She brushed her long, dark, tresses without thought, mesmerized by own her gaze.
The dark brown eyes, once vibrant and alluring, were now dull and lifeless, witnesses to her lifetime of abuse and excess.
The lines that only appeared around her eyes when she laughed were now permanent fixtures her best makeup couldn’t conceal.
To be seen, her thin lips needed the deep red lipstick tones she favored, or she always appeared cross and sullen.
At fifty-seven-years of age, Margaretta Marie Sellers was still an attractive woman.
But she no longer met her own standard of beauty.
Retta’s looks made her stand out among her contemporaries, which was a point of contention for more than three decades.
But it wasn’t enough for Retta. She wanted to be a standout, regardless of age.
She wanted… needed to be admired and envied by younger women.
Retta wanted to be an icon.
That desire was her downfall.
Blessed with a perfect mezzo-soprano voice, Retta longed to perform in the spotlight like her idols, Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price.
While her parents, Mae and Albert Sellers had the means to finance a music education for their daughter, neither thought it a practical career and pushed Retta towards a business or teaching degree.
Headstrong and determined, seventeen-year-old Retta ran away to find her destiny.
All the sheltered, naive teen found instead were men with little interest in her natural vocal talent and more interest in her shapely, young body and exotic looks.
With promises of fame and lucrative contracts, Retta bounced from party to party on the arm of different men who plied her with alcohol and drugs.
Less than three years after leaving home, Retta returned an alcoholic junkie.
Albert Sellers rushed his baby girl into rehab.
Mae was less welcoming and had little to do with her daughter. During Retta’s absence, her younger brother, sixteen-year-old Joseph, succumbed to rheumatic fever. Mae was devastated. Her gifted and studious son had a bright future ahead of him before illness took him. Yet, her selfish, narcissistic daughter ruined her voice and her life abusing anything she could get her hands on and she still lived… and manipulated her father.
Albert tried to be the cushion between the two women but never got to see them reconcile.
A week before Retta was discharged from the rehab center, Mae dropped dead from a coronary embolism.
Retta came home drug-free and sober but her partying ways were still with her.
Craving the attention of men, Retta put her appearance first and abstained from liquor and drugs.
During a south side party for a local city commission candidate, Retta connected with her first love, Ham Burford.
Now a college graduate working for the city’s finance department, Hamilton Charles Burford fell in love with Retta Sellers when they were fifteen-years-old.
But despite the above average living Albert Sellers made from his co-op farming business, Ham’s parents considered Retta socially unacceptable and forbade Ham from seeing her.
The smitten couple sneak around and get together when they can, but after Retta learned her parents wouldn’t support her music career, she changed, becoming depressed and more withdrawn.
It was bad enough she’d never get a life with Ham, but to also not have a life in music was more than she could bear, and she left on a morning train bound for Chicago.
Now they were both back in Corwin, but any dreams Retta had about being with her first love were snatched away when Ham introduced Retta to Belinda Foley, his fiancé.
Retta Sellers has no time to mourn her broken heart when Albert is injured in a farming accident and dies two days later.
The sole survivor of her family, Retta feels cheated by life and closes off her heart.
She continues to stare at her reflection, her jaws tight and as hard as her heart.
Her hand shakes as she lowers the brush. Her chest burns with anger for the betrayals by those closest to her.
The man she loved.
And the daughter she didn’t.
Retta launched the brush into the mirror, not bothering to shield her face or body from the glass shards.
Satisfied, she stood and left the room.