Nip & Tuck
I’m not nervous today, even though the hospital isn’t exactly welcoming. Obviously they’re not generally built to be, hospitals, all naked strip lighting and stinking of bleach, but there’s something about this one that feels extra clinical and impersonal. But that’s probably because it’s a world away from my job, where it’s vital to make the client feel at home, pampered, special. It takes a particular attention to comfort to become a proper beautician.
I started on nails – in this town actually, it’s where I grew up and went to school before I got the hell out – and worked my way up to spa massages. Lot more money in it.
I’d die if anyone saw me in this gown; bile green and a great big hole down the back. Still, that’s not likely. I’ve only seen one person I recognise so far and that’s the mother of a girl I went to school with, in the newsagent when I stopped for a bottle of sparkling mineral water. They didn’t have any. She looked at me like I was an alien; I’m not surprised really, no one round here bothers with tanning or hair extensions or good nails.
It’s a very minor procedure I’m having. I’m not even going to be in overnight. My boyfriend will come and pick me up afterwards, once he’s finished training. He’s a semi-professional footballer – oh yes. I went straight from the captain of the football team at school to him, there’s something about these sporty types. And I do love the lifestyle. When he’s not a footballer he’s a decorator – that comes in handy too, I’ve done my lounge twice so far this year.
The nurses are very no-nonsense here, no chat, no laughs. All except one; Ellie she’s called, lovely big woman who doesn’t give a shit about her figure and talks about eating donuts all day and wondering when the father of her kids is going to propose.
I do as I’m told and make myself comfy. Despite the rubbish hospital gown I’m stuck with, I’m looking pretty hot. I take going under a general anaesthetic very seriously; if I’d made a will, I would have updated it; I kissed all my little dogs goodbye, made sure the house was really tidy and told my little sister which is my good jewellery and which is the high street crap. Then I had my extensions done, my nails, a full wax, make up, the works. I wanna be a hot corpse!
Lying back on the bed with the doctors looming over me probably isn’t my most flattering angle but I think it’s fair to say I couldn’t have tried any harder. I remember to keep a wide smile on my face as I’m wheeled through to the operating theatre; you never know who you might bump into in transit (some of the doctors are really hot!).
The next face leaning over me is familiar. “Hi Lucy,” it says.
“Hi,” I say, uncertainly, “I’m sorry, I’m sure I know you but I just can’t place you. Where did we meet?”
“Trust you,” she says with a tiny upturn of her mouth, “trust you, Lucy, not to remember.”
She is swabbing something with wet cotton wool. Shit, I think to myself, did I nick her husband at some point? It’s so hard to keep track. She’s around my age and, I know it sounds brutal, but I always think anyone my age who’s married must be just in a starter marriage, one that’s coming to an end shortly. Fair game. Though, I’ve discovered to my cost that not everyone sees it that way. Oh god, this might be really awkward.
“Sorry, but I don’t. How do we know each other?” She’s plain this woman and normally I wouldn’t give her a second glance or be interested in anything she had to say; there’s just dust coming out of her mouth instead of interesting conversation or, better, gossip. If I met her at a party I’d be counting the seconds until I could get away and I wouldn’t be subtle about it either. Sadly, I’m stuck on this trolley, practically strapped down.
She looks down and it sounds like she’s counting quietly under her breath. Then she stares me in the eye and says, calmly, “We were at school together”. And it all falls into place – she is Kim someone-or-other. A girl in my class. Left just before we did GCSEs. Christ knows how she ended up working in a hospital without qualifications, presumably she’s some kind of porter.
I haven’t given Kim a thought since she left and, to be honest, I didn’t think about her much before that. She was bland, I remember that, boring, a swot with one drippy friend, totally wet and never went to parties, never drank, never saw boys. No fun, not a teenager at all; a crap, dull virgin. Krappy Kim, that’s what we called her I think. God, I didn’t even make the effort to bully her properly. Just as well, I think now with a little giggle, with her standing over me while I’m about to go into surgery.
“You took my lunch money.” She looks really annoyed, even though it was years ago; these bright pink spots have appeared high up on her cheeks. “Oh God, did I? I could be a little bitch back then.” I laugh as loud as I can. Over the years I’ve bumped into a few girls I so-called ‘bullied’ and I find this the best way to deal with them, they soon pipe down. “You took my lunch money every day, Lucy, every single day I was at that school. And sometimes you took it just so you could flush it down the toilet.”She doesn’t smile and she doesn’t look away.
I try and smooth it over. “So, what are you up to these days?”
She does smile then and it transforms her face; she looks almost beautiful. “Why, I’m a surgeon. I’ll be undertaking your operation today.”
The thing she’s swabbing with cotton wool is a scalpel. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.