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February 17, 2021

The Perfectionist. {Short Story}

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.

To living life for yourself – whatever that may look like.

And to my English teacher, Cheryl Bulls, who I scared the daylights out of, when I wrote this before walking across that stage at high school graduation.

As the sun rose, she shaded her translucent blue eyes from its blinding glare and dexterously finished blending just the right shade of eyeshadow. This was the day she had been waiting for all her life. Since reciting the alphabet and reading her children’s Bible at nearly three, she had met and exceeded everyone’s greatest expectations.
As she donned her robe and arranged her curls to lie picturesquely beneath her cap, she reflected on the discipline that had brought her this far. Without unconditional obedience to others, she would never be where she was.
But today was a wonderful day. Today belonged to her alone.
She reviewed her speech, permanently imprinted and strategically punctuated in her photographic memory.
Walking out the door, she paused to check her flawless complexion, one last time, in the hallway mirror. With a practiced stride, she glided toe-first down the steps.
Never speeding nor missing a light, she arrived a planned five minutes ahead of schedule.
Sitting up straight with a pleasant expression on her lovely face, she swept a gracious glance over the filling auditorium. Ankles crossed and hands folded, she patiently awaited the realization of the goal she had been coached to anticipate her entire life.
Floating gracefully up the steps, manicured hand sliding daintily over the polished rail, she beamed with a goddess’ smile as all eyes in the room beheld her.
Performing a dignified curtsy as the rolled paper was placed in her open hand, she rose for all to admire.
Stepping lightly across the stage, she poised herself exquisitely behind the podium. Parting glossed lips, her brilliant smile illuminated the room. Her smooth voice poured out and filled the room with beauty of fairytale rarity.
Her eloquence was captivating, leaving the audience longing for more. With a shimmering smile and a deep curtsy, she swept off the stage and back to her seat.
As the thundering applause flooded the room, a hundred caps took flight, one landing precisely in the hands that had released it. Joining the current of those departing, she quickly made her way down the spotless steps and across the impeccably groomed lawn.
As she neared the road’s end, she inhaled deeply and turned to park under her favorite tree. In younger days, its shade had been her escape. With a slim and polished finger, she lovingly traced the smoothly carved shape of her name on the tree trunk.
Slipping off her shoes and gently placing her cap beside her folded robe, she slowly waded into the pond. As the cool water lapped against her legs, she looked down admiringly at her reflection.
Turning to face the shore, tiny hands delicately grazing the water’s surface, she reached slowly to her chest and nimbly withdrew the small, glistening blade from her breast pocket.
Searching momentarily in the folds of her skirt, she brought forth a smooth, silver cigarette lighter. Gazing for a moment at the intricately carved rose on the casing, she flicked open the cap and ignited the flame.
She slowly brought her tools together, carefully holding the tip of the blade in the hot blue cone in the flame’s center. Dropping the lighter, she watched it sizzle and slowly sink toward the bottom.
Bringing the red-hot blade to eye level, she watched in awe as its razor edge kissed her skin. The pain was awful, but it only lasted a second. Her wrist was numbed as the burning metal sank into her vein.
The wound was small and precise. Watching the thin line expand and trickle down her arm, she was filled with indescribable joy.
She stared at her choice and loved every inch of its flowing beauty.
Opening her hand to let the blade follow the lighter, she carefully lay back into the crimson pool. Closing her eyes against the glare of the sun, she was finally able to relax.
Bathed in the warmth of self-control and drenched with the pleasure of true freedom, she was, for once, truly happy.
Through parted, still glossed lips, she began slowly to release the air from her lungs. Her honey sweet voice shared one last breath, “My father who art in Heaven…” And as she sank into the warm embrace of the blood filled water, she was perfected in eternity.

The poem that birthed the story:

She awoke with the sun
And donned her robe
She reviewed her speech
Every hair was in place
Perfect step size
And flawless complexion
Her glowing smile shines
Before the applauding crowd
She has met and exceeded
All expectations
And driving alone
She finishes her plan
Finally a time to rest
And as the water engulfs her
Her life is perfected
Every goal reached
In eternal sleep

Author’s Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or feeling trapped, hopeless, or helpless please know that you (and they) are never beyond help. You matter. It is never too late and there are countless people who will love you, care for you, and help you find your way in the world. In times of crisis the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week providing support for anyone in distress: 800-273-8255 live chat is also available:

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