***Monday's Child is fair of face, Tuesday's Child is full of grace, Wednesday's Child is full of woe, Thursday's Child has far to go, Friday's Child is loving and giving, Saturday's Child works hard for a living but the Child born on the Sabbath Day is fair and wise and good and gay.***
Analisa Soto didn't own a mirror. Not after the accident. She couldn't bear to look at herself. Not just because she had single-handedly killed her entire family, but also because the beauty that she'd had had been obliterated. She'd thrown out every single magazine that had held pictures from her modeling days and refused calls from her friends. She was in a world of hurt and pain. She didn't want to be reached. She didn't want to be touched. She just hoped that she would pine away like in old stories. She wished she had the strength of will to just end it all but she didn't.
The phone rang and she sat quietly at the kitchen table as she did every day, gazing at the last portrait that she'd had taken of her now-deceased family. Jaeke was almost 16 and was the spitting image of his handsome father, Derrick. Jaymes was 12 and was the baby of the family. Nattaly was her only daughter and best friend and was 14, just weeks from her 15th birthday. Finally, there was Jasen, the eldest and the one that most resembled her dead father, Erik. All dead because of her. A bolt of pain lanced her chest and a small cry escaped her as she clutched the photo close. God, please just let me die!
The phone rang again and she reluctantly put the photo down, stood and walked with the gait of a woman thirty years older than her 35 years and picked up the handset. "Hello?"
"Mrs. Soto? Mrs. Analisa Soto?"
"Congratulations! You've won the grand prize!"
"Won? What are you talking about?"
"The New You contest! Your name was chosen from over sixteen thousand entrants to win the grand prize."
"But ... " Analisa thought for a long moment. "I never entered any contest."
"Well, someone did it for you, but in any case, you've won. Want to know what you've won?"
"Uh, yeah, I guess so."
"You've won a complete makeover, and when I say complete, I mean COMPLETE. Plastic surgery, dental work, everything."
Analisa reached for the chair, not trusting her shaking legs. Was this a cruel joke? "P – Plastic surgery?"
"Yes. Nose job, breast implants, whatever you want."
"Wow." The word drifted from her mouth without much enthusiasm as her eyes caught the photo of her dead family. She wanted to join them so much. Accepting this prize meant that she would have to live again, that she would have to want to live again. And she didn't. "I'll have to decline."
"What, are you kidding me? Do you know how many people would die to have an opportunity like this?"
"Yes, I know, but ... can't you give it to someone else?"
"You've won the prize, Mrs. Soto. If you don't accept it, no one gets it." That seemed unfair. She felt pressured to accept it. "I'll give you some time to think about it, okay?"
"Great. My name's Tina. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
Before she had a chance to respond, the line went dead and Analisa replaced the receiver, not aware that she had done it and returned to her place at the kitchen table. The picture was still there but to her amazement, everyone's faces were turned toward her wearing smiles. She gasped and dropped it, watching in horror as it drifted to the floor. I've been sitting here too long. She knew it. The long days were getting to her. She was slowly losing her mind. With trembling hands, she picked the photo up and turned it over. It was the same as it had always been. Six smiling people.
For the first time in many weeks, she propped the photo up on the fruit bowl, getting it out of her hands. Her family still stared back, their smiles happy and carefree. The rest of the day went slowly. Night came and went. Bright daylight awakened her to the same reality. Nothing had changed. Her family was still gone and her face and soul were still shattered. She shuffled down the stairs as she had every day and went into the kitchen, her eyes falling on the photo.
And stopped dead in her tracks.
Her husband, sons and daughter were all still in the picture but they were all holding phones. Analisa covered her mouth with a shaking hand and tried not to scream. When the phone rang, she really did scream. In the blink of an eye, they went from holding the phones to holding the receivers in their hands. Her family was telling her to answer the phone. Hyperventilating and trembling, she reached for the phone, glancing back at the photo. All was as before. No phones, only smiling people. She gasped into the phone.
"Mrs. Soto, are you all right?"
It was Tina, the woman from the contest. "Uh, yes. Sorry, just an old war wound."
"I've got a lot of them, too." The woman's light laughter soothed her anxiety. "Well, you know what I'm calling about. I need an answer so we can get things started."
