Melissa left work at a little after five. She walked through the car park and to her green Ford Focus, got in, put some tunes on and drove off. Had she looked around and up a few feet she wouldâve seen Alex Cowling watching her go. Alex was one of her co-workers and one of the many men there that have a wondering eye for her. He wouldnât say he was a creep by having this affection for her, even resulting in having dreams of her answering âYes, I couldnât say no, my loveâ to his question of âwould you like to have dinner with me one night?â He huffed and sat back at his desk and day dreamt of another time that he could be having with her. Maybe a night at a hotel or a holiday on a cruise ship, now thereâs a new one.
Alex never had any guts to ask her out. He got so nervous even if she asked him to help her when her computer went up the fritz. Once he saw her out with her male friends (âthe bastardsâ as Alex called them) and went to approach her just to say âhelloâ but even before she noticed him one of the male friends shooed him away. Alex was left embarrassed once again. The males she was usually seen with were all six foot tall and built like a brick shithouse whereas poor Alex was six foot one inch and about as thin as a pencil. That was something his Mother worried about; his diet. Alex always reassured her that heâs just trying something new and that she shouldnât worry. âWell, just eat something. You seem to live off noodles most of your life. Try fruit, for crying out loudâ would usually be her comeback. He liked to remind his parents that he was nineteen; therefore, was still a growing lad. He stood out awkwardly in the family. Both his parents were five foot tall and his little sister, being nine, wasnât far off joining up with her parents.
Melissa looked both ways before pulling away into the traffic of Worthing town. Alexâs eyes followed her car until she turned off the roundabout and down the road out of his sight. He mumbled something, not too loud to create a scene but loud enough that he heard it; âGoodnight, Melissa.â
He picked up his briefcase, clocked out on the computer and left his cubicle. An arm wrapped itself around his neck and he turned to see his friend John.
âPlans for the weekend, Al?â
Alex smirked âYeah a pretty big plan actually. I wonât be back for a fortnight.â
âOh thatâs right youâre having the thing done. Still going for it?â
âNow more than ever. Iâll let you know how itâs going next week.â
John patted his back and departed in the opposite direction.
In the lift going down Alex studied his face in the warped golden reflection starring back at him. He was alone in there. âSo long, Alex,â he said to himself.
The lift took him to the underground garage where he got to his car and drove off to his plans for the next few weeks.
Alex wasnât going abroad for his holiday; he was using his money on something else. Something that his parents werenât happy about, something his friends werenât happy about and something his boss wasnât happy about. They werenât happy about it but they supported Alex in his choices and he felt that this life altering decision was final. He didnât feel it; he knew it.
He thought of Melissa when he was lying on his bed looking up at the ceiling. When his holiday finishes he could be lying next to Melissa. His mind raced a million miles a minute. âWhat sheer bliss would that be? Sheâs lying right there next to me, her tanned leg lifted up and over onto mine, her long dark hair draped over my shoulders, he foot stroking mine, her head on my chest. Maybe her hand could wander down ontoâŚnow, now. Once step at a time.â
After lying on his bed for a couple of hours thinking of a great time he could have with Melissa, he drifts off into a dreamless sleep.
The waiting room was big and bright. A few portraits were on the walls showing off various wildlife photos. Alex was sat on the long brown couch facing two windows with black wire going across it in diamond shapes. Over on his left was a door that led to a steep set of stairs that went all the way up to the toilets, on his right was a fish tank with minimal goldfish bumping into each other aimlessly. There were magazines on the table in the middle of the room and when Alex thumbed through them and tossed them down for the fifth time, he knew right there and then that he should just give up, it wasnât meant to be. He looked at his watch. Only ten minutes had passed since he got there; it felt like a lifetime. His palms became clammy. He stood up and went over to the windows and looked out to see the view. All he could see was a street lamp and a big white building in front of him.
âGreat view,â he said out loud.
âAh youâre the sarcastic type, I see.â
The voice made him jump and he turned around to see a tall middle-aged man in a long white lab coat, black trousers and tiny round glasses. The tall man had his eyes narrowed at Alex.
âIâm sorry I was just having a laugh.â
âItâs fine. You must be my eleven oâclock, Mr Cowling?â he raised his eyebrow.
âYes, thatâs me.â
He leant across to shake the tall manâs hand. It felt slippery and silky.
âItâs a pleasure to meet you, Mr Cowling. My name is Doctor Edwards.â
âCall me Alex.â
âWhy? The reason people come to see me they want to be somebody else.â
âIâll still be me.â
Those two words made Alex get a shiver down his back.
âYou read the leaflet in the mail?â
Before Alex could answer Dr Edwards asked the next question, then the next.
âYou filled in the application? Are you FULLY aware of the procedure? You cannot sue me, you realize that?â
âAll of those are the same answer; youâre ok in my books.â
âYou know plastic surgery isnât always the answer. Youâre going for package five. Thatâs going to be a big change. Your friends and family may not even recognize you.â
Alex smirks âI havenât really got many friends anyway. This is my way of getting friends.â
Dr Edwards pushed his glasses up his long nose. Alex thought his face resembled that of an anorexic barn owl.
âThen letâs begin.â
There wasnât a thing about this Doctor that felt welcoming or warm. These people are meant to keep you at an ease.
Alex was lead into a small room with blinds closed over the windows, a small computer in the corner, a tall curtain that seemed to half the room and a bed in the middle. There was a tall silver light hanging over the bed which shone a circle of white over the pillow.
Alex hung his coat up and got comfortable on the bed whilst Dr. Edwards went and sat at the small computer. He tapped away at the keyboard and after a few moments the printer spat out a sheet of paper with Alexâs face on it. There were notes situated over the image and small writing.
