An Empty Heart, A Lost Soul
Dark, round, amber eyes bored into mine as I stood in front of the full-length mirror. Looking beyond the heavy eye makeup surrounding them, I focused directly on my own pupils, searching for some sign of a soul lost behind the Royalgirl painted mask that was my face. All I could see was a hollow emptiness, and suddenly I was pulled away from my reflected gaze by my owner before I could determine whether I was still here.
"Come on, Rosie. You're next up on stage. You look perfect," the tall human girl said as she dragged me to the stage where I would be showing off for the Beauty Contest.
"We've worked hard all week to keep you looking beautiful. I just know you will win this again. If you do, it'll be your fourth consecutive Beauty Contest win, and I want to go for a fifth, too, so don't mess this up! And, don't forget to smile!" she added, ushering me out onto the stage.
I sighed inwardly, but managed to put on a fake smile for the crowd watching. I had been looking forward to this being the last night of the Beauty Contest. It was the last day for the audience to cast votes for their favorite competing pet, and it always ended with a stage performance; my least favorite part.
Ignoring the resentment building inside me, I smiled broadly and waved to the cheering crowd. I posed a few times, spun in a circle- my pink Royal Kacheek dress twirled gracefully with it- and shot one last innocent, adorable smile to the crowd before making my way backstage again. As I disappeared behind the curtain, I could hear the crowd roaring with applause.
Waiting on the opposite side of the stage was my owner, who looked as proud as ever as she bragged to another owner about me, and how I was going to win yet again. It was just like any other day; tonight would end with the winners being announced. I would probably be first- and I'd pretend to look happy as I retrieved my trophy. Then Bri, my stuck up, attention loving owner, would brag some more until most of the people left. The other contestants would give me half-hearted congratulations, and I would end up collapsing in bed close to midnight. Then it will start all over again next week.
And that is exactly what happened- I was so exhausted that Bri had one of the maids help me wash up and get ready for bed. I fell asleep immediately, and enjoyed the few hours of sleep I would get- the only escape from this difficult, stressful life.
The next morning, I was awoken early by a maid who informed me that Bri was taking me shopping this morning for new clothes. 'As if I need any more,' I thought to myself bitterly.
I forced myself out of bed with the help of the maid, and she helped me get dressed and ready for the day. As I sat at my dresser, with the Usul applying my makeup, I allowed myself to get lost in thought again. I wondered what a different life would be like. Not all pets lived like me- I knew that from my books- but what did it feel like to be different? I was pulled from my thoughts as the Usul turned me around to face the mirror so I could see myself.
"How is that?" she asked, referring to her makeup job.
"It's great," I replied hollowly, staring at my brown eyes. They had long, mascara coated lashes, encircled by dark brown eyeliner, and my eyelids had light pink eyeshadow. My cheeks were red with blush. I stared disdainfully at my reflection, and as I did, I felt that same hollow emptiness I had the night before.
The Usul behind me looked concerned.
"If you don't like it, Miss Rosie, I can redo it for you," she offered, fearful that I was unsatisfied.
"Oh, no, no, it's okay. It's... perfect. You may leave," I murmured, studying myself.
The maid looked unconvinced, but nodded obediently and left the room.
"I'm just a show-off toy to her. Dresses, makeup, fake smiles, forced laughs, that's all I am," I said to my reflection with clenched teeth.
For a moment, I wondered what I truly looked like. No makeup, no jewelry, no ugly formal clothing; I longed to see what I really was beneath the act I put on. In something of a fit of desperation, I snatched the makeup remover from the dresser and raced into the bathroom. I washed everything off my face, removed all my jewelry, and for a few minutes just stared at my plain, teal face.
It dawned on me that I had never seen myself like this before. The maids always did my makeup, and I didn't get to look at myself until it was finished. I always had jewelry on, except for when I slept, and I felt lighter, as though the heavy bracelets and earrings had been weighing me down all this time. My normally dark amber eyes looked almost black without eyeshadow to bring out their hue, and my eyelashes were barely visible. My face was pale. My eyes were baggy, and seemed even emptier than they had before.
