The Beautiful Woman

"Just look at her. It's disgusting how all the men flock to her like moths to candlelight. And even more disgusting how she burns every one of their hearts too. I can't imagine it's that difficult to choose a man," a woman remarked, looking distastefully at a beautiful woman a few seats away who smiled politely at a man as he spoke animatedly to her.

"Maybe she's not interested," her friend replied, not taking her eyes off whatever she was looking at. Unnoticed by the woman, her friend walked away with the same dreamy expression and a little girl sidled up to take her seat.

"She's another nasty one, mark my words," the woman said darkly, still not noticing her friend had gone.

"If she's nasty then why do all the boys like her?" the little girl piped up suddenly.

Startled, the woman turned and saw her new companion. After a short scan of the room, she saw her friend conversing with a handsome stranger. Muttering about hypocrites under her breath, the woman decided to humour the little girl.

"Because she's pretty, of course."

"But they wouldn't like her if she wasn't nice, right?"

The woman inwardly snorted. "Hardly. You're young, but I'll have you know men are blind when it comes to these things. They see pretty and that's it." She would have said more but decided she had corrupted the child enough for one day.

"But... if they're blind how could they see that the girl is pretty?" asked the little girl, tilting her head in puzzlement.

The child had a clever mind, the woman had to give her that.

"Well, child, I was speaking in metaphors. They don't see her ugly personality, just her pretty face."

"Wouldn't they like nice, pretty girls like you more?"

Taken aback by the involuntary compliment, the woman paused for a moment before saying, "Well... I'm not that pretty."

The little girl's frowned deepen and the woman felt amused by such an expression on her young face.

"So... do you think that all very pretty girls are nasty?" the little girl finally said.

That was unexpected. This little girl was not easy to satisfy, now, was she?

"Well..." she contemplated for a moment, "All the ones I know are nasty... so I guess, yes."

She should not have said that. She'd truly corrupted this child with her cynicism now. Waiting expectantly for the little girl to ask why so that she could remedy the situation, the woman was surprised at the cross expression on the girl's face, and even more surprised at her next question.

"My mummy says I'm very pretty. Do you think I'm nasty then?"

Good heavens.

"No, no, dear child. You're a very nice girl. The only one I know, in fact." She smiled then, pleased with herself at her quick reaction.

"You're lying to me." the little girl said bluntly, and the woman's smile faded slightly. Before she could assure the little girl that she was, indeed, telling the truth, the girl spoke again, her expression turned thoughtful. "Would you rather be pretty or nice?"

The woman was stunned. She opened her mouth, and closed it again. She did this twice before finally saying, "Where's your mother?"

The little girl pointed at the beautiful woman.