Virtuous

Victoria’s stockings were never laddered. Even beneath the hemline the knit was silky perfection. High heeled shoes – not too high, not vulgar – were polished to a gleam. The dress followed her curves modestly, revealing only a hint of voluptuous; contained in a sheath of vulcanized nylon that squeezed flesh into inertia from breast to upper thigh.

She arranged her hair in a chignon. A deceptively soft looking wing of auburn hair, swept behind seashell ears, was lacquered firmly in place. Then the pearls. A small string of real ones bought by her husband on leave from his ship in a foreign port. The war was over now. Her husband occupied the vacancy in her bed. It was still unnerving to see his bulk snoring lightly, a stranger.

The necklace, a slippery translucence, was warm to her touch. Like something alive; each perfect orb murmuring a low soft sound as they curled in her palm. She watched in the vanity mirror as she closed the clasp at her neck, felt the weight of each bead nesting on her flesh. Her skin pale and opalescent as the pearls, she deftly camouflaged with a layer of pancake makeup bringing a fashionable beige to her complexion and dulling the luster of her eyes. A slash of red on maidenly lips made her small teeth appear blunt but dangerous.

She always dressed before going downstairs to make breakfast. Rising an appropriate amount of time before her husband ensured a cool, dry slice of toast, a cup of hot black coffee and a quartered orange were set at the head of the dining table. She would sit quietly opposite while he read the paper.

In her married, virtuous life there would be ease and hardship, picnics and travel, church meetings and good works and children. Victoria never raised her voice nor admonished them with more than “Oh Abbey, not now dear. David, please don’t.” She was elegant and refined and subtly unformed, a potential person.

Now she sits before a TV tray, her support stockings gathered at her ankles like excess skin. Her hair – a grey fuzz from over-processing through the decades – was uncombed. “Old Lady Vic” as the caregivers called her, wore a ratty bathrobe belted loosely and gaping open at the neck to reveal a network of fleshless wrinkles; her breasts now allowed the freedom to sag out of sight. Flecks of hardboiled egg clung to her whiskered chin and were sprinkled across her robe with toast crumbs and coffee stains. Her eyes, vacant, stared into a void disguised as a TV screen. Her deformed swollen fingers dipped into a baggy pocket and fingered two slippery orbs, all that remained of the string of pearls and she grinned a gap toothed smile. Victoria’s secret

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