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The Trade-Off

The day after I finished the last treatment to bleach away the port wine stain that had covered half my face, Max broke up with me.

“I thought I’d like you better without it, too,” he said, tracing the oval of my face with one finger. But the corners of his mouth sagged. He used to trace the edges of the puzzle piece imprinted into my skin. I’d always thought he did it out of disappointment, the way I couldn’t help but tug at stray threads in the seams of a new coat.

“I’m happier now,” I reminded him. I’d thrown out the last of my foundation, thick as pancake batter, and a folder stuffed with bitter poems about masks.

“You haven’t been going to your poetry circle, either.”

“It was catharsis,” I said. “I’m starting a Sylvia Plath-free chapter of my life.”

“That’s not the point.” Max pulled the brim of his hat down over his eyes. “What happened to the bitter, ugly girl I fell in love with?”