The shadows under her eyes were dark. It was hard to see at first; she hid them well, with foundation and concealer and bright smiles that were only tinged with strain. But the skin was bruised and blue and dark and she knew it.
She made up for it, or tried anyway, for the exhaustion and stress, and the worry, the constant worry that threatened to prick away at her perfect mask of her perfect life. Her lip gloss was shinier, her laugh forcibly infectious. Everything was funny; everything was perfect and she was perfect and everything was just perfect, thank you. Did she mention how everything was perfect? Because it was.
But the shadows were there, and no amount of eye cream could take them away. They were prime evidence of what everyone had always known: she couldn't hack it.
It was too much for her. The stress, the worrying, the nagging voices inside her head. 'If you're going through hell, keep going,' they said, but who were they anyway, and what did they know about hell? And wasn't the point of hell that it never ended, so didn't that take care of the whole 'keep going' part? Like you could choose to walk out of hell. Like you could choose when your unhappiness would end, when the spell would break, when finally somebody up there would look down and say, hey, let's throw her a break.
So she worked harder. Her grades rose. She did her homework, she studied for her tests. She joined clubs, more clubs, clubs about random things that truthfully she could care less about. But she joined and she went and she always had an idea at every meeting.
But the bags were still there, and sometimes, she was caught by surprise when she looked in the mirror. Who is that? Her immediate reaction flustered her, and her pale cheeks were stained red with resentment.
There, in the turn of her head and the curl of her smile, she could almost see herself. But the rest of the image was hard and glittery and sparkling and she hated it.
And sometimes, she found it so hard to smile and keep going. Sometimes she absolutely couldn't and lost it, and snapped at well meaning friends who merely asked what's wrong? You seem stressed, you seem anxious, you seem depressed --- what's wrong?
And she snapped at them, because inside her head a voice that sounded nothing like her own was screaming -- how do you respond to that when the answer is everything?
And so people lost patience with her, eventually, after a while. When she lost the ability to smile at every comment, to laugh incessantly at every joke, people began to talk. What's with her? She heard them whisper as she walked away, and it only fueled the fire.
One time, she whirled on them all, almost snarling with frustration. "What do you get? Why am I the only one like this?" she screeched, and her voice sounded too loud in her own hears. "Don't you know who I am?" No, said the voice inside her head. Who are you?
She didn't know either.