Carla combed her hair. Thick, warm blonde, and naturally wavy, it was her best feature. Everybody said so. Carla liked the feel of of the wide paddle brush raking through her hair. The stiff boar bristles scratched her scalp. Smooth, the bristles slide down until her ends. Then the brush would always tug. Carla would give the slightest pull as her hair swished around her fingers.
Sandy always loved Carla’s hair. One of Carla’s favorite photos was Sandy and her, Carla was holding up a young bobcat and Sandy was wearing Carla’s long hair as a hat. They loved animals. Growing up in the pine barrens, Carla always had cats, dogs, and tanks of critters. She still had her blue 4-H ribbon for her Flemish Giant bunny, Twinkie. Forgetting Carla reached for it and knocked over something.
“You okay, darling,” her mom said.
“I’m fine, I’m fine, everything is fine.” Carla answered. Hating the tinge of panic in her mom’s voice, Carla made her voice bright and cheerful. She returned to brushing, petting herself like a cat. She used to love animals, the warmth of soft fur. A shiver ran through her and the brush slipped and fell. There was a loud clatter as the wooden brush hit the dresser and bounced to the oak floor.
“Mom, I’m fine. Isaid I’m fine.”
Carla leaned over patting the floor. Her bedroom door opened. Carla turned away. Carla and Sandy had been inseparable working at the ASPCA. After Sandy’s parents passed they turned her folks’ old farm into a makeshift animal refuge taking in the exotics the shelters couldn’t handle. They worked night and day but it never felt like work. They had staff and volunteers and they had the animals. Big cats, pygmy pigs, sugar gliders, and all kinds of reptiles, the animals kept coming and they were stretched thin.
“Baby let me help you honey. Are you brushing your pretty hair? Let me.” Her mother’s voice was effervescent.
Carla swallowed her resentment. Carla could tell she trying not to cry, she could tell her mom was being brave and supportive and she hated it. One moment changed everything. Carla was cleaning one of the primate’s cages. Mistake No 1 she was working alone. Mistake No 2 she turned her back on a wild animal. Born in a circus, TeeTee had seen more like a big baby than a wild chimp. In an instant TeeTee was on Carla’s head biting and ripping. Bile rose in her throat even two years later. She was afraid of animals now and Sandy blamed herself and disappeared. Her mother began brushing her beautiful hair but Carla couldn’t lose herself in the strokes. Carla knew her face, her real face, was gone leaving behind smooth eyeless scars. Carla’s mom cried soundlessly. She was told the eye prosthetics were lovely. The face transplant had been a success. Hours of surgery and scores of medical technicians had created a miracle. With her new sightless face Carla smiled for her mother. She was a miracle. Everybody said so.