Thursday, May 19, 2011
What Mirrors Don't Tell You
By Marina Neff
from Laura Alden’s
The PTA Mystery Series
My best friend frowned at the changing room’s mirror, gripped the skin over her abdomen in both hands, and sighed.
This was a bad sign. Usually Beth wrinkled her nose at her reflection, made a remark about at least she looked better than her sister Kathy, and walked out of the store with her head held high. But today was New Bathing Suit Day, the day during which all body flaws are laid bare.
“I thought I told you never to do that,” I said.
Beth let go of her stomach fat and stared morosely at her reflection. “Maybe I should start listening to you.”
“Exactly what I’ve been saying for years.” I watched as she twisted and turned. “Want me to get a different swimsuit? That pink one would look great on you.”
“You just want me to wear pink because you can’t.”
I fluffed my light red hair. “Who says I can’t? Is that like the no white shoes before Memorial Day rule?”
“No,” she said. “It’s the don’t-wear-colors-that-make-you-look-half-dead rule of common sense.”
She tried to pull the suit lower a few times, frowned some more, sighed some more.
“All right,” I said. “What’s the matter?”
“What?” She blinked. “Nothing’s the matter.”
“Quit that. Of course there is. You haven’t looked in a mirror this long since the week before prom, hoping your straight hair would magically turn curly.”
She turned back to the mirror. “You didn’t know me when I was in high school.”
“Yeah, but I know you now. What’s with the mirror obsession?”
Her capitulation came fast. Must have been the semi-public space of the department store’s changing room. At home she wouldn’t have talked for half an hour.
“Claudia Wolff.” Beth poked at her hips with her index fingers. “She was in my bookstore the other day and said, ‘Wow, Beth, have you put on weight?’”
I made a rude noise in the back of my throat. “And you believed her?”
“Oh. You mean she might have been...” She trailed off, not wanting to voice what I knew to be truth.
“Been lying?” I supplied. “Don't be an idiot. Of course she was.”
“But look,” Beth practically wailed, pointing at her dimply thighs. “I’ve never looked like this!”
Sure, Beth could stand to lose a little weight, but most of us could, including me. But what Beth most certainly didn’t need was Claudia Wolff’s specter haunting her every bite. That would give anyone intractable food issues in half a day.
“You’re never been forty-one, either,” I said. “Cut yourself a little slack, kid. You do just fine. Think of all the other forty-one year olds in the world, then think of yourself. Don’t just think of the entertainment people who keep themselves in shape for a living, think of people here in Rynwood, Wisconsin. Think of Claudia herself, who isn’t exactly the fittest person on the block. And think of that handsome Evan Garrett of yours. Like attracts like, you know.”
“Thanks, Marina,” she said, finally smiling. “You’re the best friend ever.”
“I’m glad you recognize that as fact.”
She laughed and went to get dressed. I wanted to call her back and tell her that no, you’re the one who’s the best friend. Maybe I make you laugh, but you’ve shown me how to live with grace. Maybe I can get you out of a mild funk, but you’re the one who showed me how to get up in the morning when there’s nothing to get up for. Maybe you think I’m the one with all the dreams, but you’re the one who achieves them.
“Hey.” Beth poked her head out of the changing room. “Maybe I’ll try on that pink suit after all. Would you mind getting it for me?”
I heaved a martyred sigh. “Gladly, I do your ladyship’s bidding.”
And I did. Gladly.