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BEAUTIFUL

by

Kim Rivera



Year, 2099

I love to look at myself in the mirror and watch my blue eyes move this way and that way. I love the almost white shade of my hair, just the right kind of blonde. Most of my dear friends have curls in their blonde hair, playfully soft curls, but I for some strange reason retain no life within my long mane. I do believe this makes me special.

Mother once told me beauty was something that existed deep in the unrestricted haven of a person’s heart, and that if a person had eyes for a heart, then the beauty would go undiscovered.

Mother was a radical.

I didn’t blame her for trying to be different in a world where so much resembled so much. I didn’t blame her for never fixing her hair, or for neglecting to wear make up, or even for not showering as a woman should. I did however, blame her for the shame I felt about coming from her body. For the blood that we shared, for the stares I received, for the perception of me when a person found out I was her daughter, for this, I blamed her.

My father, he was different, he followed the rules. He was a genius. He new how to control her with his eyes, with a single sentence he’d subside her insane rhetoric.

“Robert, please, why can’t I change my hair color?” she’d scream while washing dinner dishes. She had tried many times to change her appearance, once she even went so far as to cut her hair, but it grew back just the same, just as blonde as mine.

“Why can’t I do what I want? Why? Why do I have to follow along with everything, why can’t I do what I want,” she’d shout, slamming and breaking plates as she cried. Father, he’d continue to watch the T.V, pretend he could not hear her stupidity, and then, suddenly, his voice would materialize.

“Do you know what I will do to you if you don’t quite yourself?” he’d ask in a sweet, passive voice. His tone would confuse her; the tenderness of the sound would obscure the threat. He was a master at this. He’d then look at me, smile a half grin, and call me to his lap. We would stare at her as she cried. We would shake our heads.

One morning I awoke and found Mother in the kitchen, thinking a loud, something she should never do while I am around.

“I’ll show him, I’ll show everyone, they will see,” Mother mumbled. She was standing over the sink mixing something up in a bowl. It was a red liquid, maybe Kool Aid.

“What are you doing?” I barked. She swung around, petrified by my presence. I knew I scared her. She was frightened of me, me a mere child.

“Don’t sneak up on me like that,” she whispered. I remained there, my feet nailed to the floor, waiting for an answer, just like Father would.

“Go away!” she shouted.

“If I go away will you tell me what you are doing?” I asked. I made my voice amiable, submissive. She stared at me, bewildered it seemed.

“Yes,” she said.

“No!” she screamed. I laughed loudly. She did amuse me so.

“Fine, I’ll ask you again after school,” I taunted.

That day the school bus was full to its capacity. I wiggled in a seat next to my favorite boy, Jason Klapp. He didn’t turn to look at me.

“Hello, do you mind if I sit next to you? I hope you don’t mind,” I said. He did not reply right away, he liked to tease me, get me angry, and make me smack him. Jason stared forward, eyes on the road. I did adore his red, red freckles, his sulking lips, and those pretty blue eyes.

“I told you more than once to leave me alone,” he said softly.

“I will report you if you don’t,” he warned.

I knew his feelings were fuelled by his family’s dislike of Mother. Everyone disliked Mother, and because of this I suffered. That same day after school, as I walked with my friends Josie and Paula, we saw her; she was standing at the curb, dirty and dishevelled, she wore pants, pants! And now I knew what she had been doing over the sink that morning. I knew what that red liquid in that bowl was for. Her hair was now bright red. She had taken the fruit juice mix and dipped her head in it. Now she stood towering, like a clown on stilts, in the mist of a sea of golden haired children.

“Kaleen, isn’t that your mother?” asked Paula.

My father once showed me how to shoot a gun; I was about five years old. He had placed that cold, commanding thing in my hand and whispered,

“Pull the trigger,”

I thought of that gun, and how marvellous it would feel, if I had it right now in my hand again.

“No,” I said.

“Kaleen!” called Mother. She began to walk toward us.

“I’m sorry Kaleen,” chorused my friends as they skipped away with bouncing blonde curls.

“What are you doing here like this?” I shouted. I looked up into her face, a face I wanted to scratch apart.

“They will arrest you for sure,” I reminded. She only stared at me with her blue eyes and I stared back, hard, with my own.

“Come with me,” she said. She took me by the wrist, and at first I didn’t scream, but then a thought rushed to mind, if the police found her like this, in this state, they would shoot her on the spot, so I began to scream and drag my feet, hoping someone would rescue me from this ludicrous woman. She was pulling me toward a blue van, and as we neared, the door slid open and I was thrown in. The darkness inside swallowed me whole.

“This is my daughter,” Mother’s voice emerged from the dark.

“She has tried many times to kill me,” she added.

