By Eilidh Thain
Maysi checked herself in the smoked mirror wall of the elevator. The light was unflattering, but her beauty couldn’t be tamed by bad lighting. She wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t. After all, hadn’t she had been approached by an agent representing the famous photographer, Nero in a Starbucks in Soho. That didn’t happen to ugly chicks. She couldn’t believe her good fortune. The modeling business was ruthless in New York and all she was getting was catalogue shoots. She knew she was better than cheap bras and bathing suits. And now she had her chance. She had to make it. Nothing was more important than being beautiful.
She fluffed her long, auburn hair and touched up her lipstick. The ding of the elevator announced it had arrived at the second floor of the infamous Rhine Hotel. She stepped into the hallway. Three hallways branched off the main. A polished brass name plate etched with Room 237 sat next to the dark hallway straight off the elevator.
A pang of fear echoed through her. Something her mom used to say crashed into her conscience. “Once you step through a door, Maysi, there is no way back. You have made your choice.” Her mother was one to talk. Maysi had watched a parade of men come and go from her mother’s life. Never sticking around for more than a few weeks. More than one of these men had creeped into Maysi’s room, whispering promises of ponies and ice cream and movies into her ear. Her mother blamed her for the men leaving; blamed her beauty. Maysi didn’t mind the attention.
“This is my chance,” she said into the darkness and knocked on the door. It opened a crack and she stepped inside. As she entered the room, the door seemed to slam shut behind her. The room contained a large bed. Several men wearing the masks of American presidents sporting unsettling smiles, stood among cameras on tripods and bright lights. All the presidents looked in her direction. Bill Clinton stepped towards her. She backed towards the door, searching for the doorknob. He raised his hand, which contained a set of handcuffs.
“Let me out of here,” cried Maysi, now frantically groping for the doorknob.
“Maysi, we are here to help you,” said Clinton.
“Yes, Maysi, your beauty is a burden. You will never be normal,” said Lincoln.
“I don’t need your help,” she screamed as the handcuffs snapped around her wrists.
The presidents descended on her as her screams turned to choking gasps.
Maysi woke and blinked into the darkness. She was in the room, tucked neatly into bed, wearing a pair of grey sweats and a white tank top. She got up and walked to the bathroom. She turned on the lights and screamed. What she saw in the mirror was so horrifying caused her to go into cardiac arrest. She had been stripped of her beauty; her hair short and mousy; her skin blotchy; her eyes like two piss holes in the snow; her lips like apricot rinds; her jawline melding into the wrinkles of her neck.
But as the life ran from her, Maysi saw her plainness and in a fleeting moment understood she could have been happy with it.