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She stood just to the side of the centre of the mirror. Her hair was tangled and ragged and when she clenched her fingers around the strands, they felt dirty. She picked up a brush and with a calm she couldn’t feel began the downward motions.
Her hair was the least of her problems, and because it was the smallest, least significant, she approached it first. Twenty strokes had smoothed the first side, twenty-six the other. She ran the brush through eight more times, just to make sure.
Setting it down on the counter slowly, she looked into her reflection’s eyes. They used to smile, she remembered. And laugh and cry. Now they just stared back.
Bending to the sink, she splashed her face several times with cold water, ignoring the light sting around her eye as she brushed her fingers past it.
Straightening her spine, slowly, she placed both hands on the sink, the water still running and watched the red-tinted water whorl down the drain. Sighing, she looked up again, and gingerly tucked the hair on one side of her face behind her ear, revealing a large bruise still changing colours, but currently that of plumb skin and a lime martini. Her eye was sealed almost entirely shut, but for a small slit still blurred with water.
Her lip was split to the side and she prodded it with her tongue; it was still too numb to feel any pain. There was a large Indian-burn on her upper arm the shade of smeared lipstick called Lust she’d seen in a pharmacy once.
The irony was not lost on her.
There was a bump on her head to remind her of her blackout and small scrapes and minor bruises on her arms and legs from where she’d collided with various pieces of furniture.
Reaching into her bag on automatic, she pulled out several brands and styles of cover-up and began to remake her face. It wasn’t anything new or alarming and in some way it was almost comforting to have at least some kind of normalcy, twisted as it might have been.
A stranger in the grocery store, noting the rips and tears had started to explain to her the cycle of abuse; she’d walked away.
She could be as strong as the next person. She could live another day.
Replacing the items in her purse, she took one last look at her reflection. The bruising around her eye was less noticeable, just enough to say that she’d been hit in the face with a ball. She’d changed into long sleeves and pants to cover the scrapes, and a light shade of lipstick to mask the cut.
She touched her fingers to her hair, bright red curls that thickly framed her face, and hid the lump like a thing of beauty. She contemplated the brush again, but didn’t bother and instead pushed back her shoulders and left the bathroom; her hair was still dirty.
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