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Creative Writing

Sit Still, Look Pretty

I wrote Sit Still, Look Pretty because I wanted to illustrate the kind of silent violence that exists when it comes to societal expectations for feminine-identifying people and beauty norms. We may not always see it, but there can be so much turbulence behind the illusion of stillness or “pretty.”

Sit Still, Look Pretty- Flash Fiction

By Yasmine Bolden

“Yes. Yes, yes yes,” Lillian said.

Snap, snap, snap, encouraged the camera. “Just hold it. Yes. Beautiful.” Lillian changed the camera angle, then crouched, then stood again. Shift, shift, shift.

Cate sat rooted to her seat, limbs seemingly tangled up in a wild rose bush. A stray breeze brushed against her still form. Cate’s lips pressed together as she imagined ice hands rushing over her body and freezing her blood in place. Her spine quivered.

“Gorgeous, lovely! Just be a bit stiller, dear.” The compliments sprinkled across Cate’s flushed face like a humid afternoon summer drizzle, welcoming warming praise. “Tilt your head to the left for me now. Throw your shoulders back.”

Cate obeyed. 

“And now to the right again. Further.”

Cate did. Her lower left rib throbbed. “Maybe candids? I have choreography that I like.”
Lillian peered at her from above the camera as if Cate had suggested they both run naked and willy nilly around the garden. “Why? I’m almost done, be patient.”

“Why don’t you be beautiful?” Cate pouted. She paused and then curled her knees to her chest. “I want to dance.”

Lillian marched over, arms swinging. “That’s not your job, get up.” 

Cate narrowed her eyes but did not move, still at last.
“Get. Up.” Lillian’s eyes flashed. She grabbed Cate’s arm, fingers constricting around already aching skin. Bruises burst into violent violet and rosy blooms beneath her touch.  

The garden stirred.

*

*

“Beautiful,” Cate whispered. 

Lillian screamed. The rose bush rushed forward and twisted around her like several jagged organic slanted halos, unraveling from its loose frame around Cate. 

“What do I do?” Lillian cried, her head whipping around in all directions as she stumbled back a few steps. Not a single bird fled from fright, almost as if Lillian had never shrieked at all. Lillian twisted her limbs to avoid the bush’s thorns, but elbows aren’t made to bend backwards and arms can only rotate but so far until bones and flesh protest. Her shoulder popped. Lillian ground her teeth together as the branches closed in.

Fit,” Cate advised, tilting your head. “You’re not very practiced, are you?”

A thorn bit into her shoulder. Blood beaded up around the wound but did not roll or fall or move. Back-biting branches devoured Lillian’s legs and explored her back. Their thorns anchored themselves solidly in the skin between her shoulder blades, rooting her to the spot. A thorn slashed the back of her hand, finding a thick vein and tearing in. Still, the blood did not sail or drip.

“Like watercolors,” Cate breathed, eyes like a child’s. “You’re so stunning. I see what you meant.” 

Lillian dropped her camera. Her chest heaved and she braced against the inevitable sound of crashing and death. It never came. The bush had closed a fist around the camera only a breath away from Lillian’s hand, forever out of reach. The metal crunched under the grip. 

“Help me, it hurts,” Lillian croaked. She remained perfectly still. Maybe the plants would forget she was alive this way. Maybe they’d leave her alone. Maybe-

Rose buds tickled her earlobes. Thorns followed.

“I did,” Cate said. “Do you not like it? This is what you wanted.”

Lillian snapped her free arm towards Cate, reaching for the model’s shoulder, but Cate spun away and punctuated her turns with an arabesque. Her arms slowly extended. Lillian’s mind filled in the blanks- she could almost see Cate’s waist hugged by a tutu and bedazzled with music like an ornate tidal wave.
Branches of the bush, hungry, found Lillian’s neck. She could still breathe, although for every rib she had, a branch was finding new ways to hold and handle and hurt her. Blood sat like jewels across her body. Who knew how extensive the crimson beauty was beneath the fabric of her floral dress?

The garden’s laugh rang out like ice. Lillian shivered in the little way she still could.

Cate giggled as she, Balanchinesque wild thing, bounded away. 

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