Danielle dabbed her nose with the powder puff one last time and then stared at herself in the mirror. Every stroke of cosmetic and wisp of hair was expertly applied or fixed, thanks to many hours of practice and guidance from the pleasant accent of Laurraine, the former French model turned YouTube guru. A dark brown mascara lengthened her lashes, clump free. A light pink blush gave her whole face a healthy glow. A modest shade of lipstick made her thin lips stand out just the appropriate amount for an office environment, although if she wanted them to stay that way she would have to be more attentive to her habit of licking them. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, as it always was, except today it was higher up, on the crown of her head, and a small section was wrapped around the elastic to hide it and give the look a professional polish. She wore a sweater dress with a turtle neck, a fashion choice with a practical purpose.
That was it. She glanced at the clock. Right on time for the final preparation. She spun to the side and leaned down to take the suede heels out from beneath her vanity. They weren’t new – they were hand-me-downs from another internet mentor, Erica, who Danielle had met in a chat room and connected with immediately. Danielle had been practicing for the last few months with a pair of pumps she had bought from a thrift store, the only place she felt comfortable making such a purchase, but when the timeless soft, camel-brown heels arrived unexpectedly in the mail last week, she knew she couldn’t wear anything else for her first day. Those shoes were experienced at guiding women through this major life change. They had been a gift to Erica from her mentor, and now Erica was passing them on to her. Danielle believed that Erica had her new life all figured out. She had gone through the same fears and derision, both from those who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand and from self-inflicted means. She had come out on top, happy, as Danielle believed she would be from this day forward.
She slid her feet in, stood up, smoothed out her dress over her bottom, and walked toward the door. But before she reached it, she heard something snap, her ankle twisted painfully to the side, and she fell over. The pain was sharp, and when Danielle managed to move into a seated position, she carefully pulled the injured ankle in close. That was when she noticed the heel of the shoe had broken. It had come detached from the sole.
No, this couldn’t be. No. Everything had to be perfect. She didn’t have the courage to do this without all the details exactly as she had planned them. She wasn’t superstitious. She simply didn’t feel equipped to manage any change of plans. There was too much else to worry about. Facing these people who had known her for years, worrying about how they would react, not only to her new persona, but also to the suddenness of it. The stares, the whispers, the gossip she was certain to face. It was too much already. She couldn’t do it in a pair of shoes that didn’t know how to walk her through these problems. She wondered if she had a tube of superglue somewhere, but quickly dismissed that idea. She knew she wouldn’t trust it to hold. She wouldn’t be able to think about anything except that heel. It would be a disaster no matter what. Why did she think she could do this anyway? For all the encouragement Erica had given her and all the hours she had prepared, and even for how unhappy she was with her existing life, she suddenly felt wholly incapable of taking this plunge. She began to sob, the mascara drawing lines down her face until the tears slid off her cheeks and splashed onto her nylons. After several moments, she got up onto her knees and was appalled by what she saw in the mirror.
An hour later, the accounting supervisor was making his morning rounds, ostensibly greeting everyone but not so subtlety making sure his employees had reported to work on time. He popped his head into the last cubicle on the right, before the restrooms, and saw Daniel’s low ponytail and the slightly wrinkled back of his white button down, the same as he saw every morning. After a brief exchange, he headed toward his office with no inkling of who he was meant to encounter that morning.
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If you enjoyed this piece, leave a comment and tell me how Version 1 compares.