It was not a pleasant sight. I looked unreal, even though this was supposed to be real... I shook my head, trying to shake away the pounding in my head.
I'm not real. Nothing about me is real. I'm a trophy, a show off for my owner, a supposedly perfect rich pet, I have it all, but it feels like I have nothing... I was cut off from my rambling thoughts by Bri's loud shriek.
"Rosie, what in Neopia are you doing? We have to leave now, and you've removed all your makeup and your jewelry? You can't go out in public like that; others will think we're poor!"
Angrily, Bri called another maid into my room, and she reapplied my makeup as quickly as possible, and I was dragged out of the mansion and to the marketplace. I followed my owner around like a ghost. I felt like I was floating. It felt like nobody could really see me. Bri was the one shopping and showing off; I was just trailing behind, hardly speaking, hardly aware of my bustling surroundings.
Bri seemed to be growing frustrated with my passive behavior. She would ask me what color dress I wanted, and I'd simply shrug. Then she would instead compare two different outfits and ask me which I preferred, and I would simply point to one at random. Usually this worked, but perhaps I was simply too distant today, and we ended up heading home early.
"Tomorrow I hope you pay more attention, Rosie. You'll be showing off to the Beauty Contest voters, and you have to look and act your best," she said to me that evening.
I nodded, not really hearing her. What did it matter anyways? I ascended the long two stairways to my bedroom, happy to finally be able to relax.
I pulled out a book and sat on my bed. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had the chance to sit down and read a book, it must have been over two months.
The story was easy for me to relate to. The main character was a Royal Lupe- extremely similar to me in the way that she hated the rich life. She wanted more than anything to run away and live a completely different life. I had thought about running away many times, but I knew it was never possible. How could a small young Kacheek like me survive alone on the streets? I had no skills. I wasn't good at running, or stealing, or finding food. The Lupe in my story ended up running away like she'd wanted to and lived in a cave in the forest, but I could never do that. I would probably be captured in less than a few days, and even if I wasn't, I would end up starving.
I put the book down and stared out my window. The sun was almost completely set, and for a moment I truly considered climbing out of it and running in to the woods, away from the life that I detested.
If only real life were like the lives of characters in books. I could pack my things, climb down the side of the mansion, and live in the forest, or the streets. I could become a thief, or a wanderer, or a pirate- anything I wanted. If only, if only.
I walked back to my bed, and I must have fallen asleep at some point, because when I opened my eyes again, the sunset had turned into a sunrise, and I knew my owner or the maid would be knocking on my door any minute.
I heard the footsteps of the servants walking around outside my room, and I suddenly recalled my thoughts from the night before of running away and starting a new life. I had a small suitcase in my closet, and I had just enough time that I could perhaps pack it and climb out the window before Bri came up to my room.
It would be so easy. I could slip away right under their noses, and they would never find me; not if I ran fast enough. Bri would assume I'd been kidnapped, and probably wouldn't search the deep forest.
I took a step towards my closet. Was I really going to do it? My heart pounded; I could leave right now, I still had time, if my legs would just take a few steps forward, I'd snatch the suitcase, pack, and then vanish before anyone knew. Why can't I just walk forward...
I closed my eyes and wanted to cry. I wasn't going to do it, I couldn't. I just wasn't brave enough, wasn't strong enough, to make the decision that I knew would make me happy. No tears came, and suddenly my heart jumped at the sound of Bri knocking at my door.
"Bri, it's time to wake up! Make sure you wear your new blue dress today. A servant will be in to assist you shortly," she said, and walked away.
I cast my eyes downward, and slowly got changed into the blue dress. As Bri had said, a maid came in and put on my makeup. All I kept thinking was I didn't do it. I failed. I failed, and I was going to be stuck here forever.
If only my life was different; if only the world was different.
It doesn't matter, because it isn't.
When the Usul finished my makeup, I stood up, and without a single glance at my reflection, I followed her out of the room like the ghost that I was. A hollow, empty soul, forever trapped in a world of neopoints, luxury and regret.