“But still I wish to tell her,” she concluded. There was silence, and I remained motionless in the dark, at any moment, for some reason, expecting to be strangled.

“She is only cattle like the rest,” spoke a woman. A light began to shine. Someone had lit a candle. The stench in the van was unbearable, and now the sight I saw was intolerable. Four women sat surrounding me, Mother included. Each had fruit juice colored hair, blue, orange, purple, and Mother’s bright red. They were horribly ugly. One woman had brown eyes! The other two worse, I couldn’t even tell what color they were, but I knew for sure they were not blue as they should be! The three women were overweight, clearly more than a hundred and thirty pounds each! None wore makeup. They were all radicals, like Mother. Soon the van stopped, and I was dragged onto the street. We were in front of a “Happy Burger” fast food restaurant. I screamed and turn on my heel.

“We are not going in there!” I shouted. Mother, with her radicals behind her smiled, her teeth shinning yellow. She refused long ago to get her cleanings, even after father threatened to have her teeth pulled out one by one.

“Yes we are,” she sneered.

“No I’m not!” I yelled. She yanked me by my blonde locks and pulled me through the sliding doors. Together Mother and her radicals walked in, with their heads held high, with me kicking and screaming. The few men that were having lunch stopped eating to watch us. Many of them rushed to follow us up to the counter. They were angry, clenching their fist, ready to put these women in their rightful, lawful place.

“Give me a double cheese burger, a large salty fry, a milk shake, a piece of cream pie, and a large bucket of fried chicken nuggets,” asked Mother. I was shocked. The man behind the register wearing a Happy Burger hat foolishly smiled, disbelieving of Mother’s words. He was nervous. He was unable to speak. The women who stood before him were criminals. Their appearance said it all.

“I’m sorry miss, but you know that’s impossible,” spoke a man coming from the kitchen area. The manager I will assume.

“Why!” screamed Mother bringing her fist bellowing down over the counter.

“Why! Why! Why!” she hollered. The man blinked rapidly, scared now of her agitation.

“Well, the law is the law, it states clearly that women are not to be served at any Happy Burger locations, or any other fast food restaurants. It’s the law miss,” he explained.

“She’s crazy, call the police,” I warned.

Mother, like a wild animal, jumped onto the counter top, over the register she went, her followers did the same. They stormed the kitchen and like lunatics, they ravaged whatever food they could. Mother laughed as she stuffed her mouth with French fries. They appeared to be a group of circus clowns gone mad.

“Call the police!” I screamed. Mother, angered by my order, threw a happy burger at me; it hit me right smack in the face, and then fell to my feet. Some of the sandwich stuck on my bottom lip. I felt it there; it was cheese I think, cheese and maybe a tiny piece of beef, a food that was by law, restricted to men. Women were not to eat unhealthy fast food, for it made them fat, a deformity that shunned you from the everyday world. I felt my tongue poke out, it lingered very close to the delicious, sinful, speck of food nestled over my lip. I tried. I tried real hard, but I failed. My tongue, like a swift thief, licked it up, and the taste was something I’d die remembering.

She noticed, Mother saw me. In an instant she was over the counter again lifting me in her arms.

“Let’s go girls!” she shouted, and we were out the door and in the van again.

They were laughing hysterically, all of them, the purple haired one, the orange haired one, the blue haired one, all of them, except Mother. She cradled the candle in her hand. She stared at me, almost through me.

“I saw you,” she said in a loud authoritative voice. I now realized Mother was the leader. The other women hushed. All brown eyes were on me.

“Did you like it?” she asked. I was too proud, too bitter, too misused, so I a lied.

“No.” I said. Mother smiled, it was a wide, wicked grin. For the first time, I was afraid of her. Oh how the tables had turned.

“A long time ago, before you were born, before I was born, before my mother and hers, things were different,” she began.

“Women were allowed to eat, wear, look, feel how they wished. We were born different, with different color eyes, many shades of hair, many shades, glorious shades,” she said. What was her hang up with hair color? Why did she have an issue with being blonde?

“We were beautiful,” she painfully whispered.

“Every woman is..” I began, but she cut me off.

“Don’t give me that commercial bullshit line! Young women today have it memorized! You’re brainwashed!” she hollered, fury, tears, and rage were in her eyes.

“The rules have been stretched too far. Why do we all have blue eyes? Why, from birth, are only women blonde? Something went wrong, I know things were different, I know things were different,” she said.

“We were beautiful once,” she repeated.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kim Rivera is a student of the Writer's Studio in New York City. She has been published in FTL Sci Fi magazine, and was the winner of the Editor's Choice award. Currently Kim is working on finishing her novel Mendara, and has single handedly built a website to promote her books.




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