“Mama, it’s almost dinner time, why are you still in your bathrobe?” The fabric was terry cloth. It was probably red once, but now it was a strange uneven pink. Her mother looked down at herself helplessly, then waved her hand toward the bedroom and simply said, “I just don’t know what I should wear.”
Her eyes welled up with tears and she wiped at her mouth. “Daddy used to always know what I should wear. Remember? He was so well-dressed. We were always quite a pair. Coordinated. That was important. He was so attentive. He always laid my clothes out for me, remember, dear? How sweet a man…” I remembered once Daddy tore dress from Mama’s shoulders, her mascara ran down her face. She didn’t wear her hair the way he instructed her to and there was no time left for her to change it. They had to go to dinner, the only thing worse than Ma not looking “just right,” is being late.
Camille’s skin prickled. The look on Cal’s face was downright boyish as he ushered her in the bedroom to show her he had laid out a cinnamon dress he wanted her to wear for their very special evening. The color will make your hair look just right, try it on, make sure it fits, he had said.
“How about I cook you something?” Camille offered in order to give her unsteady hands something to do. She turned and opened the fridge. There was some wilted spinach, expired nonfat yogurt, and some vegetables that had definitely seen better days. “Ma, don’t you have any food in the house?” Her mother’s lips moved soundlessly for a moment. Waveringly she stammered, “Uh, I, just, I just don’t know what to buy. Daddy did a lot of the shopping. He always made sure I was eating right, keeping my figure trim. What if I eat the wrong things?”
Camille pressed her lips together in frustration. “I’ll go shopping for you tomorrow, but you have to start taking better care of yourself, Mama. You’re a great cook, you can’t ‘eat wrong.’”
“You, you look good. You seem to glow since you met Cal. How is that new diet going? It’s so good he got you exercising. You look like you’re doing well. Those shoes are real nice, too; I thought you didn’t wear heels, because of the surgery?”
Camille’s face burned with embarrassment, and she looked down at her feet, “Cal…bought them for me,” she fibbed. She bit down on the insides of her cheeks. She didn’t answer the question about the diet. It was hard, but Cal kept on raving about how much better he felt on the program, and he just kept insisting she’d feel so much better, too, if she just gave it a try. He’d say it as he playfully pinched her midriff, or thigh. She suddenly felt a little sick to her stomach.
Mama’s face broke into a lopsided smile. “Aw, well now, there you go, a good man, taking care of you. You’re looking real good.” Her mother looked out the window vacantly. Camille was thankful her mother’s dull olive eyes here no long on her. Then she noticed the stack of unpaid bills and her guilt made her flush hotter.
“Ma, why I don’t I organize these for you?” she said as she picked up the mail. Her mother slowly turned her face from the window and gave her a steady, but vacant look. “Oh, honey, you know Daddy takes care of all that…” her voice trailed off softly and she stood up slowly and shuffled down the hallway toward the bathroom.
Camille worried about the prescription pills her mother started taking after her father’s death. She wasn’t coping very well. She started to “forget” Daddy wasn’t around more often lately. Camille sat in her mother’s living room, suddenly exhausted. Her feet ached and burned. She looked down at the slingback Manolo Blahniks Cal had insisted she must have for their very special evening. She absent-mindedly shuffled through the unopened envelopes. How could I have been so stupid as to waste six months’ worth of savings on shoes?
Her eyes drifted around the living room listlessly. Her father’s portrait looked at her steadily from across the room. He was a disarming man, all intensity and charm. He doted on her mother, and they were inseparable. Camille remembered him for exactly what he was: manipulative and controlling.
His dark hair matched his thick eyebrows, giving him a serious look, despite his charming smile. His teeth were very straight and very white. His arm was draped around her mother’s shoulders. Her small frame was pressed into his imposing one, she looked at him adoringly. Camille felt clammy. Cal’s dark eyes gave him a serious look, but he had the most beautiful sandy hair, and it was that charming smile which finally convinced her to give him a chance after months of his pursuit. She wasn’t a trusting person; all her friends said she was so lucky to have the attention of such a doting man.
So what if her gut said something different? The past six months went by so fast. She meant to tell her mother about the very special evening, she didn’t have any friends left to tell. Camille was worried Cal was going through all this trouble to impress her. They had been disagreeing a lot lately. Cal disdained it, but he never compromised. Somehow, Camille always felt like she was being too stubborn or close-minded.
She looked at the picture of her parents again and felt dizzy with the realization she wasn’t much different from her mother. No matter how much she resented her, Camille finally understood her better than ever. Camille had fallen for a fairer mask with the darkness of her father hiding underneath. How slowly her mother had become the dependent nervous wreck she was today. She was happy once, and her father was good to her at first.
Camille kicked off her shoes and massaged her sore feet. Tonight, she would tell Cal, she was leaving him.
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