Before I can fully process my thoughts, Rose is whirling me around to reveal the finished product in the full-length mirror behind me.
“Holy crap!” I almost fall off the stool. “How did you create that in fifteen minutes?” I ask, leaning forward as I touch my face, because I’m not really sure it’s mine anymore. It’s practically three-dimensional.
I’m the Jackal. I have his hollow cheekbones, his dark, haunting eyes, his signature scar marring his right cheek. But with the proper shading and lipstick and contouring, Rose has made the look sexy and alluring, like some kind of predator of man.
“Wow . . . ,” I murmur. I can’t stop staring.
Behind me, she shrugs, but I can tell she’s struggling to stay humble. “Just a little bit of this, little bit of that,” she says.
She pulls out her phone and instructs me to turn around so she can take a picture to help her remember what she did. Then she glances at her phone again. “Do you think you have time for me to try one more thing? After looking at the costumes, I really want to see what I can come up with for the Sea Snake.”
“I have time,” I assure her, hopping off the stool. “You’re so quick.”
“Here.” Rose hands me a clean cloth and some kind of heavy-duty makeup remover. “You’re going to need both of these. And probably the regular face wash, too.” She giggles. “Maybe, like, three times. Again . . . many thanks.”
“Yeah, sure,” I mumble, walking away, feeling distracted.
Something is still nagging at me, and until I can figure out what it is . . . I’m going to be preoccupied.
I lock the bathroom door behind me, turning on the light and staring at my reflection.
Her words keep turning over on themselves in my brain.
Internalize the illusion . . . internalize the illusion . . .
I pour some of the makeup remover onto the cloth and swipe it over to the left side of my face. The sexy Jackal disappears at once. She vanishes like that; she was never real. There’s no trace left behind.
And that’s the thing about illusions.
I put the cloth down, figuring out why her words got to me.
Sometimes internalizing an illusion is a good thing.
And sometimes it’s not.
Today marks four weeks since Jake broke up with me. But the truth is, our relationship was over a lot longer than that. Because our relationship was an illusion, one that I wanted to believe in, one that I had internalized, because I so badly wanted it to be the real thing.
I loved the idea of Jake. I loved that we started out as a fairy tale, and that my fairy-tale prince was good looking and stable and on his way to an honorable career. I loved the illusion.
Beyond it . . . I stare down at the sink, feeling particularly foolish. Beyond it . . . I’m hard pressed to remember the last time Jake had made me feel more happy than nervous in his presence, the last time he gave me a sense of security rather than a fear of loss. The last time we felt like pleasure rather than work.
So I guess . . . sometimes . . . Rose is right. An illusion can be empowering. But sometimes an illusion can be debilitating.
You stare at an illusion for too long, you stop looking for something real. Maybe you stop even remembering what it feels like.
Karole lives outside of Philadelphia, PA with her loving husband, exuberant little girl, and smiley little boy. She adores YA Romance, because it would be awesome if life in general had a requisite feel-good happy ending rule. Vices include obscene Haribo gummy consumption, addiction to Starbucks NF vanilla lattes, and tendency to hoard Bath and Body Works 3-wick candles.
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