I watched from my patio as my elegant sisters twirled in their silken skirts, all frills and frivolity. Susana and Erin (my two beautiful older sisters) didn’t have a care in the world from the moment they were born; and if they did it almost certainly involved only the size of their curls or the lightness of their skin. Mother would faun and fuss over their looks, as if it was all they had to offer. Mother stopped family dinners just to tell Erin what she thought about her pretty dress or glamorous jewels. She never told me she thought I looked nice. Every ounce of beauty that could be shared between mother and father was inherited by my two siblings. Susana smiled and her perfect, straight, white teeth shone against her full lips. Erin ran with such great agility that the deer would be jealous. I couldn’t watch any longer as they played tag with their bare feet running through the summer grass.
Turning to look in the mirror I looked at myself. Fourteen years old and not a single sign of becoming any more of a woman and any less of a girl. My soot black hair didn’t turn sweet coils like Susana’s and Erin’s, rather it knotted and twisted into large rings that could hardly count as curls. My mouth stayed permanently twisted in a snarl, refusing to soften and did not allow me to show happiness on my face. Within I knew I had as much joy as my flippant sisters but I knew that the suitors would never come to my door, pleading for my hand as many had done for Susana’s and Erin’s. I was too plain and too harsh. My edges would cut any affection offered to me, bleed it out and hand it back to the offerer. My shoulders would never offer comfort to another person like my foolish siblings would. I narrowed my green eyes and looked at the lady in the mirror. I shouted at the figure; threw a comb at her with tears prickling at the edges of my eyes. I tried to see how my cheekbones could be so harsh when Susana’s were so round and peachy, when a knock came, RAP! RAP!, to my door.
I resumed my scowl and flounced onto my bed.
“Yes?”I asked indignantly, sounding more like the growl of an animal. I cleared my throat and this time asked who it was, hoping I sounded more girlish than before.
In came my father, his warm eyes crinkling at the edges when he saw me. His worn tweed jacket hung over his arm- he had just gotten home from work.
“How are you, Ms.Tremaine?” he asked warmly, sweeping me into a full body bear hug. My head was pulled against his chest, and one of his big bear hands stroked my hair. I kept my arms at my sides, not knowing where to put them as he earnestly questioned my day. As he questioned I answered, quickly and quietly, wanting to please him but trying to be concise and delicate. After enough answers had been given he pulled back, put his hands on my shoulders and smiled at me again, looking me in the eye. It was a slow smile, full of respect. I didn’t know where to look, so I turned my eyes towards his shoes.
“You know what I love about you, Lady?” I didn’t. But I could feel his love all around me, if only I could reach out and grab it...like Susana and Erin did. I couldn’t accept his gift, his love wouldn’t hold on to me. I saddened at the thought. “Your constant grace and your absolute need for elegance. Your self-control is astounding,” His eyes twinkled now. I wondered if Susana and Erin felt this noticed all the time.
“You will grow into a fine woman.”
He kissed the top of my head and was gone. I didn’t watch him leave, but instead, turned back to the mirror. My sweet cat, Lucifer, purred behind me, begging for attention. I swatted behind me to keep him quiet. My red dress seemed to fit a little better, my fierce eyes and hooked nose seemed a little more attractive. Who needed the fickle love of my dimwitted mother, or the appraisal of my shallow sisters. I didn’t need their beauty. They could keep their admirers. I had the respect of Father, and the rest of my life would be lived with what he called, elegance.