Carved Innocence

“Carve my face just like it is, okay?” Juliet turned to see how her hair would look piled up on top of her head in a messy knot. The result was unappealing so she let her long, dark locks tumble back down to cover her back.

When she took her eyes off the riveting image of herself, she was almost surprised by the other presence in the room. She was so used to speaking to herself, that it was hard to remember how to act when she did have company.

“Of course, my lady. I would dare not insult you by creating a lesser image than the one you see before you in the glass.” This courtly nonsense was exactly what any poor artist who lived on the whims of the rich was supposed to say.

Juliet didn’t smile. She wouldn’t smile unless absolutely delighted. The uncles that raised her had taught her that facial expressions could cause lines in older age, and they strictly forbade them. Juliet was their prize, their secret weapon, growing into womanhood in relative secrecy and almost absolute privacy in order to be unleashed upon the world at precisely the right moment. Until she was out of their hands – and, if they had their way, she never would be, not entirely – she would do as they said and would be rewarded and punished accordingly.

The artist was one of her rewards. Juliet knew that she was beautiful. But her uncles didn’t know that she was growing shrewd, locked as she was inside the walls of the estate they’d allocated to her. She asked questions of the servants and bribed or charmed them to answer her despite their fears. She discovered how she could get what she wanted. In time, her intelligence might prove dangerous to her kin, and she might become a force to be reckoned with in quite a different way than her uncles had planned for.

But now, having just celebrated her fourteenth birthday, Juliet was getting a statue carved of her. Her uncles had been surprised. “Not a portrait?” they’d asked. “No,” she’d answered. “A statue. Of me in robes. Like a wise woman of the old days.” When they’d begun to complain about the cost of such an endeavor, she’d pouted, frowned, and wrinkled her brow. They had become alarmed, remembering the tantrums she’d had as a little girl and had quickly agreed. “Alright then,” they’d said. “As a birthday gift. How’s that?” She had let her face slacken, thanked them politely, and had walked away softly, demonstrating her perfect posture and the pleasing way her hair swayed back and forth lightly with every step.

Now the artist was taking some sketches of her. Juliet had been worried, at first, that her uncles had gotten confused or had tried to foist a portrait on her after all, but the artist had reassured her. “Ah, no, fair lady, I need the sketches in order to be able to work even when I am not in your presence. Have you not heard about artists and their muses? We do not always work at the most convenient of times.”

Juliet had spent her morning doing what she always did. She read poetry aloud in front of the mirror, listening to the resonance of her voice and practicing to make the tones more pleasing. She sat at the harp and played it for a while, eyes wide open, not getting lost in the music as she’d read in books that some people did. She couldn’t get lost in anything, not because the artist was there, but because she’d been raised to be aware of herself at every moment. She always thought of the way she held herself, moved, expressed her physicality in all its aspects.

The only time she could get lost was when she gazed in the mirror. Only when she saw that she was doing everything correctly and that there would be no lashes, no punishments, no chastising and shaming words from her masters – only then was she able to relax into herself.

It was when Juliet was gazing in the mirror and the weight came off her shoulders that the artist saw the human being in her. Before that, she had seemed like an automaton, a puppet being moved on strings. The artist began to sketch furiously, terrified of losing the one glimpse of this girl whose innocence was never allowed to flourish.

Next moment, Juliet heard the call from one of her masters and the weight of her uncles, their friends and their enemies seemed to sit back on her so that her posture became once more an act of will.

Ten

One is unnoticeable. To others.

Two is still unnoticeable. Except to myself.

Three is so little that only sharp-eyed will catch it.

Four is within normal fluctuation.

Five is still not enough to talk about.

Six is noticeable but the tactful will ignore it.

Seven is enough to talk about, in whispers.

Eight is undeniable.

Nine is unignorable.

Ten is the end of the world.

A Personal Ad

On the grandest of summer days, beneath a willow tree in the beautiful park that I can see from my bedroom window, I met my true love.

Wait, no, that was only the stupid plot of some sappy romance novel I read a while ago.