She was afraid to but she took a deep breath and looked down at the photo. Nothing changed. "Well, I don't know, Tina. I haven't really thought about it in depth yet." She blinked. The photo changed. They were all facing her, their arms folded in anger and their smiles erased. It startled her so much that she dropped the phone.
"Mrs. Soto? Mrs. Soto!"
"Yes, yes, I'm here. My hand just isn't listening to me this morning."
"Better get some coffee in it quick." Tina laughed. "I really need your answer, Mrs. Soto. Yes or no."
Yes or no. One simple choice. Maybe not so simple. This choice meant life or a slow, agonizing existence. She looked again at the photo, at the anger in her dead family's faces and bodies. She knew what they wanted for her. Life.
"Yes, Tina. I accept the prize."
"Good! I am so glad that you changed your mind. Now, you must come to our clinic on Saturday morning. No one will be there, except staff so you and Dr. Brandon can spend some quality time."
"Oh, no. I can't do that!"
"Tina, I was in a very bad accident nearly a year ago and my face ... " The pain shot through her chest again and she muffled the gasp. "I haven't been out in public since."
"I understand, Mrs. Soto. We deal with disfigured people on a daily basis and it can sometimes be difficult. How about this ... I'll send a private car with a driver who will attend to you while you on your visits to the clinic. And we can always schedule your visits for Saturday when no one else is about."
Still five angry people in the photo. "All right. I guess that will suffice."
"Your driver's name is Otto. He'll pick you up at nine, okay."
"Make sure you wear something with a hood to protect your skin and sunglasses as well."
"All right. We'll see you on Saturday."
Analisa hung up the phone and looked down at the picture. All smiles again. She sighed deeply and began to plan for her visit to the clinic.
* * * * *
Dr. David Brandon shut the door behind him and heaved a weary sigh. Saturday mornings were always his favorite at the clinic but as of late, they'd turned into a long day of work. He missed the lightness of Saturday work, the lunches and the laughter. Now his only company was a cranky radiator and stacks of patient charts and narratives to check over and approve. He went through to his office, fired up the Dell and grabbed the first file folder, making notations as he went.
When the doorbell rang the first time, he didn't believe that he'd heard correctly. The second time, he stood and strode over to the frosted glass and oak door. The third time, he actually spoke.
"Who is it?"
"It's Analisa Soto. I'm here for my nine o'clock appointment."
Appointment? "Uh, I think you're mistaken. The office isn't open on Saturday."
"Thank you any way." The reply was so strange that he opened the door, watching a smartly dressed woman quickly walking away.
"Wait a minute!" David dashed after her, catching her just before she reached the elevator. The woman crumpled in pain, her body racked with tears. "I'm sorry. Maybe one of my staff messed it up."
"No, no. It wasn't meant to be. If you'll let me go, I'll ... "
"Please. At least come back to the office with me. I'd really like to get this figured out." The woman nodded in defeat and allowed him to help her back to the office, seating her in the chair reserved for Maggie, the receptionist. She accepted a tissue and dabbed at her covered face, trying to regain her composure. "Now, I think we should start with who made the appointment for you."
"Her name was Tina."
David didn't hear the rest of her words. Tina. She was the reason that his Saturdays had become work-oriented. She had been the love of his life, a faithful partner who was his wife and lover at home, comedian and office manager at his practice. The day she had died of cancer had been the worst of his life. He had been unable to function for quite a few months before Maggie and the girls got him back up and running. He saw patients and ran the office, but inside, he was still dead. He spent most of his time in this office, drinking in the atmosphere that was Tina, touching her trinkets, rubbing his fingertips over her handwriting, sometimes crying to the picture that sat on the corner of his desk.
"Uh, yes, I'm sorry. You said Tina made the appointment for you?"
"Yes. She was very nice. She even called me back yesterday to let me know that the arrangements for the driver had been made and confirmed that my appointment was at nine. She told me all about the contest ... "
"Yes. The New You contest." David Brandon nearly fainted. He sat down quickly, placed his head between his legs and took slow, deep breaths. The woman sat forward, her voice shaky. "Dr. Brandon?"
"I'm okay. Just give me a minute."
