"Not again, not again." Ella hunched her shoulders and buried her head into her chest. The jibes still hurt, despite being almost a daily occurrence. 'Ugly, ugly, ugly'...'Bitch, bitch, bitch...' Ella half-ran, stumbling through the haze of cheap perfume and sniggering looks. She hated Winfield. And she hated the way she looked. Trouble was, the snide and smart insults still stung despite the barrier of snooty indifference she had created to shield herself from the empty headed scumbags whose parents had more money than breeding.
She hurried in through the entrance to the residential block, ran up the stairs to the first floor, sniffing back a tear she desperately did not want to shed. Finally, she reached her room and, once inside, threw her books onto her bed and decided to take herself in hand.
She would not be beaten. She would show them all. She regarded the wall length mirror with trepidation and a kind of magnetic masochistic fascination.
She just had to look.
She had no choice. The compulsion to examine and criticize her appearance had long been a form of addiction, a ceremonial ritual she went through every morning. So were the familiar feelings of loathing and depression that welled up inside her as she stared back at the image in the mirror. Starting as a cold lump in her stomach they gradually insinuated themselves into her mind until they were displayed almost as graphically and painfully as the face in the reflection.
Ella Fallon was no beauty that was for sure. If brains, intellect and intelligence could be captured in a face then she could have been a glamorous centerfold, a rarer beauty even. There was no doubt about that. As it was, she was convinced that she was ugly. She hated the word yet she forced herself to confront it every morning. She needed to generate the necessary emotional charge before making the big wish. The fact was, most people would have simply called her plain and that was because her slightly oversized, bulbous nose, distorted top lip and mousy, straggly hair gave her the appearance of a rejected rag doll.
Bone structure: it was all about bone structure. Ella had tried to convince herself that her cheekbones were sculpted leading to a perfect mouth and a strong chin.
No, as far as Ella was concerned, she was ugly and that was that. Her mind was razor sharp, however. She was a straight A student and more. She also had a streak of basic grit and determination, which had seen her win a scholarship to Winfield, one of California's most exclusive colleges. But ugly just wasn't good enough in the post millennium world, with its frantic desire for immortality at all costs and its pathological fear of ageing.
Not that Winfield was much different. The beautiful elite could not tolerate a cuckoo in its comfortable, all expenses paid, nest.
Which is why Ella still carried out the ritual. One day, she knew, the little prayer would come true. Something would happen. She would wake up transformed. She would fall in love.
With a self deprecating snort, Ella turned from the intense contemplation of her features, gazed around her tidy and understated room, picked up a white candle and inserted it into a silver holder. This she placed reverently on a small lace handkerchief that lay on her bedside table, in front of the mirror. Then she took a small packet of salt which she kept just for this purpose and sprinkled a handful around the base of the candle. She knelt, lit the candle, and felt a charge of electricity run through her as the big wish began to build.
Ella stared at her reflection, which wavered in the flickering light of the candle. In her eyes an aura had appeared around her, an angelic halo of beauty through which the vision of an enchanting and haunting face stared back. Deep within her, she focused upon the wish, with an intensity born of long practice. She summoned the very essence of her being to the forefront of her mind, her thoughts burning like living embryos in the purified candle flame.
'Make me beautiful,' she muttered. 'Make me beautiful...make me beautiful...' Ella intoned the mantra till it reverberated through her soul. She was shaking with emotion at the end, when she could chant no longer.
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