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Untitled – Marguerita

Illustrated by Lee El Sayed

I push the swinging door to the bathroom open. There’s only one woman in there and I watch her take her wedding band off to wash her hands over the pink sink. She smiles at me through the mirror and I try to do the same but I end up eyeing her ring for too long.

I turn to look at myself. My sister let me borrow her lucky lipstick before I left the apartment because she knew I was on my way to see Phoebe. She told me that that shade brings on nothing but love. I asked her if that was still applicable after a called off engagement.

The tube is golden and square-shaped, a pink shade, and I stare myself down in the bathroom mirror trying to decide whether to put it on or not. I try to ask the mirror but it’s too nervous to answer, instead, I just watch it chip black at the corners and rattle from the sound of the music coming from the bar. I stare at the lipstick again and I realize that I’ll have to make this decision in a bar bathroom, while my ex-fiancee sits drunk at our table with their glass half-empty and their jacket on the floor. If I don’t put this lipstick on they’ll call a cab by the end of the night and have a cup of coffee before going to bed alone.

This isn’t the first but it feels like the last time I’ll ever have Phoebe sit across a table from me, smoking cigarettes and missing the ashtray every time, dangle them lazily between their fingers, lay them 2 fingers away from the silver ring they always wear.

“Do you think this is a nice shade?” I ask the woman next to me as she’s drying off.

“Oh, uh, I do,” she nods, “but a little pale for you, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” I sigh, “it’s not really my shade. It’s not even mine, it’s my sister’s.”

“Oh,” she smiles but I can tell she just wants to leave so I smile back, I put the lipstick back in my purse and push the door to the bathroom open.

“Hey, you’re good?” Phoebe asks when I sit back down.

“Yeah, all good,” I smile.

“What I said,” they say, “Did it upset you?”

I shrug, “It’s fine.”

Phoebe and I sit in our booth and stare at each other. When I first saw them tonight I told them they look so different now. I told them Your new hair suits you. Your new clothes suit you. Your new job suits you. You look so different.

Phoebe still looks the same. Their eyes are still too big for their body. Their hair never a length they’re happy with. Their hands always warm and their smile always timid. The way they hold their glass and the way they light their cigarettes and the way they look away when they blow the smoke out.

“I miss you, too,” I say, “Every day.”

Phoebe reaches out to hold my hand. We sit like this for a second; our hands together between us, right next to my purse and the pink shade of love.

“I feel like I find new ways to miss you every day,” I say.

Phoebe nods and looks back down at their drink, “I feel like I feel a new way about you every day.”

“What’s today’s?”

They look up at me, “I feel like you’re so different now.” and before I can process what they said they pick their jacket off the floor and walk out of the bar.

I’m too panicked to understand what’s going on, I feel the lump in my throat and my fingers start shaking again just like in the bathroom. I think about the lipstick and how the woman was right, maybe it wasn’t my shade. Maybe the pink was too pale for me, maybe I’m too fat for it, too messed up for it, too closed off for it. Maybe I’m just too much, so much that even a gold tube can’t bring on love.

“are u home?” I text my sister but she doesn’t answer and I figure her shift isn’t over yet.

I bring my hands up to my face and rub my eyes so long that they turn brown like my eyeshadow. I try to figure out what to do next.

I checked my phone and my sister texted back, “still at work. busy night and gonna work overtime.”

She texts again, “everything okay???”

“yes, just checking! love u”

“love you ava.”

I get up and put my coat back on. When I’m opening the door I notice the woman from the bathroom is behind me and she’s leaving, too.

She smiles at me and I watch her stand on the curb.

“Good night?” She asks me.

“Could’ve been better,” I tried to smile and button-up my coat.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she frowns like she means it, “You’ll have another weekend.”

“Not like this one,” I say, “but thanks. Try and stay warm.”

“You too,” she smiles.

A blue car parks in front of her and I watch her get into it and sit in the passenger seat next to a man wearing a white shirt. She waves me goodbye and her ring catches the light.

“Ava, are you ready to go?”

I turn around and see Phoebe behind me smoking a cigarette. I watch them through the smoke and notice how their eyes have started to clear up.

“I thought you left.”

“No I just got some coffee,” they smile, “I’m not done talking to you yet.”

I nod and they ask me if I want to go home.