Marla unwound one last golden lock from the steaming curler. Then she ran her hands carefully through her hair, fluffing it out into the perfect mockery of natural curls.

Next she turned to her makeup – the armor she’d been shielding herself with since Mama first taught her how to use it at age ten.

“Now that you’re almost grown, Marla, you need to learn how to make yourself up,” she’d said. “Cosmetics can make even a plain face like yours into something special.”


“Mama dabbed a little bit of perfume on my neck
And she kissed my cheek
Then I saw the tears wellin’ up in her troubled eyes
When she started to speak
She looked at a pitiful shack
And then she looked at me and took a ragged breath…”

“Promise me you’ll never go out in public bare-faced.”

Looking at her mother’s fierce expression, Marla promised. She would have agreed to almost anything to keep Mama with her just a little bit longer.

Over the next few months, Mama did her best. She taught her how to play up her still non-existant curves to maximum advantage. When to look a man in the eyes, and when to look away. How to act just seductive enough, without ever giving anything away.

She handed me a heart shaped locket that said
“To thine own self be true”
And I shivered as I watched a roach crawl across
The toe of my high heel shoe
It sounded like somebody else that was talkin’
Askin’ Mama what do I do
She said just be nice to the gentlemen Fancy
And they’ll be nice to you…

Mama grew weaker with every word. As soon as she had given up her last weapons, she faded away.

Marla was just twelve. Alone. Without a single relative who cared to claim her.

Through all the years that followed, through every cold night and unwanted touch, Marla remembered what her mama had told her.

“Just be nice to the gentlemen, Marla,” she’d whisper as she went to sleep. “And they’ll be nice to you.”

And now she was about to move uptown.

But as she looked at her reflection  drowning inside yards of white silk, her soul yearned for just one thing.

“I did it, mama,” she whispered, clasping her tarnished locket. “I only wish you could be here to see it.”

Then, squaring her shoulders, she put on her best smile and turned to face her destiny.




7 Comments on Fancy.

  1. Victoria KP
    February 4, 2012 at 9:23 am (4 years ago)

    Great job! I love that Reba song!

    • Amber
      February 7, 2012 at 8:35 am (4 years ago)

      Thank you. I was a little worried about this one, so I’m glad you liked it.

  2. Diane Tarantini
    February 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm (4 years ago)

    EEek! I don’t know the song, but this piece broke my heart. That a mama would do that to a child, a daughter. Childhood Protective Services, where are you? Great job at creeping me out, Amber!

    • Amber
      February 7, 2012 at 8:34 am (4 years ago)

      Creeping people out is what I do best. :) The song is by Reba…it’s actually a really good story in its own right, if you ever get a chance to give it a listen.

  3. Nancy M. Campbell
    February 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm (4 years ago)

    I love this. You capture the relationship, the desperation, the sense of a mother feeling like she’s doing the right thing in such a misguided way. You weave the song in perfectly.

    • Amber
      February 7, 2012 at 8:34 am (4 years ago)

      Thank you. I honestly wasn’t sure if anyone would get it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *