Ugly Girl, page 1
Book One in the Faîte Falling Series
Mary E. Twomey
Copyright © 2017 Tuesday Twomey
Cover Art by Shayne Leighton
of Parliament House Book Designs
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All rights reserved.
First Edition: July 2017
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This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.
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This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
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For my mom,
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Who never let me believe that I was the Ugly Girl,
and loved me even when I was certain that’s all I was.
1. Winning and Total Loss
2. Strange Body and Old Dudes
3. Angel of Vengeance in Flannel
4. Rolling and Booking
5. Fighting the Brick Wall
6. Blood and Luck
7. Brownies and Bastien
8. Running and Ditching
9. Magic Famine
10. Blessings Broken with Greed
11. Vegetarian, Kosher, and Poisonous Hot Dogs
12. Bastien’s Butt
13. Old Friends, New Enemies
14. Hamish’s Nutty Adventure
15. No Justice for the Judge’s Daughter
16. My Love for Judah and Lane
17. The Rabbit Hole to Avalon
18. Well Wishes for Kisses
19. New World, Old Foes
20. Dahu and Abraham Lincoln
21. Busted Magic and Big Baby
22. Stuck in a Phone Booth Without Superman
23. Mommy Fainting
24. Wobbly Legs and Missing Tongues
25. The Vow of the Guardien
26. Snake Spaghetti
27. Mrs. Robinson’s New Dress
28. Carried through the Woods
29. Bayard the Butthole
30. Legit Lancelot
31. Bare Legs and Blood Racing
32. Not Kiss and Not Nice
33. Poisonous Poppies
34. Spiders in my Brain
35. Bastien the Bully
36. Uncle, Cousin and Hidden Sneers
37. Not Your Punching Bag
38. Lot in Life
39. One for Me, One for Lane
40. The Wilderness Beasts We Are
1. The Lost Village
Also by Mary E. Twomey
Winning and Total Loss
Judah’s laugh was music to my ears as he high-fived me, our pool sticks clanking together. “That was an awesome shot. We should’ve bet more,” he said, eyeing the pile of twenties on the ledge that were weighted by a cube of chalk.
The atmosphere in the noisy bar was just starting to hit its sweet spot, with the blaring music enticing the college crowd to remember everything that was good about being young and away from home. We frequently came here after I finished a soccer game, yet somehow there were always a couple guys drunk enough to challenge us, even though we were undefeated at pool.
“Is it mean to take their money like this?” I asked, tilting my head at my best friend’s dark curly hair that was slightly sticking up in the back. Neither of us looked in the mirror all that often, but relied on each other to either comb out the quirks, or decide if they should be left to add to our slightly off-center personalities.
Judah guffawed. “Don’t you dare start with that pesky conscience tonight, Rosie Avalon. They were sober-ish when we started playing.” Judah scrutinized the pool table, and I could practically feel him bisecting right angles and saying nonsense words like “hypotenuse” in his head. Gotta love him. He took his shot and sank the ball, beaming that we were still on top of our game of round robin. We laughed as we did our obnoxious Cabbage Patch dance, the brown curls of my ponytail swishing in time with my pool stick. The guys on my soccer team chuckled at our usual antics, but a few people on the fringes gave us weird looks.
Me. They gave me weird looks. Not that I could blame them. I had scoliosis, which resulted in a pretty sizeable hump on my back. Pair that with my lazy left eye, and I was ripe for receiving at least one grimace a day. One of my stellar nicknames in high school had been Baby Got Too Much Back. The other one was Crater Face, due to the painful acne that never went away. Judah was my other half because he’d never once looked at me like I was the ugly girl, and I’d never teased him about being super into Star Trek, spending his entire life at the top of the curve, or being Jewish. (I mean, come on, people. It’s the twenty-first century already. You’d think the anti-Semitic comments would’ve died out before we were born, but there were always a few jaggoffs whose mission in life was to derail the evolution of the species.) I’d learned to accept the girl in the mirror and not hold back my personality. Just because I wasn’t a blonde cheerleader didn’t mean I was about to sit on the sidelines and sulk my whole life.
I was the starting striker for the Blue Hornets. The cheerleaders could have the blondes, for all I cared. I’d found my people long ago, and they didn’t need me to be prom queen. Their main concern was if I could score, which I had no trouble proving game after game.
“Don’t feel like foreplay tonight?” I asked, taking in our opponents’ frowns of frustration. Our competition was droopy-eyed from their newly minted legal drinking-aged licenses, and not amused at our dance.
Judah tapped his watch, which also served as his day planner. “You’ve got to study for finals still.”
