by Stephanie Lamoureux
Barbra Jean sat at her kitchen table, one leg was folded on the edge of her chair, she guzzled the last gulp of her root beer, it was warm but Barbra Jean didn’t care. The warmth was a common element where Barbra Jean lived, down from highway I-20 southwest Aiken, South Carolina. Barbra Jean wiped the salted sweat from her diamond shaped chin, her brown eyes hazed with humidity, her cut off jeans looked haggard, the wear and tear of summer’s past, now revealed her white panties through the ripped holes, her pink tube top bloated her breast; revealing her cleavage. Not much she could do to dress up, these were her mother’s hand me downs, and in a town like this there was no need for fancy things. Barbra Jean rose, tossed the soda can in the wastebasket and went to check her thermostat; it read 103 degrees Fahrenheit she thought, ‘another hot headed day’.
Beauty framed Barbra Jean’s face, a beauty so rare that it envied her mother, it envied all the females that Barbra Jean knew and although Barbara Jean was ‘sweet as pie’ she did not have any female friends.
It was a known fact that Barbara Jean could not even go to the corner grocery mart and buy her momma’s favorite honey glazed ham without some guy’s lips saying: “Hey, beautiful!” Barbara Jean knew a dozen girls who would love those remarks from the town’s single and non-single men but to Barbara Jean it was just the same, the same flirtations that drove her mad.
If truth be known Barbra Jean had ‘the look’, the look that all young girls wish to grow into, but for Barbara Jean there would be no growing into her looks, ‘the look’ was already upon her at seventeen, God only knew how much more beautiful she would be at twenty.
Off and on Barbra Jean thought what it would be like to be born ugly, deformed or even not born at all. She often cursed God for creating her, and as beautiful as she was, she longed for that ugliness that would protect her from the longing of men.
The fear of being ugly was an unknown emotion for Barbara Jean; in fact she found ugly people more attractive and had a longing to be one of them.
Beauty was a curse for Barbra Jean, a curse that she was desperate to release herself from.
Desperate situations call for desperate measures and Barbra Jean was desperate. Any sane woman could see that, but unfortunately no woman did see this fact or would want too for that matter. It was a harsh reality for Barbra Jean to be hated by all the town’s women but that’s the price you pay for being cursed with beauty.
Barbara Jean walked out side to her porch; the two-storey farmhouse belonged to her parents, housing her, her three brothers and two sisters. Her family lived one on top of each other but the crowed quarters did not matter much to Barbara Jean, what did matter to her was who slept on top of her.
“Hey momma this day is sweating bullets isn’t it?” Barbra Jean asked.
A whine sound of acknowledgment came from Norma Day’s wrinkled lips. Norma Day was sewing a patch for her youngest Pet, twelve and very sportive; a real athlete he was turning out to be — one day the boy would be known as the next Berry Bonds.
Pet had managed to rip holes in both his crotch and sideline on his baseball uniform, but what can you expect when you’re sprinting for plates and diving for home runs.
“Hand me the scissors would you Jean,” Norma Day asked abruptly.
Barbra Jean hated the fact that her mother called her Jean she would often comment why her mother named her Barbra Jean if she preferred to call her simply Jean.
There were never any answers for Barbra Jean the only reaction from her mother was a distant stare, like Whistler’s “Painter’s Mother”, portrait.
“So Pet put holes in his paints again, I don’t know why you bother sewing them up so well you know he’s just going to rip them again,” Barbra Jean stated with a giggle.
Annoyed Norma Day replied, “It’s important for Pet to look presentable unlike others I know of”.
Norma Day’s eyes were deep with dark circles, which exaggerated her circular face. Her arms were flabby with pounds of fat that jiggled with every movement. Even though Norma Day was overweight and aged she had undertones of beauty, beauty that was inherited by Barbra Jean.
Barbra Jean knew that she did not have a close relationship with her mother, she tried to just the same, her mother was pretty much the only female that would talk to her for more than fifteen minutes at a time, and that was all Barbra Jean hoped for.
“You set the table Jean?” Norma Day asked dolefully.
“Yeah momma it’s all set dinner’s made too. That corn you bought from the famer’s market sure looks good for eating. The kernels are all yellow. I see you bought real butter, it must of cost you more, what is it now 3 dollars? Hell, it will sure taste good on that corn”.
“Cost more doesn’t always apply to your father; he sure loves him his real butter. Did you set the salt taps out?”
“Yeah momma everything is set,” Barbra Jean grinned.