Analisa watched the handsome doctor from beneath her veil, wondering what was going on. If this had been some kind of joke, he wouldn't be acting like he was now. He raised his head and ran his hand over his suddenly sweaty face, his eyes connecting with her hidden ones. "Dr. Brandon, I'm confused."
"So am I, miss ... "
"I am as confused as you are, Mrs. Soto." He took a deep breath, trying to steady his pounding heart. "The woman who called you, Tina, was my wife. She died three years ago."
"She had uterine cancer. Ate her up inside without us knowing it. By the time we found out, it was too late."
"I'm sorry to hear that but it doesn't make any sense. It's like you're saying that I got a phone call from a ghost."
"It would seem that way." They sat silently for a moment, David lost in memories of his dead wife and Analisa remembering the changes in her family's photo. Should she tell him about that? Would he think she was crazy? She certainly did. "She wanted to do a contest and call it The New You and it would be for women who needed some free plastic surgery to return to society." Her heart skipped a beat. "And she picked you."
"Dr. Brandon, she's dead. She couldn't pick me."
"The name is David." He got up and walked over to her, sitting on the edge of the desk. "And no matter what you think, she did pick you and she sent you to me."
Analisa held her breath. She had been alone with her pain for so long. How would it feel to have someone share it? Even just friendship. "I think I should leave."
"Not just yet." He leaned forward, trying to see past the cloth. "Would you remove your face covering and hat, please?"
Her hands were shaking so hard that she was having problems holding onto her purse. "I – I can't."
"May I remove it?"
Once again, a simple choice. Yes or no. "Yes."
David slowly reached out to her, targeting the tucked edge of the black cloth and tugging it loose. She had wound it around her throat a few times, then laid the hat on top of it to flatten it out across her face. He set the hat on the desk and continued his slow unwinding of the fabric, hesitating only slightly when her ruined face came into light.
She had been burned and by the looks of it, quite badly. Her skin had melted down the left side of her face, the skin around the socket pulled and thin. The skin on the right side was perfection, smooth and supple. The burned skin went down her chin and neck and disappeared beneath the collar of her shirt. He kept his perusal dispassionate. It was obvious that she was emotional about her face. He wondered what kind of person she was, if she endlessly gazed at her face or if she totally ignored reflective surfaces of any kind.
"It's bad, isn't it?"
"Yes, Mrs. Soto. It is, but it's fixable."
"Analisa." She gave him a shy smile that went straight to his heart. "My name is Analisa."
"Analisa." David repeated her name, loving its spice. "Analisa, if you will trust me, I can make this much better." Her tentative smile warmed him. "But it will take a long time and a lot of pain."
"Pain, I can deal with." She thought of the family picture. "I've been living with pain for so long that it's my constant companion. And I have nothing but time."
David reached out for her burned hand. She held out her right and he dropped it, holding his hand out again. He waited for her to make the decision. Slowly, she removed the mitten and showed him her nearly webbed hand. Then, with a small measure of courage, she placed it in his hand. He bent and pressed a kiss to its sensitive back.
"Let's get started."
* * * * *
The surgeries began one week later. On a brilliant Saturday morning, she went under David's knife, with Maggie and Khristen serving as assistants. The entire week, everyone that knew the two saw a change, small but definite. David didn't finish his Saturday work and he'd been unusually full of spirit the entire week. He rehired Khristen, along with several others whom had been Tina's pals and whom he couldn't bear to be around once she'd gone. Analisa had placed the snapshot in a frame and moved it into the living room where everyone could see it. Then she called her best friend, Tammy and welcomed her back into her life.
A lot of scar tissue had to be removed and replaced with skin grafts. Some weeks, she was unable to leave her home, due to the pain and the sensitivity of the new skin. Tammy came by and brought Alice, who brought Reverend Martine, who brought his wife, Candice. Soon, old work colleagues, church members and friends were flooding her house with their love, buoying her through the rough times and refilling her empty soul.
