SOUP KITCHEN by Rose Walker-Taylor (2nd place, Flash Nov20)

I had my fiftieth birthday at the end of April.

I look around me now and struggle to believe that at fifty years old, I now sit here. The path had been so clear, glinting and gilded. Yet, this is where I am now.

Despite the preconceived notions that I was dim, this could not have been further from the truth. The plan had been immaculate, executed perfectly. Eight languages learned, alongside the study
of architecture and design. Even the modelling had been a calculated choice, how else do you escape a forgotten town like that?

The soup kitchen I now wait in is suffocating. The oil of a thousand previous meals hangs in the air. The particles falling gently, saturating my hair. My “everyday” clothes that have been imposed on me sweat and suffuse the grease so deep into my skin that if I were to press my nails into my thighs I am sure they would sink in without any resistance. These rags are a far cry from the pieces I had worn just four years ago, drawing eyes, awe and envy with my every step. Before everything changed. Now I must fit in, avoid unwanted attention.

I close my eyes and try to shut out this filthy kitchen. How had my path forked so violently right?

It was him. He couldn’t keep his damn mouth shut. His brash, quite frankly reckless behaviour had thrown me down this one way road. Despite his lies and the outlandish things he had said and done, I had still been startled by the reaction of those who had decided his fate, and in turn my own.

Marrying him had been an obvious contract. It was not love, but I had entered it gladly, this final part of my plan. I had kept to his predictable and sometimes brutal needs of the arrangement,
maintaining my beauty and figure at all costs. He had promised me that I would never work again, never want for anything. Yet here I am, in this rancid place, waiting for my name to be called.

There is no going back now. I will have to grit my teeth and make it through the months ahead, knowing I could have been anywhere but here. Hoping his next fall will inevitably be a victory for myself.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, as Mayor of our beloved little community, I am honored to welcome the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump!’

I stand, smooth down my jacket and go to greet the wretched public.

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