Norma Day looped her last stitch, she sewed so many patches to holes that she could have won a world record for sewing a seam in less that a minute. There was no doubt in the minds of anyone in town that Norma Day wasn’t a hard working mother. She was the hardest working mother of them all, but the only solace Norma Day found with her role as ‘mother’ was with doting on her youngest Pet, he was defiantly the apple of her eye, but just the same she took care of her other children as much as she could, but it was clear to all that Norma Day loved most her youngest child, Pet.
Resentment and jealously was drawn on the faces of Barbra Jean’s other siblings but she took it lightly, she loved her momma just the same and was happy her momma loved, if only she could show it most with Pet.
Dinnertime was as close a gathering as there was in Barbara Jean’s family. Everyone went their separate ways, father working at the mill, her brothers tending their vegetable farm, her sisters’ with their on the road beauty salon, styling hair and applying make-up or clown make-up as Barbara Jean like to call it. Taking care of the home front was Barbara Jean’s job along with her momma, and Pet was still young, young enough to enjoy what young boys love, passing up days with playing and dirt between their fingernails. Life was routine and simple, simple as the simpletons of this town. But nothing was simple for Barbara Jean she wanted to be simple, if she could be just simple she would not have to endure the pain of her un-simple self, attracting unnatural situations that left her far from having a simple life.
Eight chairs stood around a large oak table. The dinning room was a fair size parallel to the kitchen where Norma Day and Barbra Jean where gathering the foods for dinner. Father sat at the end of the table as he always did smelling of straw and manure. The boys were yapping their jaws to mindless chatter of the days work and the trouble the neighbors where giving them. Pet brought his baseball glove to the table every night, closer to him than his blanket ever was. The girls gossiped the names of their clients with no remorse for their poisonous speech. Norma Day throttled her fated body around in a spin, getting the jug of lemonade she made from the fridge, finally to sit down hostelry on the opposite end of the table facing her husband apprehensively.
“Jean go get the biscuits from the oven,” Norma Day demanded.
Pearls of sweat raced down Barbara Jean’s forehead as she hurried to get the last few demands asked from her mother, for dinner to be ready. Biscuits, cups, and pickles juggled in Barbara Jean’s hands, she placed them eloquently as she always did on the table.
“Do we have everything here Jean?” roared Norma Day.
“Yes momma everything is set,” Barbra Jean said exhausted.
“Father you can start the prayer now,” asked Norma Day in a softer voice than before.
Father grunted as he folded his chapped hands together in prayer, “God let us give thanks for the bounty of food we have been given here today. Help us to be mindful of all those who labored so we may eat. Grant the farm a good harvest and my boys a strong will for work. Let no sin befall any of my daughters and may your spirit be strong in the father to support his family. You are the one God, living and true. Bless my family today and forever”.
“Amen,” was muttered afterwards, Barbra Jean hated to hear her father pray it was an unnatural response to such a sinful man.
Barbra Jean devoured the sweet corn on her plate; she knew the meaning of a healthy appetite.
“Slow down Jean, you look like a pig eating out of the bins,” Norma Day said, as she slowly ate her forth corn.
“Barbra Jean couldn’t look like a pig even if she was covered in mud and shit, she has the look for looking that one,” father relayed with a gleam in his eye. The girls drank their lemonade and giggled knowing full well the jealously on their momma’s face.
“Sorry momma,” Barbra Jean took a napkin and wiped her mouth protruding her inflamed red lips.
“I don’t know where you stack it all Barbra Jean, you eat like a horse and still you look thinner than Pet here,” her brother announced.
Barbra Jean shoved restless in her chair. “I don’t know tis’ the way God made me I guess.”
“God made you sure fine, fine as sweet wine, right Barbra Jean?” her sister stated with devil eyes.
“In fact so fine everyone here wants’ a drink’n. What does that feel like Barbra Jean? Knowing the whole town wants a drink from your sweet wine”.
A look of disgust was all Barbara Jean knew to respond with.
“Shut up will you, your just hard on her cause your boyfriend Bobby made a pass at her the other day,” Barbara Jean’s oldest sister said snapping her jaw half full of food.
“You shut up, you know nothing about what Bobby was saying or doing,” Barbara Jean’s sister groaned, stood up and slammed her chair to the table, making a dramatic exit.
