Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Mystery · #1247362
How do you stay beautiful forever?
This story written for the contest:
and was limited to 1000 words. The words in red were added after the story was judged.
I'm not a vain person despite the fact that I spend thirty-five minutes in the mirror each day adjusting my looks. I desire to look beautiful and will nothing less than perfection. Even though my physical beauty conveys me as stunning, I work real hard to pass my tone of voice, my body movement, and my general nature as a genuine and reasonably caring human being. I'm twenty-six, I work for an erotic museum, and I have the average friends: Two aspiring actors, a vegetarian and a political activist.
I don't just stop with my own personal features though. I transfer any unused energy to my car and my house. I drive a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee that I get detailed regularly. And my home doesn't have stripping paint or a loose shingle anywhere. And that brings me to my next point, which is my neighbor. I don't expect my friends or the people around me to be like me, that is caring about their looks, but her house looks atrocious. She's not my direct neighbor, which is why it doesn't bother me so much when I bought into the neighborhood. But I live in a cul-de-sac at the end of a long winding road and must pass by that shack every time I leave and then return. It was designed just like mine, town house style but she's never taken a coat of paint nor cut the grass. Somehow she manages to escape the wrath of the homeowner's association.
The old woman who lives there must be retired because I've never seen her leave the house. However I'm not stalking her either so I don't keep tabs on her twenty-four seven. Have you ever heard the phrase that you don't truly miss something until you can't see it anymore? Well that's how I feel right now. The museum is currently undergoing renovations so I'm off for a couple of days. I've been wasting my time sulking around the house since all my friends are still working. Yet the only thought that keeps creeping into my head is that I have not passed by that creepy old house today. Curiosity is now eating away at me to the point that I get dressed and make the short trip to the house. I've been living here for almost two years now and not once have I stopped and visited her home. I've been to three or four of my neighbors but not hers.
I summon up the courage (and the willpower) to walk up the badly cracking concrete steps and ring her doorbell. It's either not loud or broken because I don't hear it, but moments later the door swings open. In front of me now stands the old lady, the strands of her gray hair going this way and that. She has on an old Victorian style dress on which reached all the way to her neck. Even as I look, I can't help but think that her style really works for her. Her facial features have not changed even as I look her over, but I start to feel like she's working up a scowl.
"Hi, How you doing? I'm Ann Simpson. I live down the street and it occurred to me that I've met all my neighbors except for you. So I just wanted to take the time out and come see you."
"Come on in," she responds. Her features contort back to their sinister look after she finishes talking even though her voice was lighthearted and welcoming. When I enter the home, my breath is almost knocked completely out of me from shock. The interior of her home is gorgeous. The woodwork is smooth, the walls are painted with the most extravagant colors and her home smells wonderful. I have the most burning urge to just dance down the hallways.
"Can I just say that your home is one of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen," I say. She nods politely and directs me to the living room which I have to say is far more spectacular than what I've experienced thus far. Beauty like this is what I work so hard to maintain. "I would love to have beauty this divine," I say.
"Would you?" She said sitting down next to a coffee table with a teakettle sitting next to it. I was amazed at how the green wall behind her brought out the red in her dress.
"Oh yes. I work so hard to maintain my beauty. I just can't imagine what I'll do when my personal features start to fail," I blurt out. It sounded vain but I meant it
"What if I told you could maintain your features forever," the old woman said, "Would you be interested?"
"I would be really interested," I told her.
"Drink some of this.” She proceeded to pour a cup of this tea and hold it out for me. I hungrily sipped the tea and finished the cup in a matter of minutes. When I was done, she reached under the table and removed a glass container. Inside was a figurine that looked just like me.
"Where'd you get that? What is it?"
"It’s your beauty. It’s trapped in here. As long as the figurine stays in this sealed jar here, your beauty will stay. You will grow older but will forever remain beautiful. But the moment the figurine is exposed to the air, you will immediately change. That's what happened to me so many years ago and I've been ashamed to leave my house since. Now I drink this tea everyday to keep the beauty I was cursed with so many years ago." She handed me the jar. "Took good care of this. Your life depends on it."
(Original ending: I followed that old woman's instructions to the letter and kept that jar hidden in my closet. It’s been twenty years since I met that old woman and even though I've gotten plenty older, I still look like I'm 26.)
"I know just the spot for it," I said. She showed me out the door and I would have pratically skipped down the sidewalk to my house had I not been afraid to drop the jar. It took me the rest of the day to find a place for that small jar. Every place I thought might be safe enough seemed just as unsafe moments later as I thought of different ways it could break. It suddenly occured to me why that old woman became a recluse. She was worried about people breaking her little jar. But what was the purpose of having eternal beauty if you sheltered yourself from the world.
Once I was sure my new gift was secure, It was just my luck that one of my friends decided to stop by. While all my friends had their quirks, this one in particular was an earth-loving, tree-hugging vegetarian. I could only imagine what she would say if I told her what I just participated in. So it was my gift that would stay a secret with me. I would be force to keep it to myself. As I went to answer the door, I could only laugh at the future that was in store for me. Now that I was Forever Beautiful.