by Savannah Schroll

The first thing she thought of when she woke was her hair. They'd lightened it again the day before, and it had stung terribly. She reached up from underneath the blankets and felt her hair line. It was all still there. Nothing lay loose on the pillow, although a faint odor of peroxide solution and chemical fragrance lifted as she pushed back her bangs.

She then ran her tongue over her freshly whitened teeth. These, too, were all still accounted for. None had fallen out or diminished to a rotten knob. That was one of her nightmares: she often dreamed of going to a press event, walking up the carpet, flashing all her 100-watts at reporters, and finding later in the lavatory mirror that there was a blackened hole where a front incisor should have been. So many in her family had lost teeth, but she would not, would never be like them.

In the kitchen, the roll out shelves of the pantry cabinet, filled with her boys' cookies and Pop Tarts, seemed to shoot forward at her like the Mephistophelean tongues of hell fire itself. This not-eating, it was making her see things. She slid half a piece of Melba toast from its plastic package, avoiding a box of Lucky Charms that sat open beside it. She vowed not to touch the little colored marshmallows scattered nearby. She averted her eyes when they began to call out to her. She distinctly heard them begin calling her name.

In the bathroom, she set her Melba toast down beside the sink. She took off her red nightie, and in front of the full-length mirror, she analyzed the state of things. Could she afford the Melba toast this morning? Perhaps. She groped the flesh on the inside of her thigh. She was able to collect a small swell between her index finger and thumb, and this made her a little sick to her stomach. She hated what she saw as fat at her belly, all those pale, creamy threads encircling her waist, their opalescent shimmer--her baby scars from having Brandon and Dylan. She sat down on the tub rim, the shower door track digging into her bottom, and finally ate the Melba toast with a crippling sense of shame. Her throat was dry and she choked a little. A little water then. And a little round red pill, really no bigger than a candy dot, and so small it was easy to believe it hadn't been swallowed at all.

Kid was on tour again, and she wondered with muffled anxiety what city he would be in tonight, when he might call next. They strayed a lot, Kid's eyes. Sometimes she sat backstage and watched as he met the fans who had special passes--the little plump girls with the big boobs and the wide backsides, who ate as many French Fries and burgers as they could stuff down. She loathed the record of gluttony they put on display, the secret binges that erupted from underneath T-shirts, from above their low-ride jeans. They were not a serious bed-down. He might do them if nothing else were available. Most likely no above-board, equal-partner encounters though…rather, something quick, something enjoyed with both his feet on the floor and minimal reciprocation required--something the girls performed with a groupie's graceless, belt-notching eagerness. Although they probably believed they did it well…scorched his shaggy orange tour bus carpets with their inadequately simulated porn techniques. She wasn't enormously concerned about the white bread. It was the brown sugar she worried about. He liked them in the same way he liked her, but with a more carnally sinister insistence--a visceral, subterranean craving that got him pulsing and hammering. Their aromas, their enthralling jiggle, their alluring nastiness. She had to compete with that, and she didn't want to have to.

Unlike Tommy, with Kid, she never felt truly cherished…she was just an extension of an image, of his ego. She was like a fur coat, a diamond pinky ring, a Cadillac Fleetwood with big tail fins. At least with Tommy, she knew that a little rivulet of her had once trickled through his very core…and maybe still did. All men's centers can be softened, but with Kid--no matter how hot he told her she was (running around his house in her old orange Baywatch suit that the studio let her keep, playing at rescue)--she felt she was never truly able to liquefy him, make him lose that little part of himself in the big tides she often observed washing over him once she gave him that final whey-wringing squeeze. It hurt her a little to know that only their brand of honey made him all molten at the core, emulsified his center. Sometimes, sometimes…she really missed Tommy.

She washed her face, and sat down at the vanity mirror. She would do her squats and leg lifts later. What she wanted now was comfort, the kind that never came from pints of ice cream or bracing shots of Stoli or even from the Elysian tranquility that descends like fat fluffy goose feathers from the wings of little red pills--although this would come, too, in a little while. She actually wanted the comfort that came from running the mustangs, stretching the thoroughbred legs, slipping onto something fast that sometimes hurtled dangerously along the razor's edge between gorgeous and grotesque. And this feeling always came when she applied her make-up, although things could admittedly fall either way, depending on how she'd slept, how much she'd eaten the day before, the fault-finding power of the overhead lights. However, today was good: she was not yellow, the sore in her mouth had thankfully cleared, and her eyes were not docked in their twin ports of puffiness. They were big, wide open as if she were in a perpetual state of childish wonder. She could wear innocence well, and men liked her in it, although it made them either cruel or possessive later. And of this, she was unspeakably weary. She secretly promised herself, as she did every morning, to live up to, on the outside, all she knew on the inside--all the decades of insight this life had injected into her soul. She would actually live as deliberately--with decidedly less accidental stumbling--as everyone believed she did. And she would make herself up to look so experienced, so beautifully cunning to avoid being ensnared again. She opened her make-up drawer, shook a little foundation bottle from side to side and began to sponge away the little girl freckles, just as she'd done a million times before.

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