The Ugly Duckling

Author: T. J. Butcher

Karen stared at the ugly face in the mirror. Only recently had she finally started allowing herself to dwell on the deformities of her body. She glared at her reflection as she traced with her index finger, starting from her lower jar and following the scar up past her lip and to her glass eye which looked so bereft of life, she might as well have just had an empty eye socket in her face. She moved her hand to her nose, which, even after three facial reconstruction surgeries, still bulged out like a red clown’s nose. They had replaced much of the burned skin on her face and arms with skin from her thighs and buttocks. Along her cheeks and forehead, there were still scars from the holes where the skin had been stitched together. She moved her finger to the red blotches on her cheek to the left of her nose where the burn marks were especially prominent.

While Karen was examining her face with her right hand her left hand was unconsciously clenched in a fist. She now felt the pressure of the two nails digging into her palm. She lifted her left hand in front of her face and extended her thumb and the two fingers that remained on the hand. Her eye focused on the pulpy half of her hand where two additional fingers had once resided.

What have I done! Karen thought to herself. She looked down at her torso. She still had a nice figure, for all anyone could tell. Her black flower print Anthropologie dress wrapped modestly but elegantly around her neck line, but the problem was not her dress. She looked as incongruous as she felt: The soft, elegant, fashionable dress contrasted with her disfigured body and blemished skin.

The recent events ran through Karen’s mind. She had created a Facebook page to have a place to meet people where they wouldn’t attempt to politely avoid her scars and disfigurement. She was sick of people searching for a normal place on her body where they could look while talking to her. There were a few, the doctors especially, who looked her in the eye and treated her just like a normal person, but most people weren’t accustomed to dealing with people like her.

On Facebook, Karen had the opportunity to greet the world without being regarded with pity, disgust, or wonder. She had an extensive friend base. She rarely talked to her old friends in person anymore, but was rather adept at instant messaging and commenting on their pages. She had taken up playing Farmville about a year previously and had gotten quite good at it. Her virtual farm was well laid out with geometrically sound rows of crops, stables for her animals, a storage shed, and all the extra accessories, even a hot air balloon and Ferris wheel. She often sent gifts to strangers because she had an affinity for everyone in the happy world of virtual farming where crops were never destroyed by tornadoes or frost, where pesticides were never necessary, and where random animals wandered to your doorstep looking for a friend. The trouble started when she gave away an ugly duckling to the friend of a friend of a friend, simply to spread kindness in her virtual world. She didn’t intend to actually develop a relationship with the recipient. The man she gave the gift to though, immediately gave her a black sheep in return. She looked at his Facebook page afterwards and saw that he was her age, handsome, and probably somewhat wealthy, considering he had dropped out of a masters program to devote more attention to his rapidly expanding business, marketing real estate online. He didn’t have tons of Facebook friends either, just about 30 friends who she saw, appeared in actual pictures with him, taken during outings to amusement parks, baseball games, and birthday parties. He and Karen had the same interests in music, movies, and authors. He seemed like a genuinely good guy. Karen wished she would have met him before the accident.

Soon the Facebook guy, Jeremy, had added her as a friend. As picky as he obviously was with friends, Karen knew she must have been special to him right away. They soon began to be good cyberspace friends, instant messaging, emailing, and even playing online games like monopoly and chess together. Soon their relationship progressed and they swapped telephone numbers. Karen began to receive friend requests from some of his Facebook friends, meaning that he must have been talking about her. Karen had never had a serious online relationship before, but she knew that this one was serious. Everything was going great except for the fact that Karen had omitted one fact from her Facebook profile. All of her profile pictures were at least three years old. Since they were all from before the accident that had horribly disfigured her, Jeremy, Karen knew, was falling in love with the beautiful Karen, not the one that now existed behind the safety of a computer screen.

The trouble for Karen was that the real world and the cyber world were quickly about to morph into a single reality. Jeremy was now on a plane, flying all the way across the country from California to meet Karen in person. She now wished she had never agreed to meet him as she lowered her hand and glanced at the mirror one more time before turning from it and wiping a tear off her cheek. Although she had only known Jeremy for a short time, they had talked every night on the phone for the past few months. And not just quick generic conversation either, they always had something to talk about. Phone calls often lasted for four hours and by the time Karen finally got off the phone she often felt more energized than she did before picking up the phone. Although it wasn’t actually stated, Karen knew that he planned to propose when he met her. He hadn’t really been that subtle when he asked her about her ring style preferences, and her wedding finger’s ring size. Now she wished that she would have never allowed herself to get this serious with a man who knew nothing about what she was really like.

Karen left the bathroom and paced the living room. She even walked out to the front porch, trying to find some comfort in the fresh air. Although his plane had not even landed yet, she still shuddered in fright as a yellow taxi turned the corner and drove along the Maple lined street towards her house. She sighed when the taxi passed her house and drove out of sight.

Jeremy had offered to meet Karen in a public place such as a park or library to ensure that she was comfortable. Apparently he had heard the horror stories of psychotics meeting people on the internet and doing horrible things to unsuspecting victims. Karen knew though that Jeremy was not psychotic though, and he agreed to come straight to the house when Karen offered. She had planned to cook dinner, and afterwards they would work out a comfortable sleeping arrangement. She initially imagined that they would simply fall asleep on the couch cuddling, but then she remembered again her deformities. She thought of them so little when she talked on the phone to Jeremy that they almost seemed unreal, but now she could not ignore it anymore.

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  • Reviewed by fjilani  on  April 15th, 2011

    I read the curious story at one go.had suspected jeremy might be scarred too.the end is too abrupt and gives no details! Beauty is afterall within!

  • Reviewed by Maizy Burger  on  April 15th, 2011

    A very nice little read. Could have given more detail on the conversations they had on the phone and described Jeremy in more detail, specially when he walked up to her door. Please write more. I enjoyed it.

  • Reviewed by marta  on  April 15th, 2011

    please, continue the story! it is very interesting.

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