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Greetings, readers and fellow NaNo participants! Having already topped 1,000 words on the day, I’ve taken a slight break from all of the insanity of the first day of my first ever attempt at National Novel Writing Month to share something with you. This is not the original story I’d planned to post for Sonia M’s October/November writing challenge. I was going to go with something a little more tilted for yesterday’s mood, and you may still get that at some point. This is something that I crafted within the last half hour or so. Call it a writing sprint. I’ve prepared another piece for you that I hope you all enjoy. I present “Masks” for your reading pleasure.

Masks

“It’s not who you are,” she spat. “It’s who you keep pretending to be. Why can’t you just be yourself when you’re around them?”

I pondered this, not wanting to fuel her anger. She was upset enough as it was. “I dunno,” I replied. “Honest. I don’t even realize that it’s happening. I guess I’ve just been hiding things from so many different people for so long that I don’t even make a conscious effort to do it anymore.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Her hands were alternating, sometimes crossed over her chest, other times on her hips. Probably something to do with her uncertainty of emotion. Anger and compassion were dueling inside her head, and the movement she made was my only hint as to who was winning at any given time.

“You say I put on a different mask for every group of people I’m around, and I guess that I can believe that. I mean, to one circle of friends, I am a slightly different person, and then there’s my family, and even there I suppose there’s a different face that’s presented to my parents versus my sisters versus my cousins and whatnot.”

“You’re just now realizing it?” Chest.

“It seems that way…”

“Then what’s going on when we’re together?” Hips. Uh oh.

“When I’m around you, it’s like I can take the masks off. I don’t need them around you. Who I am when I’m with you is probably the closest I’ve been to my true self in years.”

“And I’m supposed to just accept that? Do you even know who you are?” Still hips. Defcon 2.

“Yes?”

“ARGH!” She stomped away briefly. “Can you at least give me an answer?”

“I don’t remember who I used to be. I’m fairly certain that I’ve been hiding myself from everyone for so long, that I can’t remember what my own face used to look like.”

“Why?” Chest. Maybe still a chance for redemption in this conversation.

“I got made fun of a lot as a kid. I thought we talked about this before. I was the easy target, I guess, maybe because I never had what it took to be an athlete. People seemed to think that was the only way out of my home town. Maybe they thought I was doomed, and so they were trying to toughen me up. Maybe they just didn’t like dealing with someone smarter than they were. The first ‘mask’ I would’ve put on would’ve been to hide the fact that it hurt when they said things like they did.”

A hug. I guess that I’d at least said something right.

“You never got over it, did you?”

“I’m not sure. I think I’ve moved past it, but I still put on these other faces when I’m around them.”

“Then it’s time to change.” She took my face in her hands. “And I know just how to get that first mask off,” she said as she kissed me.

7 Comments

  1. Sounds like you’re off to a promising start for NaNoWriMo, and best of luck that your progress continues as you wish it to.

    As for your story…all too familiar, from both perspectives. When you feel like the oddball, it’s only too easy to slip on a mask and forget to take it off, or cultivate a collection for various occasions. By the time you find someone you trust enough to lay them all aside, you’ve probably changed enough that you don’t know quite who you are anymore, and odds are very good that you aren’t the same, for better or worse, than when you first put on that mask. On the opposite side, taking off mask after mask to find someone you care about’s true self is just as much of a challenge, and you don’t like to feel like you may be being given a show from them. I like how you handled it.

    • Thank you very much, Angela. Sometimes there’s far too much truth within the fiction, other times not enough. I think this one managed a nice balance.

  2. Sounds like something I said to you once…

  3. I love the emotion, especially the way the woman’s emotions were reflected in the position of her hands and arms. I love the happy ending too. I definitely know the feeling of being an oddball and feeling like I have to wear a mask. When somebody else loves us beneath the mask, then we can begin to take them off. Thank you for sharing this!

    • You’re most welcome, Sonia! Thank you! I find that sometimes body language is harder to write than dialogue, but I wanted to place the emphasis on that.

      • Body language can definitely be tricky. I like using Bookshelf Muse sometimes when I’m stumped. I’ve been trying to work in action and body language with my dialogue instead of speech tags. It’s challenging but fun. 😀


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