Silence fumed the air and the sound of chewing jaws remained. “For God’s sake mother if you can’t settle that girl down at dinner I surely will next time,” father declared. Norma Day’s face was stern and exhausted, “Yes father, maybe that girl needs your firm hand to settle down.” Sharp glances were exchanged table round.
The family continued to eat with words of chatter from the boys, Pet’s upcoming baseball game was the only joy filled topic left in the family to talk about.
Norma Day was putting the left over’s in her Tupperware storing them in neat rows in her refrigerator. The dishes and the clean up were left for Barbra Jean; she didn’t mind it was the only time of day that all members of her family retired to the living room for drinking and watching TV. Barbra Jean was left alone and in that time took company with her own thoughts.
The water filled a sink of dirty dishes. The water was hot not warm just like Barbara Jean like it. Her hands would get wrinkled and the water burned her hands from the heat; a sensation she desired. Muffled sounds from her family echoed from the living room, they would sound sweet to an outsider, the sweet noises of a loving family but to Barbra Jean she knew the truth, the darkest secrets of them all.
Nine-thirty was the time her mother was putting Pet to bed and her sisters were upstairs in their rooms. Talking about what dresses they would buy, the shoes they would wear, the boys they loved, how alienated they were with Barbra Jean, even with the defense of her oldest sister she knew it was not more than a front, she had no relationship with them, just an opposition. Her brothers where careless with her as well, not giving her much thought they were too busy fighting with father over the work on farm and shooting of their mouth to the neighbors. Barbara Jean’s felt closest to her mother and to Pet. But Norma Day made sure Barbra Jean didn’t get too close to Pet because in her eyes Pet was hers and she made that clear. The only emotional contact that was given to Barbara Jean was from her father, every night at 1am; the kind of comfort that twisted Barbra Jean’s mind to folly.
Barbra Jean ached for love but not dirty love, and dirty love is all she got.
The door opened with a creep. The attic was bedroom to Barbra Jean, the little room housed only a twin bed a white desk and drawer and a floor mirror. The floor mirror was always faced away and covered with a sheet from Barbra Jean sight — she hated mirrors.
Father came forward and greeted Barbra Jean, only the soft pale light of the night’s sky lightened the room from the bedside window.
Barbra Jean turned to look at the intruder as she did every night since she was ten years old. Barbra Jean did not avoid eye contact with her father; it was the only defense mechanism she had to stare him down for his sins. If a look could kill, kill is what Barbra Jean would do with her eyes.
Barbra Jean’s father did not look into her eyes her accusing stare was no match for his guilt. Barbra Jean was the only one who could look upon the unnatural act, her father would only close his eyes as he raped her.
“I’m sure I’ve said this before Barbra Jean, but I love you darling, you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Barbra Jean’s father’s body quivered with perversion.
“You always say I’m the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, would you be doing this if I was not so beautiful?”
Barbra Jean asked submitting herself in anguish.
“I’m not doing anything a loving father wouldn’t to his beautiful girl,” answering while caressing her closer to himself.
“Beauty is making you do this?” Barbra Jean continued asking.
Barbra Jean’s father rotated faster against her, finishing off his lust without answer. The sound of an out of breath old perverted man rose from on top of Barbra Jean, leaving her marked.
“Go to sleep know darling,” Barbra Jean’s father said as he lifted his paints up and walked silently out the room closing he door behind him.
Naked, alone and paralyzed with thoughts of her self, Barbra Jean looked out side her window and for the first time realized what she needed to do. It was as clear at the night’s sky. Barbra Jean stood up from her bed and walked over to her mirror, the mirror that she hadn’t looked into since her father first came up to her room at ten years of age. She took off the cover that hide the reflection and started into it. Her reflection against the moonlight portrayed her in perfect beauty; Barbra Jean was stunning even in her distorted state.
A modest stare was in Barbra Jean’s eyes and she knew what she had to do. For some reason her body was numb to the touch, she felt no sensation. She tested this by pinching her skin on her forearm with her thumb and index finder marking a tender red blemish; this would sting with pain normally, this time nothing, she felt nothing, sensation had departed from her being.
This was a sign, an answer to her prayers; she could finally do something now that she felt nothing.
Barbra Jean thought of her father and the first time he came up to her room to violate her on her tenth birthday. Any love she felt for her father had died that night and every other night she cursed herself for it.
She remembered how she asked for protection from her brothers and found none. Than twice deceived went she turned fifteen and her brothers came into her bedroom to touch her while masturbating. She ran for protection from her mother and found only denial and disbelief.
