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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Obsession with appearances. Self deception and the modern world of plastic surgery.

Submitted: November 03, 2006

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Submitted: November 03, 2006





Helen stood in front of the Office directory of the Medical Plaza and scanned the names of the various doctors until she found the one she had an appointment for at 2:45: Dr. Franks Rhinoplasty and Reconstructive Facial Surgery…Suite 203. As usual her eyes slid quickly off the glass refection of her face and she strode purposefully towards the bank of elevators .


Her new shoes hurt and she cursed her failure to anticipate the afternoon drive to the Medical Plaza with its heavy traffic which made her nearly late.She had to  dash from her parking place at the very edge of the crowded parking garage in her sexy stiletto heels. They did make her legs look good and that was what mattered after all.


 She wore her skirts short too. She knew from long practice just how to divert the eye to her best assets but today she realized that sprinting in new, ridiculouslypointed and high heeled shoes was painful.She smiled to herself with the thought that soon she could forget about the diversions in favor of comfort.Couldn’t come soon enough she thought. She had been waiting 20 years. Twenty long, miserable years.


The elevator at least was right there on the ground floor and opened as soon as she pressed the Up arrow button. The doors slid open and she stepped into the mirrored interior and quickly turned so that she had placed herself facing the black plastic panel with its rows of buttons and pressed “2”. She was pleased that there was no one else in the elevator and that she could minimize her reflection by standing directly in front of the un-mirrored panel. From that well practiced vantage point she could look at her back and appreciate the fact that she looked really good ..from the back. From the back one saw  an above average height, slim red head in a well tailored black suit, black stockings. And those shoes…red alligator,matching the bag she tucked under her arm. She loved her back view. Loved the whistles she sometimes got too. The looks she got when she turned to see who had whistled caused her a feeling so visceral that she thought she might faint. That was a longtime ago. She learned that the hope that the eyes she would meet when she turned would remain smiling and impish with flirtation wasn’t worth the gamble. She simply strode forward . It wasn’t easy at first , ignoring the attention, wanting to believe in miracles but after awhile callouses grew around the parts of her heart that cared what other people thought of her looks.


The elevator doors opened onto the carpeted hallway leading to Dr. Franks office. It was the second door on the right as she remembered. She stood for a moment as she always did when entering a room that may contain strangers and set herself mentally for them. Thus braced she turned the knob and entered made straightaway for the Reception desk. Out of the corners of her eyes she noted that Waiting Room was blessedly empty! What a relief! She relaxed and gave her name to the same nurse she had seen at her initial consultation. With practiced ease she spoke directly to the name tag on the Nurses uniform which labeled her in bright blue letters as Jane Belden, R.N.


She took a seat near a lamp and selected a magazine from the pile on the table next to it. Today she was here for the results of the tests and pictures that would determine just what Helen would look like after the surgery. There have been so many surgeries. Helen was a pro at enduring the waiting room. They all seemed so similar to her with their unique catalog furniture, old magazines, and strange flat light they all seemed to share. The reception phone rang and she could hear Nurse Belden mention her name. She put down her magazine and waited for Nurse Belden to call her and escort her to the examining room. Instead, Nurse Belden came to her and told her that Dr. Franks was running a bit late but expected to arrive in a few minutes. He had placed her appointment after his afternoon rounds and as there were no other patients that day she would have all the time necessary to discuss her procedures.


Helen’s shoulder’s dropped with relief and she let out a long sigh. She had been worried that Dr. Franks would be late, his office fill with people with backed up appointments and the agony that exposure would cause. Now she could even smile at the added bonus of an appointment that wasn’t rushed.


She picked up her magazine again but decided to just let herself zone out for a bit ; relax and reflect.


Her thoughts drifted back the 20 plus years ago when it all began. Funny how she could even still recall the sound of her grammar school classmates all rushing and elbowing out the doors and the smell of the dusty playground as the last bell sounded the end of the day. Dust rose around her as children ran, whirled and whooped in the usual way. Helen walked out in a more mature manner. Now that she was a 5th grader she felt that smugness that young girls of that age express towards the K thru 4th babies. She heard her name being shouted by an all too familiar voice as Bobby Kozlowski came barreling from behind and sent her flying onto the cement walkway that led from the school. Bobby was two years younger and the brother of Eddie. Helen was totally gaga over Eddie. She thought he was beautiful with his blond curly hair, clear blue eyes and fine features. Eddie was a year older than Helen and seemed not to know she existed despite her arranging to pass by his house and stalking him as only a love struck pre-teen can do. Bobby was everything that Eddie wasn’t. Squat as a fireplug and all rough edges. Loud where Eddie was quiet and messy where Eddie was neat.


She knew it was only a matter of time before Eddie finally looked at her and saw what a beauty she was. Then they would live happily ever after…no doubt about it!


Helen’s parents married late and waited a long time for Helen. They had almost given up when finally Helen came along. Although they had wanted more children that wasn’t to be the case. They didn’t mind after a while as they lavished all their attention and money on Helen…their little redheaded  bundle of joy. Helen knew they sacrificed so much for her. She wore beautiful clothes and took tap dancing lessons. When her mom couldn’t work any more because of her heart she overheard them discussing trying to make ends meet without having Helen give up what she had become accustomed to. They simply doted on her.


Helen thought, yes that was it..they were so blinded by love that they never saw her as anything but perfect. That had to be it….the reason that she saw herself in their reflected love and not as she really was. What else could it have been after all? Both were gone now and Helen still missed them very much. She was a bit teary eyed remembering them but her tears soon dried when once again her thoughts snapped back to that awful day . The day of  her awakening.


