“Jen, your breakfast is ready. Do you want it down here, or shall I bring it up?”
“Thanks, mum, can I eat it here?”
Mrs Perks tightened her cheeks, forced her eyes to brighten. A thin smile battled its way across her mouth as she entered the girl’s bedroom.
“Here we are, darling. Oh, you are not in bed?” The bed was patted firmly as the tray was slid across the bedside table.
“Come on, Jen, away from the mirror. Put the brush down, you’ll wear it out.”
The girl was gently led back to bed, settled with a pillow propped against her back. A sturdy wooden tray placed across her legs.
“Smells good, mum, Khao tom?”
“Yes, dear, just as you like it. Not too spicy, a squeeze of lemon and still piping hot. Be careful you don’t burn yourself. Enjoy, I’ll see you later. Your dad and I have to go out, don’t worry, we won’t be too long.”
Mrs Titima Perks was born in Bangkok. Her father owned a gem factory, Titima worked for him when she finished her university degree. Her language skills proved invaluable to the company. She then married one of her customers, Mr Bertie Perks, a jeweller from London. He sold his shop and moved to Bangkok. They now ran the business when Titima’s father retired.
Life was good. Their daughter was everything they could hope for. She looked like her mum, which pleased Bertie. Unfortunately, her cute, but, 'Thai' flat nose did not please Jen. She wanted a bridge, a ‘falang’ nose. She loved her father’s nose, strong and prominent.
The family arguments started two years ago.
“I want a nose job,” Jen announced one morning.
“No, you are too young,” said her mum, stamping her foot almost cracking tiles.
“Your nose is beautiful,” said her father. “It is like your mum’s.”
“Exactly, that’s why I want to change it.” If eyes could burn. “Come on dad, the operation can be my birthday present.”
“You are not having an operation purely for looks at your age. And that is final,” said Titima.
“Soon I’ll be sixteen, then I can do whatever I want.” Jen ran to her room. Tears followed her up the stairs. It didn’t stop there, even though she didn’t mention it again. Daily fuming, pulling and poking at her hated nose. She saved and planned.
The office door opened for them. “Mr and Mrs Perks, lovely to see you again. Please take a seat.” The white-clad man showed them to seats around the coffee table. “Did you think any more about my suggestion?”
“Yes, Doctor, we’ve done nothing but consider your ideas. Can we meet the person you mentioned?”
“I thought you’d say that.” He leant across and pressed a button on his phone. “Ask Khun Samalie to come in, please.”
At the door stood a striking lady, dressed in a fitted business suit and silk blouse. Her lively hair was far from fitted, it escaped any clip and bounced across her shoulders.
“Please call me Sammy,” she said, offering the traditional Thai greeting, the wai, with a respectful bend of the knees, hands to the nose. She slid to the free seat at the table.
Jen finished her breakfast, wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her nightie, and found her way back to her favourite seat at the dressing-table mirror. Before sitting, she leaned forward and touched the glass, checking the angle. It was set perfectly. Smiling, she made her way to her parent's bedroom. The curtains were closed. She felt her way to her mum’s make-up drawer. She opened a lipstick and sniffed deeply. She ran the soft, waxy material on the back of her hand.
“That’s the one,” she said.
Her mirror welcomed her back as any old friend would.
“The operation not be an easy one. The doctor here, and his team, will doubtless succeed. Of that, I do not worry. My concern is the mental effect on your daughter. I must meet with her several times to judge the likely effects. I hope you agree?” said Sammy.
Mr Perks clutched his wife’s hand, almost pleading. He muttered, “Darling?”
“We must do whatever you suggest. When can we start?” Mrs Perks asked.
“How about now?” said Sammy. “Please tell me what happened?”
Mr Perks nudged his wife.
“I refused to allow her to have plastic surgery. She was so desperate to change her looks. So, she went ahead alone.”
“If we’d agreed, we would have made sure the operation was completed professionally,” said Mr Perks.
“You were against it as I was,” said Mrs Perks.
“Please, never mind who was at fault. What happened?” asked Ms Sammy.
“Jen had saved up her pocket money, and found a surgeon she could afford on the web.”
“Yes, she told us she was going to stay with a friend.”
“But, she didn’t stay with a friend. She went to a clinic in Petchaburi, where the quack had his business.”
“Our little girl went all alone to have the op.” Mr Perks touched the corner of his eyes.
“The untrained ‘doctor’ opened our girl’s face and stuffed in silicon.” Mr and Mrs Perks were both crying. Sammy tried to calm them. Urging them to continue.
“The doctor left the room to answer a call. Jen couldn’t wait to see the result of the operation. She started unwrapping the bandages. The sun was at its hottest. It brightly lit the room. Jen needed her glasses to find a mirror. She scrabbled around, finding them in her bag. She held them by one arm in her mouth as she fiddled with her bandages. She looked around and grabbed a small mirror from the table. Then she lay back, tired from the exertion after the op, and admired her swollen face. Her glasses caught the sun's beam and acted as a magnifying glass for the glare, and we guessed some spirits used in cleaning caught the bandages alight. She didn’t feel a thing because of the painkillers. By the time she saw flames she was in shock and failed to remove the wrappings in time. There was no one to help her.” Sniffing, she shook her head. “It’s all my fault.” Mrs Perks crashed her open palms against her temples.
“No, dear, let’s not go through that again,” said Mr Perks.
“Please come home with us and meet our little girl?” asked Mrs Perks.
“Or should we bring her here? Would that be better for you? But I warn you she may be against that idea,” said Mr Perks.
“Really? Why?” asked Sammy.
“It is difficult to get her away from her mirror.”
“But she has no eyes!” said Sammy.
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Loved your story. Reminds me of something my dad would tell me to teach me about the dangers of vanity (he’s from Laos). Great job!
Thank you for the comments. How do you like Laos?
Too young to appreciate it the last time I went there, but I would love to go back for a visit when I'm able.
We are all waiting for some freedom from COVID. Thailand is getting worse!
I hope things get better soon. Thoughts and prayers
Dark story. I like the ending and twist to it, and I also really like the use Thai culture throughout the story, it makes it all so much more interesting to read. Nice work.
Thanks, Alex. My wife is Thai, so easy to find spooks here!