“Angeline,” her husband was calling her back to his side.
Mary cringed inwardly. She much preferred the name Mary, her middle name. Only her few friends from her grade-school days called her by her given name, and her husband. Once she had entered college, and the teacher no longer called out names in class, Mary had introduced herself as Mary. Mary was a much more common, forgettable name; and that was the way Mary wished to be.
All Mary had ever asked of the world was that it forget her. But that had never happened for her. She had always been too intelligent, too gifted, too beautiful for people to forget her. The high grades had always come easily to her, and that garnered attention from peers and adults as she grew up. Then there was music and theatre. She only wanted to pursue a hobby, to do something that would make her happy, but she was too good at it. She finally learned to lie, and tell her teachers and parents that she practiced very hard at home. And she purposefully fumbled over words in her monologues, and pretended that her classmates could emote far better than she could. As she learned that her high grades were a major cause of attention, she began turning in less and less work. But even all these efforts didn’t work. It was obvious that she didn’t practice her violin and flute because no one ever heard her; her final performances for plays were always impeccable; even as she slacked off in school, her test scores were still present.
And, even after she entered college, after she was able to start with a clean slate, when there was no reputation to haunt her, her hair was still there. Her long, shining, impossibly rich, brown hair. Its color was so deep, with the smallest hint of red, and it shined so brightly in even the smallest amount of light, that it garnered attention wherever she went. And for this she punished it daily, brutally. She used only the cheapest 2-in-one available; it was less than a dollar per bottle. Then she harshly dried it on the highest setting, and curled it tightly, and straightened it. No gel, no leave-in conditioner, no shine serum was put in her hair. Despite this, it resolutely remained impossibly smooth, soft, and shining. For these crimes against her nature it was often chained in a ponytail, or shoved unscrupulously beneath a hat or hood.
But, tonight, she had been forced to release its shining lengths to spill over her shoulders and down her back. Society had also forced upon her its robes, or rather its dark green dress made of chiffon and silk. She had done her best, under these conditions, to remain unattended. Her neckline was high, the hem was at the floor, her back was covered, and sleeves hid her shoulders. All but her head, hair, and pale arms were swathed in fabric. She stood politely at her wealthy husband’s side, allowing him to converse as she simply smiled politely.
“What do you do with your hair?” Mrs. Holly asked as their husbands talked business.
“Nothing,” Mary answered politely, “I just wash it and dry it.”
She followed this with one of those wide, honest smiles that stretched into the eyes. And she meant it. At that moment, she was truly enjoying herself. Even as Mrs. Holly ran her fingers through Mary’s hair. Later that night, Mary would be curled up in a ball and relive this moment like the worst nightmare, but at this moment she didn’t mind one bit. Because at this moment, she was the public Mary that socialized with all the right people and knew exactly what to say to each person in order to make them think she was perfectly clever and charming. Not outstandingly, but perfectly.