An Illuminating Assurance

The brilliant gold shimmered and reflected, casting its brightness on the plainer, more earthen tones near it.

Red lips spoke the words: ‘My boutique is sure to have something to suit your tastes, as quaint as those tastes may be. Perhaps we could liven you up somehow.’

Nicky didn’t really feel like replying. She felt a little queasy, a little claustrophobic. The boutique was so small and petite. It seemed dwarfed further by her large posterior; tainted by her cheap, chain-store style of dressing.

‘It’s just a casual formal affair, really. Just need something formally casual.’ The words sounded ridiculous to Nicky as they escaped her own unfashionable mouth.

‘Casual Formal?’ Gina spat. ‘What on earth is that, pray tell?’

Gina’s eyes were transfixed on Nicky’s, yet she seemed to look right through her. Gina seemed offended by Nicky’s presence. She had entered a private inner sanctum fit only for the stylish and the rude.

Nicky gulped as quietly as she could manage. She didn’t want this venomous stranger to sense her nervousness. Too late though, she figured. She was the elephant making a mess in the porcelain doll store. The woman who, in the outside world, felt quite comfortable and in control – pretty and well-proportioned. Sexy and curvy, even. Yet in this boutique she was the oppressed, the victimised.
The Terrified and the Large, rather than the Bold and the Beautiful.
‘I’ll find something…’ Nicky mumbled incoherently.
‘So,’ the lips mutated into a vicious smile. ‘You can’t afford La Bouche?’
Nicky just knew those words had been dancing delicately on the tip of Gina’s tongue, just waiting for the perfect moment to be spoken aloud, haughtily and menacingly.
‘None of it’s really… it’s not really me,’ she stammered, feeling foolish.
‘It’s not really you to be jealous either, I would have thought,’ the cruel beauty smirked.
Nicky wasn’t going to dignify that comment with a response. She simply stopped to observe this strange, overbearing woman as she went about folding scarves, the smirk still on her perfectly made-up face.

Gina, the Queen of La Bouche, had high cheekbones. She’d always possessed such natural beauty, but it was magnified now, with expensive products carefully applied and regularly touched up. Her once-bushy eyebrows had added to her natural allure, but now they were waxed and arched. It gave her a different look. Her clothes were tailored, her skin spray-tanned and her glasses replaced with contacts. Her heels gave her the height she’d always wanted. The curls were tamed and straightened.

Her hair colour was the only thing that remained unchanged. It had always been that luminous shade of gold, and still remained so. It was the same shade of gold that had once been tied into bouncing curly bunches with thin red ribbons. The gold that had been a perfect match for soft, rosy cheeks and toothless grins amidst a youth of bee stings and broken bones. It was her registered trademark, albeit unregistered.

‘But I’m really happy for you!’ Nicky replied after having left too long a pause after Gina’s remark.
‘I’m sure you are, darling,’ Gina drawled, while a manicured hand rested itself briefly and cautiously on Nicky’s diseased shoulder.
‘You know darling, we’re best friends, and best friends don’t get jealous and petty!’ Gina was doing a bad job of pretending that she wasn’t being condescending.
She blew a kiss and shimmied away, her long, perfect legs taking her to whatever elite task she had set out to do next.
‘Best friends… definitely.’
Nicky sighed and left the Chamber of Doom, which was her secret name for bloody La Bouche boutique.

Nicky trawled shops all over town, a guilty weight resting on her shoulders the entire time. She couldn’t find anything half way suitable. Usually it was pretty easy to find something to wear.

After four hours of fruitless shopping, Nicky realised that spending time with Gina had slowly made her feel cheap and nasty walking around Big W and K Mart. Even Jacquie E seemed pretty dowdy and desperate these days. She couldn’t afford La Bouche, but it’s not as though she lashed out that often. She did have a hot date for the Ball, so what could be wrong with spoiling herself and ensuring that she’d knock his socks off?

She’d have to return to La Bouche. She’d shock Gina by buying the outfit she’d loved at first sight. So what if she would have to eat baked beans for a month after parting with all that money?

‘Hi!’ Nicky breezed into La Bouche the way a bird flits towards a tree branch on a warm summer’s day.
‘Oh Nicky darling, fantastic to see you! The latest designs have just arrived from Paris today; we’re completely beside ourselves here at La Bouche! We ordered the crème de la crème of the hottest styles from Fashion Week. Absolutely divine dresses and boleros!’
Nicky was a little excited despite herself.
‘I know just the thing for you! It’s this gorgeous aquamarine, slash teal kind of retro prom style dress – but it’s conventional enough for you,’ she claimed, looking Nicky up and down disapprovingly.
‘It’s perfect in fact! Absolutely divine.’
Gina shimmied away again, excitement evident in her poised movements.
She returned with the monstrosity, pure delight in her expression.
‘I’m so glad you came to your senses!’ Gina exclaimed, confident that she’d already made the sale.

Shit, she was annoying.

‘Gina, just give me the damned outfit! It sounds absolutely hideous. I’ll try it on to humour you before I buy that lovely burgundy outfit I had my eye on the other day.’
‘The name’s Andelia, Dahhhhling.’

Nicky felt a sense of pride well up inside of her. Gina was stubborn and infuriating, but so wonderfully determined.

‘Just keep reminding me that you’ll be back to your winning self as soon as this play is over,’ Nicky warned as she gave her daughter a warm bear hug.
‘Bloody oath,’ Gina told her Mum, lapsing for one savoured moment.
‘But until then, the name is Andelia, okay!’

After that play was done there would be some other character, some other person for Gina to embody, some other role to obsess over. Gina would put her life and self to the sidelines again in order to perfect her craft. Oh yes, there would be plenty more opportunities for Gina to drive her beloved Mother mad.

Nicky watched as her flesh, her blood, her youngest, folded up the tatty red towel and placed it in the bright orange Fanta showbag, her airs and graces still defining who she was for now. La Bouche was so real to her. She was Andelia, no doubt about it.

Nicky left the ‘boutique’, satisfied with her purchase and thought of her daughter – the child-like red cheeks, the imposing red lips and beautiful golden, unchanging hair.

At least there would always be that golden hair… if only for now.

An Illuminating Assurance

Michelle Rogers

Joined April 2007

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