The Beast and Its Girl

Part One:

"You are very ugly," The Beast said. It tilted it's dark feathered head and leaned over the bathroom counter. I stood beside it, examining myself in the mirror. "Child, you will never be loved by that boy. Your body is not suited to be gazed upon. Your gut sags, your ears are crooked, your nose is far too small. You are simply revolting."

The Beast towered over me at about six feet. Long, black feathers covered it's almost human body, and a reptilian tail stretched out from its hindquarters. Dark grease oozed from beneath its pillowy exterior. It's head was narrow and beaked like a demented ostrich. "Ugly daughter, you have been indulging." It stuck its head toward my gut and poked at the blubber with its beak. "You shouldn't eat for the next couple of days."

The sad shape in the mirror confirmed its words. But I had been doing as the creature commanded for so long, and there were so few results. I ran a hand through my hair, wishing there were some way to make the miraculous happen. "I don't want him to just walk away . . . can't you do something to make me prettier?"

"Dear," It said. "That boy will need more pretty than you are capable of providing. Just give up." Then, almost as an afterthought, it once again said: "You are very ugly."

I examined myself in the mirror again. Blonde hair flowed down to my awkwardly proportioned shoulders. Extra flesh hung from every part of my body: stocky arms, stumpy legs, and one of those blubbery necks that jiggles when you move. If it were practical, I'd take a scissors and cut all the fat off right here, right now.

"Come now," it said. "Back to your room. We must speak of your lackluster performance."

I obeyed, flipping the light off on my way out of the bathroom.

The Beast curled up on my bed like a cat, its eyes following me across the room. Wagging its tail, it left a trail of dark slime across the white sheets. "You know how to atone. Hurry up, I'm growing weary of your moping."

From the stand beside my bed, took the small box of razors. I had stolen them from my father's workbench. The Beast's eyes were on me, watching every little move. Its eyes were lit with anticipation. Something about the way the razors slid through my skin made me feel a little prettier. But it only lasted a few moments before The Beast reminded me that I was not.

Part Two:

From the moment I'd laid eyes upon her, I knew she was exactly what I had been a year ago. Though it was invisible to me, I knew that ugly creature was whispering in her ear. We were sitting across from each other at a table in a small coffee shop. We both sipped espressos. The conversation had drifted to a lull. My eyes dropped to her wrists – she wore a small velcro watch overtop of reddish lines across her skin. She'd obviously intended me to miss the scars. But they were far too many, and they were far too deep. She clenched her styrofoam cup tightly, her eyes drooping. The whole time we'd been talking, she'd looked me in the eyes once – maybe twice.

Don't you remember that? The Whisperer asked me. She is exactly what you were.

It was true. I had been a piece of human wreckage until the day the Whisperer found me.

I examined the girl across the table. Her eyes were strong. Determined. It didn't take a mind reader to feel the heat of the fire being suppressed. Her character was down there somewhere – like it had died, rotted to a pile of bones, and then was buried and fossilized.

But even the most ancient of fossils can be dug up and restored, said the Whisperer.

I eyed that arm where the cuts rested. There was no fat on the bone whatsoever – just skin and veins. But it didn't diminish her beauty in my eyes. I only saw a poor soul, smothered by that dark beast.

The words escaped my mouth before I knew I was saying them. I knew she wouldn't believe me, but I also knew they were the words she longed to hear: "You're beautiful." She was frozen, besides the shaking espresso in her hands. I searched her. What was she thinking? Had I been too forward? Then I found it: there were tears forming in her eyes.

The beast is gone, The Whisperer said. For the moment . . .

And when we walked out of the coffee shop two hours later, she was smiling.