But no matter how much pain she was in, she always made it into David's office. She became dependent on seeing the joy in his hazel eyes as he remodeled her twisted flesh and saw success and he became dependent on seeing the desperation leaving her dark brown eyes. After the first ten surgeries, he planned a picnic. It couldn't be outside because of the damaging rays of the sun, but he made a makeshift park in his office, clearing out an entire corner and bringing in four large pallets covered with sod. He took the chinaberry tree from Maggie's desk area and bought two potted mums for atmosphere. Finally, he fixed a fantastic meal: roast beef and mesquite-smoked turkey in finger sandwiches, cole slaw, huge kosher pickles and cherry-topped cheesecake for dessert.
The look on her face was priceless. The untouched side bowed into a beautiful smile while the other side pulled, resembling a partial grimace but it made him puff with pride. It was her first real smile.
"You didn't have to do this, David."
"I know I didn't, but I wanted to." He smiled, laughing at himself for acting like such a teenybopper. "Here. Take your shoes off."
"I can't. I can't bend."
"Then let me."
Analisa watched her surgeon drop to his knees and tenderly lift her leg, sliding her foot out of the loafer. Her hand rested on his shoulder to steady herself and she could feel his warmth through the thin fabric of his shirt. And it felt so good! When he looked up, she saw something on his face ... love? ... but she quickly looked away. She was seeing things again. He held her hand as she stepped up onto the grassy square and made herself comfortable. She was so nervous.
David served the food and the picnic began. Analisa was quiet at first, but once she got past her embarrassment at having to chew awkwardly, she became a magpie. She talked about her family, something she'd only done in fleeting moments. He knew about the accident and the fact that they had all died, with only she as the sole survivor. But he didn't know that Nattaly was an expert fly-fisherwoman. He didn't know that Jaeke was the captain of his soccer team nor that Jaymes was a computer nerd. She spoke warmly of each one of them, without tears but with the sweet remembrance of a mother and wife. His heart went out to her.
In return, he shared stories about Tina. Analisa shoveled down one of her favorite foods, cole slaw while she listened to him talk about how she ran the office and how she always worked to make sure that everyone who came in felt comfortable. There was a distant pain in his eyes as he spoke and out of concern, she found herself reaching for his hand, intending to comfort him.
Their fingers unexpectedly intertwined as if they were old lovers and both were momentarily shocked into silence. David felt something burst in his chest at the warmth of her touch. Her roughened flesh gently stroked his, suddenly making him aware of the barriers that they'd crossed individually and together. That awareness brought a startling fact into significant relief: he was falling in love with her. He raised their conjoined hands and pressed his lips to her sensitive flesh, almost smiling at her gasp.
"David." The caress of his warm lips on her skin was almost more than she could handle. Blood suffused her body, rushing toward her face. His lips traveled upward, covering every inch of healing skin until he reached her throat. Only then did she really believe it was happening. Only then did she give in to her feelings. Only then did she acknowledge his feelings.
Her skin was so warm. He couldn't help kissing her and was happy that she was allowing his to. When he reached her face, he surprised himself by cupping his hand to the injured side, his fingers and eyes tracing the recent scars and the raised, white dead skin that he was slowly cutting away. The untouched side of her face was breathtaking, but the ruined side showed her character and perseverance and her inner pain. He was drawn to that side, to that person and it was that side that he covered with kisses until he reached her mouth.
Analisa closed her eyes and let the passion take her. She opened her mouth as far as she could when his lips touched hers and let her tongue lick the seam of his lips. He groaned and gathered her closer, aching to stroke her but holding back because of the surgeries. She let her hands travel down the length of his chest, sliding over the planes of muscle to fall into his lap and onto his hard cock. He groaned again as her webbed hand closed around him, stroking him.
"Oh, Analisa." The breath caught in her throat as she squeezed him. "It's been so long."
She could do this. She knew she could. She unzipped his pants and his hard cock immediately poked out of the front of his boxers. Analisa smiled at its exuberance and gripped it tightly, giving it long, even strokes and watching his body's response. His eyes seemed to darken with lust as she strummed him like a guitar string. She so wanted to put his in her mouth, to taste her doctor's essence, but she knew her ruined mouth couldn't handle it. She would have him fix that next. Right now, she concentrated on bringing him as much pleasure as she could. She turned her wrist a bit and caught him more firmly in her grasp, using his pre-cum to lubricate the skin and whispered,