by Sonia Kilvington
They say that despite your natural born beauty, by the age of fifty you will have the face that you deserve. I had never actually thought of myself as being beautiful, although there had been many admiring glances and definite male interest before the accident. Once my looks had been ruined, it was a very different story. I could just about cope with the scars and distortion of muscle and tissue down my left-hand side when viewing them from the privacy of my own bathroom mirror; but it was when I was outdoors, catching startling glimpses of my “new self” glaring back at me from shop windows and restaurant mirrors, that exposed me to the very painful truth of my situation.
I felt like a monster with my strange misshapen face, which looked even worse if I attempted to smile. It was really only then that I discovered the power of what I had just lost; beauty has its mysterious qualities and it can choose to elevate, isolate or deftly punish us by its withdrawal. Used wisely, it can confer a certain, specific power, but if over-indulged that same power turns malevolent, betraying its owner with a diseased kind of vanity.
After the accident, people avoided me. They would stare blindly, past me, through me, out in the street. I felt like a ghost, whose presence was acknowledged only by fear. Good friends were too embarrassed to be seen with me, mothers kept their young children away. Yet out of this lonely situation I encountered a new support system, and the malformed, the ugly and the outcasts adopted me as one of their own. I was with them in spirit as well as shared suffering. They offered me kindness and a new view of the world. And I was grateful …
As time passed things began to change; a surgeon from California offered to perform life altering surgery. It was a risk but I decided to take it — after all, what had I got to lose?
After the surgery I looked different again, not the same as before the accident, but a much more “normal” version of my last face. I was delighted at first, wanting to celebrate this “new me” with my exceptionally kind, supportive friends. But their reaction proved to be the opposite of what I had expected: my new face didn’t seem to fit well at all.
As I was gradually absorbed back into the mainstream, my recent support system faded away. These were the people I had come to rely on in the direst of times, and it hurt too much to watch them all disappear. Looking back, it seemed to me that another old saying is true: that beauty, or the lack of it, is only ever skin deep.
Sonia Kilvington is a journalist, short story writer, poet and novelist. She is as indecisive about genre as with most other things in life, with her noir, ghost, psychological crime and sci-fi short stories appearing unexpectedly at Spelk, Pulp Metal Magazine and Near to the Knuckle. She is currently hanging out with some other noir and crime types in the international collection Exiles. Her first poetry collection, Dangerous Love, is in English and Romanian, although she can’t decide whether to write any more poetry at the present time.