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Once upon a warm morning – typical weather for early February – the sound of heavy thuds repetitively hitting the pavement filled the air along a usually quiet street. The origin of the sound, a teenage girl of 16 years of age, huffed relentlessly as she rushed towards the bus stop.
'Cr*p, cr*p, cr*p!'
The bus stop was in sight, 'I might actually make it!'; in that moment the bus whizzed past her, driving straight past the bus stop she was headed for.
“You're late, Miss Rutherford, and on the first day of the year too.” Mrs. Elias said, turning towards the girl with a sharp, angry look.
“Sorry...” the girl muttered, trudging quietly to her seat and keeping her head down, trying with difficulty to ignore the giggles around her. Once she'd reached her seat, Mrs. Elias had already continued her lesson. Sighing deeply, the girl started taking out her books, doing her best not to make too much noise. (She did her best to keep in the background.)
She felt a slight poke at her side, and turned just in time for a paper ball to hit her in the face.
“Oww...” she grumbled, rubbing her nose and turning back towards her work.
“Hey, Lielle,” she heard a whisper, and turned to look behind her. She felt a smile tug at her lips upon seeing who it was. “Wanna copy my notes?” Chip grinned, holding up a few sheets worth of mathematical equations. Lielle thanked him, silently grateful for his friendship.
Chip was her best friend at school, the only person who was willing to talk to her. He didn't fit in very well either because of his homosexual orientation, but people didn't tend to bully him as often.
Not much time passed before the bell rang, calling for the end of the class. Lielle packed up her books, ignoring the paper balls being thrown at her, and the bogus apologies from her fellow classmates. Chip, who waited beside her, sighed and picked up the crumpled papers, “Gee, these people really have nothing better to do.”
Nodding in agreement, Lielle shoved the books in her bag and slung it over her shoulder, “I guess you just have to try to ignore it.” As she said that, one of the girls in the class – one from a whole group who thought they were the queens of high school – shoved into Lielle and snorted, “Hey Rutherford, what's that thing on your face? Oh wait, ha, it is your face!” She and rest walked off, laughing haughtily with one another. The last girl – with every evil intention – bumped hard into Lielle, causing her to drop her messenger bag and everything to fall out.
Heaving a sigh, Lielle bent down to pick up her books, “...And sometimes you have try really hard to ignore it.” Before Chip could help, another person beat him to it.
“Those girls are seriously horrible; you shouldn't give them a second thought, y'know?”
Lielle was speechless as she looked up, meeting the eyes of one of the school's most popular guy – Adam Baste. “I – uh, - you – books – they – um –,” she sputtered as he handed her a small stack of books, “T-thanks.” He gave her his famous lopsided smile, “No problem,” and ran to catch up with his friends.
Beside her, Chip was just as speechless. “H-he...theAdamBastejustspoketoyou!” Obviously he hadn't quite figured out how to talk yet as a result of his absolute shock. But it wasn’t like she was any better – Lielle's fingers still tingled where their hands had touched briefly.
Now, it wasn't just the fact that Adam Baste was one of the most popular guys in school, or that she was the absolute polar opposite, but it was because she was, well...
“Nice moustache, loser!” a passing student teased.
Lielle Rutherford was everything that was not beautiful – she was short, her eyes were a dull dark brown and too far apart, her long, brown hair was frizzed and tangled, her lips were plump (but not in the good way), her nose was too big and pointed at the tip, her pimpled face and forehead were too wide and too long, her head was inflated (almost like an oval-shaped orange), and despite her large body size, her chest was practically flat. She had no appeal whatsoever.
And Adam Baste was perfect. He was tall and athletic, he aced every class, he was friendly, and there was not a single person in the school – teachers and students alike – who could say a bad thing about him.
Unfortunately, she'd been in-love with him for the past five years.
The bell rang forcing Lielle and Chip to snap back to reality. “We should go to class...” Chip said, though he hadn't quite recovered from the perplexity of what had transpired just a few minutes before. They parted ways and Lielle walked hastily to class, entering early enough to get a seat in the back by herself. Her eyes flitted back and forth between the faces of students entering the class – not one of them was who she was looking for.
Mr. Charley entered the class, reciting the ritualised quiet down, class speech and set his teaching material and laptop down on the desk. Just as he did, Adam walked into the class, huffing and apologising, “Sorry, sir, I was –”
“No worries, Adam; just take a seat.”
And the only seat left? The one beside Lielle. She hid a smile, suddenly feeling giddy – even with the piercing glares she was receiving from the group of girls who'd bumped into her earlier. “Hey,” Adam interrupted her train of thought as he sat down, “Fancy meeting you here.”
“Yeah,” Lielle replied, laughing nervously.
“So today, though I know it's your first lesson, I'd like you to start on a research activity –” The class groaned in reply, and a chorus of complaints filled the room, “– but it is simple, and you can work in pairs. Now as for pairs, I know most of you know each other already, so you can work with the person sitting beside you. Ah, ah, no complaints!” As nice as Mr. Charley was, he had a habit of mixing people up, particularly in terms of pair or group work – not the greatest thing for someone as socially inept as Lielle.
