But that name’s old hat. Call me Esther Blodgett. Call me Lolita. Call me Eliza Doolittle, Galatea.
This time, call me Marguerite.
I’m a showgirl, waiting for her prince. A shopgirl. A flower girl. A cigarette girl.
There’s always a girl in the story. A beauty who needs a beast.
My innocence tempts him. My death humanizes him. My suffering redeems him.
Of course I’m not suffering now. I’m an echo of what was. Call me shadow. Call me shade. I exist to provoke his self-torment, his repentance. I have walked through Hell, silk shoes shredding from my bleeding feet. Our dead child drooping from my arm. My torn garment dangling from my white shoulder.
I don’t see repentance in the eyes that stare at my artfully revealed breast.
Did I care, once, how he looked at me? Already that’s fading. Already he’s fading, a cobweb shape of dead flowers curling between yellow pages.
I’m not the ghost in this story. I snap the book shut.
I open my mouth and blow him away like dust.
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Inspired by “Marguerite at the Sabbath,” painting by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret, 1852-1929.