Jul-Aug 2011: Short Story Makeover
One day Mrs. Sharma finally decided that she wanted a change of scene. Every day the mirror told her a different story and she hated it by now. Sometimes she thought it was her nose that needed fixing. Or that her right eye was a bit smaller than her left one. At times she saw a frown line cut across her forehead like a newly laid metro rail track. The hints of crow’s feet terrified her. She thought she saw her jaws had a droopy look. She realised she had put off things too long and that it was time she acted decisively. She resolved to consult a cosmetic surgeon.
From the yellow pages, she found a name, someone who didn’t look too expensive, and wasn’t too far away. She could always slip out for an hour or so, and come back to keep an eye on the servants and not miss the endless rounds of kitty parties, ladies’ club meetings or even the occasional book club readings.
When his assistant informed him of the new patient, Dr. Desai had just injected himself. It was one of his usual experiments. From time to time, he tried new things on himself. This particular one would have a temporary effect, and give one of his eyebrows a quirky look. That was what drove females crazy, he had read somewhere, a quirky eyebrow on a man’s face made them feel self-conscious, flustered, and very shy. The very thought made Dr Desai feel slightly light-headed. He was rubbing his forehead as he pushed the door to his clinic open, feeling his eyebrow stretch, pull and strain against his skin. Then he stopped, for the loveliest woman he ever hoped to see, was waiting for him in his office.
There she sat, head down, nervously playing with her fingers, and the way her hair fell over her face left a half-shadow on her cheeks. Dr Desai’s breath left him slowly in long seconds while Mrs. Sharma slowly raised her head to look at him. It was a long moment when neither could look away. She blushed and he blamed himself for his eyebrow. He ought to put her at ease and instead his quirky, teasing eyebrow was making her feel embarrassed.
“It’s all right,” he wanted to sound serious, professional and calm.
But she continued to blush; he hated his new eyebrow even more.
“Oh Doctor, thank you for your time.”
She had lovely eyes too, almond shaped, with long curling lashes, and he knew they weren’t false. She stood up and he saw that she was nicely plump; it made him smile tenderly to see her tight-fitting shirt. She wanted to look younger, and instead she looked sexier than she should.
“Do sit down.”
She was glad she could. He had a lovely, gravelly voice that made her go weak at the knees. He had a nice way of looking too; it was ages since anyone had looked at her with such interest.
“Tell me, Madam,” he looked at his register, “what can I do for you? If you insist that I must do something for you.”
He smiled. Didn’t she know how lovely she was already? He could imagine her eyelashes fluttering against his skin. But he pulled himself together. These were dangerous thoughts and he could feel his eyebrow pull even more, the skin of his forehead felt tight. He was breathless. She wished he wouldn’t look at her like that. He looked so concerned, and his voice was so gentle, she felt she could pour her heart out to him. Tell him things that really mattered. That no one cared how she looked. That people just went by appearances. That all talk of beauty being skin deep and inner beauty really didn’t cut it. That she hated how she looked. He waited for her to speak, looking at her face as if he would like to remember it forever.
“Yours is the most beautiful face I have ever seen.” He whispered the words and she did think she had imagined it all. It was strange to be in a place like this. To sit before the handsomest man she had ever met and listen to words she had only dreamt of, and had never really hoped to hear.
She sat, unable to speak a word more, listening to his voice weave magic around her, his deep dark eyes pierce her very soul and take away all the unhappiness, the loneliness she had known. She wept and he reached over to take her hand. Both marvelled at the other’s touch. His fingers long and sensitive, hers thin and slender, many ringed. Of course he saw her wedding ring, ran his forefinger around it and they smiled.
He said no to everything she asked of him.
“No, you don’t need your cheeks lifted. They look nicely rounded.” “And those lines around your eyes as you smile look so welcoming.” He bent and kissed her on her forehead then. “And stop looking so worried, otherwise that frown line will get permanently etched. You want to age gracefully don’t you?”
She thought he was teasing. And of course his denials didn’t work. It was his quirky eyebrow. She just wouldn’t take him seriously.
“I am serious,” he told her finally, taking her soft hands in his. “Come back next week. Do as I say. Stay happy, smile more, and think beautiful thoughts.”
“Such as...?” the corners of her red painted lips lifted in a teasing smile. And he kissed her then. A devil’s kiss, she thought, while he felt she tasted like an angel.
“Think of me, and the sounds of heaven that float in when I touch you.” His fingers brushed over her arms, her cheek. “Or when I kiss you,” lightly he touched her lips again, and they said their goodbyes reluctantly.
The injection wore off next week but he gave himself something to add a lift to his lips, so that his smile would make him look less stern. Then for no reason but simply because her love made him reckless and devil-may-care, he uncapped a new bottle of lotion that had come in just the previous evening and rubbed it all over his back and bottom, like the instructions said. He felt a pleasant sensation sweep over him, from the feet up. And he laughed and felt younger than he had in years. He felt lighter too. All those long walks he had begun taking in the morning, for thoughts of her always woke him too early. “You remind me of lovely mornings, of the dew fresh in my family garden far away, and your laughter reminds me of birdsong.” He would remember to tell her all this when they met next week.
She wore her lovely hair down the next time, so that it swung around her generous hips. She had a blush on her cheeks and her eyes had a misty look in them. Oh dear, couldn’t he see how much she had missed him.
“My angel,” he said taking her in his arms.
She smiled at him, and believed him. He wasn’t teasing; he couldn’t be for his smile was so boyish and so charming.
“See, I told you, you would look lovely if you let yourself be.”
She nodded shyly, hiding her face in his chest. When he held her, he felt he held the world in his arms. Her soft breasts were pressing against his chest, and she whispered soft nothings against his neck. He felt a happy recklessness sweep over him.
Later, as they lay together, her head on his chest, and he played with her hair, she heard him whisper, “My angel, there must be a world we could escape to, surely.”
She looked up and he had the most amazing, devilish smile on his face. He felt warmth in his loins and around his hips and it made him even more reckless.
“Would you like to come away with me somewhere?”
She nodded shyly, and he kissed her. “Let me fix a pair of wings on you. We could fly away to our special world. No one will ever find us again.”
The wings sprouted in no time. He used double doses of an injection he had. Meanwhile his long devil’s tail teasingly wrapped itself around her, bringing her close against him. The wings fluttered open and as he held her tight with his tail, they zoomed off the roof, into the warm, welcoming, billowy white clouds.
Anu has written for young adults & older readers. Her stories have been awarded by Commonwealth Broadcasting Association in 2004 & 2010. Her novel ‘It takes a murder’ is due early next year.