Master of Her Virtue - By Miranda Lee


‘ALL PACKED AND ready to go, Violet?’ her father called out to her from the kitchen.

‘Coming,’ she called back, relieved that Christmas was over for another year and she could escape back to her life in Sydney.

She’d once loved Christmas, Violet thought as she gave her bedroom one last glance. As she’d once loved this room. But that was when she’d been twelve, a whole year before puberty had struck and her carefree little girl’s world had changed for ever.

Soon after that her room had become her prison. Admittedly, a pretty prison, with pink walls, pink bedspread and pink curtains, not to mention her own television and DVD player. But a prison all the same.

‘Time to go, Violet,’ her father said, this time from her open bedroom door. ‘You don’t want to miss your plane.’

Lord, no, she thought, suppressing a shudder as she slung her carry-all over her shoulder then grabbed the handle of her small suitcase. Four days at home was more than enough. It wasn’t just the memories it evoked but the endless questioning from her well-meaning family—usually around the dinner table on Christmas day after her sister’s children had abandoned the grown-ups for a swim in the pool. How was her job going? Her writing? Her love life?

Oh yes, it always came back to her love life. Or lack of it.

When she’d said—as she’d said every year—that she wasn’t dating anyone special right now, Gavin, her wonderfully tactful brother, had asked her if she was a lesbian. Fortunately, he’d been howled down by the others, especially her brother-in-law, Steve, who was married to her sister, Vanessa, and was the nicest man. Everyone had laughed when he’d said if Violet was a lesbian then he was gay. Most unlikely, given he was a big, brawny tiler with a wife, two children and a Harley Davidson.

The subject had been dropped after that, thank heavens. But the following day, when she and Vanessa had been alone in the kitchen clearing up after their traditional Boxing Day barbeque, her sister had given her a long sidewards glance and said quietly, ‘I know you’re not gay, Vi. But you’re not still a virgin, are you?’

Violet had lied, of course, claiming she’d lost her virginity when she’d been at uni. Vanessa hadn’t looked entirely convinced but she’d let the matter drop, for which Violet was grateful.

They’d never been all that close; had never confided in each other as some sisters did. Vanessa was eight years older and had never been on the same wavelength as Violet.

Still, it seemed incredible that anyone in her family would ever think that she would find relationships with the opposite sex easy. Years of suffering from severe cystic acne had blighted her teenage years, turning her once-happy, outgoing personality into a shy, introverted one. Going to high school had been sheer torture. It wasn’t just her brother who’d called her ‘pizza face’. She’d been teased and bullied to such an extent that she’d come home crying most days.

Her distressed mother had bought every product known to mankind to fix the problem but nothing had worked, often making her skin worse. The one thing her mother hadn’t done was take her to a doctor, her father having insisted that she’d grow out of it. But she hadn’t, not till a wonderfully wise counsellor at school had taken Violet to her own doctor a few months before her graduation.

The lady GP had been very sympathetic and knowledgeable, prescribing an antibiotic lotion, as well as putting Violet on a particular brand of the contraceptive pill which was famous for correcting the hormone imbalance causing her acne in the first place. The ugly red pimples had gradually gone away, but unfortunately by then comfort-eating and constant picking had left Violet with two equally depressing problems: scars and obesity.

No, no; that wasn’t true. She hadn’t been obese. But she’d definitely been overweight.

Okay, so she’d finally fixed both those problems with a healthy diet, regular work-outs and endless sessions with a miracle laser which had cost her every cent of a ten-thousand-dollar inheritance she’d fortuitously received from a great aunt who’d died around that time. But the emotional scars left behind by years of low self-esteem at a crucial time in her life could not be so easily fixed. She still lacked confidence in her appearance; still found it hard to believe that men found her attractive. The mirror told her one thing, but her mind told her another. She had been asked out