black and white photo of a rhinoceros

The Nose Job Effect by Ariella Jem

Livia checked the clock on her phone. The doctor was already 15 minutes late. She fiddled with her iPhone, checking her personal email. Nothing. She checked her alter-egos’ email accounts instead.

One of them, the one she hoped would become her actual ego, had an email from her agent. She opened the attachment to find a script for a guest role on a prime-time drama playing a twenty-something grad student; her agent didn’t send her teen roles anymore. She scanned the script and noted the handful of lines the part required. It was pitiful, but she never turned down an audition.

The other alter-ego, the one she hoped no one found out about, had an email from Alex, one of her benefactors. The term “benefactor” was a bit ambiguous, but she had made a pact with herself never to call them what they really were. She gazed down at the new breasts that spilled from her cami; those had been care of Alex and had gotten her a guest spot on a popular vampire series. She was killed off in the second episode, but it was worth it.

Alex was not her only benefactor, she had three others as well. Each was responsible for a different aspect of what made her salable to these soul-sucking casting directors. Sean paid for her tan and her $500 hair salon visits, Charles paid for her wardrobe, Damon paid for her personal trainer, and Alex paid for all of her intense aesthetic modifications.

While she checked her email a woman sat next to her. When Livia looked up she had to resist the urge to cringe. The woman’s orange skin was stretched taut over jutting cheekbones, her nose only a remnant, her lips stretched wide like a frog’s.

“Hello, Livia.”

“I’m sorry, do I know you?” Livia couldn’t look at the horrifying face for too long.

“Not technically, but you will,” the platypus-mouthed woman said.

“That’s cryptic.”

“Look, hun, I’d tell you who I am, but you aren’t going to believe me anyway. I’m just here to deliver a message.”

“A message from who?”

“It’s not important.”

“Yay for clichés.” Livia rolled her eyes.

“I forgot how bitter I was.” The plastic face could not convey the sadness in her voice.

“You’re obviously nuts. I’m going to go sit over here now.” Livia took a seat on the opposite side of the waiting room. The Real Housewives reject followed her.

“The doctor’s going to be another five minutes, and in that time I have to try to change your mind about this nose job.”

“How did you–?”

“Five minutes, hun. Focus, please.” Livia was finally left without a snide thing to say. The only person that knew about the nose job, besides the doctor, was Alex. Since he had to worry about his wife finding out, he wasn’t about to say anything.

“Alex will keep paying for these procedures for the next six years, at which point a nice older man named Franklin’s going to foot the bill.” Livia’s breath caught in her throat audibly. No one knew about Alex. “At first you’re going to get some roles. You’ll even land a blockbuster, but that’s when it gets out of control. You won’t be able to stop altering yourself. One day you’ll look in the mirror and not recognize the freak show staring back at you. You’ll stop getting roles. Your agent will drop you.”

The woman glanced up at the door to the consultation room and then at her watch.

“I’m sorry, I have to go.” The woman rose and leaned down to whisper in Livia’s ear, “Don’t turn into me, hun. Stop while you still can.”

“Wait. Please,” Livia called. The woman paused, halfway to the door, and turned to meet her gaze. Livia paused for dramatic emphasis, then said, “So, nose job equals fame?”

Ariella Jem is freelance writer and YouTuber residing in Madison, Wisconsin. She is the co-founder of A Chance of Eff Bombs, a YouTube channel where she gives weekly opinions, full of colorful language, on everything from books to video games. She is also a full-time student pursuing a BA in creative writing and later a Master’s in Library Science; the former to hone her writing skills, the latter to help steer teens away from bad vampire novels. You can find her on Twitter @AriellaJem.

Lead image: “Horn Of Plenty” (via Flickr user Art G.)