It was the final appointment. The therapist held up a hand mirror to her face and the reflection staring back reminded Gillian of ironing. Specifically, her silk nightgown, criss-crossed with creases when removed from the washing machine, smooth and lustrous when the ironing lady returned it.
‘Well then, what do you think?’ asked the woman whose name she could not recall. She looked like an attractive cyborg, with augmented cheekbones and wider eyes than were normal.
‘I look ironed out. Good, I think.’
‘Your husband will love it.’
Gillian tried to frown, but her forehead wouldn’t move, like a car bogged in mud, the tyres spinning.
‘My husband left me, for a young girl. She’s only a few years older than our eldest.’
The therapist blanched and took the mirror, her eyes even wider. ‘I’m sorry. Would you like to make another appointment? Three months would take us up to April.’
‘I’ll let you know. He may have cut all funding by then. Can you buy DIY kits? Just kidding.’
The woman scrawled something on Gillian’s file. She wondered if it was ‘nutcase.’
Gillian thanked the therapist and left. She scurried through the reception of Aesthetic House with its overstuffed blue linen armchairs and vases of lilies, avoiding eye contact with the other clients. There was a chance she would know some of them. Small talk was essential for encounters in the supermarket, the clothing boutique or the artisan baker. At the cosmetic surgery clinic it was just awkward.
Gillian had orchestrated the removal of every line earned during her twenty-year marriage. The giving birth lines, the brutal argument lines, the staggering boredom lines and the affair lines. Her face would be a symbol of new beginnings.
A tag team of friends in a similar predicament were her solace. They met in bars and restaurants, working their way through endless bottles of wine and champagne. Gillian found it hysterical they had forgotten how to flirt, chortling with embarrassment when men tried to pick them up.
The evening after her last appointment she met them at Kyoto Kitchen, a restaurant and bar. The walls were lined with gridded wood and samurai swords, contrasting with steel-cage industrial light fittings. They ordered mojitos at the bar, talking over each other. Waitresses wearing shifts in antique kimono fabric brought platters of edamame beans and trout sashimi. Hip-hop thudded from the sound system.
She drew in her breath as a middle-aged man entered and pulled up a stool at the bar. He was carrying some weight around his middle and had greyed at the temple, but she would have recognized him anywhere. She downed the rest of her mojito and adjusted her skirt. ‘Excuse me for a moment,’ she murmured, slipping away from her friends.
Gillian stood close to him, leaning her forearm against the marble bar.
‘Well, well,’ she said ‘is it really you Tomas?’
Her ex-boyfriend, her great love, raised an eyebrow. He took a swig of his Asahi and stared.
Gillian had imagined this moment for twenty years—the chemistry buzzing between them, the witty ripostes. She was certain he would express regret for his actions. Later, they would find a quiet alcove and explore each other. The years would fall away and they would be the same young couple, so in love they did not dare speak of it.
‘Do I know you?’ asked Tomas with an uncertain grin.
Gillian’s hand fluttered to her smoothed-out face and once again, she attempted to frown.