I felt eyes on me, but I tried to ignore it. I pretended I didn’t mind being talked about. It was the pointing that did me in. I rolled my hunched shoulders back as best I could, but no matter how straight I stood, I was still a little stooped. I did my best to push out the world and focus on the game. “Double or nothing if I make this shot blind.” Maybe I was showing off just a little. I was in a great mood after the shutout, flying high off the adrenaline that kissed my forehead on the soccer field.
One of our challengers who was four beers into his night leaned against the table. “Not a chance. I’ve seen you pull that trick before. I still don’t know how you do it.”
“Magic,” I teased, wiggling my fingers as I lined up my shot. I paused to play with the locket on the thin gold chain around my neck. When my Aunt Lane had given it to me, she’d warned me to never take it off – it was my good luck charm. My luck tended to run freezing and scalding, but I placated her all the same.
Judah and I put them out of their misery quickly, since Judah was annoyingly right, and I did have to get home to cram for finals. It wasn’t truly over until we finished off the chorus of Queen’s “We are the Champions”, which we nailed because we sang it at least once a week in this very bar after just such a victory. Our pool winnings kept our grocery budget firmly at a notch above ramen noodles, so we came here as often as we could.
I tried not to pay much attention to our goalkeeper, Kyle, who was arguing with his girlfriend, but they were hard to ignore. It was an hour after a victory, so their fight was right on schedule. Last time their clash was over him kissing her too hard, and smearing her Barbie pink lipstick. That had been one long night.
“I saw you looking at that skank!” Melanie’s voice was shrill, which was the only tone I’d ever heard on the girl. I idly wondered what it would sound like if she ever whispered.
“Three times you laughed at a joke that girl told after the match. You think I didn’t see it?”
Kyle scrunched his nose. “Who, Rosie? She’s my teammate. Jeez.” I was the only girl on the soccer team.
Melanie huffed, her arms akimbo. “I don’t care if you joke with the ugly girl. It’s the one in the halter top who you couldn’t stop grinning at that I have a problem with.”
My movements stilled as I leaned on my pool stick. Judah hadn’t heard, because he was still being an obnoxious winner, dancing as he counted our take. It was just me who could stand in my defense, only I never wanted to in these situations. Melanie was right. I’d gone through many painful chiropractic treatments to try and straighten my hump, but scoliosis wasn’t one of those things that went away with a simple crack of a spine. No matter how many times I went to the dermatologist, a heavy smattering of acne covered my cheeks, chin and forehead. I knew no guy ever looked my way, and over the years, I’d become okay with it. It helped me find out who my true friends were, and who not to waste my time around. Still, Melanie’s words punched me in the gut. I wanted to believe the best in humanity, but sometimes it was a struggle.
Kyle’s genuine displeasure at Melanie’s slam made me stand a little taller, though he didn’t say, “No, Rosie’s not ugly,” but rather, “Hey, she’s my friend, and you need to cool it with that kinda talk.”
I swallowed down the bad spot on an otherwise awesome night, working up a grin for Judah, who’d finally come down from his gloating. “You ready to go, Ro?” Judah asked, tucking our winnings into his pocket.
I put on my best fake smile and pounded my fist in the air. “I’m super way pumped to study!”
The crowd was thickening, hitting the point in the night where, if you hadn’t already secured a chair, you were nursing your beer standing up for the rest of the evening. I held onto Judah’s hand so we didn’t get separated as we weaved through the college students who’d come to celebrate the end (or near end) of the semester.
I was starting to feel claustrophobic right as someone bumped into me from behind, knocking my hand out of Judah’s. The bulky body bumped me forward into a woman, who turned to scowl, and then reared back with the infamous grimace when she saw what I looked like.
I held up my hands like claws and hissed, as if I was a hag who was about to put a hex on her, cursing her into decades of unending slumber. If I was going to be gawked at like I was hideous, I wanted to really earn the part.
Judah snorted a laugh at the girl’s horrified expression. He gripped my hand tighter so we didn’t get separated as we slipped through the crowd, finally making our way out onto the cracked sidewalk. The neon from the bar’s sign lit Judah’s smile just enough for his levity to migrate to me. “Did you see her face? I thought she was going to pee herself. I love when you do that. And if I didn’t say so in there, good game.”
I bowed under the streetlight to my adoring fan, grinning as I righted myself. The smell of exhaust and semi-fresh air was a welcome reprieve from the peanut shells and bottom-shelf beer I’d been breathing in all night.
Judah did a doubletake, his brows furrowing in confusion as if I was wearing a weird hat or something. He took three steps back, and then two forward to squint at me, pushing his Buddy Holly glasses further up on his nose. “Rosie, your face! Did you… Are you wearing makeup or something?”
My nose crinkled. “Huh? Why would you even ask me that? I don’t even own any makeup. You know that.”
For the first time in his life, Judah pointed at my face in distaste. “Your acne is gone. Like, you were normal just a minute ago, but now your skin is all… I dunno. You don’t look like you.”
