A reverse Beauty and the Beast tale;
because why SHOULDN’T the boy fall in love with the ugly girl?
DON’T LOOK AT ME
Genre: New Adult Romance, Suspense, Folklore
Publisher: Fated Hearts Publishing
Publication Date: March 29, 2018
A diligent hand carved this hole in my face.
It stole my confidence, my identity, and ended my short-lived career as a broadcast journalist.
I am now unemployed. Alone. Ugly.
And expected to get over it and move on.
Go on living life as usual—as if the world doesn’t judge the grotesquely unattractive.
It’s been three years since I was kicked out of the Army for nearly killing the opposition’s militia commander with my bare hands.
I am now unemployed. Alone. Angry.
And expected to forget the nightmares that hold me hostage and move on.
Go on living life as usual—as if the world doesn’t judge a dishonorably discharged ex-soldier.
Don’t Look at Me is a modern-day Beauty and the Beast tale—reversed and twisted. Because even the ugly need a good story, and even the beautiful are ugly deep down.
“This is one of the best contemporary retellings of a fairy tale that I have read, ever…”
– Carrie Griffin
“…A real emotional read with a touch of drama and suspense. Who is behind the vicious attacks on local women? So not just your run of the mill- boy meets girl love story.”
– Pauline Anne
“…It is so good, I could not put it down…This book drained me emotionally and left me stunned for a few hours after reading it…”
“There has to be someone who can fix her face. Look at her. She’s hideous.”
“Ma’am. She needs time to heal. She’ll look much better after a few months. After that, if she chooses, we can perform plastic surgery to perfect her face. We won’t know what she’ll need, though, for several months. Even a year or two may—”
“Years!? She’ll be too old to start her career then. No. Unacceptable. We need to find a surgeon who will work on her now. Immediately.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but that will be impossible. Her wounds are severe. To repair the deepest lesion, she needed two-hundred and thirteen stitches…five layers deep in one section. She needs a tremendous amount of time to heal from the surgeries. It will take many—”
“Then I want to take her somewhere else.”
“You’re in New York City, Mrs. Quinn. You won’t find a more capable team.”
“Oh. I will.”
Oh, shut-up, Mother. She’s been carrying on about how repulsive I look since they unraveled my bandages for the first time yesterday. I haven’t looked in a mirror yet, but according to my mother, I’d probably break it if I did. I wish she would just leave the hospital already—my mother and her false sympathy. “Oh, dear, I feel so bad for you.” “Oh, my baby, how could anyone hurt you like this?” “Oh, my love, it pains me to see my daughter hurting so.” Yeah, right. More like it pains her to see me so hideously ugly.
The minute she thinks I’m out of earshot, or sleeping, it’s more like, “There is no way my daughter is leaving this hospital looking like that.” “There has to be someone who can do a better job at fixing that hole in her face; she looks like the goddamned Grand Canyon.” “She’ll never have a broadcasting career now. Who’ll want to look at that on their television screen?” Mother of the Year. That’s my mom.
“Don’t you worry, Haven,” my mother says after vociferating the woes of having a beastly daughter to my doctor. The very tip of her finger, the tippy-top of her nail, grazes beneath the knife-slash on my face. Though she scarcely touches me, I’m acutely aware of the pain it causes. If the look of revulsion on my mother’s face is any indication, I imagine it’s equally painful for her, only for different reasons—she now has Erik, The Phantom as a daughter. Holding her stomach with her free hand, she says, “We’ll have you looking like new in no time. I don’t care what they say, I will find a surgeon who will fix this, this,” she points to my cheek, just barely touching near my ear, “this monstrosity,” she emphasizes.
“No.” I barely make a sound, but it’s the first word I say since the night I walked by myself to my car after work and got slashed by the very man I’d been warning my viewers about. My mother has been doing enough talking for the both of us.
“No? What do you mean, no?” The day my mother found out I accepted a position as news anchor, for a news program that aired at two o’clock in the morning for a television station she’d never heard of in a Pennsylvania town she’d never heard of, she nearly fell forward, her jaw leading the way. That’s the exact response I’m getting right now.
