They say never judge a book by its cover and they are bang on the money in this little tale...
She has a double chin and the hips to match. They swing with every step, calling all men’s eyes in their direction. Some women look away, envious or appalled. Others gaze in wonder, admiring their own sex for what it does best. You wouldn’t find Lilly Packer on the pages of vogue but then you wouldn’t find vogue on her coffee table either; so it was tit for tat. Clothes tight to every curve emphasise nature’s bounty. High heels lift her rear making it ride behind her, a cheeky wave of exuberance.
Today is a special day; today the package arrives. It has been two weeks in coming, traversing the globe to reach this sunny little corner of England; the final destination. Inside this brown paper clad box lays a carefully wrapped gift. It is a gift that Lilly feels she deserves and so she bought it for herself; click went the mouse and zoom went the money; invisible over the ether setting in motion a scrambling for goods in a dusty store room out in the back end of nowhere. What a wonder technology is, she thinks, here I am on the edge of an island and from way across the sea this comes, all because I clicked a button on a screen. It makes her giddy to think on it; how compact the world has become. She prefers to think of it as wide open; big and ready for anything like she is; this is the world she wants to inhabit. In part it explains why she lives by the sea. Life feels unbound with that endless horizon; it is a vista to free the mind.
At the post office counter the man winks when Lilly sways in, all crimson lips and mascara lashed. He mistakes her appearance for an invitation; a common misconception and one she graciously lets pass.
“Could I collect my parcel?” she asks and he hears a purr, a gentle caress of words in his slightly hairy ear that sets his pulse racing, flooding his cheeks as red as her lips. She slides over a docket. Below the counter he is standing to attention; the opportunity to turn away and hunt for the package is welcome relief. Breathe, he reminds himself, breathe. When he returns all is under control; he’s professional and courteous as he likes to be. Suddenly the wife with her chunky legs and frazzled hair is dearer to him than anything. He’d not last a week with a girl like that. He’s careful not to let their hands touch as the package slides between them; afraid of what actual contact with a being such as her might do.
The package is clasped to her ample chest, forcing cleavage up and over, she glances down at it and smiles. Her ladies; once a curse but now a comfort. Every caress, wanted or unwanted she has matched, letting her hands reclaim the body that so many feel they own. One hand now keeps touching the box, as if testing it exists at all. Heels click and clatter on the pavement; a feminine tattoo leading her home. Hips swing in time but she is oblivious to the twisted necks of the men she passes as they contort to cram in a second glance. Today is special. Today the package has arrived.
A sea view they said, the room has a sea view. Only if you lean out the window and squint sideways; which she does on occasion when the weather is too bad to take a walk out along the blustery shingle. No matter how warm the sun a breeze light and airy seems to inhabit the shore; stalking it like a lost soul stuck between worlds. Sometimes Lilly talks to the wind, soothing it with her tales of her own. And what a tale she will have to tell it after today. Her gift is finally here; in this very room with its thick rug and big bed; the dressing table crowded with cosmetics, lotions and potions to enhance what nature has granted and the large oval mirror to reflect back the masterpiece she creates daily. A fat vase squats on a small table, bursting with fragrant roses that seem too perfect to be real. She hates roses, especially pink ones. Roses come with thorns to remind women that all beauty comes at a price and it is this she resents. Given the choice she would have chrysanthemums, white ones. A flower glorious for its simplicity; but he does not go in for the simple things in life; hence his attraction to Lilly. What he does not understand is that she is primped and painted because she is protecting herself; the larger than life exterior shelters her thoughts from prying eyes. She’s been in this game too long to allow everyone access; it chips away who you are if you do. And he has no idea who Lilly is or he wouldn’t treat her the way he does. She peels down the skirt to inspect firm thighs, counting one, two, three bruises turning that ugly shade of purple. He only ever goes for the thighs so he can appreciate the rest of her guilt free; if you can’t see it then it didn’t happen. Well, two can play at that game. She opens the package slowly, relishing the power creeping into her veins like wine.
When he arrives he gets down to business; a brief hello and he’s naked expecting her to do the same.
“Oh Boyce” she sighs, emerging from behind a screen in stockings and a corset, “Boyce, look here.”
Eyes are dragged from navel to head slowly; he frowns, unused to instruction from this pliable plaything. Those eyes widen as he sees what is in her perfect white hand as it peeks forward from behind her back, pearly nails glinting in a shaft of sun.“Goodbye Boyce” she says softly, almost as a prayer. There is no time for him to reply.
Afterwards she sits in front of the mirror and removes all her makeup; a new yet familiar face emerges, gently she experiments with a smile. A loose shift dress slips easily over her curves, creating a softer silhouette; the heels remain. She is a heel kind of woman. A suitcase packed ready emerges from the wardrobe and a passport comes out from hiding at the back of a drawer; the name inside says Annabel Cleaves. Now, after five long years she can set foot out in the wide, wide world free to be herself once more.