Maddy had no mouth, though she had teeth. She could never let The Master know. Safer to euthanize her freedom, keep the lie on life support. Long lashes, anime eyes, wiggling nose. Cleavage almost, but not quite, revealing the areola. Tummy tucks, charmingly chiseled cheeks. Open, willing, yearning legs.

She held a small antique mirror in front of her face. A crack had formed in the center; a rhombus-shaped shard had been lost or tossed long ago. Maddy angled the mirror so that the visible section of opaque black casing obscured her mouth.

“I have a voice. I exist. I have a voice. I exist.” Her mantra seemed never-ending. She could not see her lips moving in the mirror; the words appeared to have been spoken by someone else.

“Madeleine, who exactly are you speaking to?” The Master, otherwise known as Richard, asked. It may as well have been the voice of a prison warden on the verge of retirement. “And why on earth are you in the guest bathroom?”

“Oh…no one. No reason. I was just closer to — ”

“Do not lie to me again. How many times have I stressed how much I loathe your lies? Where are you hiding your damned phone this time? Give it to me… now.” Richard’s silver hair glimmered beneath the crystal of the tiny chandelier sphere. His eyes were calm, his demeanor controlled, his unmatched charm circling her like a quiver of cobras.

“But I’m not — ”


Maddy had no real aversion to violent little love taps when earned. Versace sunglasses and Chanel powder worked wonders in these particular cases.

Her vow of silence began that night with needle and thread zigzagging between her creamy collagen lips. The early stages of ravaged tissue resulted from the quietest peep. Maddy took a magnifying glass to the mirror the next morning to examine the insignificant rips. Scabs had formed, punishment for the chittery canary.

“We’re going to be late for the gala, Madeleine. Are you almost ready?”

Maddy did not, could not respond. The threads hugged her mouth like tiny black larvae, protecting her from verbalizing her most dangerous thoughts. She hovered in the doorway of the master bedroom. Richard stood in the foyer, staring through her like she was an ice sculpture.

“You know,” he continued, “you could use a trip to the tanning salon. You’re looking a bit peaked these days.”

Maddy simply hummed ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” to herself. Richard was fiddling with his cufflinks.

“Well, I suppose I’ll call Alfonso tomorrow and make the appointment for you.” His eyes leered toward Maddy’s midsection. “By the way, I’d appreciate it if you kept the hors d’oeuvres to a minimum tonight. Now hop to it! I’ll have the car running.”

Weeks, months later: no trace of the former flesh. Where lips once lived now remained a smooth, flat, blank canvas. It was time to act.

Cherry red lip liner to sketch a new set of lips, soon to be massive, exaggerated, puffy pillows around the perimeter of her chin, jaw, and nostrils. Black eyeliner traced fresh jagged stalagmite and stalactite teeth. She looked like something out of a clown’s nightmare. She moved her tongue around behind this flesh façade, tasted the metallic flavor of blood seeping from her gums as the new teeth formed. Grinding, vengeful sounds roared behind this work of art.

Patience, Maddy thought. Soon this new mouth will have plenty to say. These new teeth will have so much to gnaw on.

Chad Stroup is currently pursuing his MFA in Fiction at San Diego State University.

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