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Skin Deep

by Beverly Forehand

Bunny was a good girl. She was the kind of person that helped lost children find their parents in the mall. She fed stray cats and always had a kind word for door-to-door salesmen. She certainly never let a door drop on anyone or hung up the phone even when the caller had the wrong number.

Bunny made sure to be kind. It pained her to think that she might’ve hurt someone’s feelings, although certainly she never did. Everyone said what a wonderful person Bunny was, how kind-hearted, how good-natured. Friends talked about how she helped at the soup kitchen every Wednesday and how she never forgot a birthday or an anniversary.

Its just a pity, they would say, that, well, she’s not better-looking. And it was a pity. Because surely, people said, if the beauty of a soul could shine through, then Bunny would’ve been a Super Model.

Unfortunately, beauty is skin deep, and plain would’ve been a kindness to Bunny. Bunny was ugly. That’s all there was to it. And Bunny was no fool. She knew that she wasn’t pretty or even attractive. All her life she’d heard people say what a good girl she was.

Pretty girls are told that they are pretty. And even without being told, they can look in the mirror like everyone else. But why bother when you can look in the mirror of everyone else’s face. The world loves a beauty. And Bunny knew that no matter what she did she would never, never see that look of total acceptance that the lovely come to expect as commonplace, as a birthright. And Bunny was not quite willing to accept that.

True, there were procedures. Teeth can be straightened. Hair and bosoms made fuller. In certain countries they’re more than willing to remove a rib or realign a jaw for the right amount of money. But true beauty is something that can’t be bought. It’s more than just the right set of eyes or perfect skin. True beauty is a miracle.

The perfect and unlikely combination of genes and good luck that take a girl (or a boy) from just pretty to breathtaking, that’s what Bunny wanted. And she wanted it more than anything. And Bunny, being a very practical girl, knew that anything that you wanted bad enough and that you were willing to pay enough to get could be yours. This is, after all, the land of opportunity, the land of limitless dreams, and a place where anything and everything is possible if you’re willing to make a deal with the right person.

Bunny knew just what she had to do to get what she wanted. She had read the old tales, and she knew there wasn’t smoke without fire. So, she tried the most likely place. After all, if you can hold bunnies hostage and sell your ex’s wedding dress for $10,000 online, then just about anything (and everything) must be possible in cyberspace.

Bunny created an account and placed her ad. She made sure to use words likely to appeal to the buyer, like “one owner” and “hardly used.” And she was gratified that within a few moments of posting, someone (somewhere) clicked on “Buy it Now.”

Bunny watched as a (1) appeared in her account’s sold column. She smiled and her reflection on the computer’s monitor smiled back at her. She had barely clicked the buyer’s information tab when the phone rang.

“I understand that you’re interested in making an agreement,” the voice on the other end said.”

“Yes,” answered Bunny.

“And you’re quite resolved?” the voice asked.

“Yes, quite.” Said Bunny.

“Well,” the voice said with a smile you could hear, “I’ll be sending one of our associates over so that you can finalize the paperwork in the next few hours. What time would you prefer, Miss?”

“The sooner the better,” said Bunny.

The voice smiled again, “Indeed, Miss.” It said, “I always admire a young woman of such resolution.”

Bunny hung up the receiver, taking a moment to untangle the cord and then there was a knock at the door. “Come in,” she said expecting a fiery flash and maybe a bit of Gothic music. But instead she heard a gruff voice say matter-of-factly, “You’ll have to unlock the door first.”

Bunny fumbled with the lock and the chain on the door a bit anxiously. It wasn’t every day that you met a representative from the Nether Regions. She had combed her hair and put on her best pink sweater. Although she was a firm believer in proper etiquette and never missed an episode of Martha Stewart Living, she didn’t remember Martha ever addressing the ins and outs of these particular circumstances. Still, someone had to be a social pioneer. And just to be polite Bunny had made sure that she had both lemonade and coffee prepared before she placed her auction. Even demons got thirsty. But the man (or what looked like a man) at her front door, didn’t seem interested in the formalities.

“I have lemonade if you’re thirsty,” Bunny said. “Or coffee, if you prefer.”

“Thanks, Kid,” the Demon said, “But to tell you the truth, I just had lunch.”

“Oh,” Bunny said. She hadn’t pictured a Demon having a Big Mac with extra cheese, but from the Styrofoam cup the Demon was shaking, she supposed that’s exactly what he had done.

The Demon shook the cup and tried for another drink. He sighed. “Empty. Do you have some place I can get rid of this?” he asked.

Bunny dutifully took the cup and placed it in the trash. “Styrofoam is really bad for the planet,” she said.

“I’ll try to keep that in mind,” the Demon said, lighting a cigarette.

Bunny frowned but said nothing. After all, she had a lot to gain in this transaction and she didn’t want to upset a houseguest.

“So,” the Demon said, pulling out a bundle of paperwork, “I just got a page that I’m supposed to pick something up here.”