On the cement walk , her good shoes scuffed, her books scattered and her knee bleeding Helen stood and in her anger gave Bobby Kozlowski  a punch on the shoulder and glared at him with the promise of more if he didn’t wise up and GROW up!


It seemed that suddenly the day in every aspect set like one scene in a frame and in total silence except for Bobby Kozlowski screaming at the top of voice. He looked right at her and began to chant in that playground cadence we have all heard…Big Nose, Big Nose, Big, Nose…Look at Helen Durante! The Snozz…Jimmie Durante got nuttin’ on YOU! Over and over and over. She stood,petrified by the words and their deeper meaning. For if Bobby thought this of her what did her Eddie? Horrible emotions poured out of her until she drowned in them and could only hear the taunts faintly and could make no sound herself.


In that instant Helen was introduced to the person she would be for the rest of her life. The person who would live under the shadow of her nose. Now she knew why her mom and dad had her take tap dancing lessons. People could watch her feet not her face! The clothes! Of course they took the eye away from her horrible nose. Everything that happened to Helen could now be explained by the need to make the nose disappear.


 As she matured she became good at the game. She thought of herself as a good magician. Keeping the audience’s attention on the right hand so it didn’t notice what the left was up to.

The only trick she hadn’t mastered was “The Disappearing Woman”. It’s all done with mirrors, or so they say;mirrors, the bane of her existence. She had more in common with vampires it seems than with normal people she thought with bitter irony.


Nurse Belden’s voice broke into her thoughts. Dr. Franks was ready for her now but she was to go directly to his office not the examination room. Helen was puzzled at this as the usual routine was examination first then the sit down to discuss the options. She was sure that at their last visit that he said he would do it in that order. As she walked to the end of the hallway to his office at the end she felt a clear sense of unease  hightened by the sight of the closed door. She stopped at the door for a few seconds wondering whether to knock or walk right in. All of this added to her growing tension. She finally decided on the most conservative alternative and knocked .

Her knock was met with a curt reply . She didn’t like his tone and didn’t know which emotion to settle on as  so many flooded up and washed over her. She wanted to be angry with him but she fought that down. She needed him too much. She settled on confusion. Confusion was  safe.


Thus disarmed she turned the knob and entered the office closed the door behind her and stood waiting for Dr. Franks to look up from the files on his desk and invite her to sit down. When the pause became uncomfortable, or as she thought awkwardly uncomfortable, she took the initiative and took one of the leather chairs in front of the desk.


With a sigh Dr. Franks closed the file in front of him…it had her name on it she noticed. He swiveled around and turned the X-ray display box on which hung on the wall next to the bookcase behind his desk. The one of the films of her taken at the last visit became visible.He turned back again to face her. There was no trace of the Dr. Franks she had met only two weeks ago in those eyes. These eyes were narrowed down in an angry way. His whole demeanor had changed.


The words that came pouring out matched the look. He was angry. Very angry. She had lied to him. The films clearly showed that she had been operated on many times the last of which had been so recent that the bones had not had time to heal! There was no way in which he would consider further surgery on her face.


Hot tears sprang from her eyes as she began to explain and plead. The others left her no better off than she was before!

He was her last hope. He must not abandon her. She must convince him…she must!


His voice seemed to hammer into her brain. His refusal. His claim of ethics. His denoucement of the other surgeons. Finally ending with a  suggestion that perhaps she needed to see another professional…a psychiatrist. If she would stop at the desk on the way out Nurse Belden would give her the cards of a few good ones that he referred patients like Helen to for help.


Helen rose from her chair with his voice beginning now to recede in her brain to a  fading hum. She walked quicklyout of the office past Nurse Belden who caught a fleeting glance of Helen as she passed. She considered calling after Helen and asking her if she needed another appointment but Helen was out the door before she could get the words out.


Nurse Belden was concerned about the look on Helen’s face and her rushed exit so she decided to ask Dr. Franks if she should follow her or perhaps give her a follow-up call.


She found him taking the films down from the light box.

She told him how Helen left and her concerns. He smirked as he slid the films into their envelopes . He told he not to worry that women like Helen were all too common nowadays…on an endless quest for perfection. In her case it all centered on her nose which in his opinion was a very nice nose to begin with. He would have been comfortable with fine tuning her nose but when he saw that she had  been operated on many times before and that they were merely “fine tuning” surgeries and not the repair for serious disfigurement that Helen claimed he couldn’t in all good conscious operate. He was disgusted at the many collegues he knew that would and did. He told her not to worry and she didn’t…going back to her desk to finish her paper work so she could go home early and beat the afternoon rush hour.


Helen had made it to the elevator banks, pushed the UP button and waited for the car with  a certain odd calmness.

She had no hope now but instead of planning still another move to another town and a fresh lot of surgeons she focused only on the next few moments in time. She felt peaceful yet strong. When the car came she entered it and pushed the button for the topfloor. She remembered going to the Insurance Agency there to pick up some papers so that she could get her car registered after she moved to the area a few months ago. There was a lovely view of the park from the window at the end of the hall by the agency.


The bell rang and the doors opened as Helen allowed her thoughts to focus on that one thought that she had been fighting for all these years….from that playground until this moment in time. As she turned to the right after leaving the car she saw the window with the view and began to walk faster. Her thoughts came faster as well keeping pace. The lightening was such now that could see her refectionin the glass of the window. She ran towards it faster and faster . As she broke through the glass and into the free fall her last thoughts were of the Disappearing Woman trick. It was after all all done with mirrors and she had mastered it at last.



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