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My mother told me the girls in magazines were modified with computer programming and had too many surgeries to count on my fingers and toes combined.
But I want to fake too.
“We’re ready for you, Elle.” My eyes hinder from my twisting fingers and look up to see a smiling nurse dressed in light cerulean scrubs. Her blonde hair bounces when she leads me to a single room at the end of the hall. There aren’t any chairs for patients to wait. The three strangers who accompany me in this desolate lobby do not bother to look up.
The anxiety in this air is choking me slowly.
I look to the others, finding two of them less than perfect girls smiling brightly with a hint of relief in their eyes. As both of the teenagers are in awe to hear they will not have to look this way for the rest of their lives.
Maybe they’ll finally be pretty after the needle does it’s magic.
Or to everyone else anyway.
“What are you in for?” It is a quiet, muffled voice whispered by a face jam-packed of acne and flaws that interrupts my incomplete thoughts. The boy stands across from me with a weak smile.
He spoke like we were getting locked up, punished for our blemishes.
“Plastic.” He nods slowly at my hesitated response. His eyes lock on the floor once again before speaking with the same irritating voice.
“Facelift and blepharoplasty.” He pauses. “It’s to take skin and fat from-“
“No, I’m aware,” I comment before engaging in a conversation that reminds me there will be people cutting my face open. He nods once more. “Just didn’t get the science notes on the subject.”
With a shrug, the boy says with a repressed beam at my cynicism, “You remember the details after a while. And how it feels each time. I promise I won’t go back. But I’m just never happy.” His words strike me like an emotional blow to the head. Behind his painted face, he’s screaming something about regret.
But it’s diluted and I refuse to cipher through his consistent expression.
“How many?” I question, still not meeting his now hooded eyes. The fact that there’s something to hide makes me curious.
“It’ll be my eighth since the seventh grade. I’ve kept my hospital tag each time to remind me,” he informs me with the tug of his sleeve, revealing the consecutive, different colors of paper bracelets, each faded and torn in it’s own unique way. His right arm reminds me of a scrapbook.
It is quiet for a while, the words I want to speak lodged in my throat.
“I’m Finn. Your nametag reads Elle.”
“It’s what the doctor said too.”
It is merely an introduction to keep the agonizing silence at bay. But it doesn’t work as his reoccurring wonder revisits.
“Who are you doing this for?” Finn asks, watching a girl with shaking hands go into an eerily light room with small curtained window. The vaporous breath of the ventilation system acts up, wheezing violently.
“Rick. I’m making a deal with the devil for Rick,” I mutter, sincerity spurring out without warning. And sensing the forming question mark behind Finn’s lips, I answer his unspoken speculate. “He’s looking for someone perfect. Someone not like me.”
“So you’re reapplying for the job? To fit his specific regulations?” Disregarding his sudden heed for our banter, I nod my head, causing my crimson locks to jump along to the minimal movement. I pull the scarlet strands over my shoulder, brushing through the matted mess with slightly trembling fingers.
My red hair is the one part of me I will not change.
Everything else is up in the offing.
My other hand clenches my side tightly. I notice Finn’s eyes fixed on me, his expression disheartened.
“Also my sisters. I’ve got a million of ‘em. And they’re all prettier than me,” I confess, quickly skipping over my family issues. “What about you? Who’s the reason to the collection of changes?” A question to make him speak again. I just need him to maintain this conversation with me. It makes my mind remind me off alternate solutions to Rick’s heart.
This will be easiest.
If nothing goes wrong.
“I don’t want to be me.” He looks to me, finally stepping closer. Standing near now, he looks at me at last. “But you… don’t… I want to change myself back to the way I was. I miss my ears being uneven. My nose all crooked and thin. Slits and scars on my face.” I wince at the simple mention of scars.
I don’t want a bracelet to remind me that I changed myself. I want to become the new me. Not bear a scar to set my memories in place.
“I’m plastic. I want to be bone and flesh again,” he admits, his steady palm relaxing on my shoulder blade. I sniffle just a bit. “And it just sickens me to see you want a single ounce of artificial crap inside you.”
That’s where the tears join in.
“What do you want me to do?” I don’t know what else to say, as my voice cracks with the rushed words.
“Choose for yourself. It may seem better to join the perfect people. But here’s a tip,” he leans in, breath tickling my earlobe.
“We’re just as miserable as you.” Finn’s lips leave and his eyes burn into mine.
“Rick is just another human. Just look where you’re at right now. It’s better here, in an imperfect world. Living your imperfect life. Naturally,” he presses.
“Elle, we’re ready for you.” We both turn to see a doctor in a clean lavender apron and thick red lipstick smearing her mouth. I don’t nod or even make that stupid anxious smile I was wearing before. My shoulder falls out of contact with Finn’s hand and I pass him and slowly walk towards my decision.
“Sweetheart, don’t be worried. All first timers are. We’re just here to help, you know that. You’ve seen the pamphlet, yes? Good, good.” The woman’s hand reaches around and clenches onto my shoulder. “So you know the consequences and agreements?” I barely even hear her. “Excellent.” I just know my choice.
“No, Elle. It’s not better when you’re -“
I turn back to see Finn, looking at me through his narrowed, pleading eyes.
“It’s not to make me happy, Finn. I know it won’t do that. It’s for Rick. And if there’s a chance he’ll look at me, then I’ll do whatever I have to.”
I allow the woman, Ms. Sullah according to the tag pinned to her chest to guide me into the secluded room. She grins at me like there’s something to be happy about.
“Don’t worry, you’ll make your man ecstatic, you poor love-deprived thing. But our organization loves helping the unhappy. Especially girls wanting to fit in, you know? Some people just deserve to look like everyone else.”
There wasn’t anything unique left in me anyway.