Another fun prompt from Writers Island again this week.
The prompt is – OUTRAGEOUS.
Here’s my little ditty….
The wind was fierce, pulling the branches of the jacaranda down and then releasing them so quickly they looked like fingers flung to the twilight sky. Madeline emerged from the bathroom as mauve clouds began to group. She caught sight of herself in the mirror above the mantel and had to press her hand against her mouth to stop from shrieking. Her hair was blonde, platinum, like a 1950s pin-up or those girls who lived with Hugh Hefner.
She began to panic, feeling her vision blur. She thought she might faint. I can’t do this, she thought. I’m not a real blonde, everyone will know. Everyone will see me as a fake. Roger had been right when he had called her a plain Jane. That’s what she was. And a plain Jane should never try and change her spots.
She had married Roger ten years ago when she was 22, shortly after her mother died. Her father had left when she was baby and it had always been she and her mother, a life of books, crossword puzzles and early nights. What did she know of men and their ways?
Roger was her English professor in her final year of University. He was thirty years older and swept her away with his intelligence and worldliness. He asked her to marry him on Graduation Day.
Their marriage was safe, comfortable as old chairs gathering dust in a room. They lived in Roger’s house he had bought as a bachelor, disregarded for years with its chipped kitchen surfaces and old-fashioned furniture. Madeline suggested an upgrade, a renovation, but Roger said he liked things as they were.
Roger insisted Madeline didn’t work, saying she could keep house. She filled her days with cleaning, cooking and drinking instant coffee from heavy-handled mugs. She longed for walks along the beach and cozy chats in cafes in the evenings but Roger didn’t like to go out. ‘I’m out all day,’ he said.
To Madeline’s relief, they made love infrequently. Roger was rough of hand and less than thoughtful. Afterwards Madeline lay awake for hours, feeling like she was dying in the dark.
She bought a dress once. A purple dress flecked with tiny pink flowers. Low cut and above the knee. She had read an article in Cosmo about ways to dress to please your man. The model in the article had been wearing the same dress. Madeline thought it might cheer Roger up if she looked pretty for once, he always appeared so grim. She looked good in it – hopeful. Roger told her to take it back. ‘You look ridiculous,’ he said. ‘Cheap. That you think I would like that is outrageous.’
From then on Roger bought all Madeline’s clothes from a catalogue recommended by one of his work colleagues. A woman in her 60s. Every outfit had three things in common – beige, shapeless, drip dry. He bought her sensible shoes and tan pantyhose. She wore no make-up and her hair in a bun. She took to making predictions about the weather and discussing the decline in quality of supermarket produce.
Sometimes Madeline stood in the garden, cradling the pink and purple bells of the fuschia she cultivated so carefully. ‘If only I could dress like you do, just once,’ she whispered. ‘If only I could shine.’
One day Roger fell ill with a pain in his chest. He died three days later. ‘We did all we could,’ said the doctor. Madeline cried for what might have been.
She bought a bottle of colour for her hair called Golden Sunrise. The model on the box glowed with vivacity. Madeline applied the contents of the tube with shaking fingers, feeling sick as she watched her mousy brown hair turn golden white.
She bought a dress – red and slinky – a word she had never used in connection with herself before – and knee-high black boots. When she put them on she didn’t recognise herself, she felt like she was floating, an onlooker in her own life.
The doorbell rang. It was her new friend, her neighbour, Daisy. They were going out for a night on the town. ‘Well, well, well, what do we have here?’ Daisy said.
‘I look ridiculous, don’t I?’ Madeline said. ‘Outrageous. I will embarrass myself if I go out like this in public, won’t I?’
‘On the contrary,’ Daisy said. ‘You look like someone who is ready to live in this world. You have a face full of fire.’
Madeline inhaled deeply, feeling every step forward would change her sublimely, wordlessly, as if she was being moulded from hot wax, as if she was learning to walk again, but she found she couldn’t stop, she didn’t want to stop.
‘Let’s go,’ she said. ‘Let’s go and have some fun.’