Bunny smiled and gestured to the dining room table. “I didn’t know there’d be so much paperwork!” she said brightly.

“Well, it is a legally binding transaction,” the Demon said.

“Of course,” said Bunny, “If you hand me the paperwork, I’ll be glad to begin. I’m very anxious, in fact,” she said. Bunny was gratified to see that the Demon had marked all the signature lines with fluorescent post-its. It always paid to be organized, in Bunny’s opinion.

She scanned the first few pages and then began signing. After the twentieth page or so, Bunny looked up, “How can I be sure that I’ll be getting exactly what I want?” Bunny asked.

“Look, Kid,” the Demon said, taking a long drag on his cigarette, “You seem like a pretty bright person so I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The Devil never lies. He doesn’t have to. In fact, if the Devil had a used car lot, it’d be just the place you’d want to buy. All the cars would run like a dream and the previous owners really would’ve been little old ladies that only took them out to toodle off to the grocery store. The interiors would still have that honest-to-God new car smell and the A/C would keep you at the perfect degree of frosty.

“You want to know what the kicker would be, Kid?” he asked leaning back against the wall and taking another drag. He closed his eyes and then opened them, “There wouldn’t be one. It would be completely and utterly on the level because when HE makes a deal, it’s for keeps. It’s the Other Side that’s always out to screw you. So, you just read this contract. Nothing’s hidden. No secret catches or balloon payments. It’s completely legit. Only, if I was you, I wouldn’t sign it.”

“Why?” Bunny shouted slamming down the pen, “Don’t I deserve something! I’m willing to pay. What good is it doing me anyway?”

The Demon shrugged. “I can’t really tell you. I mean you people are willing to throw your Souls away easy enough. You give them away and let them die. You don’t seem to care much about the state of your Souls, as it were. But here’s the kick, Kid. I don’t have one, you know? We don’t. Angels, Demons, all us immortal types. It’s the price of the Everlasting. No Soul. No Judgment. We just go on being.”

“It doesn’t sound so bad to me,” Bunny said, “It sounds like Heaven.”

The Demon took another drag. Then flicked a few ashes into his hand. Bunny noticed that he didn’t even flinch. He stubbed out the cigarette and then let out a little tired sigh, “You’d think so, wouldn’t you, Kid. But really, it’s just the opposite.”

“What do you mean?” Bunny asked. “I don’t believe you. You are a Demon, after all. You’re probably lying.”

“Yeah,” he said, “That’s right. And maybe I am. Or maybe I’m not. I’m just saying that I’d think a little about it if I were you. I mean, beauty’s only skin deep right? But the Soul, that goes all the way down to, well, the Soul.”

Bunny picked up the pen, “No one ever is going to say what a nice girl I am again!” She signed by another “Sign Here” post-it and smiled. “No one.”

The Demon lit another cigarette. “No,” he said, “I don’t suppose they will.” He noticed that although the light was dim that Bunny was looking a little prettier with each line she wrote. Her hair was just a few shades lighter and her nose had a perfect lilt to it that was hard to describe. He turned away. It was just too horrible to watch, even for him.

That’s the thing about Demon, or really, the Divine in general. They see more than meets the eye. They see straight to the heart of the matter. And they’re not the only ones. Little kids, animals, crazy folks, lots of others, too, can see who you really are on the inside. Sure, you may be dazzled by a pretty smile for a little while, but even the biggest fool knows a black heart when he meets one. That is, if you let it show. But some people are natural born deceivers.

Born without a pretty face, Bunny decided to make herself a winning personality. And the thing was, that she managed it on some level. Everyone thought she was nice because she did nice things and kept a cheerful smile on her face. But Bunny wasn’t nice because it was her nature. Bunny was nice because it was the price of being loved. And now that Bunny had the pretty face she’d always dreamed of, she really and truly let her black heart shine.

Bunny’s Soul might’ve died long ago if she hadn’t been force-feeding it a steady diet of good deeds. But it was fortunate that she had done that, or she couldn’t have afforded her nice new features. If Bunny were a car, she would’ve been fully loaded. She was perfect. Absolutely breath-taking. That is, if you didn’t look at the eyes. And no one would’ve looked at them for too long.

“So,” Bunny said looking sideways at the Demon from the top of the papers, “What comes next?”

He shrugged. “Hmmm...” she said, “well, I guess you’ll need these.” She walked over slowly and handed him the contract. He stubbed out his second cigarette and pocketed the contract, brushing past the girl. As he turned the door knob, he could tell she was waiting for something. Waiting for him to turn around for one last look. He wasn’t going to, though. He wouldn’t give her that. Even a Demon has his pride.

Behind him, he heard her sigh and drum her fingers on the table, “So,” she asked, “do you think I’m pretty now?”

The Demon sighed and turned the doorknob without looking back, but Bunny never heard him leave. She was looking in the mirror and fluffing her hair. She raised her eyebrows and winked at herself. Beauty might only be skin deep, but Bunny liked what she saw.

Copyright © 2007 by Beverly Forehand

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