Laura glared at the large mirror. For years, its reflective surface had been her friend, but now it was a hard faced enemy, and she drew back from its all seeing eye.
“All right Laura?” the voice said, from behind the changing room curtain.
“Yes,” she said.
Sweat soaked through her cotton shirt, cold against her back. Beyond the drapes, she could hear the harsh scrape of stools. Her audience had arrived. She smelt warm coffee and sharp turpentine.
She turned back to the mirror, wishing she’d listened to her husband, Matt.
“Retrain,” he’d said, “try something different.”
Laura looked up, seeing the exhaustion on his face from working double shifts.
“It would take too long,” she said, “and I was good at my job. I don’t want to lose it. I’ve lost so much already.”
Now, in the cubicle, she raised her hands to her blouse, feeling plastic buttons. She thought of Matt’s dark circled eyes, the hard, desperate way he sometimes clutched her hand, as if he feared she would drift away, like a child’s balloon into the summer sky.
Neither of them had deserved this.
In sudden anger, she tore off her top, throwing it onto the chair. The dim light of the cubicle cast a shadow over her reconstructed left breast. Raising a hand, she traced the purple scars, feeling ridges under her fingertips.
She heard footsteps beyond the curtain, the creaking of chairs as people shifted.
Matt had told her she looked great, that he was proud of her.
Laura took a deep breath, reached for her robe.
She was a life model, bearing the scars of a life fought for.
Pulling back the curtains, she blinked in the bright light filling the studio and went towards her podium.
By Lucy Oliver