I can make you beautiful.
It was an enticing phrase. Ellen saw it in the Chronicle in a small, unassuming advertisement. There were no images, no flourishes, no embellishments. Just that phrase, and beneath it, more words:
For those who dedicate their lives to beauty. Serious inquiries only. Please write with preferred appointment time and place to The Beauty Within at the address below.
Ellen considered the advertisement for a while. Even after she had put the newspaper aside, those words still followed her throughout her day.
For those who dedicate their lives to beauty.
Surely that was her. She was known throughout London as the most desirable young lady. It was a point of highest pride with her father, who went to great lengths to have her seen in only the finest fabrics, the best jewels. There was no one who would deny her beauty.
Serious inquiries only.
That line seemed almost to beckon her, to challenge her. Did she take her beauty seriously? Oh, yes indeed. Then why had she not already written? What was holding her back? What was there to explain this cold, twisted fear in her stomach?
Silliness, she thought.
She sat at her writing desk and pulled out her quill and paper.
“Who are you?”
I am the one you invited—the one to make you beautiful.
Ellen considered him doubtfully. He had no hair to style, no lips to redden, not even skin to powder. He was bones and nothing more.
“What can you know of beauty?”
More than you can even see.
She did not understand.
Look at yourself. What do you see?
She turned to the mirror, paused. “Dark hair, fair skin, powder, jewels.”
Illusions—all of them. Not one is true beauty.
She frowned, not certain of his meaning. He had no facial features to decipher. She could not know if he meant to offend.
“Who are you?”
I am Beauty.
She almost laughed. “You are bones.”
“Then what am I?”
You are flesh. But you could be so much more.
Yes. You are flesh, yet you are bones. The beauty within.
Yes, your beautiful bones. You hide them beneath fat, skin, hair. You must be less to be more.
You must rid yourself of your wretched flesh. Be slender. Be thin. Let the sharp, beautiful angles of your bones be seen.
“But I do. I try. I eat like a lady; I lace my stays.”
But less. Tighter.
“I try, I try.”
I can help you.
Yes. Let me lace you. You will be smaller. You will be beautiful.
“But they are so tight already.”
But they can be tighter still, if you only know how.
“You would do that?”
I would. For you. For your beautiful bones.
You must hold still.
“Oh! Oh, that hurts!”
“How are you so strong? Oh!”
I am that which is strongest.
I am Death.
Death is Beauty.
And soon. . .
. . .you will be beautiful.
~ Miriam H. Harrison
© Copyright Miriam H. Harrison. All Rights Reserved.