"I have no job, but I do a lot of charity work. Takes a lot of time, really."
"I see. Ever been seriously ill, any operations?"
"No. Oh, yes, I had my appendix removed at twelve." She smiled ingenuously, indicating the place where her tiny, pinkish scar was. She rubbed it gently, as though it still hurt a little. The doctor hardly raised his eyes from his papers. Jacqueline thought it cute, that scar.
"Is it the first time you're consulting a plastic surgeon?"
"Yes," she said. She was almost a little too firm in her assertion. The doctor neither seemed to buy nor to doubt.
"Well," he said, reclining in his chair and heavily sighing. He seemed to have had little sleep lately. Flourishing business, that must be. Hard to keep up with the demand, perhaps, thought Jacqueline. "What can I do for you?" he said.
The hallowed sentence.
"Well to put it in a word, doctor, I - I find it hard to accept my body as it is, I want - I think I do need to change some things. It has reached a point, I can hardly bear to see myself in the mirror."
"What's wrong with your body, Mrs Lewis?"
"Well it's - where to start? She asked, laughing nervously. Maybe I'd rather show you?"
The doctor paused a second and stared at her. Homely though he was, he had already been virtually assaulted by "patients" who had only come to his office to get laid. Not that Jacqueline looked your average nymphomaniac, though. Those he had encountered were strikingly alike: fiftyish, over-tanned, withered and half hysterical. And ugly too, one had to admit. Jacqueline did not quite look the part. Doctor Williams felt reasonably confident. "Please do, he said," voluntarily dry.
Jacqueline undressed. The doctor grew nervous as she uncovered her perfect body. He thought "perfect" not in the technical sense, mind you. Hundreds of women had taken their clothes off in his office alright, so it was business as usual. But then, blimey. Now keep cool, old boy.
"There's the - hideous shape of my hips, as you see, and my buttocks, much too flat, they make me look like a young boy, the undernourished type - " She turned round and round, presenting her breasts, her flat smooth stomach, and finally fingering her face, to point to flaws that did not exist. Her complaints came in an accelerating stream. The doctor hardly listened to her. Jacqueline was almost panting when she reached the end of her list. Her cheeks had gone bright pink. It was obviously a relief for her. Her honey-coloured body was streaked with the sun rays that filtered through the Venetian blinds, like a forlorn statue in some deserted Old World museum.
" I've thought this over, doctor. It means so much to me. What do you say? Do you think there's something we can do?"
The doctor had let a faint smile appear on his lips. He looked at her with the eyes of someone who thinks they've nearly been tricked. Nice try, but no cigar. He slowly, pensively scratched his bearded double chin, and took a much mellower voice:
"I think you can put your clothes back on, Mrs Lewis." Jacqueline obeyed, and once dressed, sat down again facing the doctor.
"Are you being serious, Mrs Lewis?
"Why, of course I am doctor, I - "
"If you are, then, surely you must suspect that your actual problem is not the shape of your body, is it?"
Jacqueline did not answer. The doctor made himself comfortable in his leather chair, gripping the armrests with his stubby fingers, as if about to leap forward. Five long, quiet seconds elapsed.
"Although I pride myself on being a good professional, I must sometimes make a decision which goes against the interest of the business I run, Mrs Lewis. Do not think of course that I am insensitive to the all-important