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Flashfiction: Lipstick

January 17, 2015

Sarah carefully outlined her lips in scarlet. The pencil was hard and dragged at her lips. Her hand movement was practiced, ensuring that the right pressure and shape would result in a smooth, accurate line. She paused; checked out her face in the dirty mirror. Rummaged in her handbag perched between two taps, dangerously close to a filthy sink. The lights were too bright for the stained ladies room.
She relaxed slightly when she curled the red curve from its bullet casing. The colour was bold, bright. She placed it deliberately, the heat from her skin melting the red into her lips. Blot with tissue. Reapply another slick. The ritual calmed her – after the tension of getting the perfect line, this was easy. Too soon she would be finished here, and would be back playing cheerleader for his band. He was busy: sound checking, tuning, drinking. Maybe once or twice he would gift her a glance, or a smile. He had said she was indispensable before a gig, that he couldn’t function without his muse, his luck. That was the first lie she had discovered. She added more needless mascara to delay returning to the light stained space in front of the stage.

Later, the mirror was darker, and she was jostled by slim arms and faces, orange armoured, tipped with knife sharp hooves guarding their space. The red was missing a little from the centre of her lips. The small room echoed with excited squeals.
“How hot was the guitarist?”
“John, his name is. He’s single, you know. It was in NME.”
“I loved that last song”
“Sarah? wonder who she was.”
Sarah wiped a tiny smudge from her top lip. The greedy crowd had sucked and gobbled at their song until there was nothing left. She remembered the first time she heard the beginnings of it, woken up by the whine of the guitar. He was sitting on the only chair in the bedsit, sun lazily describing his bare skin. She had sat up in the bed, wrapped her arms around her knees and watched his hands stroke the fret. He looked up, dark hair flopped over one eye and crookedly smiled. Her heart had contracted, and she stood and danced naked in the yellow room, feet neatly avoiding the rubbish on the crowded floor.
He had the same look in his eye on stage, watching the crowd sing the refrain he had made for her. Or at least, the refrain he had made for the girl in his room that night. The red coated her lips again, and she stared at her pale and unsmiling reflection.

Early in the morning now, the lights were awkwardly bright again. Sarah sighed at the tiny lines that bled into the skin around her lips, the blotchy patches of colour. In the harsh light she could see the bags under her eyes, the fine fine lines near her mouth.
The crowd was jubilant, elated. The band were smiling, humming and wired. John had red lipstick over his mouth, and Sarah could still feel his hot hands under her dress. She wondered exactly when it was that her delight in owning him had left her. He was still the intense beauty that moved like sex onstage and held the attention of all the women and some of the men. He was still the man who only really loved his guitar and the music he created. She was still nothing, and still loved nothing.
For a moment she nearly understood the difference between himself and her. Nearly understood why she always fucked musicians, good ones. Those that lived so fucking brightly it hurt to look at them directly. But the insight vanished as she pulled the red tube of lipstick back into its black case. She was done with musicians, she decided. She had a ticket for an exhibition opening tomorrow night. Maybe 2013 was the year of the painter.

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