The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
by Cathy Ulrich
You’re friends with the most beautiful girl in the world. You go out for coffee together, and the barista clips a lock of your friend’s hair when she’s turned round to tell you something. The barista slides the lock of hair into her shirt pocket, near her heart. You see her do it, but she puts her fingers to her lips, so now you can’t tell.
When you get to your booth in the corner, your friend becomes aware of the bald spot on her head, and feels it with the palm of her hand, embarrassed.
Oh, this always happens, she says, and the flush that rises to her cheeks only makes her more lovely.
Just the other day, she says, she went to the mall to buy some new clothes. She wore wide sunglasses and a scarf round her head, but she was recognized anyway, and the shoppers began tearing at her clothing, bit by bit, till they had plucked her clean of every clinging piece of fabric, and she was bare in the mall, except for her sunglasses and high-heeled sandals.
You’re so beautiful, the security guards assured her when they wrapped her in a blanket and gave her a Styrofoam cup of coffee. It’s fine.
Your friend has plenty of flaws that no one ever seems to notice, like she only ever sings off-key and she always drives too fast and she can’t pronounce the word hippocampus. It’s not even a hard word, but she can’t do it.
Hippocampus, you say to her.
Right, she says. I know.
Last night, she went on a date with a rock star. He carried his guitar round everywhere and smoked skinny little cigarettes. He had her stop beside him and admire their reflection in some windows.
Don’t we look good together, he said, and when he kissed her, he tasted like the skinny little cigarettes.
Your friend is always going on dates with famous musicians. Her favorite was the professional soloist with the violin hickey under his chin.
You’re very intimidating, he told her when he called from his tour in Saudi Arabia to break up. Your friend cried for days after that.
Do you think I’m intimidating? she asked, and you said no, of course not, and she kissed you on both sides of your face like they do in Europe. One of her musician boyfriends always greeted her in this way, which she said was a very continental habit.
When you met in the parking lot of the coffee shop, she kissed you on both sides of your face again.
It’s so good to see you, she said, like she hadn’t just seen you last week for a slice of pie at the local greasy spoon. The busboy crawled underneath your table there and tore off a piece of her stocking in his teeth. She pretended not to notice.
Your friend laughs when you remind her.
Of course I didn’t say anything, she says. It only encourages them.
The truth is, she admits, she was rather aroused by his bravado, and when you thought she was fixing her makeup in the bathroom, she was actually letting him have her in the stall.
Tell me I’m beautiful, she said.
So beautiful, he said.
She let him keep the stockings when they were finished — I’ll bet you wondered where they went, she says, but you thought she’d just tucked them into her purse — and he wanted to exchange phone numbers, but she wouldn’t do it.
I gave him my panties, though, she says, and you both have a good laugh at her audacity
She sets her mug down on the table and clucks her tongue at the lipstick lining the rim.
I’d better go fix my makeup, she announces, and heads to the restroom. After a moment, you see the barista follow her. You sit at the table and drink your coffee and stare at the mark of your friend’s lips on her mug. No one is looking, so you put your mouth over the lipstick smudge and sip from your friend’s coffee
The bathroom door opens, and you hurriedly scoot your friend’s mug back over to her side of the table. Before she sits down, she kisses you on both sides of your face.
How do I look, she says.
Beautiful, you say. You look beautiful.
Cathy Ulrich thinks all of her friends are beautiful. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, including Rose Red Review, Monkeybicycle and Syntax & Salt.