Her mother had given her the name Agnes, believing that a good-looking woman was even more striking when her name was a homely one. There was just one, rather insurmountable, flaw in her reasoning; her daughter, despite her best efforts, was not blessed with the beauty which her mother took for granted. Rather, at the age of sixteen, she found herself not only homely of name but of outwards appearance as well.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Agnes began to believe herself to be cursed to a life of misery. Her older sisters, Gytha and Beryl, had both grown into stunning beauties and were pursued by cat calls and impromptu proposals whenever they headed into town on one of their many shopping trips. On the few occasions when Agnes was cajoled into joining them the only attention she received was from the elderly female shopkeepers who pinched her cheeks and invariably said something along the lines of:

“Oh, and this must be the younger brother, what a handsome man he will grow up to be!”

Agnes would give a forced smile and nod having realised long ago that it was pointless to argue with Grandmothers.

Earlier in her life, Agnes had imagined that she too would grow up to be pretty. She had pictured herself with her mother’s beautiful brown flowing curls, with Gytha’s piercing blue eyes and with Beryl’s impossibly slim figure. As time went by, however, she found that she had inherited none of these features but instead had rather inconsequential brown hair, dull brown eyes and an intractably rotund figure. After a while she gave up on her dreams of beauty and instead found herself dressing comfortably, cutting her hair short and spending the majority of her time with Charlie, the grubby boy from the next farm over.

This development disappointed her mother.  She would spend hours pleading with Agnes, continually asking her to a least try being a little prettier. She would tell Agnes how much joy it had brought her to be able to turn heads just by entering a room and how easy it had made life for her to be so pretty. She recounted how proud she had been, at the age of thirteen, when she had won her first beauty pageant and how happy her own parents were. During these speeches Agnes would just nod, keeping her head lowered (which drove her mother mad) and patiently wait until she would be allowed to run outside once more to join Charlie in another of his lively adventures.

One day, after another such speech (during which her mother had worked herself nearly to tears), Agnes went out in search of Charlie and found him waiting for her in the lane outside her house. He had a rucksack on which was nearly as big as he was and was holding a large knobbly walking stick in his hand.

“Hey, Ugly!”He shouted out, beaming as he saw her approaching.

“Hey dumbass! What’s with the getup?” She yelled back, quickening her step towards him.

“It’s for the both of us; it’s time to go on the big one. We’re getting out of here for good”

Agnes stopped and stared at him. She thought for a moment about her family, about the position in life that she would have to hold if she stayed behind and most of all about the unbridled potential of life.  Then she kept walking.

“Well Charlie Williams, it’s about time!”


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