She woke in the morning and knew she still wasn't ready. She called the office, as she had the morning before, and explained that she was still ill, very ill, which wasn't entirely untrue. Then, for the next few hours, she twisted in bed, tried to block out the cold light from outside, warred against her own will and uncontrollable urges, until she was finally able to make the thick, tired movement from the bed to her couch.
She curled into the days-old nest of blankets and ate cereal and smoked cigarettes and drank too much coffee. She watched mindless daytime television and read trashy magazines she'd taken from a neighbor's recycling pile. There were moments when she felt she should do something of more value: play her piano or read something not bound with staples, or maybe exercise, but that was only her mind taunting her, making her feel guilty about wasting away for days while refusing her the drive to overcome it. And she knew if she continued as she was, she would break again.
Now she was surely feeling how every day was darker and colder than the last, and as the sun set on this notion of gloom and the gray light that reflected off the adjacent building dimmed, and as more snow began to fall, she felt the waning day cast a terrible judgment on the crusted dishes on her coffee table and the mess in her kitchen and the smoke that hung in the air. Somehow, the darkness outside shined a light on her filth, and she saw it on her skin and on her couch and strewn across her entire home, and she went to the bathroom to wash.
She dropped her clothing to the floor in a heap and looked in the full length mirror behind the closed door. She looked at her hair, snarled and unwashed. She looked at her face: pale and freckled and without make-up, tiredness pulling beneath her eyes, dryness like white dust on her lips. The running shower filled the room with warm steam and she could feel the wetness on her skin. She ran her hands over her hips and over her stomach. She arched her back and pulled the skin flat and tight across her belly, flatter than it had been in years, or ever would be again. She slid her hands up further and lifted her breasts high on her chest and held them there so that they were round and full. She watched herself for a moment before letting them fall again. She turned and looked at her backside, sliding her hands across it. She pulled a leg up in the air and watched the skin tighten, the dimples disappear, but she immediately lost her balance and had to set it down again. And there she was. Uncovered. Unmasked. Flawed. Alone. She stopped looking at herself only when the mirror completely steamed over.
Lee L. Krecklow is a fiction writer living in the Milwaukee area. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Madison Review, Midwestern Gothic and Pantheon Magazine, and he recently completed work on a novel titled Fiction. You can find him socializing at www.facebook.com/leelkrecklow.