She remembered how once she was close to her sisters at sixteen. She and they went to a party; naturally Barbra Jean’s beauty allured her sister’s boyfriends who would later rape her in the back seat of their car. Her sisters said she had asked for it, for dressing provocatively, in her red dress and high heels.
She remembered all the attempts for closeness she wanted from her mother and being denied at all cost.
She remembered the tender moments she had playing catch with Pet, before her momma lured him away from her.
She remembered how the town’s people treated her like the town’s harlot, stealing from her any chance of friendship from her peers.
Barbra Jean’s beauty was a curse, a curse that made men want her, that made woman hate her that left her alone and powerless to whomever wanted to take her. It was clear as the face she saw in the mirror what she had to do. An unnatural force had come over to her, perhaps from the power of the full moon that night. Barbra Jean knew what she had to do and did it with resolve.
Slam, Crash, Slush!
The mirror shattered into a hundred sharp pieces to the floor. Barbra Jean’s beautiful face reflected within the shattered pieces a hundred times more. Barbra Jean stared and titled her head to the side and slowly picked up a sharp piece of glass. She held it first to her face and started to cut her cheek from cheekbone to ear. The neatly fresh cut dripped blood in tears.
Normally this would hurt but Barbra Jean felt nothing, in that instant she knew her prayers had been answered. The ugliness she longed for was just a cut away from reality.
She began to engrave her face, slicing it vertically, horizontally, up and down, jig sawing the glass all around. Blood dripped from the slashed skin, like a clam waterfall.
A smile peeked from her blooded mouth, enjoying each sever that would re-face her face.
Once her face was all diced up she began cutting her stomach; the glass piecing her flesh marking her with red ribbons.
Barbra Jean cut her body, all the night through. At day break she laid on the floor bedded by the broken glass. She resembled a cut up paper doll, shredded on the floor; blanketed by her pool of blood.
Norma Day went to fetch Barbra Jean for she was late for her morning chores. Norma Day opened the door thinking the day would be like any other day but was not. On this particular day all she would open Barbra Jean’s bedroom door for last time.
Norma Day screamed in horror to the sight before her, eyes wide open, terrified at the sight of her slivered daughter. An ache pieced her heart, love; yes motherly love filled her heart for her daughter that lay lifeless on the floor.
Norma Day ran to her daughter cupping Barbra Jean’s head on her lap, her chubby arms embracing her for the first time in years.
Norma Day wept a cry no mother should ever cry.
“Please Lord not my daughter, . . . why my daughter,” tears rolled down her cheeks in anguish. The broken glass pieced her skin, blooding her skirt.
Barbra Jean’s sisters came rushing to the room to the sound of cry. The two sisters stood there with stock hooked on their faces, not knowing what to make of the petrified scene.
“Call an ambulance now! My baby. . . why my baby . . . why?” Norma Day walled.
Barbra Jean’s sisters fled to get help.
Barbra Jean’s father came in yelling as to what the commotion was all about and froze at the doorway.
The most beautiful thing he had ever seen was now the most monstrous thing he would ever see, dead and shredded on the floor.
“Barbra Jean! Oh my God no, no darling,” Barbra Jean’s father cried out with agony.
“You bastard! How could you let this happen? I should have killed you while you slept,” Norma Day cried.
Barbra Jean’s father cried frantically and fled to the side of his beloved daughter.
“Why God, why. . .” echoed from Norma Day’s mouth. Barbra Jean’s brothers came into the room and cried along with their mother. Barbra Jean received more love in that moment from her family than she ever did in life.
Pet came into the room, and saw his mother cradling his dead sister into her arms. His father was pulling out his own hair from his scalp and gouging at his face, screaming. Pet’s brothers were trying to hold their father back as he went into a rage, beating himself with wild hands.
Pet just looked at Barbra Jean, yes she was cut up, very badly indeed but despite her cut flesh and her messed hair drenched in blood, her life less body still looked beautiful to Pet. In fact he had never seen Barbra Jean look more beautiful than she did cut into a millions on the floor. Barbra Jean’s face looked contented; her dead eyes looked at Pet with satisfaction. Pet smiled at Barbra Jean, he knew she was happy now.
Barbra Jean was cursed with beauty and when you are cursed with beauty you long for ugliness the kind of ugliness that would release you from the world of wanting. But to those who are cursed with beauty true beauty it never leaves the face, even if it’s mangled or cut up, it will remain beautiful as Barbra Jean’s face did.
Stephanie Lamoureux 2015 ©
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