She was never the prettiest in her family. Her unruly red hair was always in tangles, and a constellation of freckles spread across her face. She couldn't tan, because her skin was so fair that it burned before she could receive the desired affect. She couldn't seem to fill out in her size 3 clothes, no matter how much she ate. She had low self-esteem and walked with her face down. She hid herself away in her room, where nobody could find her.
Sad as she seemed, however, she did have one joy, one secret pleasure to keep her from throwing her life away. That pleasure was fairy tales. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, Jack and the Beanstalk. They were what she lived for. Every day, after she got home from school, she would drown herself in the beauty that was fantasy. Through the princesses, through the heroines, through the dragon slayers, she could live as she never had before, with confidence and respect.
Her favorite was the Sword in the Stone, where a young boy earned the respect of a whole nation by doing one daring act. She read it at least six times a year, and found a new thrill in it each time she opened the worn leather binding. She would read it for days on end until she finished it.
The only bad thing about reading her fairy tales, however, was that once she had finished, the courage and bravery she had possessed during the time of her reading was lost. She was back to being herself; back to being worthless.
She hated that she was born in such a time where these things no longer happened. She was born in such a time where princesses no longer earned their prince, where slayers no longer fought their dragons. So, in the ninth grade, she decided to do something about it. She cut up all her clothes and bought new ones. She bought dresses with built-in corsets, and fluffy skirts. She looked like she had stepped right out of the 1400's. When she sat at her desk at school, her dress overflowed to the surrounding desks and floors. She felt beautiful, and she felt that her prince charming was just that much closer to finding her.
Of course, her friends at school didn't think much of her new wardrobe. They laughed and teased and made her life miserable. One young sixth-grader, however, took pity on her. When he found her crying in the cafeteria one day, he asked what was wrong. She explained what had happened. The boy thought for a moment and then laughed. She asked him why he did so, and he began to explain.
"It's people like you that made the Brothers Grimm so predictable. At the beginning of each of their stories, they use the phrase 'Once Upon a Time.' Have you ever thought to think of what the phrase means?"
The girl shook her head.
"The phrase is there to indicate that these fairy tales that you so greatly admire can take place at any time. They could have taken place seven thousand years ago, but they could take place seven thousand years into the future. Fairy tales were written so that people in the future generations could appreciate them just as much as fairy tales are appreciated now. These fairy tales you read, Cinderella and such, those happen today. They happen once upon this time."
She thought for a moment. It did kind of make sense. She looked down at her dress and laughed. She was trying so hard to make her fairy tales come true, but she missed the whole point in them.
That night, she went home and raided her sister's closet for a pair of jeans and a nice pink shirt. The next morning, she went to school with "The Sword in the Stone" firmly in hand. She filled out a slip of paper and put it in a box labeled, "application for class president."
She had decided that she was going to pull her sword from her stone. Once upon her time.