It was in one of those tiny brick boutiques squished between twin stores along the downtown streets of Asheville. The shop made an attempt to appear original, both in its name, “Charmingly Chic”, and in its decor, but actually only catered to those who wanted the best of what everyone else had. The display window had been decorated with two headless plastic forms wearing vintage cocktail dresses, one in dark green and maroon swirls, the other a pale pink and yellow flowered print. A hat from the 1930’s perched atop and two fringed shawls draped over a dainty antique settee with pink upholstery. On the floor next to the settee, as if inviting the customer into a private home, sat a flowered china tea cup and saucer and an open book.
Julie didn’t expect to find anything she could afford, but was drawn inside by the softness of it all. She craved the touch of something that would caress her skin, fabric that would tenderly graze her arms, chest, hips and belly. She wanted a garment to frame her pretty, in spite of the reality. A bell tinkled as the door opened and Julie headed for the sales rack at the rear of the store. She found her blouse flattened between a blue wool cardigan and a green and yellow striped Rugby shirt.
It was a special blouse, a blouse to love your-self in. Made of pink silk with pearl buttons, it had wide, billowy sleeves. Julie held up the hanger and stroked the delicate material with her fingertips. She rested the silk against her face and marveled at its gentleness.
That evening, Julie showered, tugged at her curls, darkened her pale lashes, cheeks, and lips, and donned the new blouse. She shivered. It had been a long time since she had felt worthy of breathing deep.
The front door open just as Julie was turning down the heat under the roast. She covered the pot and sucked in her stomach before facing her husband. Straining to lift herself to her full five feet and four inches, she threw back her shoulders and smiled.
“Where did you get ugly pink thing?” Scott, with his bull-dog head sitting on massive shoulders, smirked as only he could.
Julie’s shoulders fell forward and her smile disappeared. “It was on sale, downtown.”
“It might have been worth my money if you weren’t so fat. And what’s that smell? Didn’t we just eat pot roast last week? Can’t you cook anything else?” Scott knocked the table slightly off center as he headed toward her.
Every muscle in Julie’s body readied itself for his touch. But he reached for the refrigerator door instead and opened it, the cold air sweeping along her arm and thigh. Scott grabbed a beer and left the room. Thirty seconds later the local news announcer was telling listeners to expect another week of heat and humidity.
Julie removed the lid, stirred the beef and potatoes, and took a bite. It was tasteless and didn’t deserve to be eaten. She dropped the spoon, letting sauce splatter the counter top, and grabbed the blue canister of salt, the one with the picture of the smiling girl in the rain. She opened the spout and poured the entire contents into the pot. Inside the refrigerator she checked the lime jell-o she had mixed earlier that day. It still had green liquid pooling on the sides of the glass dish. When she pulled it off the shelf, blobs of thickened green water plopped onto the floor from the fridge to the trash can.
Julie climbed the stairs to their bedroom and slowly unfastened the pearl buttons. She pulled her arms out of the sleeves, one at a time, letting the pink silk glide across, kissing the fine hairs on her skin. She hung the blouse on its hanger and placed it at the back of the closet. On the floor near her feet lay the large, paint stained tee-shirt Scott had thrown at her in anger last week. Julie put it on. She walked to the mirror nailed to the back of the bedroom door and stared at the fat, pathetic woman she saw there. She pressed the rough, scratchy shirt against her chest so her body would know the touch it deserved.
Proverbs 15:4 NRSV
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
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