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Today's Story by Eliza Mimski

Her father will never love her.

Phoebe’s Reunion

Morning, the day of Phoebe’s reunion with her father. She stands over the basin and washes her hair, briskly toweling it dry. Wild and windblown, she wants it, like the models in the magazines. Her father will see what he’s missed out on, having a gorgeous daughter to show off. Phoebe doesn’t really believe this, but it sounds good. The way to a man’s heart is to look good – her mother’s philosophy – and she is starting to look good. Starting. That’s her all right. She wonders if she’ll ever make it to the finish line.

She hasn’t seen her father in ten years, since she and her mother moved away. He didn’t answer her letters, but her mother said he was a bitter man, and bitter men cut their daughters out of their life. Even so, Phoebe is convinced she’ll win him back, not that she ever had him in the first place, and she saved her money from her waitress job and bought a ticket on the Greyhound bus.

Sometimes Phoebe gets the distinct impression that she exists for some future prize moment, the flash of a photograph. The question is: will she be posed correctly? Probably not. She stares at herself in the mirror, outlining her eyes with thick black eyeliner until they appear darkly mysterious. Men like mysterious women, her mother has lectured her, those who cannot easily be figured out. Phoebe definitely falls into this category, as she is a total mystery, even to herself.

She dots her cheeks with lipstick but when she she rubs it in she looks like a clown. Taking a step backward she rubs off the excess with toilet paper. She leaves her lips blank so the eye will stray from her crooked bottom teeth and travel to her upper face, taking in her better features, a trick she learned from Seventeen.

She wonders if her father will appreciate any of this. Deep down she fears she isn’t pretty enough for him to love. Sighing, she steps into her black linen dress and zips it up. The dress disguises her large breasts and hips and makes her look thinner. She slips into her pumps with the scalloped designs that match her pink nail polish. Taking one last look in the mirror, she dishevels her big hair, sucks in her cheeks in a model-pout. This is not the real her at all.

Phoebe has forty minutes to kill before calling a taxi to take her to the restaurant. She wonders if her father will recognize her – it’s been so long. She turns on the overhead fan and pulls the covers down on the bed, laying down on the sheet so she won’t get lint on her dress. The blades of the fan whirr like a giant insect. With her arms at her sides she lays perfectly still.

Suddenly, she can hardly breathe. Thoughts circle her mind like the blades of the fan. Her father will never love her. Her father will never love her. Her father will never love her. He has always been a man behind something. A man behind a steering wheel, a man behind a newspaper, a man behind an excuse. He can’t see her today because something came up. He can’t see her next week because of business. He can’t see her at Christmas because, well… she’ll understand all this when she gets older. And now she is older and she doesn’t understand.

Phoebe breathes in and out. What had made her think that her father would love her? What evidence did she have? And why would he start today? She wiggles her toes and blinks. She feels as if she has been drugged for a very long time and is now coming to. Her father doesn’t love her, never has and never will. And although she knows she is supposed to feel sad, she feels relieved.

Phoebe sits up on the bed and shakes herself. She kicks off her shoes and goes into the bathroom, looks herself square in the mirror. She doesn’t recognize herself but sees a magazine Phoebe. This will never do.

She pulls her hair back into a high ponytail. So much for looking like a model! Scrubbing off her rouge, she then removes the eye make-up. That done, she calls a taxi.

She slips back into her shoes, grabs her purse and takes her time walking down the musty corridor to the elevator. Once inside, she shrugs to no one at all.

Out in the street, she waits in front of her hotel. She finds her sunglasses in her purse and puts them on. She hopes her taxi comes soon. She is hungry, and the heat is really stifling.


Eliza Mimski lives in San Francisco and is now working on her second novel.


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