Build A Man

By: Talli Roland

CHAPTER ONE





If I see another set of boobs, I’m going to lose it.

Wrinkled or saggy, those insanely pert fake ones, I don’t care – I’m sick of the sight of them. In my six months as receptionist here, I’ve seen more booty than Russell Brand . . . or maybe even that old Playboy man with the mansion. And that’s just in the waiting room! What is it about cosmetic surgery clinics that makes women think it’s okay to show off body parts normally buttoned under prim little cardigans or swathed in silk scarves?

Even as I think it, old Mrs Lipenstein is lifting her shirt and flashing another patient I call Lizard Lady (she looks like she’s moulting), who makes admiring noises then reaches out and–

Oh God. I grimace and glance away before contact is made. As posh as this seating area is – all leather chairs and low lighting designed to make even shrivelled Lizard Lady look youthful – it should come with an X-rating.

“Mrs Lipenstein?” Peter strides into the room, and Mrs Lipenstein's face tries its best to smile. Which, in its current Botoxed state, means the corners lift a fraction of an inch.

“What do you think, Doctor?” she asks as she swivels in his direction, practically knocking him off his feet with her chest. “They’ve come out nicely, haven’t they?”

Peter nods, his face carefully neutral. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it when he has women shoving their tits in his face day and night. And not just tits – he’s worked on butts and he’s even performed vaginoplasties, which are . . . well, you don’t really want to know, believe me. I’ve always wondered what doctors are thinking when they’re faced with people’s nether-regions. I know what I’d be thinking: gross.

It should bother me, having my boyfriend examine other women’s goods on a regular basis, right? But somehow, it doesn’t. Peter’s so respectable, so responsible. I can’t imagine him going behind my back with someone, let alone a patient.

Mrs Lipenstein trots down the hall behind Peter and the door to the consulting room closes. With Lizard Lady’s perfectly sculpted nose jammed in a magazine, I grab the opportunity to creep into the bathroom – loo, whatever. Collapsing on the toilet seat, I jab a limp strand of sandy hair back into my ponytail and slip off my high heels.

God, it’s tiring, this receptionist gig. It’s not the actual work so much, but having to be nice to snooty women who treat me like a piece of fat squished out of their thigh is beyond draining. The job was only supposed to be for a month or two, until I found my feet in London and made it big as a reporter in the tabloid world with a job at, I don’t know, Metro or something. I want to see my byline on the thousands of discarded newspapers each day. I live for that moment.

Doesn’t seem like much to aspire to, being face down on the floor of the Tube, right? But half a year, thousands of résumés, and several zillion article pitches later, and I’m still working at Transforma Harley Street Clinic, which isn’t even on the famous Harley Street, for God’s sake – it’s on a little mews just off it.

“Hello.” A loud knock at the bathroom door interrupts my thoughts. “Hello!”

Rap, rap, rap.

“Hello! Girl!”

Rap! Rap!

It’s Lizard Lady; I can tell by her Russian accent. Peering in the mirror, I wipe away an errant trace of make-up underneath my lashes. In the dim light, my grey eyes are black and my round face looks like a luminous moon. Sighing, I slip on my high heels – Peter insists I dress up – then yank open the door.

“Yes?” Jesus, I can’t even go to the bathroom in peace around here.

“I need vat-er,” Lizard Lady says, feigning a pathetic cough.

“Sorry?” I understand her perfectly but I want to make her suffer. Silly idiot, she actually passed the water cooler on her way to the bathroom.

Lizard Lady puts a hand to her throat. “I need VA-TER!” she shouts, her hot lizardy breath hitting my face.

Peter walks by with Mrs Lipenstein in tow. “I think Mrs Markova would like some water, Serenity.” He shoots me a look that says he’s less than impressed by my attitude. We’ve been having a lot of those ‘attitude’ talks lately at home.