Ugly Duckling


Junior High School Prom – 1996

“Hey Dave, I’ll give you a dollar if you go up and ask Lucy Pinster to dance”!

“Give me a break, Angus”, said Dave. “I have my limits”!

Dave was the heartthrob at Centennial Junior High. He was the best hockey player, he wore just the right clothes, played guitar like his idol, Kurt Cobain, and always had a sullen, rebellious smirk chipped into his perfectly chiselled features. The girls adored him. Angus was his best friend and sidekick. Lucy Pinster was always the butt of everyone’s jokes because she had a pronounced hair lip and lurid red birthmark splotched around both eyes. Her disfigurement made her look supremely angry even on the rare occasions she laughed.

“I’ll give you a dollar too”! chimed in Rory.

“Me too”!!

The chorus of goading went on for a good 10 minutes until almost $20 had been pledged and Dave finally caved.

“Alright, alright”! he cried. “But I want the money up front, you losers”!

As he crossed the dance floor he was surprised to see Lucy Pinster stand up and march towards him. Meeting right under the disco ball in the centre of the gym she asked: “David, would you care to dance with me”?

“I… Um… Sure – I was just about to ask you”.

“I know. I know about the stupid bet you made with your friends”.

“But… but then why do you want to dance with me”.

“Because you’re a good guy, Dave. The other girls talk about how good-looking you are and watch you play hockey but I listen to your music and I know you’re a good guy”.

“Please”, said Dave, ushering her to the middle of the dance floor as the opening chords of I’ll Remember, by Madonna, lilted through the air. He had never felt so small and humbled and he held Lucy close to him. He spent the rest of the night dancing with her, ignoring the lights and the insensitive ridicule when he kissed her deeply and pressed the $20 into the palm of her hand.

“I’m so happy”, she whispered. “Please keep it”.

*

Ste. Anne’s Hospital – 2010

It was the night of the Veterans Ball and Dave was gazing at himself in the bathroom mirror. Ten months earlier an IED in Afghanistan had ripped through the floor of his jeep and sent molten bits of tire rubber into his face and neck. A red splotch of burning weaved its way up his throat and around his eyes in a cobweb of angry scar tissue.

He snorted back a thick line of cocaine on the toilet lid and chugged deeply from a freshly opened bottle of Jack Daniels. “I can’t go to the Ball like this”, he muttered. Slumping onto his cot to watch TV, he heard a gentle tap at his door.

“Who is it”? he spat grumpily. As the door swung open slowly, he was suddenly in the presence of a stunningly beautiful woman.

“Hi, Dave”.

“Lucy”? he gasped, “is it you”?

“Ha! Ha! Of course it’s me”!

“But… but… I mean – what happened”?

“Not very elegant, Dave”, she said in mock rebuke. “I had a little surgery on the lip and the birthmark just faded away after High School. I’m really lucky”.

“You… you’re … you’re…”

“Never mind. I heard you need a date to the Ball tonight”.

“Look at me, Lucy. I can’t”.

“I’ll give you $20 if you spend one more night dancing with me. Your legs still look okay”.

Humbled to the core once again, he got up off the cot and took her hand. “Let’s go”, he said.

As the lights and the music floated through the air at the Veterans Ball, she held him close as she remembered.

“I feel so happy”, he whispered through the pain in his face. “I’ll give you $20 for the song not to end”.

“Keep it”, she whispered back and just before she kissed him she said: “this song doesn’t have to end”.

About Requiem for the Damned

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