Copyright©2006; By Carl Cox
The truth will set you free, yeah! That’s right!
“None taken. I know, she’s not going to know who I am, and if I approach her like this, I’m likely to scare her off. You’re going to have to talk to her first.”
“What Am I going to say? I can’t just tell her you want to kiss her because she happens to be the ugliest person we know.”
“We’ll just have to tell her the truth.”
The house was dark when they arrived. Marcus pointed to a window on the second floor.
“I think that’s her room. What do we do now?”
David thought for a moment. “we’re going to have to get her attention somehow. I don’t want to wake up her parents.” He looked around, then noticed a trellis on one side of the porch. “Look, you can use that to climb up.”
“What? Why me?”
“Take a good look at me,” David said. “If she sees me before I have a chance to explain what’s going on, she’ll wake up half the neighborhood with her screaming.”
Marcus nodded, then carefully crept towards the trellis and began to climb it. After a moment, he was standing on the roof over the front porch. He looked down at David, an expression of fear on his face, and then gently tapped on the window.
Immediately, a light came on behind the closed curtains. After a moment, one edge of the curtain moved aside to reveal an eye staring out in bright panic.
“Who are you?” she said, her voice trembling. “Get away from here right now, or I’m going to call the police!”
“Sara, it’s me, Marcus, from your class!”
She studied him for a moment. “What do you want?”
“We need to talk to you.”
Her eye narrowed in suspicion. “About what?”
“Look, do you think you could come down? It’s important.”
She hesitated for a moment, then sighed in resignation. “All right. I’ll meet you at the side of the house.”
By the time Marcus climbed back down, Sara was emerging from the front door, wearing pajamas and a pair of old tennis shoes. She motioned Marcus towards the shadows between the fence and the house. David followed, trying to keep his face hidden.
“so, what do you need to talk to me about?” she demanded. “are you here to make fun of me?”
Her voice was surprisingly pleasant, a rich deep timbre that was incongruous with the face it was coming out of.
“No,” Marcus said, “we need your help.”
“My help? What can I possibly do?”
At that moment, David approached her, the light from the street revealing his hideous face. Instead of screaming, Sara just looked puzzled.
“Who is this?”
“It’s me, Sara: David, from your class.”
She looked at him for a moment.
“It’s a long story,” Marcus began. He related the tale, the girl listening in rapt attention.
“I know it sounds crazy,” David said.
“No,” Sara said quietly, “It doesn’t sound crazy; not to me.”
“Anyway,” Marcus said, “the only way he can get it off is, well, if someone kisses him.”
She looked at him sharply.
“Sara,” David said, “there’s no nice way to say this, so I’m just going to say it. The man at the shop said the only way I can get this mask off is if I kiss someone as ugly as I am. I know you probably think I’m a jerk for saying it, but you’re the only person I could think of, and I’m desperate. Please.”
She studied him for a moment, her face an unreadable mask. At last, she said, “Okay, I’ll do it. But only because you’re the only one in the class who never made a comment about my face. But I want something in return.”
“Of course,” David said quickly. “Anything.”
“I want you to take me to the Autumn Dance.”
David thought for a moment. He had wanted to take Jessica, but she had turned out to be just like the others who had laughed at him. Sara, on the other hand, was offering to give him his life back, even if she was ugly as sin. He wondered what people would say when they saw him enter with someone like Sara on his arm; of course, he thought, they would laugh. And then it occurred to him: who cares whether they laughed or not? He no longer cared what anyone might think.
He smiled, the action making his face even uglier.
“Sara, I would be honored to take you to the dance.”
She smiled, only marginally less horribly than David, and then turned to Marcus.
“Marcus, you need to take a walk.”
Marcus looked surprised.
“What? What for?”
“Because I don’t kiss in front of other people, all right?” she said impatiently.
“Oh, all right,” Marcus said in exasperation. “David, I’ll meet you back at the park.” And with that, he disappeared up the street.
Sara turned towards him.
“Come on, let’s go into the back yard.”
David followed her along the edge of the house, and through the gate leading into the back yard. They sat on the porch swing. Sara turned towards him.
“Well…” David began, “I think I should tell you, I’ve never kissed a girl before.”
She looked amused. “You’ve kissed boys?”
“No!” he said quickly. “I mean, I don’t really know what to do.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’ve never kissed a boy either. But I don’t think it’s that difficult.”
She leaned towards him, her eyes closed.
Well, David thought, here we go.
He leaned towards her, and felt the soft touch of her lips on his. A thrill went through him as the warmth of her flesh spread from his mouth to every part of him. They sat like that, their lips slightly parted, and suddenly, David felt his skin pulling away from his face. He could no longer feel Sara’s lips against his, only the pressure of her mouth as it pressed against the rubber of the mask.
He backed away quickly, pulling the mask over his head. The feeling of relief was overwhelming, and he turned towards Sara to thank her, but what he saw stopped him in his tracks.
To his horror, he saw that Sara had grabbed the hair at the back of her neck and was pulling it sharply upwards. The skin of her face was wrinkled, and as he watched, the flesh pulled away from her face as the entire top of her head came off. She continued to tug at the mask, pulling it down over her face, and suddenly the mask lay in her hands, revealing her gently smiling face.
David stared at her in disbelief. Her strawberry-blond hair was dishveled, and strands of it were plastered to her forehead with sweat, but her skin was smooth and clean. The coarse, ugly features that had been there only a moment before had been replaced with fine, delicate ones.
David stared in fascination at the spray of freckles across her small, unturned nose. He studied her for a moment, and without thinking said, “You… you’re beautiful.”
She smiled, revealing even rows of pretty white teeth, and DAvid felt his heart melt.
“Thank you,” she said quietly. “I didn’t think I would ever get that thing off.”
“But… you… it was a mask all along?” David asked.
She nodded. “I got it last year at a shop in the last town I lived in. I thought I was going to look that way forever.”
They both looked at the masks they held, and simultaneously threw them to the ground in revulsion.
“How many of those masks do you think there are?” David whispered.
“I don’t know,” Sara said. “And I think we’re better off that way.”
“So,” David said, “what now?”
“Now,” she said smiling, “we both try to get sme sleep. You’re taking me to the Autumn Dance, and I want to dance every single song. You’re going to need all you energy.”
David laughed, then took her by the hand.
“Thank you, Sara.”
She smiled warmly.
“I forgot to mention,” she said. “I still have one more condition.”
“I expect another kiss after the dance.”
He looked at her for a moment, then pulled her close. “Sara, I don’t think that will be a problem.” And he kissed her again.