Vanity

Now Belen’s was a different story. Even this side of town everyone had heard of her. How, when she was a baby a dog had eaten her face off, skinned it like a banana.

I wonder how much of Belen’s face is gone, my brother said. They say her face would make you sick, that’s why she never takes the mask off.

At least she’s got eyes, I said.

That’s strange. Wouldn’t the dog have gone for the eyes first? They’re soft and salty.

How do you know that?

I once ate one at the market, he said.

Well, maybe he chewed the nose first, the ears and anything that sticks out.

Everyone in town had a different theory on the damage. That instead of ears she had holes, that where the nose used to be the protruding cartilage showed through, that the dog only ate her hair but she was too vain to be bald, that she had no lips and couldn’t talk. 

One thing most people agreed on is that if you looked at her real face you would feel sad for the rest of your life. Even my brother, who as a troublemaker and was always proud of not agreeing with anyone, thought that was true. 

That’s why one day we set out to see her face. Of course, it had all been his idea. As the younger one, I was never allowed to come up with new ideas.

But we’ll have to get the bus and be quick, he said.

How will we do it?

Easy, you idiot. You’ll have to talk to her, make sure she’s distracted. They said she’s weary of strangers. I’ll take care of the rest.

So we got the bus to the next town, where she used to live with her mum, a nice lady who rarely went out except to church.  

She was sitting on her porch and tried to run inside as soon as she saw me. I managed to get her talking to me, please can you tell me where I can find a shop, I’m very thirsty in this heat. On the other side of that house, she pointed, turning her head under the mask and pointing to the left. Behind her, my brother leapt to action. He pinned her arms behind the chair. Quick you idiot, take the mask off! I did as I was told and threw the mask to the ground. She was strong for a girl, but my brother was older and a boy.

We jumped back when we saw her face.

Come on, let’s go! And before he’d let go of her arms I was already running for the bus. 

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