Every time she looks at the pink lipstick, stuck in a drawer together with the others, she remembers how special it is, because of its story.
It was given to her by her husband, in the final weeks of their marriage. They had come to a point when the uneasiness between them was something tangible, palpable. They were coming to the end of their journey together, she knew it. All it took was the courage to take a step, the step that would end two decades of love, passion, pain, regret, happy moments, bitter jealousy, laughter, and tears, the making of a family only to realize the inevitability of breaking it up. As much as she – and he – had desperately, stubbornly, tried not to.
It was a gift – his last gift to her. During those last weeks he had travelled to Paris, for work – or so he said – and she was surprised when he handed her a small package. “I’ve brought you something. Hope you like it.” One might say this was a normal gesture of a loving husband who had gone abroad and had remembered to bring his wife a little token, but she had no illusions about love on his part. Not anymore. They had loved each other passionately, intensely, maybe too much, but that love had been agonising for years, and was now deeply buried in the past.
Still, she smiled and thanked him, showing the surprise she felt. When she unwrapped the gift, she saw it was a Chanel lipstick, the cap on the tube a dark blue with a different, sophisticated shape. She opened it and saw it was a light pink, a colour that suited her, especially when she had a tan, like that summer. She wondered what had made him bring her such a gift – a Chanel lipstick was not cheap, and he had remembered her favourite colour. Again, she thanked him and said it was perfect.
As thoughtful as the gift might have seemed, it brought her no illusions; rather than a token of appreciation, it seemed more like a message of regret, a way for him to say he was sorry.
A few days later they had the conversation they had long postponed. They admitted to each other the situation was unbearable and, as much as neither of them wanted to break the family apart because of their two children, there was no other way out. Their marriage was a farce, which could not be kept for much longer.
And then she asked him if there was someone else, because in her heart she knew there was.
He vehemently denied it at first, thinking perhaps she would make a scene as she had more than ten years before when she had suspected he was having an affair with a fellow worker. Back then she had raged, cried, insulted him. But she would not do it now; back then she was still passionately in love with him, and now her heart was like stone, turned cold from so much pain, the pain that comes with realising two hearts are growing further and further apart with each day. Still, she insisted. She had to know, she had to hear it from him. And she told him, “If you are true with me, we can close this chapter and be on friendly terms; if you lie to me now, I will never forgive you.” And, finally, he confessed.
In the following weeks the set the foundations of their new life. How it would be with the children – the most important part of all – the houses, the money. Everything was civilised, their talks were calm, serene, without any animosity. After all, they both knew this was inevitable, and she knew, in her heart, that the person he had told her about was not the cause of their breakup – their marriage had ended long before she had appeared, it had been dead for years; they simply had not accepted it. She had been a catalyst, nothing more.
Years went by, and she kept her promise – they never had an argument about their children or anything. On the contrary, they continued to raise their children as if they were together, and never entered accusations or aggressions that are, unfortunately, so usual in divorced couples. It never happened, and the children grew up happy and balanced, as balanced as their parents’ relationship.
She picks up the pink lipstick, that brings on so many memories, and puts it on. The pale pink softly colours her lips, with a slight glitter. It seems incredible how it has withstood the test of time. It was given to her more than fifteen years ago and it’s as if it came to her yesterday. It’s true it has been kept in a dark drawer, and she only wears it in the summer, but even so. She smiles as she thinks it has lasted almost as many years as her marriage, the symbol of its end, the last gift of all.
She puts the pink lipstick back into the drawer and closes it. One day, when there is no lipstick left, she will throw the empty tube away, and its story will be nothing more than a faded memory, long forgotten. Or then, maybe not.
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels