Ian Wells sighed as the crowd around him danced, laughed and talked; it was nothing new for him to feel isolated at this type of social function. For as long as he could remember he had been an outcast, infants school hadn't been too bad, junior school had been upsetting, but high school had been hell from the word go and all because he had a disfiguring birthmark on his face. Ian had hoped that things might change when he went to university, if anything they got worse, even some of the tutors had joined in the gibes at his expense, yet he had got his degrees, with honours, despite all the ridicule at his looks. At twenty-two he was well educated, moderately wealthy and a virgin. This particular function was a reunion of his university class, it was obvious why he'd been invited, as free entertainment, but he was not going to give them the satisfaction of seeing how much their gibes and jokes hurt him. No way!
"Hey Ian," a voice said behind him, "how's the face?"
Turning Ian found himself facing Alan Gardner, one of his worst tormentors from the 'old' days.
"Still red." Ian replied while forcing himself to smile.
Ian noticed the beautiful woman hanging on Alan's arm, she certainly was a stunner, but he knew that he would stand no chance of even getting a dance with her. Alan started to tell his companion about Ian, waffling on and laughing at his own witticisms making Ian wince with embarrassment and annoyance. Then, to the surprise of both Alan and himself, the woman smiled at Ian and asked him to dance, dumbfounded Ian led the way out onto the dance floor and took her in his arms to dance to the slow music.
"I'm Candice by the way." the woman smiled.
"I guess you already know my name is Ian." he replied.
"Um," Candice responded, "by the way, I'm sorry about Alan and his, well, you know..."
"Only too well." Ian replied bitterly, "It's not your fault, this face of mine has..."
He fell silent, surprised that he had been about to tell this woman all his woes, something about her seemed to make him trust her.
"Why have you never had treatment for it," she spoke into his silence, "plastic surgery or something."
"I did try it once," he confessed, "the surgeons tried a test patch, it didn't take."
"How about the new treatment then," she smiled, "I hear it's extremely good, practically no failures."
"What new treatment?" Ian asked.
He was surprised when Candice told him about a new form of laser treatment, it was not cheap, but it seemed to work, yet he had not heard of it. Candice was a mine of information on the subject giving him the details of where to contact for the treatment.
"I'm sure they can help you." she finished, "In the meantime how would you like to get back at Alan?"
"How?" Ian asked.
"Easy," she grinned, "I could dump the arrogant bastard and spend the evening with you. That would drive him potty."
Ian couldn't believe her words, she was offering to dump the handsome Alan in favour of himself, not exactly a fair deal on her, but the thought of Alan's face when she did the deed was too tempting to resist. He agreed and Candice immediately led them over to Alan to break the news to him.
"What!" Alan exclaimed when she'd told him, "You can't be serious."
"I'm perfectly serious." she grinned, "See you around."
Linking her arm in Ian's Candice walked away from the shocked and belittled Alan, belittled because he had been with a large group of people at the time Candice had dumped him, they'd all heard and seen his embarrassment. Much to Ian's surprise Candice seemed perfectly content to spend the rest of the evening with him, it was almost as though she didn't notice his disfigurement.
Later that evening Candice cuddled close to him on the dance floor, her head resting on his shoulder as they drifted to the slow, dreamy music. For Ian it made the evening perfect, but he soon discovered that the best was yet to come for as the record ended Candice turned her head and brushed her lips lightly against his. The contact, brief and light as it was, sent a thrill through him out of all proportion to the event; it was his first kiss.
"Would you take me home?" Candice whispered.
"What?" Ian gasped in surprise, "I mean, of course, if that's what you want."
"I do." she sighed.
Ian let her lead the way off the dance floor, following her to the cloakroom where she reclaimed her coat and then out to the car park. Taking the lead Ian guided her to his car, opened the door for her and closed it behind her before taking his place behind the wheel. As he started the engine Candice told gave him directions to her home and as he drove she chatted gaily about everything and nothing.
"Coming in for a drink?" she asked as they pulled up outside her home ten minutes later.
Ian accepted the unexpected offer and followed her into the house. Candice pointed him in the direction of the living room while she went off to change into something more comfortable; her parting words were for him to pour them a drink. The living room was an average size, but was laid out in such a way as to make it seem larger than it actually was, Ian quickly found and poured the drinks then sat on the sofa to gather his thoughts. Being honest with himself Ian was more than a little confused by the recent events, he began to fear that this was all part of some joke at his expense, that at any moment Alan would spring out and ridicule him as had happened so many times in the past. Candice returned, took her drink and joined him on the sofa; she had changed into a long flowing kimono that did little to conceal her luscious curves.
"Cheers." she smiled raising her glass.
"Cheers." Ian responded doubtfully.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping their drinks while Ian grew more concerned that it was all a joke at his expense, though he hoped it wasn't because so far the evening had been very pleasant.
"Penny for them." Candice interrupted his dark thoughts.
"Pardon?" he responded in surprise.
"Penny for your thoughts." she smiled, "They must be unpleasant by the way you're frowning."