Practice your ballerina hands, the email said, without much clarification on how to do that.
I looked down at my hands. They were frying pan hands, and the Teflon was peeling.
Practice pointing your toes like a ballerina, the email said. But I’m no ballerina, and all my practice was futile.
Practice smiling genuinely, the email said. At last, something I could do! But when I looked in the mirror, all I could see was the ruby nightmare that framed my face and glittered beneath the bright white vanity lights.
So much for that idea, I thought.
I took a deep breath and tried again. This time, instead of imagining myself as a bulky lineman lumbering around a dance floor, I tried to picture myself as one of the graceful women who spun and twirled their way through my Monday and Tuesday nights with their beautifully elongated arms and their ability to pour every ounce of emotion into the shapes they created with their bodies.
Well, at least my fingers are long and elegant, I thought, still not satisfied with the results.
I hopped up onto the bathroom counter. Perched precariously on the edge, like Fran Fine on Mr. Sheffield’s desk, I tried again to point my toes. I pictured Barbie feet in my head, but a glance at my own revealed SCUBA flippers.
Maybe I should just practice wearing high heels, I thought. They pretty much point your toes for you.
I hopped back down and studied my reflection again, trying not to notice the little lines around my mouth and eyes. I tried to ignore each out-of-place hair and the fact that I looked like a shorter, stockier version of Sharna Burgess. I smiled. But it was the fake smile I used for family pictures, not the all-the-way-to-my-eyes smile I used for the adorable things my kids did, or the corny jokes my husband cracked.
If a priest blesses an avocado, would it be holy guacamole?
I glance back at the mirror, and this time my smile seems genuine. Well, one down, two to go…
The box is heavier than I thought it would be. I fumble with my keys in the door, and eventually the house key slides home. I can’t wait to get a new door, I think, pressing my shoulder into the swollen wood and shoving hard.
I feel like a kid on Christmas as I hurry up to my room, clutching the box in my arms. After six long weeks, it’s finally here. I grab one of Seymour’s pocket knives and carefully slice through the tape that secures the flaps on the box. Inside is a mess of bubble wrap, but beneath it lies a book wrapped in black velvet.
Carefully, I remove the book from the box. The butterflies in my stomach are fluttering out of control as I open the cover. And there, before my eyes, is the testament to all the work I’ve done in the last year, a testament to all the skipped desserts, the longed-for-but-not-eaten seconds, the complete lack of chocolate.
There, before my eyes, is the body of a swimsuit model. Not a bikini model – there’s no getting rid of the stretch marks left behind by three pregnancies – but a tasteful one-piece for sure. The woman looking back at me with her come-hither stare has no trace of cellulite, no dimples where they don’t belong, and all without the aid of Photoshop.
The pictures were supposed to be Seymour’s anniversary gift but, as I flip through the pages, I can’t help feeling that they were a gift for me, too.
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