The Price of Beauty. Short Story.

Selena carefully dabbed the moisturiser onto her face, the smell of it was intoxicating and already it was filling the air. As she breathed deeply she felt a calmness spread through her body, relaxing every muscle. As she rubbed it into her skin she could feel it tighten, the wrinkles were being smoothed away. It really was marvellous stuff. Illegal so far, but soon everyone would catch up with the times, they used it all the time over in Europe according to Debra. Selena looked at herself in the mirror and smiled, it really did do wonders for the skin.

Selena looked at the small pot sitting on her dressing room table, she was only supposed to use it for special occasions, but she was feeling down today. Surely that was reason enough to use it? Just a little boost to help her get through the rest of the day. No one was going to see her, but she’d feel better about herself. Her hand hovered over the small pot, there wasn’t a whole lot in it, but a little went a long way. Besides Debra could always get her more, it was expensive but Selena could afford it.

Selena examined her face in the mirror, her skin was starting to feel itchy. Debra had warned her about that, using too much too often would create this weird itchiness, the only cure was to lay off the cream for a while. Though Selena hadn’t been using it all that much, maybe every second or third day. She carefully poked and prodded at her skin, it seemed that her face was slightly swollen, perhaps some kind of mild allergic reaction? Or maybe the cream was more harsh than Debra had let on. That wouldn’t be a huge shock, Debra was always trying to underplay all the cosmetic procedures she had had, brushing it away with an “Oh it was nothing really, people just like to make a bigger deal out of it than it is.” Selena sighed, the cream had been amazing but perhaps she should give it a rest for a little while. She had asked around a few of their friends, discretely of course, and none of them had ever heard of it, which was unusual. Debra was always crowing about this new treatment or cream that she was using.

Selena looked at herself in horror, her face was still slightly swollen but now it was bright red, small dark red circles, almost like pinpricks, dotted her face. Selena carefully dabbed her face with a cold cloth, sighing as it took away some of the heat. She had tried to ring Debra, but she wasn’t answering, probably off on another trip somewhere. Carefully Selena moved her hands along her face, feeling and testing, it was still sore and hot to the touch, but that seemed to be the worst of it. Hopefully it the swelling would go down in a few hours.

It didn’t. Her face was more swollen than it had been before and now the heat radiating from it was intense. Debra had finally called her back and dismissed her worries, telling her that it happened sometimes and she’d be fine in a day or two.

Selena turned her head a little, it looked like the swelling had gone down, even if it wasn’t by much. She had also broken out in a couple of pimples, something which hadn’t happened for a long time. She had tried to clean the area a little but anything other than plain water stung, and she could only gingerly dab at her face with a soft towel. She sighed, hopefully in a day or two they’d be gone.

The pimples had gotten worse, she hadn’t left the house for the past three days, how could she? Looking like this? The swelling and redness had gotten worse, as had the pimples, what was a small smattering became huge lumps that covered almost her entire face. Debra had again told her it was fine, that was just what happened, in a few days it would all go down and she’d look better than ever. Selena was doubting it, how could she ever look the same again? What if her face was just stuck like this?

Selena winced as another pimple popped under her fingers. Instead of the relief she had expected instead there was only pain. The pimples weren’t going down, they were just getting worse, seemingly by the hour. The swelling had gone down a little, as had the redness, which was something. She looked down at the pus on her fingers and carefully washed it away. Her hands were dry and getting a little sore from all the washing, but she had to get rid of these damned things. Part of her wanted to find a dermatologist but another part was ashamed. How would she even explain how she had gotten herself into this mess? Besides that the cream was illegal, she couldn’t very well say she was using it. She had tried looking it up on the internet, but that was a bust. Debra wasn’t taking her calls anymore, the last one had ended with a frustrated sigh, “I’m telling you it’s fine. Stop calling me about your face. Just relax and give it a few days. I’ll ring you on Friday and then we can laugh about how silly you’re being, ok?”

The swelling was finally gone, as was the redness, the pimples remained though, along with all the scabs from the burst ones. It really did look dreadful, like some kind of wrinkled, acne-ridden teenager. The larger pimples were deep, she could feel them bulging against the surface of her skin, each one carefully and painfully felt out. She felt off, tired, a little feverish. Obviously the stress of all this had taken its toll on her. Once it was over she’d have to take a nice vacation somewhere, somewhere quiet, where no one would see her.

Selena lay in bed, she couldn’t sleep, her face was hurting again, a steady throbbing, she just knew that in the morning it would be swollen and red again and this entire thing would just start all over. Screw that stupid bitch Debra, she had made an appointment for the dermatologist, she’d get this all sorted tomorrow. And if they couldn’t fix it well, they could at least give her something to bring down the swelling and reduce the pain.

Selena woke the next morning feeling better, the steady throbbing in her face was gone. As she rolled over she screamed, there was blood on her pillow. Selena raced to the mirror, it seemed like the pimples had popped while she was asleep. She carefully cleaned off her face, the holes where the pimples were seemed deeper than they should have been, the dermatologist would give her something to help the wounds heal at least. As she cleaned her bedding, Selena didn’t notice the thin trails of blood that lead from her pillow and off her bed. By noon the holes had shrunk and her skin seemed to have tightened up again. If anything Debra had been right, without the small wounds, which seemed to be shrinking by the second, her skin really did look better than ever. She picked up the small pot, there was still a quarter of it left, she held it in her hands for a moment before putting it down again. Maybe it was worth it after all.



About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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