Amelia is a special woman. Every single day, she changes completely into a different person, wearing new clothes, new hair styles, even a new personality. Her daily transformations are so drastic, you would not recognize her the next morning.
* * *
She smiled as she walked through the door, looking around at the grunge-styled interior of Holy Grounds. Her eyes captured me. Something about them was bright and dark at the same time. They gave me a strange sense of nostalgia. I swear it wasn’t because she was cute… She was about my age. She wore a loose sweater dress with high boots, at least two fashion levels above the regulars at the coffee shop. Her lilac hair was—
“Do you want any coffee?” asked Sam, the barista at Holy Grounds.
“Uh yeah…” I stuttered, pulled back to reality. It felt like time had frozen when I looked at her, but apparently it was moving just like normal. “I’ll try the special.”
“You ordered that the last two times and said you didn’t like it.”
“Oh… right…” Clearly my mind was somewhere else—like, at the front door walking into line behind me. “Well, third time’s a charm, right?”
Sam gave me a dull courtesy laugh. “Maybe eventually you’ll find something you like.”
“And…” I hesitated, “can I pay for that girl’s coffee?”
He glared at the lilac-haired girl, none-too-subtly. “You’re into that?” he asked. “She’s out of your league, man.”
“It’s not like that,” I said, not looking him in the eye.
“How else can it be like? Whatever, man. Good luck.” He made kissy lips as he swiped my card.
I sat down at the table with the bookshelf of classics behind it. It was my favorite place to write. The window gave nice lighting in the evening and something about sitting in front of Catcher in the Rye and Great Expectations inspired my poetry.
I pulled out my laptop and began brainstorming. And by “brainstorming,” I mean stealing glances at the girl with lilac hair, anticipating Sam explaining how I had bought her drink. I wrote some nonsense lines then deleted them, my mind a little absent from my keyboard.
Sam welcomed the girl to Holy Grounds and gave her the standard coffee shop spiel. She ordered and reached into her tasseled purse to pay, but Sam stopped her. “That guy over there paid for your drink.”
“Oh,” she sighed, looking at herself in the mirror across the counter—not the joyful reaction I was hoping for. “I should probably thank him, I guess.”
The girl with lilac hair walked over to me. “Hi,” I said, looking up from my computer… as if I hadn’t been looking already.
“Thanks for the drink,” she said with a smile. Well, her mouth smiled. Her eyes didn’t. “My name is Amelia.”
I introduced myself.
“Oh yeah,” said a little too quietly to be talking to me.
“Have we met?” I asked.
I couldn’t recall meeting this this girl before. I don’t know any Amelias. The last one I met was a year ago. She gave me a fake number to call—not the best of experiences.
“If you are looking for a date, you’ll have to look for someone else,” she said, much more sad than annoyed. “I can give back your money, if you want.”
“Oh, that’s fine. I was wondering if I could just ask you a few questions. Like, about your life.”
She stared at me like I was some creep. I realized that I was.
“Ah, no,” I corrected myself. “I mean… um, I’m a writer. I love hearing people’s stories. I could tell that you have a really good story. Your eyes are so bright… and dark.” I wasn’t helping my case at all.
She smiled again. “You know, that’s the second time you told me that,” she said. “Is that your pickup line, or something?”
“It’s just because I look like this, right? Guys only do things like buy me coffee on my good days, when I look like this.”
“Um…” I felt a little lost in the conversation. “I don’t remember ever meeting you before.”
“Right…” she said as she bit her lip. “Of course you don’t. No one ever does.”
“I’m sorry if I said anything wrong. I was just curious about you. I have a good eye for interesting people and I thought you might be one.”
“So you just want to hear a story?”
“If that’s what you’ll give me, I’ll take it.”
Sam called our names. The coffee was ready. I grabbed both cups and brought them back.
“It’s hard for me to tell my story,” she said. “No one I tell stays around long enough to care, just long enough to hear.”
That sentence captured me and I instantly wanted to write it down, but I resisted the urge. I wondered if I’d gotten myself into something much deeper than I was ready for, or pushed to deep into her life. “Well, if you aren’t in the mood, you don’t have to.”
“Would you still want to hear it if I was ugly? Like really ugly, three chins and hairy moles and ratty hair?”
Ugly and this girl were complete opposites. Trying to imagine the two together seemed impossible. “Well… would you still have a good story to tell me?” I said with a laugh.