“Guess we're partners, huh?” Lielle muttered, expecting some form of protest from Adam – but she received none. A huge grin spread across his face, and he actually looked somewhat relieved. “Thank goodness; I was hoping I wouldn't be stuck with one of those girls,” he motioned at the same group of girls from before, “They really aren't that fun to be around, even though they hang around me all the time.”
Mr. Charley handed out the assignment sheets, “Each sheet has a different stimuli, and you will get one sheet between the two of you, so please don't lose it. I want you to research and discuss the importance of these symbols in past and present storytelling.”
He placed the sheet in-front of Adam and Lielle; the picture, their symbol, was a beautiful red rose.
The rest of the lesson went by fairly quickly – especially with Adam beside her, and the two speaking enthusiastically about their holidays, music, events and whatever else came up (of course, all except the assignment).
Ding, ding, ding
Lielle's face dropped when the sound hit her ears, knowing full well it meant the end of possibly the only class they had together. “We'll schedule a time and stuff to do this assignment later on if that's cool with you?” He asked, “I have training tonight.”
“Yeah, no problem.”
They said their goodbyes, and Lielle headed towards her next class, clutching her books to her chest as her mind reeled with excitement. So distracted because she was recalling their conversations, she walked straight into someone. “Oh my goodness, I'm sorry –” the regret instantly left her tone though when she recognised who she'd walked into.
The four girls, sisters, all of whom had decided to dedicate their life to making her absolutely miserable, stood in a tight semi-circle around her. “So, you think you're so big now that you've been partnered up with Adam Baste? Really, who do you think you are? You're hardly worth his time.”
The halls were quiet now, as many of the students had already made it to class, and the few that still roamed the halls dared not disturb the fray about to occur. The four girls moved in, grabbing at Lielle's bag and school jacket, pulling them with force.
“Hey, stop it'll rip!” Lielle strained to say as the sling of her bag slipped off her shoulder and the contents spilled across the floor. But of course, the girls didn't stop, and they continued with their childish antics, pulling at her clothes and hair, scratching at her arms and bare legs.
Jealousy is a terrifying thing.
“Hey! What the heck are you girls doing?” A familiar voice resounded from down the hallway; Lielle heard quick footsteps – the person was running – and soon the four sisters had stopped.
“A-Adam, uh, you didn't see anything right? Don't worry, it's no-one; just Lielle Rutherford – she's hardly worth worrying about.”
But he didn't bother to listen to their excuses; he shoved his way in-between the two younger sisters, and extended his hand to Lielle, helping her up. He asked her if she was alright, to which she said, “I've been better.”
Fuming, he turned back to the four sisters, who were now more envious than they'd previously been, witnessing Adam's kindness toward the person they considered hideous and repulsive because she did not fit their stereotype of beauty – she wore no make-up, had terrible dress sense (though in truth, she tried), never did up her hair, and was always doing school-work.
“Adam,” The eldest sister said, moving towards him and looping her arm around his, “Why do you care so much about this loser? Honestly, look at you...and look at her. She's hardly even beautiful, so forget her.” Smirking, Adam slipped his arm out from the loop, and stepped back to stand beside Lielle, “To be honest, I hate girls like you.”
The shock on all the sisters' faces made Lielle laugh quietly to herself.
“You think you know what beauty is?” He asked, crossing his arms over his chest, “Lielle is always helpful, maybe even to you, someone who's bullied her for years, if you asked; she's kind and polite, she's funny and intelligent – h*ll, she can keep up an actual conversation without it resorting to gossip or some moronic television drama. She suffers years worth of harassment from all of you, and yet she still comes to school everyday; I admire her courage. So even if she doesn't fit your definition of beauty, I happen to think she's more than beautiful already.”
By the end of his speech the four sisters had been stunned into silence (a considerable feat). Adam dropped his arms back to his sides, and bent down to pick up the books and papers that littered a small portion of the hallway floor. Lielle, blushing to the tips of her ears, said nothing about his confession; she didn't even know what to say, let alone if it could even be called a confession!
With everything piled neatly, and back into her bag, Lielle finally found her voice and the courage to comment, “So, you think I'm b...b-beau-beautiful?” The word felt foreign on her lips.
Adam smiled his gorgeous smile, and shrugged nonchalantly, “Did you want me to repeat it?” But before she could reply, he leaned down, pressing his lips softly onto hers.
The four sisters had disappeared; whether they witnessed this small gesture or not is unknown.
“Baste, get back to class!” A teacher yelled from down the hallway.
The two parted, and he shot Lielle an apologetic look, “I'll see you later on.” With his famous lopsided grin, they parted, and he sprinted down the hallway to his teacher.
Lielle, still stunned, stiffly moved a finger to her lips, touching the bottom one with the utmost care, as if too much force would render that kiss non-existent. She caught her reflection in one of the windows, and couldn't help herself from smiling.
She did not turn into a beautiful princess or some beauty queen. No, she looked exactly the same. But what did it matter? Beautiful or not on the outside, it is what's on the inside that counts.
And anyway, she'd finally found her prince.