Jacqueline parked her bulky four-wheel drive along the sloping sidewalk, stepped out and slammed the door with a vicious jerk and a muted, safe sound. She casually locked the doors with her infrared remote control. She seemed cool as a cucumber, but she was crazy about that Star-Trek-like gadget, and had never quite got over it. 'Beam me up Scotty,' she thought. In winter, Montreal looked so much like a lunar station, and you hardly ventured outdoors in the icy wind and the razor-like snow. Inside, doors were swishing open onto overheated uptown fashion stores, swishing shut behind you. Swish swish-'Jacqueline dear, so lovely!' Some nights she dreamt of the vast glass roofs overhead in the mall, like the giant windscreen of a comfortable space ship boldly scudding into the unknown. She dreamt of that dizzying feeling, spending a workman's monthly pay on one shopping afternoon. How deliciously immoral. And the nauseous sweet smell of donuts and tasteless coffee in the dining plazas, buried deep in the concrete wombs of sun-proof, labyrinthine underground commercial centres. What a life.
She walked briskly down the sidewalk, stopping almost immediately to look into the window of some perfume shop; she would have to see that lipstick again, after her appointment. To think she may not have seen it. Gee. Behind her she saw, reflected in the shop-window, passers-by ogling her as she bent down to see the lipstick better. She was as fresh as a plane-imported daisy in that sweltering July day. Her air-conditioned car ensured no wet spot appeared at her armpits or in the small of her back. Teenagers, married men, schoolboys soaked in perspiration, had eyed her gluttonously everywhere she had gone that morning. A lot of women too could not take their eyes off her body. That made her uncomfortable though; go away will you, she thought in those cases. Will you please go. She reached number 546, rue du Port, and climbed the chipped blue painted iron stairs. She rang and went in.
The secretary was one of those women with prying eyes, all the more efficient, and all the more hateful since they know what to gauge in a second. Let me see that bottom, hmm, well. Lucky bitch. She asked her name, checked it on her planning, and invited her to sit down in a voice like that of an answering machine you would have left on the factory setting. "Doctor Williams will be seeing you in a minute". All the while she kept scanning Jacqueline from head to foot and back. Her first glance had aroused a jealous curiosity. She watched her hips, her peach-like skin, her delicate features, her sublime complexion, her breasts that stretched the light fabric of her tight apricot blouse. What you doing here baby? she thought, and discreetly sniggered her bitterness off. It was not the first time in her sixteen-year career she had seen a gorgeous young woman come to a plastic surgeon's, anyway.
Jacqueline tried to reckon, as she waited politely, neatly seated on the hard orange plastic chair, how many doctors she had seen already. She crossed her legs and tilted her head a little on one side, as if trying to suggest reflection to potential onlookers. This doctor was her third in the eastern, French-speaking part of Montreal, though he was called Williams and was certainly an "Anglo". She had already seen four specialists, including a woman, in Westmount and Outremont, plus three in Laval and Sherbrooke. Next step may have to be Toronto. The telephone rang on the secretary's desk. She picked it up, listened for a second, and indicated the door to Jacqueline. Obviously there was another exit in the office, so patients did not have to run the gauntlet across the waiting room. Jacqueline went in. The doctor, a man of perhaps forty-five, dark-haired, bearded, quite overweight, reluctantly got up from his seat to greet Jacqueline, and crashed back onto it almost immediately. She waited for him to speak.
"Before we go into the reasons of this appointment, Miss - "
"Madame Charpentier-Lewis - "
"Madame Lewis, I wish to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind. Your age?"
"Thirty three. Thirty two and a half actually."
" I don't really work."
"What do you mean not really?"