She smiled again. This time her eyes smiled with her mouth. “I suppose I can tell you. It doesn’t really matter.”
“I’m all ears.”
“Well, let’s see if you believe this tall tale. Every day I change. Like, I really change. I haven’t recognized myself in a mirror for as long as I can remember. My facial structure rearranges completely. Tomorrow I could be Asian or Latina. I could lose twenty pounds or gain two hundred. How does that sound?”
Any rational person would have thought this girl was playing him, maybe giving an excuse to never meet him again. I wasn’t feeling the most rational at that moment. She said it as if it was some funny story—a joke that she and I could share. One look in her eyes, however, told me that at the very least she believed it herself.
“That sounds…” I began, “so hard. Really hard. I can’t even imagine what life would be like if…”
“…No one ever recognized you,” she finished.
“What does it feel like?” I asked. “To transform.” Whatever story she would tell, I was already hooked like a hipster to Holy Grounds.
“I can’t really feel it much when it happens. I usually don’t notice till I look in a mirror, unless I grow, like, six inches or something.”
“How long has this been happening to you?”
“Probably for about—wait—” She stared me in the eye with much more resolve than I expected from a stranger. “You actually believe me? You actually believe me…”
Her eyes began to water. “No one has ever believed me before. Not this quickly.”
“What has it been like?” I asked as she buried her face in her hands. She realized that she could actually share about her life and didn’t know what to do with the opportunity.
“It’s been so painful,” she cried softly. “Anyone I tell thinks I’m crazy. Anyone I show thinks I’m a freak. My family doesn’t know what to do with me. They would never say it, but I think they wish I didn’t exist. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I look like. I don’t even know if ‘I’ exist.”
I reached my hand over the table, to comfort her. The furniture between us made my gesture a little awkward, but she appreciated it all the same.
“Thanks,” she laughed through her tears.
The next hour passed with her sharing story after story of how the experiences she’s had: the jobs that fired her after she returned as a different ethnicity, the guy who dumped her after she turned into a fat woman with hair down to her knees, and how she can’t ever get a driver’s license.
She asked me about my life and we talked for hours. She bought more coffee for the two of us. She fascinated me. Every word that came from her mouth was an adventure.
“I remember you,” I said. “I remember meeting you a year ago. You were different, but we talked just like this and you wrote a number down. I figured I’d be able to meet up with you again, but the number you gave me didn’t work.”
She blushed. “I’m just used to doing that. It’s absolutely terrifying to meet up with someone and they don’t recognize you at all. And it’s too hard to explain all this to someone who isn’t going to believe you. Sorry.”
“We’re closing up shop, lovebirds,” Sam called. “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
“So can I get your real number this time?” I asked as she stood up.
She bit her lip. “I can’t,” she said. “I’m too scared. Tomorrow I might be crippled or have crazy acne. You wouldn’t want to be around me then.”
“I would,” I protested. “I don’t care what you look like. I care about your story. Can’t we just try this again? You don’t have to be gorgeous, or even decent.”
“Too many people have said that and been wrong,” she said with a forlorn smile. “When I leave, you’ll never find me again.”
“Will you let me try?” I asked. If she said yes, that meant she wanted to be found. And I had a feeling that she needed someone to find her, just as much as she needed to find herself.
“You can try, but it’s not going to work.”
“I found you once before. I’ll find you again. Maybe then, you’ll give me your number. Third time’s a charm.”
She took a deep breath, her eyes betraying a heartbeat of hope. “Today was fun,” She said. “I wish every day was as nice as this.”
“Your eyes are the same, Amelia,” I said. “Your eyes haven’t changed. That’s why I talked to you a year ago. That’s why I talked to you today. Your eyes tell a story—and I never miss a good story.”
“The Amelia you think you know will be gone in a few hours. I’ll be someone completely different.”
“I can’t wait to get to know her, then.”
She turned away from me and headed to the door. She didn’t want me to see whatever expression she was making. I followed her unconsciously, reluctant to let the magic of this evening go.
“Looks like you finally found some coffee that you like,” Sam said with a couple raises of the eyebrow.
As Amelia opened the door, a cold evening gust swirled her lilac hair around her—but I swear her hair began to turn into a platinum blond. I prayed that she would look back, just once more so I could catch a glimpse of her eyes one more time. She did. She looked at me and her whole body beamed, a picturesque contrast with the grunge café around us. She smiled as she walked through the door.