So, I thought I'd renounce writing fiction for a while, because I haven't felt, recently, that I could it give it the time (and do it the justice) it deserves. But I took a swipe at it anyway. Any encompassing comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada will not be well-received. In any other regard, critique away.
She was still trying to find a position for her legs. “To look poised, you must feel poised,” her grandmother had often told her, but her grandmother was speaking from Pedestal du Poise—it was like a fish teaching a giraffe how to swim, and being confused because it wasn’t happening organically.
The air had that freesia-infused scent that these events often had, intermingling softly with the body odour of the nouveau riche, a fairly distinct strain of fragrance from the old-money crowd because of the underlying notes of desperation. The alfresco restaurant (or 'Bar and Kitchen, as they're now known as) was swarming with 'masquerading-as-20-somethings' that wore practiced smiles, a voice two octaves higher than usual, and dresses that clung too tightly.
“I can’t believe they’re serving Absolut? I’m SO not drunk enough for Absolut!” spouted a skinny-jeans-and-corset-donning socialite, who’d probably have traded down said Absolut if she’d been footing the bill. “God, I swear. I heard these guys are making people wear paper bands because they’re so afraid a couple of randoms will come have a drink. Oof, yaar, so cheap!” said a designer, notorious for underpaying his staff, on the odd month he deigned to pay them at all.
It was a people-watcher’s Happy Sunday. If she could’ve played wallflower and coalesced with the fancy ricepaper from Zhangjiajie while sipping her Cranberry and (gasp!) Absolut, she would’ve. But here she was, playing imposter again. She excused herself from the grip of a pushy ex-editor giving her a liquor-tinted spiel about ‘Drivers these days!’ and beelined for the bathroom.
She walked into the loo (the kind with couches and potpourri), and, since noone was there, decided it couldn’t do too much harm to stare at herself in the mirror for a little bit. Her reflection was passable. If some wandering neophyte had caught a glimpse of her, he would’ve been well-fooled into thinking she belonged here.
She looked the part—and would’ve played it with crackerjack dexterity if she hadn’t made her start regularly advertising her ignorance. In turn, even the nuances and nuggets of skill and information she had accrued in her time there were now treated as novice babble.
The girl in the spotless glass had stark red lips, the colour of blood from movies with high production value. Her dress was black, cut in a style she wouldn’t have chosen off the rack, but worked for her body. That body went to the gym now, so it worked with more outfits than it had two years ago. She was wearing nude flats—or what she'd called ‘beige’ before this place had happened to her—and her undomesticated hair and eyebrows were the only things that hadn’t been moulded to fit the tenor of the evening.
It felt odd to recognise herself in much the same way she would an acquaintance she saw regularly. There was that surface familiarity—with a vague, egalitarian air to it—she knew that face like she knew lots of faces she ‘knew’.
Her eyes darted instead of focusing—it had become the norm, nowadays. She could never fully absorb that image in doses longer than seconds. People wouldn't understand if she said she minded what it had become—"But you look so much better in your Facebook pictures," they'd decree.
If one skipped down past numerous ‘Load More’s perusing those pictures, one would find a cornucopia of photographs with a girl making faces that could hardly be described as ‘poised’, her template Fabindia shirt changing prints, colours and states of disarray. A world-weary bra-strap, fraying at the seams, often went rogue and peeked out at her collarbones (for extra glamour).
Her shoulders were always cut into by thick, black straps that would reveal a pregnant fossil of a backpack if turned to profile. The hair, still a riot of curls, had lost the thin halo of frizz it once had. Scrolling back upward, that hair found itself lopped shorter, then untamedly longer, then frozen at a length that ‘worked’ (this word was an inextricable part of her livelihood now—things and their most laudable qualities were quickly pared down to this phrase). And her clothes had ‘evolved’ from college-girl clumsy to middlingly urbane.
The chubbier, grimier ghost of her former self slow-clapped in awe at the size 25 waist and the semblance of cheekbones she now possessed—the very notion of those things had, in retrograde, seemed unfathomable. Yet here she was. Something she’d never imagined she’d be.
It didn’t seem right.
Her phone began to buzz with reckless abandon, throwing the thin, marble counter into frightened turmoil. The summons from her couture-clad-clan had begun. Her eyes swept over the gilt-framed mirror. The uncharacteristic black dress looked uncharacteristically good, and the ‘nude’ flats and red lips played their parts in the charade flawlessly.
Only one, ill-fitting bra-strap played peek-a-boo on her left shoulder.
As she slid her finger underneath the thin strip of fabric to tuck away and conceal it, she felt the roughness of jagged fabric—chewed on by her kitten to contribute to it's waning life. She realised how close the strap was to giving away and dropping the facade of her breasts being in perky place. The idea, itself, was scandalous.
She smiled at the thought as she sauntered out.