Raquel gazed at her reflection as she brushed her impossibly straight chestnut hair that framed a pudgy face. Hazel eyes stared back at her. She’d given up on the idea of Cinderella one day staring back at her. Knowing that it wouldn’t make much difference, she applied some red lipstick before heading out the door to the school where she worked.
Gathered around the staffroom table was the popular group of teachers including the man she secretly had a crush on: Nick Jones. To this day, this six feet something man with his ruffled, blond hair with a tinge of red and his piercing blue eyes, had never given her the time of day except to call her “naïve”.
Raquel eavesdropped on the conversation, which had turned to the war in Vietnam of which she had protested against in the city along with hundreds of others.
‘I’m going to go and fight for democracy for a nation of people who sorely need it!’ Nick declared.
Raquel bit her lip in order to stifle her scream. Her attempt to remain silent however was in vain.
‘Are you out of your mind?’ she yelled. ‘Have you seen the news lately? Hundreds of Aussie soldiers are being killed over there! As for the ones who make it home, they’re sneaking them in in the middle of the night! There’s no welcome home parade for these soldiers! Do you want to be one of them? The returned soldiers are saying that fighting the enemy is like fighting a shadow. They don’t even know who the enemy is! It’s ten times worse than World War One, World War Two and Korea combined!’
The group of so called elite teachers simply stared at her. Nick took a sip of his coffee, set down his mug and said. ‘You forgot to mention Malaya.’
Raquel was like one of their students as she jumped up and down and shoved an index finger in his face. ‘Don’t trivialize this! Don’t you dare make a joke out of it!’ She clutched her head and wandered aimlessly around the room. ‘What are you thinking going to Vietnam? Let them fight their own battles!’
‘That’s the thing!’ Nick exclaimed. ‘They can’t fight for themselves. This is why we need to help them.’
Raquel scoffed. ‘To think you had the nerve to call me naïve! I know who the naïve person is! Do you seriously think you can go over there and solve their problems?’
‘It’s not my intention to save the world, Raquel.’
‘Nor is it mine! But I strongly believe in solving the world’s issues without looking down the barrel of a gun!’
Nick shook his head. ‘Well, I guess that’s what makes us so different then.’
With that, he turned back to the group and they continued talking.
A seething Raquel stormed out of the staffroom, pushing the door open and walking out into the yard where a storm had just begun. It was raining but she didn’t care. She spread her arms out and looked up at the cloudy sky. Suddenly, there was thunder and a bolt of lightning flashed and hit her causing her to black out as she hit the ground.
* * *
Months later found Raquel in hospital recovering and eating yet another bowl of red jelly. Visitors including members of staff and some students had come to see her and this morning she’d been informed a very special visitor was coming to see her in the afternoon.
‘Who is it?’ she asked her colleague Stella.
‘You’ll see!’ Stella replied.
That afternoon, none other than Nick strode into the ward and stood before her bed. Raquel blushed and fiddled with her hair. She must look like a total wreck. Nick on the other hand looked like his usual handsome self. She wondered why he was back from Vietnam already.
After he left, Stella spoke to her again. ‘So, what did you think of Nick?’ she asked.
‘Same as ever!’
‘Pity about the bomb explosion bringing him home so soon. He now walks with that limp and his face is covered in scars and burns. So sad to see.’
Raquel raised an eyebrow. ‘What are you talking about? He looked like his usual self to me!’
Stella shook her head. ‘You must still be in shock,’ she said. She reached over and gave her friend a hug before she bid her farewell and headed out the door.
* * *
Nick decided to visit the school and say “hi” to his colleagues some of whom had visited Raquel.
‘Have you seen her yet?’ asked Gael.
‘Yeah, the same plain Jane as always,’ Dominique quipped.
Nick shook his head. ‘I thought she looked beautiful,’ he said. ‘She was glowing.’
Gael raised an eyebrow. ‘Are you serious? She still looks like she’s been hit with the ugly stick.’
Nick smiled. ‘I think she’s the most gorgeous girl in the world and I’m going to tell her that when I visit her again tomorrow.’
* * *
He did just that visiting her just as he’d said with a bunch of bright and brilliantly colourful flowers. Her eyes lit up when he walked into the room and their eyes locked. To everyone else they were unattractive, ravished souls who’d been damaged but to each other they were the most attractive people in the world for by some mercurial mystery due to their accidents they both no longer saw human flaws – only beauty. For some unexplained reason they had developed supernatural and superhuman abilities to only see beauty both inside and out despite each other’s flaws: his burns caused by the bomb blast in Vietnam and her ordinary features on her countenance. And in each other they found the half of the flesh and blood that now made them whole. From now on they could take all the wrongs from the past and make them right. Raquel’s secret love was now a reality with Nick’s smile beaming rays of cheerfulness at her. She was ready for some joy and happiness, and the future looked sunny.