Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Theresa Kopper has won our writing contest on the theme of Cycles with her piece "Someone Forgotten."
I am just beginning my creative writing quest. I write as a hobby, in between taking care of my two children, and working as an environmental engineer. This story is about the harmful cycle of beauty, and how it impacts those most vulnerable. As well as, how our society rewards those who continue this cycle.
It was small reminders, really— like how in groups, when someone tells a joke and people lock eyes and laugh, no one looks into hers. Or when Amalie waits in line to get coffee, people appear annoyed by her mere presence; their heads buried in their papers behind her, no eye contact made. And when visiting, her parents would sigh and ask why she looked so bedraggled.
And one day, Amalie got tired of that.
So, while home with her cat — who fit perfectly curled between her legs— she researched what nips and tucks, and tweaks and lifts were required, and there were many, many changes required.
So it began with sugar. Amalie limited herself to only 10 grams per day. The weight melted off. She noted men, in particular, held doors open when she reached a bmi of exactly 18.
Then she focused on her hair. Amalie found treatments that would keep her hair straight and shiny for months; granted the price was formaldehyde exposure linked to lung damage, but a small price to pay in her opinion.
Amalie had then forsaken the nose of her ancestors for that of a dainty ski sloped bridge, fit for the swiss alps. To harmonize her face further, she had botox injected above and at the corners of her eyebrows, to provide a lovely expression of youth. Her surgeon also deemed her philtrum (the space between her nose and lips) to be
too long, and suggested a surgical lip flip. Apparently, the philtrum sags as you age: she wondered when she’d need that lifted again.
Next, she visited an esthetician, the receptionists were exquisite, not a line in sight! With a deft hand, the esthetician pointed out the nooks and crannies of her face that were creating shadows from losing volume, and with that, Amalie had her tear troughs and nasolabial lines filled, and a spot of chin and lip filler: to bring back the
balance her profile had lost by her reduced nose—or so she was told.
Her research took her down a rabbit hole of high cranial tops, rounded foreheads, and v-line jaws: and with every visit, she lost a small part of her unwanted self, but gained so much more. She was excelling at work: a rising star they called her! Her pursuits were not fruitless, no, because when she turned twenty-five, she had a room full of friends joining her. However, right mid blow of her candles, she spotted Laurent in the corner talking with Zeline. Zeline, although a bit pillowy, had curves that could rival the Stelvio Pass. Amalie was transfixed above her candles, peering over the subtle lines of Zelines body. She watched Laurent watching Zeline, and in that moment, she knew what she would wish for.
So here she was, the morning of her trip to Brazil: the capital of the procedure called the Brazilian Butt Lift; dangerous for its propensity to cause embolisms, but wonderful in its supple results.
Amalie found first class to her liking—except for the five-year-old girl chatting to her dad about butterflies. She tried her best to tune her out, but as she was seated next to her, it proved difficult.
To Amalie’s horror, the girl turned her attention to her.
“You look like a princess.” the child said lightly, looking up at her with doe eyes.
“I hope I look like you when I grow up.”
Amalie turned to face the child, her interest piqued.
“Oh yeah— and why is that?” Asked Amalie.
The little girl's face scrunched in concentration, then she piped up “Well, your lips are all shiny, like the stars, and I like your long hair, it's the same color as mine, and you smell like a vanilla cupcake! Doesn't she daddy?”
The child father colored in embarrassment and ushered his daughter over to his side to stop her meddling—his efforts were fruitless.
She prattled on until finally sedated with a fizzy drink placed in her little hands.
While the child slurped on soda, almost spilling on Amalie's vintage shoes, Amalie decided to feign sleep and rested her neatly coiffed head on the cool airplane window.
An hour later, still pretending to sleep, she caught the murmur of the father and his daughter's conversation.
“Am I a beautiful daddy?”
“You are sweetheart.”
Amalie could feel the girl swinging her legs and kicking the seat in front of her.
“No, I'm not, not like her, anyway.”
“Well, she's an adult.”
“Mommy doesn't look like her either, and you. . . you don’t love her anymore.”
“Hush, that's not why!”
The little girl turned away from her father, Amalie could feel her soft head close to her arm. The girl whispered into the crevice of the seat “I'll make sure I'm too beautiful to leave.”
It was quiet then, the engines hum filtering other conversations. Before landing, Amalie proceeded to do her makeup. In the compact mirror, she caught sight of the child's sleeping face, lolling on her father’s shoulder.
As she was finishing her routine, the child roused, causing Amalie to look again. Her breath caught in her chest. She turned around to check her sight, and was met with the same sleeping child. For a moment, Amalie had thought she’d seen someone else.
When the flight landed, the girl turned to look at her once more.
“Hope you like Brazil!”
“Thank you,” replied Amalie curtly.
The child then placed a sticky hand in Amalie’s and said “I made you a picture, here.”
Before Amalie could protest, a colorful hand drawn portrait was shoved in her hands.
Amalie stared at the portrait and was rooted to the spot. The picture was her, yes, but it was her. Her original face. Her original hair — someone she had lost long ago.
She felt a wetness prick her eyes.
When Amalie looked up, the child was gone.