The Family Curse

By Carrie's AJ

 

2001

 

 

The young woman stared in the mirror for the third time that evening as she undressed after work. She studied every detail of her anatomy, looking for signs that the transformation had begun. The family curse. That's what they called it. For as long as she could remember, one by one, the women in her family had all fallen victim to it. And once it started, there was no going back to the way things were before their bodies began a metamorphosis that they could not control.

 

She remembered her Aunt Sophie talking to her mother about it so many years before as the older women sat at the kitchen table over a couple of sweet rolls and coffee.

 

"It's begun," Sophie declared.

 

"Shh'! You'll scare the children!"

 

"But, Evelyn! They should know."

 

"No, Sophie. Let them alone.  They'll find out soon enough."

 

Twelve year-old Eleanor and her younger sister, Veronica, had been playing nearby. They loved to listen when their mother and aunt chatted during their weekly Wednesday morning breakfasts together.  Eleanor watched her mother sadly shake her head as she uttered the words that burned themselves into her memory: "They'll find out soon enough."

 

Eleanor hadn't noticed anything unusual about her aunt.  To Eleanor, she seemed to be a beautiful woman who'd just turned 30. Eleanor hoped she'd look like her aunt as she grew older.  But her aunt's next words made her wonder just what was in store for her.

 

"It started on my arms. Lots of it.  There I was, standing in the full moon in my bathing suit when I saw it for the first time!"

 

Eleanor ceased her playing and peeked around the doorframe to study her aunt.  She was wearing long sleeves. No chance of seeing anything that way, the young girl thought.  She went back to where her sister was waiting and resumed her play.  Although the subject came up once or twice after that, Eleanor never fully learned what to expect. All she knew was that it happened around thirty years of age, and that so far, no other female in her family, born in late October, as seemed to be the family custom, was exempt.

 

In the ensuing years, Eleanor tried to put the whole subject out of her mind. She busied herself with school and her social life.  Later, there was college, then her career.  Now she was at the crossroads of her life. She was about to turn 30 on October 31st.  She was terrified.

 

The ringing of the phone startled her out of her thoughts, and she nervously picked up the receiver.

 

"H-hello?"

 

"Ellie? Are you all right, honey?" 

 

"Sure, Mom. I'm fine."

 

"Are you sure?  You sounded a bit anxious when you answered the phone."

 

"Well, Mom, to tell you the truth, I was just thinking back to when we were kids and you and Aunt Sophie would have Wednesday breakfast chats together. I guess it got me to thinking."

 

"About what, dear? Do you mind me asking?"  Evelyn's voice took on a bit of hesitation at this point.  "Is there something troubling you?"

 

"I-it's the curse, Mom. I'm worried about the curse."

 

Eleanor's voice sounded so scared that her mother didn't know what to do. Should she deny that there was a family curse?  Goodness knows that it happened to me, and it's still happening.  Sophie has never gotten over the changes that it brought to her life, poor thing. And now my sweet daughter!  What do I do? What shall I tell her to ease her troubled heart?

 

Suddenly a piercing scream nearly made Evelyn drop the phone.  "Eleanor! Honey, what's wrong? Eleanor!"

 

Eleanor sobbed as she saw that the time for the family curse to start affecting her had arrived.  She heard her mother frantically calling to her and put the telephone receiver back up to her ear. "M-mom?  It's happening, Mom!"

 

"Oh, sweetheart! I'm coming over right now!"  Evelyn cradled the receiver, grabbed her wallet and keys, and wasted little time getting to her car and then off to her daughter's apartment.

 

Eleanor stared at herself in the mirror.  Just like Aunt Sophie: my arms, first. My legs will be next!

 

She forlornly sat down on her bed and waited for her mother to arrive.  She soothed herself by munching on several sandwich cookies that she always had nearby.  She took the last swig from a can of soda that was sitting on the dresser and thought about what her life was going to be like now that her turn with the family curse had finally come.

 

A frantic knocking at the door let Eleanor know that her mother was there to confirm her worst fears.  Shakily, she let her mother in and then locked the door behind her.

 

The frightened woman slowly pulled the sleeve of her dressing gown up towards her shoulders so that her mother could either confirm or deny that the stories of the family curse were coming true.

 

Evelyn turned her gaze to her daughter's upper arms and promptly fainted.

 

"It's true, mother! It's true!"  Eleanor sobbed as she tried to rouse her mother.  Evelyn's eyes slowly opened. Then she turned her head in the direction of the arms that were supporting her.  She fainted again.

 

"I'm doomed!" Eleanor cried out.  "I'm doomed to walk through the remainder of my life ever changed by the family curse!"

 

She picked up her mother's limp body and laid it on her bed, brushing away the fragments of empty potato chip bags and nearly tripping over a couple of beer bottles.

 

She wet a facecloth and gently brought her mother back to consciousness.  Then offered her a drink of the only thing that she had close at hand: the remnants of the milkshake that she'd had with her hamburger and fries that night.

 

As her mother's constitution improved, she confirmed her daughter's fears with the words that she'd been dreading to use for almost a lifetime: "It's cellulite!" 

 

Mother and daughter wept softly into the night.

 

The end.


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