Edwards handed it to Alex and waited for a response.
Alex looked over the paper in his hands and read the notes out in his mind.
âForehead down, chin down, ears back, eyes downâŚâ
He nodded âYes everything on there is fine.â
Edwards smiled then handed Alex a gown to put on behind the curtain.
The next few minutes were a blur to Alex.
Two days later and it was time for the bandages to come off. Dr Edwards peeled them off carefully starting at the top before finishing unravelling them at the neck.
Alex felt woozy the day before. All his lunch was a yoghurt through a straw. He couldnât talk. He felt fine as long as Melissa was on his mind.
Every line of bandage was removed. Edwards shined the light on Alex and smiled.
Alex felt uneasy about the smile. Seeing the yellow teeth made him wonder if heâs a doctor then he wouldâve known to get his them sorted out long ago.
He grabbed the small circular mirror and held it in front of Alexâs face.
Not being used to the light, he had a hard time adjusting to the light. He looked at himself after regaining himself and stared emotionless.
âI look like Iâve been beaten up.â
âYou will do for the first week. I can tell though that this has been a perfect procedure.â
Edwards nodded slowly.
âYouâll clear up by Saturday. I suggest you stay in a darkened room and you take the medicine. Donât forget your skin has been battered and pulled to suit your needs. Your skin needs time to heal, Mr. Cowling.â
âI understandâ he mutters.
He signed some papers then after a few hours got into a taxi for home.
âYou been in a fight, mate?â the taxi driver asked.
âSomething like that, yeahâ he managed âI guess this is how Joseph Merrick felt.â
âOh, the Elephant Man.â
âDonât understand you, mate. Here is it?â
Alex got out of the taxi and went into his house.
He went to his bedroom, wrote out a list of orders (how he feels, how long heâs going to be in the dark, what it was like, what he could eat etc.), stuck it on his door and didnât leave the room for three days.
Saturday came and Alex looked in the mirror; the scars, the cuts, all gone.
His face looked dramatically different. He was finally up there with the handsome guys. His looks are certainly like those of a male model. He ran to the bathroom, wet a cloth, rubbed soap in it and wiped away carefully at the dried blood and pus and then jumped in the shower to feel completely rejuvenated. He went downstairs after getting dressed and gave his parents a heart attack. His Dad grabbed a poker from the fire place and threatened him.
âGet out or Iâll hurt you!â he bellowed. For a small man, Alexâs father sure had a loud voice.
It was five minutes before he finally managed to get them to believe it was really their son. There was no use in showing them ID but it had to involve explaining things from his childhood, some things only they would know.
Alexâs Mum hugged him but she felt awkward.
âYouâre in there somewhere butâŚyour voice is different.â
âYeah I paid for work on my larynx too. My voice was too geeky ââ
âYour voice was fine, your face was fine. Whyâd you do it, son? Why spend however much you did on changing your handsome face?â
âBecause Mum, I wasnât handsome. No girl wanted me. But Iâve got nothing to worry about now. Iâm actually going to get the girl of my dreams with this new face. Girls liking guys for whatâs on the inside is a load of crap. They want how a guy looks, they always have done and now theyâre going to be queuing up to try and get dates with me.â
âIâm going to get her. Iâll have Melissa fall in love with me in an instant and Iâll bring her back here and sheâs going to meet you and youâll love her. Do you know why? Because I love herâ
Alex left the house and got to his car to go and get the girl he loves. Melissa Walker. The girl he saw six years ago and the girl he is going to get together with and hopefully marry.
The sky was grey and cloudy. He hadnât brought a coat with him but that was perfect.
âNo coat, no worries. Sheâll see me, weâll kiss, itâll rain. Itâll be so romantic.â
He parked up outside of Melissaâs house and looks at the door from his seat.
âThis is it now. Thereâs no turning back. Hello to the good life.â
He got out of the car and felt a few spits of rain on his forehead. He opened the little black rickety gate and walked up the pathway.
He got to the door and pressed the doorbell. He heard some steps being made and then the lock on the door turn. The door opened and there stood an older lady. Not too old, mid-forties; Melissaâs Mother.
âHello, can I help you?â she asked cautiously.
âIs Melissa here, please?â
âHold on. Melissaâ she called. That was when he heard that voice; the voice of an angel.
âYeah, Iâm just coming, Mum.â
âHere it goes, just smile and be nice. This is really happening you handsome son of a bitch.â
Melissa stepped around the corner wearing a pink dressing gown and slippers. Her hair was tied back in a loose ponytail, which Alex adored, and there was a look of concern on her face.
âWho is it?â she asked.
âItâs me, Alex.â
She stood there by the side of the door. The side of her head leant on it.
âAlex CowlingâŚfrom work?â
She turned towards her Mum and whispered something loud enough for Alex to hear.
âMum, it doesnât sound like Alex.â
To Alexâs surprise, Melissa came forward and touched his face.
She felt around the cheeks and nose then the forehead.
âThatâs not you.â
âIt is, honestly it is.â
Melissa began to cry.
Her Mum hugged her then moved towards Alex.
âIâm sorry you probably didnât hear the news.â
âLast Friday after work Melissa was involved in a serious car crash that took her sight away. Doctors sayâŚâ she fought back tears herself, âDoctors say sheâll never see again.â
Alex stood there, dumbfounded.
âMum, thatâs not Alex, get him to go.â
Melissaâs Mother holds onto the door.
âIâm sorry, young man.â
She closed the door and Alex took a few steps back.
âAll that moneyâŚall that effortâŚshe wouldâve loved you for whatâs inside you…itâs goneâŚeverythingâs goneâŚâ
He looked up to see the rain come pouring down.
The thought dawned on him that he forgot his coat.