Jamie stood barefoot on the scale inside the doctor’s office and nudged the balance bar to the right. She knew without reading the hash marks that she’d lost five pounds overnight. She could almost feel the weight melt away from the back of her legs where her slender thighs met her hips, the part she worked hardest to keep firm by jogging every morning after Alan left for work.
Convinced the scale was never calibrated properly, she stepped down from the base plate and sat on the crinkly white paper stretched across the doctor’s examination table. An otoscope with disposable plastic ear speculums hung on the opposite wall beside a poster on lung disease that warned about the dangers of smoking.
She scooted back on the table and checked her watch. She had errands to run, a house to clean, and dinner to prepare by six. The car needed gas. The bills needed stamps. She needed chemicals for the pool and fabric softener for the washing machine. She had shirts at the dry cleaners and a basket of laundry to fold.
She kept every facet of her life on schedule, right down to the time she ventured outside for the morning paper in the driveway. Her life existed not as Jamie Blanchart but as the wife of Sheriff Alan Blanchart. She loved him for the man who once showered her with attention; who brought her flowers every weekend and worshiped the ground she walked on. But over time, her love had turned to fear. She missed her parents. She missed her friends. Most of all, she missed the Jamie Blanchart she used to know—and cringed at the woman she barely recognized.
A soft knock preceded the doctor’s entrance. “Good morning,” he offered Jamie as he entered the room with her patient file. A third generation dermatologist with four grandchildren and a head of silver hair, he conveyed a warm demeanor.
“Good morning,” Jamie responded with her head down.
“How long has it been since your last exam?” the doctor asked.
“About a year.”
The doctor reviewed her medical history. He noted the loss in weight and the elevated blood pressure readings. “So what brings you here today?”
Jamie nudged her blouse below her shoulder to expose the butterfly tattoo on her back. “I need to get this removed.”
The doctor cleared his throat and sat on the rolling stool. “Go ahead and turn around. I need you to remove your shirt so I can examine the area more closely. You can leave your bra on.”
Jamie lifted her blouse over her head. Faint bruising along her side marred an otherwise flawless torso.
The doctor noticed the obvious signs of physical abuse, which suggested more about Sheriff Blanchart than he cared to know, especially in a town where the law’s reach extended beyond the boundaries of its own authority.
He pressed on Jamie’s side to assess the condition of the bruising near her ribs. “Does this hurt?”
“A little,” said Jamie, despite the intensity of the pain.
“I’d like to get an X-ray. Just to rule out any fractures.”
“I’m fine. I slipped in the tub and landed funny. It looks worse than it feels.”
“Has this happened before?”
“Are you sure?” the doctor challenged her.
“You should be more careful,” the doctor cautioned. He touched the tattoo. “How long have you had this?”
Jamie felt cold hands on her skin. “What’s your opinion on laser removal?”
“Given the size and location of your tattoo, you would be a good candidate for that procedure. It’s uncomfortable and usually takes several visits to obliterate the pigment. We could freeze the area instead and use a rotary abrasion instrument to remove the image.”
“You mean grind it away?”
“It’s not as harsh as it sounds. I use a local anesthetic to numb the area.” He examined the butterfly wings more closely, noting the mix of colors injected under the skin. “Another option is a surgical excision to remove the image with a scalpel.” He pinched the skin. “I might be able to excise the entire area in one visit.”
“What about scarring?”
“There would be some scarring.”
The doctor removed his gloves. “That depends on the individual person. It varies from patient to patient. Go ahead and put your shirt back on.”
“What do you think I should do?”
“In your case, laser treatment might be the best alternative. It will take a few weeks for the skin to heal, but it’s the least invasive procedure.”
Jamie climbed down from the examination table. Her cell phone vibrated in her purse. “How soon can you schedule me?”
“My receptionist can set that up for you.”
Jamie read Alan’s name from the caller ID. She had two minutes to reply before Alan called again—and got angry. “I have to go.”
The doctor stood in front of her for a moment. “I’d like to schedule you for an x-ray on your ribs. It shouldn’t take long.”
“I’m fine,” said Jamie. “Really. It’s just a bruise.”
“Most likely, but I won’t know for certain without examining the film.”
“I really have to go.”
“What about the next time?”
“I told you,” said Jamie. “It was an accident.”
“Accidents like those have a way of getting progressively worse.”
Jamie reached for the door. “What are you suggesting?”
“Nothing, Mrs. Blanchart. Nothing at all.”