Susan found herself anxiously cleaning the loungeroom again.
Her fear of being discovered only slightly outweighed her fear of becoming a pathetic anecdote. She knew the appointment was a stupid idea, but in equal measure she did not believe that she was a stupid person. So, she cleaned the room until she was certain it would meet the standards of an operating theatre.
It was only a few injections, anyway. She did not think much could go wrong from something so small. Also, it was an early birthday present and she deserved it. Something about the looming spectre of turning 30 had made her brave enough to research Botox injections in her area, but not brave enough to risk being seen walking into one of the over-bright receptions. So she had made an appointment at 1pm, the week before her 30th birthday to get rid of some encroaching crows feet and to smooth away her smile-lines.
She was assured over the phone that the results would be subtle enough that no one at her upcoming birthday party would notice. They were, in fact, reassuring about everything except for her natural looks. The photo she sent them, of an objectively beautiful woman, was torn apart as they listed the sites that needed injections.
It was 12:40 when the doorbell rang. Susan was surprised that they were early, but hurried to the door. A woman stood before her, dark hair pulled back into a bun so tight that Susan could not tell if it or medical intervention were responsible for the tautness of the woman’s face. She wore a white smock, white gloves and a white mask over her mouth. She held a white briefcase by her side, with a large red cross on it.
Susan quickly beckoned her to come inside. The woman walked through without a word, standing still at the end of the hall while Susan locked the door. Susan turned to see the woman standing perfectly still in the hallway and after a brief pause, gestured for her to enter the loungeroom.
Susan became to nervously speak, going over the previously discussed “problem areas”. The woman nodded, setting up her briefcase on the coffee table. It was filled with bottles and syringes, which Susan tried to not look at, suddenly nervous about the pain.
“Will it hurt much?”
The woman stared at her, then turned to close the briefcase. It took Susan a moment to realise that she was packing up, taking away her cure.
“I don’t mind if it hurts! it’s fine just…. I will be beautiful?”
The woman nodded at that, Susan could have sworn she saw the hint of a smile in the edges of her eyes.
Susan sat down in the chair, leaning her head back as the woman tilted her face. The woman’s hands must have been cold to produce such a chill through her gloves. She did her best not to shiver.
Susan sat perfectly still as the first shot was prepared. She peeked at the woman as she drew the liquid from the bottle with a syringe. It did not look like she imagined. It looked like it was… moving.
She closed her eyes as the woman stepped nearer, not wanting to know when the pain would strike.
It burned. Underneath her skin she could feel the injection working its way into her veins and muscle. But, she had promised she could take it and held still for the next six injections. When they were over, Susan opened her eyes, about to ask when the agony would subside.
She saw the woman standing over her briefcase, holding a much larger, empty syringe and a stopwatch. As Susan tried to sit forward, the woman crossed the room and straddled her. The woman held her head back by her hair, the pain in her scalp nothing next to the burning agony in her face. Susan considered screaming, almost willing to let the neighbours find her like this. But the stopwatch buried in the hand grasping her hair beeped and she was silenced by shock as the large syringe pressed into her cheek. In that second, the other hand released her hair, pulling back the plunger. Some thick, foamy liquid was pulled from her and the syringe was full before she had the idea to move her head back.
The woman walked calmly back to her briefcase, carefully depositing the syringe’s contents into a larger bottle. Susan fell out of the chair, pushing herself back against the wall as she clutched at her face. She felt the small bumps of the injection sites and the larger hole in her cheek that still dripped a golden liquid. She felt the too-malleable flesh and the skin that no longer followed the shape of her skull.
With a snap, the briefcase closed and the woman faced her. She smiled, and from the slight movement under her mask, Susan was absolutley certain that her smile was to wide, her mouth too broad, to be human. The eyes did not smile this time.
Susan watched her leave through the front door, quietly closing it behind her. She held her pooling face in her hands, too afraid to move anywhere that might have a reflection.
She remained there until 1:05, when someone knocked at the door, apologising for their lateness.