The steady beep, beep, beep of the monitors had a certain hypnotic effect. My gaze slowly drifted from the dimpled ceiling to the lima-bean-green curtains that hid the unconscious old lady in the bed beside me.

How did this happen?” I thought. “I’m so embarrassed. And two months out from my wedding! Seriously, Natasha, could your timing be any worse?”

Tears welled up in my eyes as a bald man in blue scrubs explained my condition to a herd of interns. I was no longer an up-and-coming lawyer, I was an instrument for medical training. I caught the eye of one of the interns and she quickly looked back down to her notepad.

I’m a monster! There’s no way he’ll marry me like this.”

[1 Hour Earlier]

“Great,” Barrett said, looking around the waiting area. “It’s filled with wounded people.”

Barrett can’t stand hospitals. Especially if they are busy. And Halloween weekend is busy.

Some of the “wounded” in the waiting room slept, slumped down in the hard plastic chairs biding time until the nurses called their names. Others paged through outdated magazines.

Of course, I couldn’t see any of it – because a bath towel covered my head.

Barrett led me up to the check-in desk looking like Cousin Itt.

“Can I help you?” I heard a nurse ask.

“Yeah,” Barrett said. “My fiancée got a lip tattoo today—“

“—pewmanent wipstick,” I interrupted in Elmer Fudd speak. “I don’t wike having to mess wif wipstick!”

“And now her lips have swollen to the size of . . . Well, they look like a pair of jumbo-sized hot dogs. It’s like some alien allergic reaction.”

“Will you remove the towel?” the nurse said in a monotone voice.

“Okay,” Barrett said, “but brace yourself.”

“Sir,” the nurse said sternly. “I’ve seen it all.”

Suddenly, the florescent world of the ER appeared. The nurse jumped back in horror and bellowed, “Get her back here now! She in anaphylactic shock!”

Apparently, my lips had gotten worse. I’d been upgraded to a duck-billed platypus.

Before I knew it, a team of nurses ushered me through the swinging doors. “Sorry, only family members allowed,” one said to Barrett.

“I love you,” Barrett yelled. “I’ll wait out here in the waiting room . . . next to the psychotic guy complaining about constipation.”


This isn’t me. I was much worse.

But you get the drift. 


I couldn’t seem to sleep with all the drugs marching into my arms, so for entertainment I watched my old lady neighbor through a gap in the curtain.

Ohhh, she twitched again.”

Suddenly, the ever-present beep-beep-beep of monitors changed. Now they echoed faster than before.

Until the beeping noise became one long scream of sound.

The public-address system crackled overhead urging a doctor to come quickly.

Whoa. That poor old lady’s dying.”

I tried to turn my head so I could watch the medical staff try to save her but I couldn’t move my head.

I tried again.

No luck. I couldn’t move my head.

What the—?”

Then I realized what was happening. It wasn’t the old lady next to me that was flatlining.

It was me.

I have a fantasy scenario about my demise that goes something like this: I’m ninety-five years old, and I get an urge for Mexican food. One of my great-grandchildren says something hilarious at the table, and I respond with something equally witty. Everyone laughs and — I die laughing. Just like that, my face lands in the guacamole and my last feelings on Earth are love of family, laughter, and the taste of delicious guacamole.

Instead, I was going to die from a lip tattoo.

God,” I prayed. “Please don’t let me die. Please, God. Don’t let me die from a lip tattoo!”

I pleaded with God while the doctor and nurses worked furiously.

Then the world stopped. No noise, no doctors, no worries, no yesterday, no tomorrow — at least not here on Earth.

I said one last prayer in the silence. Most of that prayer I’ll keep inside, but I will tell you that I asked for my family to be comforted. I prayed that Barrett would go on to find a good wife and have a happy life. And I wanted most of all everyone to know how much I loved them.



I popped up and screamed. I screamed again. My eyes wide and my heart racing.

“Sweetheart,” said the doctor in blue scrubs, “You just received an epinephrine shot in the heart. After that, childbirth will be a breeze.” (He was right, btw.)

I nodded, still breathing heavy.

As he drew the curtain to leave, the doctor turned back to me. “Someone up there’s looking out for you.”

I nodded, again.

Thank you, God.”

I woke the next morning to find Barrett in a chair next to my bed asleep. He hadn’t run for hills — even though the doctor was very clear that my face might be deformed forever.

I stared at him twisted in the hard hospital chair. He really was beautiful. I know men aren’t supposed to be, but he was.

Especially now.

He shifted and opened his eyes. Then he broke out into a goofy smile. “You’re lips are getting back to normal.”

I ran my finger over my puffy lips. “Great,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Now what am I going to be for Halloween?”


You are the most beautiful little girl I’ve ever seen. Your hair, your eyes, your lips, the way you walk, smile, laugh, the way your hip drops to one side when you’re sassy, the way you wake up raw and wild, the way you hang your shoulders when you’re tired, the way you correct my French with a sigh, the way you hug your little brother, the way you sing Amazing Grace in the dark.

Every single thing about you is beautiful.

Even without lipstick.