Truth is, I’ve never met my true love. How can I, with my line of work, my bad hours, and worst of all, my bad hair? No one could be attracted to this hair, that’s for sure. Sadly, it’s part of the job description.

Nowhere in my very extensive memory can I remember wanting to do what I do. Sure, I was smart. I loved watching all those television shows with chemistry sets and experiments. Yes, I got straight As in elementary, then high school. Of course I got into the best school there could be. But nope, I don’t think I ever really thought that I’d be applying for a post as “Mad Scientist, Female.”

No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m not really a mad scientist. I wish! No, I’m only playing one at the Museum of Scientific History and Literature. It’s an odd place, to be sure. They have all these different characters here, some playing cliches like me – there’s a Frankenstein plus monster, of course – and some taking on the parts of historical figures like Galileo or the Curies. Me? I was fired from my grown-up job at the Modern Science Research Center because of “budget cuts.”

With student loans I still haven’t paid off, rent and utilities due every month, and one mean landlord, I had no choice but to get a job as quickly as I could. So here I am, working at the weirdest museum known to mankind: we’re open between 10am to 5pm, and then from midnight to 5am; we have an Einstein who’s got worse hair than I have and a horribly false German accent; drunk science geeks traipsing around in the middle of the night; and finally, to take the cake, a huge fake library with bookshelves bearing fake cardboard books. What’s with the library? As the sign says when you enter: WE’VE CATALOGUED ALL SCIENCE-ORIENTED NOVELS SO THAT YOU WON’T HAVE TO! People are supposed to walk around and write down titles of books and then see if our amazingly understocked bookstore and gift shop happen to have them. They usually don’t. We get lots of complaints.

But it pays alright, and I’m applying for jobs during every spare moment I have. Oh, the hair thing? Well, it’s a wig, obviously, but it doesn’t agree with my real hair, and so my dull brunette mop is matted and disgusting after every time I put that stupid fake tangle on top of it. The woes of the young and… employed?

I know I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. But not having a steady boyfriend since high-school has started to wear on me. During college I was stuck in my books, during my summers I interned everywhere that would take me, and after I graduated I was lucky enough to get a job at the Research Center. Working there for another four years has gotten me to the age of twenty-six without having kissed anyone since I was seventeen. Okay, that’s a lie, there have been encounters here and there, but I’m pretty ashamed and revolted with all of them, so I try to pretend that they haven’t happened.

Yes, people, even science geeks have needs, you know!

The point is, I really would like, for once, to meet someone who isn’t a) a smoker; b) an alcoholic and c) a complete idiot. Is that really so much to ask for? Apparently it is. But don’t they say that intelligent women intimidate men? Well, I seem to have scared all of them away – although I think the ones I dated were all much too dumb to have recognized me as being super-smart anyway.

No, excuse me, I’m not blowing my own horn, I’m simply stating a fact. I’m smart. I have powerful deductive skills, I grasp new concepts quickly, and if I don’t understand something then I’ll work at it until I do. I also have very small and steady hands which are an asset when you’re working in a lab.

So here I am, ready to break through all the barriers and say that Gertrude Jenkins, twenty-six years old, five-two and one hundred and ten pounds, is looking for a date. Not true love, so don’t get freaked. A good date will do just fine to start with.

[IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT gertrude_j CLICK HERE]

Not Enough Colors

The sky outside is so black.

The light inside is so yellow.

It’s so damn hot that I feel red all over.

The screen in front is blindingly white.

My hair really is brown, no matter what they say.

I wonder if I’ll ever have the guts to color it purple…

Maybe then, my eyes will look more blue again.

It’s amazing, but I’ve actually managed to avoid having anything pink in my entire room.

It’s odd, but the only green that I can see is on Dr. Seuss’s Yurtle the Turtle.

The speaker on my left has a silver glint to it with the light on the way it is.

Gold? Well, my bracelet is rusting and looks pretty gold now.

I’m quite unimaginative at the moment, so I must be missing some colors. I’ll keep looking around. Anything to distract me from the dead grey of the stone sitting in my chest.