“Who do I look like, then?” I challenged, hurt that he would point at me like the circus freak I often felt like.
“You look like your Aunt Lane! I mean, the similarities were always there, but now…”
My hand went to my throat to play with my necklace. I often did that when I wanted to soothe myself after being looked at like I wasn’t pretty in a world where things like pretty mattered a little too much. My fingers touched the naked skin of my neck above my blue jersey, fumbling around for the chain that should’ve been there, but suddenly wasn’t.
As if trying to pat down a fire, I felt all over my collar and my shirt, a panic rising up in me at losing the one precious thing I owned. “Oh, no! Judah, where is it? My necklace is gone!” I blinked rapidly as my left eye started to twitch while I searched around me for the sentimental treasure.
Judah frowned and turned on his phone to use as a flashlight, searching the concrete from where we stood all the way back to the bar. “I’m not seeing it. You sure you didn’t take it off?”
I threw my hands in the air after shaking out my shirt and still coming up empty. “In all the years you’ve known me, have you ever seen me without that necklace? I never take it off! Lane made me promise to keep it on forever. Oh, she’s going to flip.” My vision started to swim, making the cars passing by look blurry, and then unnervingly detailed, disorienting me enough to take a step back. Rapid blinking made things clearer, but still didn’t reveal my necklace anywhere in sight.
“I can’t picture Lane getting pissed that you lost something. I can’t picture her mad at you, period. It’s an honest mistake, Ro. We’ll come back in the morning and check the lost and found. It’s probably on the floor in there. Chain was bound to break one of these days.”
I groaned at the thought of people squashing the locket that had belonged to my long-deceased mother. My aunt had taken the locket from my mother’s meager belongings and passed it down to me. “It’s the only thing of my mother’s that I have! Judah, we have to find it.”
“Alright, alright. Don’t worry. I’ll help you.”
My left eye started to itch as if there were phantom spiders running all over it, so I ran my index finger across my eyelid. I grimaced when I felt heat radiating out in a circle around that whole section of my face. I started blinking rapidly to clear away the foreign sensation, willing myself not to lose my cool and smack myself in the head to make the tingling stop.
When my gaze fell on Judah after my vision finally focused, he jumped back in horror. “Gah! What’s wrong with your eye?”
It was the hurt that had never come from him until this moment. All the other kids in school had blanched at my lazy left eye, but Judah never cared that I looked different. Now he was acting like the woman who’d cringed in the bar when she’d gotten a good look at me. To have him comment on my wonky eye in the same minute he was acting all horrified by the rest of my face was a double whammy that made me take a step back. Anger welled up inside of me and spewed itself all over my best friend. “Are you just now noticing that I look like this? What’s your deal, Judah?”
He seemed to remember himself and cleared the gap between us, hands raised. “I don’t mean it like that. Your skin is totally as clear as a baby’s, and your eyes are pointing in the same direction! It’s freaking me out! How are you doing that?”
I felt my face and, sure enough, my skin was devoid of pockmarks. There wasn’t even any of the scarring I’d acquired from acne gone rogue throughout the years. “Wha… Are you serious?” My optometrist swore up and down that my vision hadn’t been affected by my lazy eye, but I began to notice that even though it was nighttime, I was able to see a little clearer – the edges of everything were a bit crisper. “Judah?” My voice came out in a pinched bleat of panic.
“I’m sure there’s a totally logical explanation. Maybe it’s a trick of the moonlight?” he suggested, though I could tell he didn’t believe his conjecture.
I shook my head, feeling all turned around and borderline emotional. “A lazy eye doesn’t just fix itself in a blink!”
“Okay, let’s go home where ther
“Are you ever wrong?” I asked, incredulous.
“No,” Judah replied apologetically. It was true. Judah was always at the top of the curve in school, but was blessed with the grace not to lord it over the dummies like me who were barely hanging on. His shoulders deflated when he took in the effect his unfiltered words had on me. “Come here. I freaked you out with my pointing. I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.”
Judah held out his arms, and I didn’t hesitate to crash into them, resting my trepidation on his shoulder in hopes it would evaporate there. “Don’t point at me like that anymore,” I said quietly, letting him know that he was my safe place, and taking that away would be a devastation I wouldn’t recover from. “Everyone else can, but you? You’re my…” I fished around for the right word, but landed on shtick. “You’re my pimp daddy.”
Judah snorted into my hair. “You’re totally right. I’m sorry, hot mama. Are you okay?”
“I lost my necklace, so no. Everything else can take a backseat to that. My acne is really gone? I saw myself in the mirror after the soccer match, and I was still me.”
“Not a trace of it, Ro. And your left eye is pointing straight now. It wasn’t that way when we were playing pool in there just a few minutes ago.”
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