The old lady’s veiny hand drops a handful of candy in your Little Mermaid pillowcase, her giant eyes staring through blurry lenses at you in your brother’s hand-me-down pirate costume. She holds up plastic-wrapped wax lips, like the priest with communion, and places them in your bag. “To make you beautiful,” she says. You race home, fish the lips out from the boxes of Good & Plenty, rolls of Smarties, bags of Kisses, and rush to the bathroom. Those thick red lips turn your second-grade face into your big sister’s, ready for who knows what, but definitely Disney princess beautiful. You eat the lips, they squelch between your teeth and stick in your throat, not much of a treat. Nobody tells you they’ll sit in your stomach like a blob of Play-Doh, that they’re just for looks.
Every high school morning you glare at yourself, covering your freckled skin with layers of foundation and hating your too-thin lips. You do your best to fix what nature screwed up. Lip plumper, lip liner, lipstick, lip finisher; sometimes your lips look nearly as good as the ones in magazines. You want to make the Bombshell Pink last all day so you suck your Diet Coke through a straw, skip lunch, ignore the gurgling of your hungry stomach, give up smiling. Your now ex-boyfriend got tired of only forehead-kissing while at school and said you always looked mad. On days when you’re thrilled with your lips, no one can tell.
Later, after grad school, you’re a regular at the plastic surgeon’s. Your semi-annual injection for filler and plumper costs more than your car insurance. You wonder if a more permanent solution would make financial sense, lip implants or tissue grafting. You wonder how you’d fill the extra time if your lips maintained a perfect pout, effort-free. Sometimes, you tilt your head and smile at the mirror, somehow expecting lovely second-grade you, beaming. Instead, there’s that blob of Play-Doh feeling in your stomach and a pair of plump, perfectly shaped lips that can’t smile back.
Marcy Dilworth is a recovering finance professional finally pursuing her love of writing. Her fiction appears in Typehouse Literary Magazine, Sledgehammer Magazine, Janus Literary, Blink Ink, and elsewhere. She lives in Virginia with her husband where they serve their precocious rescue pup, Kirby. On Twitter, for now, @MarcyDilworth. Marcy recommends So Others Might Eat.