Author : Kirstie Olley

My name is Leila and I used to be the queen bee at school. If I curled my hair, all the girls curled their hair. If I cut one side short and left the other long, everyone did. If I shaved the Queen of Hearts into the short side of my hair, my class became a deck of cards.

Then Dad got promoted. The generous pay rise was off-set by a massive move. We relocated, and I changed schools.

I thought I’d just swan in, gorgeous as always and charm everyone, but they all stared at me like I was a freak.

At first I thought it was the Queen of Hearts still shaved into the side of my head, so I let my hair grow out, but they didn’t stop avoiding me.

I noticed everyone at school was bald. So hair must be out here, I’d heard of the trend before, so I shaved my head, waxed off every hair I could find. They stopped staring but no one talked to me.

Everyone was pale too, so my Californian tan stuck out. I begged Dad non-stop for a week, total ‘are we there yet?’ style torture until he agreed to pay for a procedure that bleaches the tan out of your skin.

He was still nervous when he took me to the cosmetic surgeon.

“This procedure isn’t unusual, particularly out here. People just want to fit in, not just teenagers, but children and adults too,” the nurse assured dad, her eyes on his ever-jiggling leg as he sat beside me. “And it’s not permanent either.”

Dad’s lips twitched in a way that said he knew that was more a plus for the surgeons than for the patients.

The next day at school I swanned in with my lovely new pale skin, my scalp freshly shaved, but still, no one talked with me.

I don’t think you really get it. This is agony for me. Sure it can’t be easy being the outsider all the time, but imagine if you’d had a taste of being not just in, but being the trend setter.

I spent the next week in my room. I didn’t go to school. I couldn’t.

Then the internet gave me the solution. There were other procedures.

It took longer to convince Dad of these ones. These ones were permanent. He thinks I don’t know, but he looked into getting transferred back to California, but his bosses refused. I even heard him discuss with Susan quitting and finding another job, but in this economy, with unemployment rates so high, they agreed it was too risky.

It’s a weird sensation going under general anaesthetic, the creeping in vagueness, the world misting away.

My recovery took months, but now the bruising is gone and the scarring is hidden.

I look perfect: silvery pale, hairless, my features elongated, my big dark eyes, my nose so small and flat it’s barely there.

Finally I’ll fit in with everyone else on this planet.


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