The theme: starting over
Michelle Mitchell admired her reflection as she combed through her long blonde hair. True, the locks were sewn in, but she’d paid for them so technically they were hers. Her own hair – the tangle God had seen fit to bestow – was brown and nubby, not the silky golden tresses she’d secretly coveted since childhood. The new hair had come just in time, too: she and Paul were finally going to meet, after months of chatting over the Internet. The Moment of Truth. Everything she’d told him about herself over the course of their friendship was at last real, ready for his eyes. Michelle imagined he’d take one look at her and fall hopelessly, irretrievably in love. Her past wouldn’t matter; nor would his, to be fair.
Exactly two years ago today, Michelle had found the courage to leave an abusive relationship. Her spouse had sensed her fragility, knew that she was harboring demons inside, and exploited her weakness. She had allowed the punishment to continue, believing she deserved it, rather than standing up for herself. Now Michelle appeared as the woman she’d always dreamed of: a shapely blonde with emerald eyes and straight white teeth. A delicate nose, free from heavy glasses. Long, manicured fingernails. A lilting voice with a slight Southern drawl, occasionally betrayed by her Northern roots. How could Paul not fall in love?
Michelle had never spoken to Paul of her past. Her own parents refused to speak with her anymore, blaming her for the demise of her marriage. Her older brothers were unsympathetic, for their own reasons. They could not understand why Michelle felt driven to cast off who she’d been all her life and suddenly – to them, anyway – become this new creature, one they weren’t sure how to approach. Joel went as far as telling her she was sick and needed help, and unless she got it and rid herself of all her insane thoughts, he’d have nothing more to do with her. So far, he’d been true to his word. The old Michelle would have acquiesced in order to keep the peace. She would have buried her true self even deeper inside. The new Michelle – this woman in the mirror – was much stronger than that. She would be content to create a life without a family. Paul might even appreciate not having to deal with nosy in-laws. How could he complain?
As Michelle smoothed her hair one last time, the doorbell chimed in the hallway. She took a deep breath, made a silent affirmation, and moved to answer the door. Paul stood on the other side, shorter than she, balding – not quite as he’d described himself – but he had flowers in hand and a warm smile that hinted at a pleasant evening to come. After a nervous exchange of compliments, Paul took Michelle’s hand in his and led her to his car. As she crossed the threshold, Michelle thought about the life she was officially starting anew with this date and the life she was leaving behind. Michael Aaron Mitchell was gone forever; Michelle Ariana Mitchell had taken his place.