The Ugly Duckling
Hope closed her eyes and let the late summer sun warm her face. Back in the days when she was being beaten in the school toilets, being called Spudface, being made constantly to feel like shit, Hope had almost given up on life itself.
University had been a little better, but she had still noticed the funny looks, the hushed voices when she entered a room. There had also been a lot of spite, and once someone had spat on her because she’d easily managed to get in the front row at a concert that everyone on campus was desperately trying to blag a ticket for.
Then he came into her life. That summer evening last year, he had stepped in when she was being pushed about helplessly, spun around by four horrible men who simultaneously shouted at her how ugly she was while groping her tits. He had stood before her like an avenging champion, fists clenched, defying her tormenters to go for him instead. They’d left, hurling vile insults about her, about her deformed body, her twisted face.
He had taken her for coffee then and, without asking, bought her millionaire’s shortbread. She still, to this day, did not know how he had known that was her favourite. All through the evening they had talked about perception, both that of other people, and the self-perception that comes from within. How your own skewed view of what you were, your own faulty self-image, built from years of cold insult, could actually turn you into a thing not true.
Unlike anyone else she had ever met in her entire life, this man had told her that she was beautiful. How much he admired her. And slowly she had realised something important. Something life-changing. If you believe that you are beautiful, it is just as good as being beautiful – and suddenly you are. Beauty shines out of you with that knowledge.
The music started, and Hope adjusted her veil. She pushed down on the ribbon-bedecked wheels, and gracefully eased her wheelchair through the flower-strewn summer orchard to where her new husband stood waiting.
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