The girl without a face

Another evening, same meal. I stand dutifully at the table corseted in my Sunday dress. Ma and pa stab at the lacklustre potato chunks on the large communal plate. Pa’s worn face has a doleful gaze. Ma’s is harder to read.

Our oil lamp shines like a Christmas star above the table. As if the nooks and crannies of our hovel have anything to hide! Just a few ladles and a painting adorn its dank walls.

We all wear the same drab earthen blue, the ladies’ flaccid bonnets doing their best to look white and not grey. My aunts have skin like the bark of knotted willows. Mine is still the bark of a silver birch sapling struggling to survive.

The clock strikes seven. Ma and pa continue to eat without exchanging a word while my two aunts natter incessantly about all and sundry but nothing in particular, their speech punctuated solely by sips of insipid coffee.

Caught between babble and silence I look beyond ma and pa to the painting on the wall, a present from a would-be-preacher, a newcomer to these parts.

Pa pushes the plate towards me. I listlessly pop the starchy lumps into my mouth gulping coffee to wash the blandness away.

Full but not satiated I gaze out of the window into a night darker than my hair is black. My eyelids fall and I dream inside our painting. I’m the blond-haired, girl in turquoise-azure dress laughing outside with the boy in crimson red.

The Jewish Bride

Just one lingering visitor left; at last Tanya could enter her inner sanctuary. Her eyes met with those of the young bride. Tanya longed to feel like her, held so tenderly by her newly wed husband. “To have and to hold,” she had heard when her friend got married after her second child. Yet it was different for the Jewish bride, her wedding unmarred by any prenuptial engagement. Tanya envied the bride’s sensuality, her voluptuous warmth and how the ornate dress gently draped her feminine frame. The same could not be said of Tanya’s one-size-fits-all uniform.

Secretly though, Tanya was only too glad to wear the standard kit. From behind her facade she dared to look tourists in the eye, even the dashing young men she shied away from on the odd Friday evening when she went with her colleagues for a drink after work. Tanya’s gaze fell upon the bride’s luxuriant red dress with its countless sequins painstakingly woven into the fabric. She tried to imagine herself wearing it. Yet somehow she could not capture the image.

“The museum will close in ten minutes. Please make your way to the exit.” Tanya sighed on hearing the announcement: A sigh of relief that a long and monotonous day was winding down to a close but equally a sigh of dismay. In a few minutes she would have to leave her safe haven and re-enter the impertinent rush of the world outside.

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