by Katy Goforth
Linda was a princess dipped in acid washed denim with her frosted lips and ink-lined eyes. To be in her presence was to be loved.
My mother was the first of us to become Linda’s. Best friends. Hooked her at first sight. So many similarities. Two little kids. Spouses always absent. Hours spent decompressing in the sunshine trying to let the heat burn through the ties their husbands had bound them with.
Ties that Linda’s beauty hid well. Locked away tight in the pit of her perfectly flat stomach. Eyes set like topaz jewels masking the truth. No one with skin like bronze had troubles. No, not Linda.
You see, I became Linda’s too. As a small child, I would steal the coveted seat that was her lap and snuggle into her open embrace. Moving her sparkling bangle bracelets up and down her arm creating a love song from her to me. Clinking and clanking in harmony. Looking up at her smile to find those two front teeth turned slightly towards each other in a kiss. An unintentional gift to us from Linda’s maker. She gave love that knew no bounds.
Revlon’s Charlie and the hint of coconut tanning oil would dance around her hair mixing with a halo of smoke from her Kool 100s with the long filters. Pure glamour. Since we couldn’t be Linda, we stayed close in the hopes of any piece of her attaching itself to us.
That’s all Linda wanted us to feel. But there was more, and you could catch it if you were quick enough.
But I wasn’t quick at seven years old. I saw it much later. As an adult, I studied Linda so closely I became a student majoring in tortured beauty.
Ink-lined eyes were ever so smudged and smeared. Shadows danced underneath the concealer on her face. Lurking under the shadows something even darker than the bruises brewed. Slender bronzed arms bore someone else’s fingerprints. Red marks from the grip had started to fade yet the memory was still burning inside Linda.
Much like the bruises on her body, Linda gradually faded from our lives. The phone stopped ringing with invites to the pool. No more laughs with Linda. No more embraces. The thin veil softening the abuse to outsiders had slipped. She couldn’t risk us staring at the truth, so she disappeared.
The truth first surfaced in the local newspaper. Black ink searing itself into the minds of Linda’s friends and community. That husband, her captor, was behind bars. But he wasn’t put there because of his abuse of Linda. The locals called it white collar crime. Not as shameful so to spare him.
We continued to love Linda from afar, as close as she would let us.
Years rolled on with no sight of Linda. Then one day, in our local CVS, I caught a whiff. Revlon’s Charlie now replaced with a citrus scent. A scent with a smile. It mixed with the leftover smoke from a pack of Kool 100s with the long filters. It was Linda.
There she was. Acid wash denim replaced with flare leg dark wash for miles. Frosted lips now a respectable nude cream. Ink-lined eyes fresh and bright. Smile untouched with those two front teeth still turned slightly towards each other in a kiss.
Arms open waiting on my body to pull it close to her and take me back to the love I felt as a child. Only this was better. Brighter.
Her sparkling bangle bracelets clinking and clanking up and down her arm with that same love song from her to me as she whispered, “How have you been, darling?”
We tried to cover a decade of happenings in a few minutes. Impossible and yet still attempting. Linda gave me one last hug before the automatic doors opened, and she disappeared once again.
I roamed the aisles. Not ready to leave. I found the fragrance aisle, and my eyes settled on a bottle of Revlon’s Charlie. Yes, this is what I needed. Now I could visit Linda anytime I wanted.
Katy is a writer and editor for a national engineering and surveying organization and a fiction editor for Identity Theory. Her writing has appeared in The Dead Mule School, Reckon Review, Cowboy Jamboree, Salvation South, and elsewhere. She has a prose collection forthcoming with Belle Point Press (2025). She was born and raised in South Carolina and lives with her spouse and two pups, Finn and Betty Anne. You can find her on Twitter at MarchingFourth and katygoforth.com.