'Famous Last Words' by Mileva Anastasiadou



Mom’s advice comes a little harsh.

“You’re beautiful,” she’ll reassure you, drying up your tears. She’ll then take a good look at you.

“You’re beautiful,” she’ll say again, without that first spark of certainty.

“If only,” she’ll add and won’t complete the sentence. She’ll take your hand to show you. Mom will fix your hair, making it look cute for a while, when you take a glimpse in the mirror, feeling the force of normality inflicted on you for the first time.

“Don’t underestimate yourself,” your mom wants to say, but instead she’ll say: “Don’t sell yourself short.”

Only you don’t want to sell yourself at all. You still hate you hair. Your hair is messy most of the time.


*


In time you’ll learn the right way. You’ll know how to make your hair smooth and sleek. You’ll thank your mom for teaching you. You’ll thank those cheap magazines. They’ll show you how to dress properly, how to walk, how to behave and you will look pretty. Prettier than the girls in the cheap magazines. Those girls who have all the luck. You’ll be the ugly duckling turned into a swan, you’ll be Cinderella in the ballroom. You’ll be Snow White asleep. You’ll be lonely.

“You’re perfect,” mom will tell you, drying up your perfect tears.

“You’re perfect,” she’ll say again, without that first spark of certainty.

“If only,” she’ll add and won’t complete the sentence. She’ll turn on the TV. You’ll spend some quality time together, there on the couch, watching action movies, romantic comedies, commercials, all entertaining, but also educating, that violence of normality inflicted on you once more, until you realize what you need to be perfect. You need a partner. As perfect as you. You’ll need a home. Beautifully decorated.

“Don’t underestimate yourself,” your mom wants to say, but instead she’ll say: “Don’t sell yourself short.”

This time, you know what she means.


*


In time you’ll learn the right way. You’ll find a husband and a home. You’ll have kids. You’ll thank your mom for teaching you. You’ll thank the TV. Your house will be featured in prestigious magazines, you’ll be invited to the best parties in town. People will envy you for your luck. You’ll be the girl in the magazines all other girls admire. You have finally won, haven’t you? You’ll be a little miss beauty forever. Your husband will be the king. But you’ll be lonely. Again. Wondering what went wrong.

“I love you,” your husband will tell you, drying up your tears.

“I love you,” he’ll say again, without that first spark of certainty.

“If only,” he’ll add and won’t complete the sentence. He’ll have to attend a business meeting. Those business meetings will become frequent after a while, only you’ll know they’re not about business at all. You’ll look in the mirror and you’ll know. You’ll know your time has passed. The witches will speak to you again, they’ll guide you through adversity, stirring the cauldron, in which normality boils violently, asking to swallow your time, your life, your soul. So, you’ll visit beauty salons and plastic surgeons to buy back your youth. To buy time.

“Don’t underestimate yourself,” the doctor will tell you, before he performs the injection which will make the wrinkles vanish, because the doctor’s careful with words. He won’t advise you against selling yourself short. He already knows you do.


*


But time is inconsiderate. Time doesn’t care about your needs. Time can’t be bought. Happiness can’t be bought. Don’t fool yourself. Purchase power will take you to all the best alternatives. You’ll handle your misery the way you want. You’ll soothe your misery with products, trips, the best pillows for your sofa, the most beautiful dresses. You’ll consume more and more and you’ll consume time, until the very end. Until times consumes you.


*


On your death bed you’ll be wondering why you spent your life in other people’s eyes. Why you sold yourself short. Why you sold yourself at all. You can’t tell stories where nothing happens, you’ll think. You can’t, yet you wish you could. Life is like that; nothing happens until the moment something happens and spoils it all. You’ll wonder when you reached that time of perfection. You’ll go back in time. Before time ruined it all. Before the witches invaded your life. Before the husband and the house. Before the perfect hair. Back when your hair was messy. Before you thought about perfection at all. Then all was perfect.

“I had a perfect life,” you’ll say.

“I had a perfect life,” you’ll say again, without that first spark of certainty.

“If only,” you’ll say but won’t complete the sentence.

Rumors go that those were also the last words of Macbeth. Only Shakespeare decided against writing them down.





Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist. Her work can be found in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, the Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob's Tea House, Bending Genres, Eastern Iowa Review (Best of Net 2019 nominee), Litro, Moon Park Review and others. Find Mileva on Twitter: @happymil_, or on Facebook: @milevaanastasiadou

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