Queens Don’t Cry
Marren walked out on to the stage, nervous as heck. The heat emitted from the spotlight did nothing but aggravate her anxiety. It was vicious, rushing through her veins at tremendous speed making the fundamental task of breathing an impossibility. The thin wisp of clothing draped around her body left little to the imagination, further intensifying her panic. It was no longer the claw-like contraption on her neck that did the choking.
“Remember Marren, beauty is pain. The more the pain, the better,” Theodore had said as he tugged mercilessly at her locks and twisted it into a complicated knot and she wasn’t sure if it was her head or heart that was cracking with each pull. But she couldn’t show weakness, not to him, not then. So all she had done then was nod and hold back her tears as a nameless woman shoved her foot into a strappy, heeled shoe.
But now as the cameras snapped at her, waiting for her to fall, to make a spectacle of herself, she wondered if it was really worth it. Was this beauty and literally fifteen seconds of fame worth the six-inch-heeled, barely clothed monstrosity that she was in the middle of?
She willed herself out of her foolishness and decided to just go with it all. Just fifteen seconds, and it’d be over, she thought as she made her way out onto the stage. She did the monkey dance the lusty eyes craved for and it was all over. For the night, at least.
“All right, girls. That. Was. Fabulously catastrophic. Solange, what is up with your hips? And Anna, oh Anna. You know what, screw it; I don’t have time for this crap now. Haul your asses back to the room and get some rest or even Mandy here won’t be able to fix your ugly faces with all the cake in the world. We got another big day tomorrow, so chop chop, girls.”
Theodore’s voice boomed in the busy green room that was buzzing with the angst and energy of a hundred, starved, stick-thin models, gleaming in the beauty that a bunch of cosmetics had fabricated, strutting about with their aching feet.
Marren dipped her head and followed the crowd out of the backstage walking back to the hotel room, drowning in her thoughts again.
She couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled with her eyes, the last time her stomach had been full of food, instead of guilt. What she did remember, like a glass piece logged in her skin that just wouldn’t stop cutting through, was the shame. The shame she had felt when the green toothbrush tickled the palette of her mouth, digging a little deeper, towards her throat. She remembered how she had leant against the expensive, tiled wall of the bathroom, her insides aching with weakness after she had expelled more than just her indiscretion.
And that’s when Theodore had found her there. He had a funny habit of swooping in at just the right moment to remind her of what she was. Or rather, more importantly, what she wasn’t, and she would do anything to repay him for the saviour that he was to her.
“Oh darling,” he had said in an overly sympathetic tone. Stroking her hair, he had shifted her limp body onto him and whispered in her ear, “Is everything out?” in that venomously hypnotic voice of his. She had meekly nodded her head. She didn’t remember much after that, but she had woken up in her bed, distraught and scared.
Marren opened the door of the hotel room that she’d been sharing with Theo. It made her smile, the fact that he picked her, out of the hundred other models just as beautiful and possibly more, than her. He picked her, and it made her all giddy and delighted. She walked in and seated herself on the wonderful red chaise, reaching for her feet to remove the painfully pretty shoes that she’d been wearing.
“You fucked up, Marren. Again. You were supposed to subtly bow, not make your fucking nose touch the floor,” Theodore criticized, snapping at her as he walked into the room, his features cloaked in disappointment. It burned her soul to think that she was the cause of that; she never wanted to disappoint him. Marren removed the shoe off her foot, tracing the purplish wounds with her thin fingers, flinching at every touch. When she looked up from her ugly feet, he was standing right in front of her.
“You are a queen, Marren,” he said – no, he sang, and his voice ebbed like an anxious heartbeat, with jerks and pauses. Like harsh music on a piano. Like it was made only for the ears of the Queen. It sang away all the doubts and impure thoughts that flooded her mind.
“Stop seeing the paparazzi as someone you should impress. They are your subjects. You are the Queen and your walk is your crown. “Next time you go out there, you better let them know who’s boss.”
The boss? Who is the boss? Her? There it was again. That poisonous doubt that clawed on her heart and pulled on her skin.
He pulled the bobby pins holding her hair callously, with one hand and then moved to her neck piece, ripping it off her thin neck, scratching her skin. Her eyes locked down to hold in her tears, her lips clamped up to hold in her fears because she knew. She knew she wasn’t the boss. Not then, not ever.
But she sure as heck was the Queen. And Queens don’t cry.
~ Amritha Vasudevan and Aishwarya Sethuraman | Edited by Farrokh Jijina