He applies the rouge to padded cheeks and plumps the dust beneath, arranges the folds of a wedding dress yellow against the skin of the corpse.
A strange practise he thinks but one often requested.
Perhaps that's why the dresses are kept, why after so many years women stand in the mirror turning this way and that assuring themselves of the fit.
The dress in this case has already begun to decompose, tiny holes eaten away by spiders and other unseen creatures that frequent the dark and work in private gluttony.
Something is wrong with the way the hair falls. He steps back and adjusts the glasses on the end of his nose. Ah, it's the curl at her forehead. It's too low.
He pushes it up without flinching and pats it down for effect.
The corpse rests. Hands folded across a flattened chest, not so much serene as emptied. A paper vessel deprived of water.
He tucks a lavender sachet beside her to mask the chemical scent that ensures her certain sleep.
She will be judged by those that arrive holding hands in two's and three's,
clutching at sodden tissues and hiding behind monstrous dark eyes in an attempt to disguise their grief but more likely the naked truth of a bare face.
The room where he works is quiet. The lights turned low now. He reaches up to close the lid of the casket and shuts his eyes to it. Not yet.
He bends forward at the waist careful of the deception he's created. They'll want to see her as she was. He kisses the top of her head twice, a blessing and a benediction.
A spider crawls out from the lace collar and onto the undertaker's sleeve anxious to begin its work. The undertaker lays down in anticipation of the sting.
The ring he gave her on their wedding day glimmers in the twilight. Beside it is an empty glass that smells of almonds and a note begging forgiveness.