Nick sensed that something was wrong. The door was still open, but it had shifted since he'd last walked through it. He set down the drinks in his hand and took a deep breath, realizing what was wrong but trying to manipulate his mind into not believing it.
He slowly walked to the phone and picked it up. The buttons seemed unusually heavy, as if they wanted to resist the will of his fingers. The two rings that met his ears were grating.
She sighed heavily.
"Why did you leave so quickly Kate? I was just getting the drinks. Where are you?"
"I'm down the street. Look Nick, you're a nice guy and all it's just that... I don't know."
"I didn't even hear the front door. Did I offend you or something?"
"I shouldn't have come over in the first place. I'm sorry if I led you on."
"Did you leave because of the scars?"
"Look Nick, I've gotta go. I'm sure you'll find someone nice. I don't want to be a bitch, but please don't call me anymore."
Nick didn't hang up the phone until the recording came on to say he was no longer connected. Then he picked up the drinks and sat down, wondering if he should pretend that Kate was still there. Suddenly, he hated himself. He hated himself more than he ever had in his life. He'd hoped that Kate would be different, that she wouldn't see the scars but the person behind them.
He was kidding himself. Of course she would see the scars. They were all over his face and upper body. Just getting her to come over had been a triumph, a goal he'd finally achieved. All he wanted was to kiss a woman. Just one kiss, one show of acceptance, one person that didn't see the scars.
He took a drink and wished for the millionth time that his life could have been frozen when he was ten, before the accident. He would rather be a child forever than the man that he was. What others didn't understand was that despite his physical deformities, his mind was unrelated.
He often forgot about the scars until someone stared too long or averted their eyes. He had learned the two opposite reactions were close to the same thing.
He set the glass down and went to the mirror. People had always told him that looks didn't matter. But they did. Of course they did. It was easy to avoid the scars until confronted by them. He knew Kate had only come over out of pity. All those girls that had told him he was a great guy, even the girls in the hospitals, and the nurses. They had all lied. It was like telling someone you'd die for them and then chickening out when the chance came to follow through.
Nick walked away from the mirror and into his bedroom. He sat on the bed. The lamp was off but a sideways rectangle of light spilled in through the open door. He was comfortable in the dark, his face hidden. Only in the dark could he hear his voice and disconnect it from the rest of himself.
Then, suddenly, a rare sense of determination passed over him. All he wanted was to feel that someone was being honest. People on the street used their eyes to tell him he was hideous, but no one had ever vocalized it directly to him. He'd heard countless veiled jokes and comments, but never to his face.
He wanted Kate to be honest, to tell him why she had left. Even if he never saw her again, he wanted her to admit that it was the scars that had driven her away and not him. He was not the scars, but simply the body they had attached themselves to.
Nick picked up the bedside phone and dialed her number.
"Nick, I told you tható"
"Kate?" he interrupted.
He paused for a long moment and listened to her steady breathing, imagining that he could feel it on his ear instead of simply hearing it. She had been the nicest but had gone away in the end like all the others. She was the one he wanted to hear the truth from, the truth that he knew but had never heard.
"Why did you leave?"
M.W. HAMEL is a young writer of poetry and prose. He has been published in numerous print and online magazines, as well as several fantasies before sleep. He currently resides somewhere near the Rocky Mountains and takes pride in laughing at the ridiculous state of the world.