The braces had come off last week. The fortune they had cost was not the worst of it. Headaches and mouth sores had added their misery to the ordeal. The pain she had suffered at each tightening had made him want to call it off. He had sometimes felt that he was as bad as those old-time Chinese parents who bound their little girls’ feet, crippled them in the name of beauty, and listened to them scream in the night.
Squeaks and giggles from the bedroom. Her sixteenth birthday and first prom occurring in the same week had been celebrated with a new dress far more expensive than they’d expected to pay. Her new perm had been allowed to frizz uncontrolled so it would “set.”
The date would be tomorrow. She’d ordered a boutonniere as big as a corsage. Had already started reminding him not to forget to pick it up from the florist. Would she survive the dating years emotionally and morally intact?
He’d adored the chunky little girl in jeans and tees and the tomboy with warts and worn-through knees. Now it was still jeans with holes, but $100 designer models.
She was expensive in other ways than money. Besides paying for a piano and lessons, they had invested four years of wrestling with her to practice. At age thirteen and fourteen she must have cried at least once a day. Nobody liked her. She couldn’t do anything. Her teachers hated her. She hated everybody, especially her parents and her brothers. The piano was the only thing she had not hated. When they’d had to listen to the pounding of rock improvisations day and night, they’d comforted themselves that it was better than wondering where she was.
“Ta Da!” heralded his wife. He gasped as his daughter walked down the hall to stand in front of him afroth in pink, hair haloing the suddenly different face with cheekbones and jewel eyes. All these years she’d been secretly becoming lovely.