| With a sigh, she said, ‘You’re beautiful, Adorabella. I wish I could be like you.’
I wanted to smile. I wish I could smile, but the hope is futile. I’m just a painting, and paintings don’t smile. But I’m not like any other painting.
The bedroom was empty except for her and me: the painter and her painting. And what a painting it is! It illustrates the calmness, the greenness of a forest on the peak of the Springtime. Lines and lines of trees are surrounding a small pond, whereupon a beautiful girl — that’s me: beautiful — sits down to refresh her thirst. There are a doe and a fawn, a fox and a cub, and birds of various kinds watching the girl affectionately. The girl has golden hair: the kind of hair that most fairy tale princesses have. She is slender, clothed in simple yet enchanting dress, and her eyes are emerald green. The trees and the animals seems trying to get as close as possible to the beautiful girl — to the beautiful me. And though the painting is silent, I know all of them wanted to praise my beauty. Well, I am dazzling.
My painter, however, is the kind of girl any man wouldn’t look twice. She is ugly. Her nose is too big and her lower lip is too fat. Her hair — oh, dear — is such a bird’s nest. She has too much acne and her glasses makes her look dumb. She’s not hot; she’s far from men’s dream. Her clothes are nowhere from trendy and pink is just not her colour. It always amazes me how an ugly girl like her can make such a beautiful painting like me.
‘You’re beautiful, Adorabella. I wish I could be like you.’
If only I could, I would have made a proud sniff. I welcome any praise for my beauty, thank you very much, even though it came from someone so horrible. I glanced at her from the corner of my eyes. She was sitting in front of her mirror, adding layers and layers of make-up to her face. She combed her hair to imitate mine. She put on lipstick in the same colour as my lips. Yet, much to her dismay, she couldn’t get anywhere near me. Occasionally she would glance at me, then turn to her own reflection, give a grunt and put on more make-up. And that’s when I knew she wasn’t born to be a fairy tale princess: princesses don’t grunt.
Sometimes her friends would come to her bedroom, and when their eyes were set on me, they would drop their jaws. I like seeing their expressions when admiring me; that’s just what a princess greatly deserves.
‘She’s beautiful, Gertrude! Did you make her yourself?’ One by one, they would ask that question and my painter would mutter the reply: ‘Yes, I did.’
‘Are you going to sell her someday?’ one of them would say. ‘I bet she’s worth millions dollar.’
‘No, not yet. She’s not finished yet.’
Everything was a routine. They would ask why my painter thought I wasn’t finished yet, seeing how flawless I had been, but she always avoided to answer. But I know why. Oh, yes, I know why. It wasn’t me who had a flaw; it was her. She’s not as perfect as I am and it made her feeling insecure.
‘Why are you so beautiful, Adorabella?’ she asked, frustrated. ‘Why couldn’t I be like you?’
I wished I could sneer. In fact, I wanted to laugh. There’s no way she can be like me.
‘She’s beautiful,’ said an admirer in the art convention two years ago. My painter brought me there after her friends had persuaded so many times. They said it would be good to see what people thought about me. She didn’t seem very excited with the idea, but, well, who cares what she thought? I like the art convention. So many people crowded to adore my beauty, like this guy before me.
‘Dazzling,’ he said again. ‘Enchanting. Better than any painting I’ve ever seen!’
I wanted to grin at my painter — oh, how I wanted to laugh on her face! She was just standing next to my canvas all the time, giving a happy yet reluctant smile every time someone came to worship me. She was dressing in her smartest clothes, with her hair dyed gold — imitating mine, no doubt — and her cheeks red like a traffic light. She tried to look beautiful, too, but no one glanced twice at her. They were too busy praising me. It’s too bad the convention couldn’t last forever, because only in the last minutes he came.
‘She’s beautiful,’ said a handsome man with sparkling eyes. ‘I’ve never seen anyone so perfect before. You painted her pretty well.’
Oh! If only I could, I would have blushed heavily by then! Many people had praised me before, but none of them could make my heart leap like this man did. He’s more than handsome; he’s perfect. His hair is black like the galaxy itself; his eyes are like a magnet to me. His body is well-treated; his smile nearly made me faint. I wish — oh, how I wish! — I could set my eyes on him forever. I wish he could be my prince.
But my painter — my ugly, clumsy painter — was too busy packaging her stuffs that she barely looked at him. ‘Thanks,’ she grunted. ‘Now, if you excuse me, I want to go home before it’s too dark.’
‘I can give you a ride if you want to.’
‘No, thank you. I’m fine by myself.’
‘Are you sure about this?’ he said. ‘I don’t mind, really. You know, like other men, I can’t leave a beautiful damsel walking alone at night.’ He winked playfully. I bet my face would have been red if I wasn’t a painting. What a gentleman he is! Sure, I’d love to! I could use this chance to know him more.
But my painter just stomped her foot angrily. ‘Look, sir, if you think my painting is beautiful, you can have her. For free. You can bring her home and praise her all you want. Now leave me alone.’
I felt my heart stopped beating by then. Not that I had a heart, of course, but you got the idea. He could bring me home? