A Beauty of My Own by Terry Riccardi

 When I opened the large, gray trunk my older cousin gave me for my ninth birthday, my reaction was to stare in awe. It housed the most beautiful doll I had ever seen, plus her wardrobe. Her long, thick, golden hair was the opposite of my short, thin, brown locks. Hers stayed smooth, every strand in place, while mine frizzed up at the mere thought of rain. Her dark, full lashes fringed eyes that were the bluest of blue. The best I could say for my own eyes was that there were a few flecks of hazel in all that brown. And my lashes were hidden behind a pair of glasses thicker than anyone else’s I knew.

Ah, her wonderfully shaped oval face with forever blemish-free skin! My own long face was never totally free of that pre-, during- and post-adolescence scourge—acne. No scrape, bruise, scab or scar marred her face or limbs. And that marvelous body! Long, slim, graceful limbs, with nary a trace of pudge or flab. Her fingernails mirrored her face–perfectly shaped ovals, coated with a lovely coral polish that went with every outfit she came with. My nails were round and bent downward as soon as they grew even a little bit. 

All her clothes suited her well and enhanced her natural beauty, starting with the bridal gown she came dressed in. White satin slippers, a veil and a little flower bouquet were in one of the three drawers on the other side of the trunk. I couldn’t even imagine the man she would marry, but he’d surely be the handsomest man in the world. Who would ever look twice at me?

 She became a graceful ballerina in her pink sateen leotard, white tutu, and pink slippers. I, on the other hand, was hopeless in beginning ballet, going so far as to write the entire show we put on for our parents—just so I could create a crawl-across-the-floor role for myself.

Her ice-skating ensemble was sleek and becoming, her skates fit just right on her feet, and she balanced perfectly on their little metal blades. Whenever I ventured onto the ice at a rink, I was bundled up, wobbling on rented skates that never fit quite right. I also never managed a complete turn around the rink in an upright position.

I have forgotten what her other outfits were. Stylish and stunning, for sure. Mercifully, I have forgotten my own wardrobe of that time. But it was sensible and stodgy, equally for sure. My mother always took me downstairs to the bargain basement of Alexander’s, our local department store. I grew up with a closet full of clothes that did little to enhance my self-image. 

Everything I wasn’t, the doll was. I never named her, because I felt too far removed from such a gorgeous creature to be on a first-name basis. I handled her with utmost respect and always put her clothes and accessories away neatly in the trunk when I was done playing.

My nameless doll never changed over the years that I grew taller, left acne and pudge behind, and traded glasses for contact lenses. Her clothes stayed the same, while my cousin and aunt took me to Fifth Avenue stores for a new wardrobe before I went off to college. The doll continued to balance perfectly on her little ice skates. I learned to walk in high heels. The handsomest doll man in the world didn’t show up. My own Prince Charming didn’t either, but I would eventually meet and marry the man who taught me the meaning of unconditional love.

When I came home after college, I started going through the things I had left behind. As I opened the gray trunk and took the doll out, it occurred to me for the first time that her flawless skin was not only unmarked, but cold. Her beautiful blue eyes saw nothing, and her ruby red lips would never part to utter a single word. I put her away and closed the trunk for what I knew would be the last time. 

Terry Riccardi is a philatelist, free-lance editor and inveterate reader. When not creating stories, she can be found trying to bowl a perfect game, watching classic movies, or searching for lost jigsaw puzzle pieces. She hopes to be a world-famous author when she grows up. Her work has appeared in Calliope, Potato Soup, Scarlet Leaf Review, and other literary journals.       

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