Youth- Inspired by Halloween- ‘Old fashioned dressing table’ by judithbluepool
“I know it’s a bit small, bit it’s got lots of light.” The landlord gestured to the three old looking windows slanting down onto the attic room.
Freya smiled. “It has… a lot of character.” She said politely and the man seemed encouraged by her words. He continued to extol the ‘virtues’ of the bedroom that had been squeezed into the roof room. The large oak frame double bed took up a large amount of the space. On the opposite side, the wall was almost taken up by an antique dressing table, a slightly dusty yet exquisitely gold framed mirror perched on top of its surface.
“So what do you think?” The landlord said bringing Freya back from her observations.
“I’ll take it.” She said with badly hidden disappointment. The man beamed with a smile. It wasn’t what Freya had been hoping for when she’d decided to move out of her parent’s, but rents were too steep and this was the only place she could afford near her workplace.
“You have shared use of the kitchen and your own bathroom is just down the ladder.” Geoff, the landlord, continued as he made his way down the steps to gather the forms. Freya stayed in the bedroom and spun round to take in a slower, better look at the room. The stone walls were painted white and gave a cosy look, but nothing could disguise the musty smell that lingered in the air.
Freya’s attention was drawn again to the dresser. Its dark varnished surface was well polished even if the mirror was not. She ran a finger over the smooth surface and only then noticed a purple perfume bottle. She picked it up and turned it over in her hands, looking through the glass to see it was still half full.
Freya was part way opening the stopper to sniff it when Geoff returned.
“It was my Grandmother’s.” He said stiffly, his memories of her obviously not happy ones. “She said it would forever keep her young.” He rolled his eyes. “Her death proved that wrong.”
“I’m sorry.” Freya quickly put down the bottle, her fingers slowly tracing over the etched swirling design as she let it go.
“It’s fine.” Geoff walked towards her, extending a wad of papers. “Shall we get started?”
It had been surprisingly easy to sleep in her new room. Freya thought she would have felt uncomfortable in the new surroundings but she had been so exhausted from shifting her stuff up the steep ladder she had drifted off straight away.
It was raining heavy when Freya woke the next morning which just added to her wanting to stay in bed as it was still dark. Winter was the worst, nothing about November mornings made Freya want to get out of the comfort of her warm bed. Eventually she did push herself out from under the duvet when she thought hitting the snooze button five times was a little excessive.
After a quick and rather luke-warm shower, Freya sat at the large dresser and stared into the gold framed mirror. She never really considered herself pretty, her dull grey eyes were no where near the blue she wished and her mousey brown hair had no real shape. But Freya worked with what she had, fluffing her hair up into a high pony tail and adding blusher to her pale skin.
As she was about to finish Freya caught sight of the perfume bottle on the dresser once again. With a small frown she picked it up and stared at it. She knew she shouldn’t use it, it was not hers. Yet still she carefully pulled out the glass stopper and held it to her nose. In an instant Freya was overwhelmed with a myriad of scents that she had not been expecting.
It was almost like someone had bottled the scent of burning flowers. Freya could almost feel the heat of the fire that the scent evoked in her mind, flames that burnt against lilies and jasmine releasing their spicy fragrance as they succumbed to the fire.
Before Freya realised what she was doing she had run the warm glass stopper over the pulse points of her neck. Next she dabbed more of the perfume on her wrists and closed the bottle.
Work was, well, work. Freya didn’t enjoy her job. She was a call centre operator dealing with queries and many, many complaints from the customers of an insurance company. It was dull, draining and barely paid her bills. Another ‘perk’ of her job also decided to drop by her cubicle.
“Hey there, Freya.” Jason drooled as he leant against the thin, grey partition. Freya held back a grimace. He was after all her supervisor and putting up with his leering was how she kept her job. “How about we get a drink at lunch?” His eye wandered to her chest and Freya tried to turn away.
“Sure, Jason.” Freya replied. Or at least that’s what she’d meant to say. Instead Freya spun on her swivel chair to face her lanky supervisor with a fixed glare. Suddenly the heady scent of her perfume filled her senses and she couldn’t think clearly.
“I’d rather drink acid than spend anymore time than I need to with you, Jason.”
Jason blinked his suddenly wide eyes shocked by her response. Freya took a sharp in take of breath, stunned also at her answer. Quickly she stood up and walked past her supervisor towards the bathroom before he could get a chance to fire her.
“What the hell?!” Freya shouted to herself as she stood at the sinks, taking quick breaths and trying not to hyperventilate. In the mirror she could see her skin had almost whitened. She had not meant to say what she had and yet she hadn’t been able to stop herself.
It was also exhilarating.
For years she had wanted to say something like that to Jason, to let him know just how repulsive he was. But why had she now?
Freya groaned and turned on the tap. She cupped the cold water and splashed her face with it, the cooling effect it had being very much needed.
Amazingly Freya hadn’t been fired. Instead Jason had kept his distance for the rest of the day. She was in the middle of her stir fry when Geoff got home.
“How are you enjoying independent living?” He asked, though seemed to be concentrating far more on his cell phone.
“It’s been an experience.” Freya half smiled to herself.
“Already?” Geoff chuckled. “It’s only been a day.” He made to walk towards the living room when Freya called after him.
“Geoff!” She glanced up at a portrait that hung by the white painted door frame. “Was that your grandmother?” He turned his head to look at the painting and she saw his jaw clench.
“Yes.” He said simply. Freya looked at her noodles, suddenly feeling guilty for obviously mentioning something that was hard for him. “She was a difficult woman.” He continued. “She didn’t like anyone, thought they were all beneath her. But she expected respect and her orders to be obeyed by everyone.”
Freya looked at the portrait, the paint seeming to be as vibrant as the day it was painted though it must have been quite old. The lady portrayed looked as self confident and stern as Geoff had described. Piercing blue eyes stared out from the painting, an angled yet feminine face surrounding them. The woman’s grey hair was pulled back into a skilful, elegant style that Freya knew she would never be able to do and her clothing looked rich and heavy.
The next morning it was just as gloomy as the one before. Freya started her usual morning routine, with the addition of the perfume once again. It was almost as though it had always been part of her everyday motions.
This continued for the next month. Everyday she made sure to wear the perfume with its strong fiery fragrance.
But as she continued to wear her perfume, her behaviour continued to change.
After a week, Freya had quit her job. A week later she was frequenting wine bars and cocktail bars where only people with salaries of over six figures attended. Her wardrobe had morphed from plain, pastel coloured clothing to slinky dresses of reds and blacks.
It wasn’t until Freya caught sight of herself in the mirror before leaving for yet another date that she frowned. Who was she?
Swallowing hard she sat down at the dresser and stared into the mirror. Her grey eyes had brightened to a striking blue and for a moment a reflection flashed across the mirror. A reflection that was not her own.
Freya tried to open her mouth to scream. But no sound came out.
Instead, she reached back to her hair and expertly twisted it into an elegant up-do. Though Freya could feel her fingers twirling her strands of hair it was not her that was moving her arms.
She then felt the familiar feeling of etched glass beneath her finger tips. The glass stopper ran like velvet over her skin, leaving warm paths where the perfume had set.
The bottle stopper clicked as it was set again and she looked at the mirror. It was as though she was looking once again at the portrait that hung in the kitchen, yet all signs of age had gone.
“Ah, to be young again.”