Grace Makes up for Beauty by Ally Malinenko
Grace makes up for beauty. That was her mother’s motto, one hand pressed firmly against the girl’s back, the other on her already bulging stomach. Her mother’s fingers were cold, always.
Grace makes up for beauty. She would repeat it, her hands held carefully over her head. She kept her eyes trained on the mirror, always at the face, never at the body, never at the ripples, never at the pockets of flesh that started to bubble around the upper thigh, which you could still see through her thick tights.
Grace makes up for beauty. She whispered it, sweeping down one hand, laying it near her thigh. As a reminder, once for her behavior her mother made her do this naked. Now she could never get the image of her fat rippling over her hip as she bent down out of her mind.
Grace makes up for beauty. Smile, her mother said. Smile. You have beautiful teeth. Head back, chin up. Smile. When I was a child, her mother said, I could eat whatever I wanted. Then I became a teenager and turned stocky. You have my genes. We must be careful.
Grace makes up for beauty. Hold your back straight, her mother snapped. She would nod slightly, barely maintaining her balance, and retreat to a place inside her head. Inside there was a story she told herself, about a girl on another planet where it always rained. And the one day it didn’t, the one day the girl predicted it wouldn’t rain, she was locked in the basement. Suffering.
Grace makes up for beauty, she said out loud, the hanger in her shaking hand, the acid eating her throat, the blood in the toilet. Suffering is beautiful she thought, it makes up for humiliation. It makes up for her urgent need. It makes up for sin. It makes up for her sex and the burning need she felt there. Suffering makes up for loss. Her bladder constricted, held for hours too long, strained and released just a bit. Just a small warm amount. She smiled at the warmth. Suffering makes up for beauty too, just like Grace.