoke. Gently at first, “You’ve lost some weight.”
She averted her eyes and walked out of the bathroom.





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