She stretched from her sleep, brushing the cold satin canopy of her bed—a gift from a former lover. It took effort to pull herself from the depths of the silken sheets and pillows, but there was no hurry for her to go anywhere—no one would dare rush her. When she finally managed to get on her feet, the woman walked no more than a yard from her bedside and stopped. The mirror. There it stood behind the thick curtain, half a century of dust coating the folds of the fabric. A tear streaked down her face, following the scars and wrinkles, but she brushed it away—tears would do nothing for her.
She stalked to the old cabinet and her spine chattered in fear—the clasp hung loose between the doors. She reached a mangled, shivering hand out, pulled open one of the doors just enough to see inside and fell to her knees—painted porcelain shrapnel littered the lining of the cabinet. She had nothing without them. She reached up, opened the carved doors the rest of the way and burst into tears—the shards showered down around her, slicing her skin. She stared up, saw a single perfect face and reached for it, but to no avail—it was only a photograph.
No one could love you without a mask. Her father’s voice burned in her skull. Through the blurring rain of tears she grabbed pieces of pale china and jammed them against one another. Red trails cascaded from her hands, staining the floor and glass crimson.
She crawled across the sharp, broken doll faces and ripped away the curtain from her mirror. Dust exploded through the air, landing thick on her floor. That was the face no one knew, the face she kept hidden from the world. She smeared the blood across her skin, the red liquid pooling in the deep pockmarks and wrinkles.
Pulling her skin taut, she caught sight of the wine-stain birthmarks and painted them over with red—it was all she could do now. She clutched a larger piece of one of the masks, the smooth surface cool against her skin, and ran it along her forehead. More blood flooded down, dyeing her skin like a rose.
She couldn't afford a new face—all of her wealth came from suitors. All of her suitors came for the angelic beauty. Once, too many years ago to count, she may have gone outside to find work, but not now—no one would love her without a mask. So she let the blood flow.
Red would be her new visage.