It wasn't difficult to like Monica immediately. Even from far away, her petite, lithe frame inspired an ancient protective instinct men sometimes still feel, the feeling that it fell to us to guard something fragile and beautiful. Her face carried on along those graceful lines with dark almond eyes(more) that were large and wet whenever they looked right at you. Her cheekbones tapered down into a small mouth, perpetually closed in a polite smile. She had the careful laugh and warmth that might have believed was just for you.
She was beautiful and genteel, yes, but this wasn't why I really liked her. Her manner was enough to disarm and take you in at first, but when I saw the same discrete smile and damp eyes directed toward everyone evenly, I liked her even more. Whoever she was- whatever she was- she kept secret, and nobody knew it because they were flattered by how well they were being treated. She went from being beautiful to being interesting.
So I asked started to ask around. School? A university in Nebraska named after a saint. Work? Something with art in advertising. Family? Ah, that was quite something. At 23 she was the oldest of ten children. A religious group in America's bread basket (the word 'cult' was thrown around at this point). And she hadn't been home in years.
Exchanging polite conversation and asking a few questions of the people she worked with did not give me the whole story; I had only pulled a thread. But suddenly she didn't seem shy and polite, rather she was quiet and guarded. Maybe lonely? Perhaps loneliness was a necessary evil in her life. How many necessary evils had she endured?
One thing was certain: she was stong, and she didn't need protecting.
my mother tells me that
plasticized sickly smiles and hidden tears
are better than sharp retorts and witty jabs,
and that backing down from the fight is better than
winning with bloody knuckles and a string of enemies,
but i'd rather be a bitch
(more) i'd rather be your worst nightmare
than risk being another victim in a line of slain
tomorrow's front page news
because we'd all rather be feared than loved, right?(less)