Words for International Women’s Day 2021
The blunt raven crop still shocks me in the bathroom mirror, stark against my alabaster skin. I wonder if this person will ever feel like me. My eyebrows look too blonde this morning; I pencil them with the darkest brown I can find. I should get them tattooed but that would mean going somewhere, talking to someone, drawing attention to myself.
I bind my breasts and put on two pairs of shorts beneath my cargo pants to bulk out my hips. I slip in the lenses that make my blue eyes brown, humming the old song that went something like that. It still feels wrong to sing, suggesting as singing does that one is carefree and light of heart, but I like to pretend I am that person, even in the windowless sanctuary of my double-locked bathroom.
Transformation complete, I feel able to open the blinds, letting sunshine and sea air in. I imagine Aleta laughing at me, calling me paranoid. I desperately miss her laugh, so much so that I lean against the doorframe as the pain of it winds me. I wonder when it will be safe to contact her. I need a longer-term plan. There’s only so far one can get on cash these days, no matter how much you have. Eventually people start wanting documentation, ID, references.
Soon the owners will begin holiday rentals again. They’ll discover the extra locks I’ve put on the doors, even the internal ones. They might realise that the name I put on the documents doesn’t belong to me and they might even be bothered enough to wonder why. Simply changing one’s appearance isn’t sufficient to start afresh, not when the stakes are this high.
IP address blocked, I check everyone’s social media feeds as much as I can without logging in as myself. My old self, anyway. They’re still sharing the ‘missing’ appeal posts.
Any news, hun? someone called Tilly had commented on Aleta’s latest post.
No. Bit worried now xxx Aleta had replied.
His page is full of similar enquiries from well-wishers and do-gooders. He won’t be short on sympathy from adoring family and friends, nor from women hoping to line themselves up as my replacement. Good luck to them. I really mean it: GOOD LUCK.
A crash behind me makes me jump to my feet, heart pounding in my throat. “Who’s there?” I call, still remembering in my panic to use my new, deeper voice. With a shaky hand I shut down Facebook and flick my eyes around the apartment for anything that could identify me.
Edging towards the front door, I find nothing and no one there. My makeup bag has fallen off the shelf; I give a shaky laugh of relief as I scoop up the contents.
As my heartbeat slows, I accept I’m as much a prisoner now as I was before. I steal a look outside to where the sea meets the sky and wonder what it will take for me to be free.
About Emma Robertson
Emma Robertson is a dance tutor and writer from London, UK. Her work has appeared in Idle Ink, Pure Slush, Eastern Iowa Review, Fifty Word Stories, Silver Lining Zine and Free Flash Fiction. Upcoming publications include a short story in the Swoop Books ‘Ordinary People’ anthology and a micro piece in 101 Words. Website: www.writing.dted.co.uk Twitter: @emmadancetrain