The next day after class (A long lecture on tooth decay, yuck.), Sophie got in her car and reluctantly typed the address into Google. The office seemed to have a five-star rating, but no actual written reviews, oddly enough. She sighed as she started up the car and set off.
During the short drive, her mind kept cycling, as she still barely knew anything about what was in store for her. Maybe once she got there, Dr. Park would say she wasn't what she was looking for, but she'd get the extra credit anyway?
She pulled into the parking lot of a nondescript strip mall, seeing the office situated right between a clothes store and a coffeeshop. The office had opaque tinted windows, and had the same logo as on Dr. Park's card, complete with the unnerving cartoon tooth. The door had the names of two doctors, Dr. Flossie Park and Dr. Pearl Whites.
The waiting room was a bit cramped, and pretty nondescript. A few chairs, a table with some magazines, and light green walls. Some calming ocean sounds were playing over some speakers, and it had that typical dentist office smell Sophie never quite got used to.
The receptionist sat in the window, turning as Sophie entered. "Hi there, Sophie Ramirez?"
Sophie stepped over. "Yes, that's me." She took a moment to look over the receptionist. She was a somewhat attractive woman in her late 30s, wavy brown hair tied back in a bun, with a face full of perfectly applied makeup. She wore an odd pink uniform, made of latex and tightly fitting around her body, seeming like it would fit better in an adult film or a halloween party than an actual dental clinic. A small nametag read "Quinn, Dental Assistant".
Quinn smiled, showing an impressive set of bubblegum pink braces. "Excellent! Just take a seat, we'll be ready for you in just a bit."
As Sophie turned to take a seat, she saw she wasn't alone in the waiting room. A young woman in navy blue scrubs was sitting down, flipping through one of the magazines, which were apparently all focused on dentistry and orthodontics. She was a bit lanky, had a pixie cut dyed blue, and wore no makeup, showing a bit of adult acne. Sophie recognized her immediately.
"Sophie! What are you doing here?" She looked up from her magazine, smiling. Abby Huang was the biggest overachiever in Sophie's program, always seeming to know the answer to every question. She never dropped her perky persona, and seemed to be overly friendly to everyone she met, even if she seemed a bit awkward. What was she doing here?
Sophie tried to force a polite smile. "I'm... doing some extra credit. You?"
Abby gestured for Sophie to sit down next to her, which Sophie reluctantly followed. "Same! Dr. Woods said I'd be perfect for this study, I didn't know anyone else from our class was going to be participating!"
As Abby kept smiling, Sophie felt a twinge of curiosity. While her own teeth weren't quite perfect, Abby's teeth seemed almost flawless, despite everything else about her. Why was she needed for an orthodontic study? Also, why would she volunteer since her grades clearly didn't need saving.
Sophie cleared her throat. "Do you, ah, know what the study is about? Dr. Woods didn't really tell me anything."
Abby smirked. "Nope. Just that we're seeing an orthodontist....You don't seem like you're too excited, are you?"
Sophie scrunched up her nose. "No, are you? Why did you sign up for this?"
Abby shrugged. "Dr. Woods said it'd be a good learning experience. I thought it'd be a good way to get a different kind of hands on experience before I enter the job market. Also..." She looked a bit sheepish. "I'm kinda excited about maybe getting braces. I know it's weird but... I've always kind of wanted them. I used to ask my dentist about them all the time when I was a kid, but she always said I didn't need them. I don't know why, I've just always been fascinated by them!"
Sophie must've made a face, because Abby immediately blushed. "I know, it's so weird! Sorry, I just love everything dental, I want to experience all of it, you know?"
Sophie paused trying to think of a response, but before she could, she heard the door next to the receptionist's window open, and a strange voice call out. "Abby, Thophie? Would you pleathe come with me? We're ready for you ladieth now."