“I don’t want any more surgeries. It hurts too much.” My voice is strained and sounds weak, even to my ears. My face is on fire, and talking only exacerbates it. Since the moment I was flown from Pocono Medical Center to New York Presbyterian Hospital, the slow drip of morphine that feeds my veins has tried relentlessly to lessen the burning agony, but even it has failed. Trying to concentrate on the sterile smell of bleach, or the pleasant chatter of the nurses, even the merciless blathering my mother so needlessly feels she must spew, has done nothing to get my mind off the biting wounds on my face. If I could rip it right off, I would in an instant.
“You cannot go out looking like that, Haven. There was a golf-ball sized hole in your cheek and it looks like they just stuffed it with cotton it’s so swollen, and I don’t even want to mention the long gash across your face.”
She doesn’t want to mention? I should be so lucky.
Two weeks later, I’m back at my home in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. Out of danger of any more infection—that’s what the doctors say. Morphine in the form of pills instead of a drip sit on my side table next to my couch. And I am out of sight of gaping onlookers.
Mother Dearest wants to stay with me after she brings me home, but I can’t stand to hear her unsolicited advice any longer. Yes, I’ll most likely need more surgery. Yes, I look hideous. Yes, I’m embarrassed to go out looking like some kid carved out his science project on my face. But I can’t go through the pain of another surgery. Not right now.
“Please go home, Mom. If you’re here, it’s just going to keep me from sleeping. All I want to do is sleep. Okay?”
She eyes the length of my body backwards—from my thick sweat socks and ratty pajamas to my forever ruined face. A disgrace in the eyes of Mrs. Leighton Quinn. “Fine. Call me if you need me to help with your laundry.” Reading between the words of Hannah Quinn, “I’m sure if you had something clean to wear, you wouldn’t be wearing that atrocity.”
The door closes, my mother at long last on the other side, and reality sets in. My new life. The beast in my very own horror tale. Not even a floor-to-ceiling library to dispel the loneliness. A state I’d better get used to, since I’ll not be venturing out into the public anytime soon.
I sag into the couch and cry. I wish the man who did this to me just killed me then and there. Maybe I wanted to survive that night, wanting desperately to break free and get away. Put it behind me, a cautionary tale to tell my grandchildren, but those feelings flew out the castle window when the doctor explained that in about three years, after several focused surgeries, my scars will barely be visible from a few feet away. Years…and three feet away. How ugly must someone be to require years of plastic surgery and still come out looking like a female Chucky doll? Besides, Hannah Quinn would certainly agree that a one-way trip to Heaven is more desirable than existing permanently flawed.
The first few days in my house are spent sleeping and barely eating, so the fact that I have nothing but sour milk, stale bread, and a quarter jar of peanut butter in the house isn’t a problem.
What feels like acid is eating its way through the walls of my stomach. There is no way I’m going to the grocery store though; I haven’t even looked in a mirror yet—I had my mom cover them with sheets before I came home. “Sitting shiva over the loss of my beauty,” as she so kindly put it. Because asking my mother to bring me food is the equivalent to inviting in the devil, I take out my laptop to find a store that delivers.
Forgetting that a powered-down black laptop screen would reflect my image back to me, I catch a glimpse of my face when I open it. Thank goodness the white square bandage covers the worst part, but the red, swollen, horizontal gash across my face is enough to make me vomit the stale peanut butter sandwich I ate when I woke up.
Getting over myself after several minutes, I search supermarkets that deliver and find there’s a ShopRite in Brodheadsville that will deliver to my address. I order the basics, but add a few—like, twenty—pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. When I’ve placed my order, for delivery two days from now, I dial up the local pizza place and order a chicken parmigiana pie and a two-liter bottle of soda before I go on Amazon and download about a dozen Kindle books. I have a feeling I’m going to be reading a lot in the coming months. At least until my leave of absence is over—at which point, I have no idea what I’ll be doing to earn a living, since I’m pretty sure my mother’s correct in her assumption that my appearance is no longer suitable for television…even if it is just a small local station.
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About J.P. Grider
J.P. Grider is a New Adult and Young Adult author who is a sucker for a good love story – whether it’s reading one or writing one. And when she’s not reading or writing a fairy tale, she’s living one.
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