Cleansing Cream

There's a little girl drowning in the bathtub.

.

Outside it is beautiful, bright, new, young and it hides the withered, wrinkled, docile thing inside, wavering and tired, and so very old. The woman smiles underneath false lights, artificial happiness is a trend now, and it was best to hop on the bandwagon before it left. He offers a hand with bright eyes and she allows it. They dance and laugh and drink and ignore the empty feeling that lingers in the air, prominent and ugly.

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Sometimes, the woman would find, to her horror, that the cleansing wipe would fail. Would wipe off nothing but wishes. Her face would be stuck in a mask of white everyday, of blushes and shadows, and her reflection is cold, merciless, flat, nothing but broken wishes and hollowed bones. She'd wipe furiously, laboriously, just please, take it off, the mask wears her face down, sags it to a blankness that sometimes feels more real than anything else.

It is just the mind playing tricks on her, she insists, and rinses, dries, rinses, dries, rinse, rinse, rinse until she's satisfied. In the mirror, there's a little girl, crying.

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She wakes with a start, eyes open in alarm at the sign of that stupid naive little girl. She's running unwrinkled fingers over the man's face, eyes blank and bright all the same, lips tipped in a small smile. The little girl doesn't notice the woman, and continues in her little endeavor, so the woman pretends she doesn't notice either, calms her eyes while an uneasy veil blankets her mind.

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One day, the man notices her too.

It is an insignificant day, a boorish day, an everyday kind of day, there's the dishes she pretends are hers but really, she wonders how the man doesn't notice the taste of take out. She is combing her hair in front of a mirror, lips pursed in distaste as she watches the man with his legs crossed with a prestigious air, reading the newspaper like anyone does that anymore. The little girl wanders blindly, arms held out as if testing for some solid, searching. Her hand touches the man's sleeve lightly and he finally notices.

He casts the woman a curious look and her hand stills on the comb.

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They are eating dinner, it is quiet and calm, and the woman ignores the lily perfume in the air, ignores the instinct to throw open the closet and sniff every outfit like a dog, ignores because she must ignore for the sake of their marriage.

He gives her a soft smile, lined with teeth, and compliments her on her cooking. She thanks him, thanks him for his incompetence and his utter disregard to take the trash out, to see the empty boxes of microwavable meals that contents it.

She's poisoning him slowly, if nothing else, she thinks pettily and throws the leftovers in the trash.

.

She broke the little girl, she thinks.

The girl's face is matted with dirt, smeared with a poor attempt at blush. The man turns his attention to her, examines her like shes' some kind of specimen.

She snaps then, knocks her chair back, drags the girl to the bathroom with screams staining the air. He follows slowly, carefully, as if he is afraid she will snap at him, murmurs comforts that fall to deaf ears.

In the bathroom, the water is already running.

She locks the door and the man bangs on it, threatens to break. She does what she does best, ignore.

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There's a little girl drowning in the bathtub.

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When the man manages to enter, there is nothing but water and a little girl, floating. Her face is clean.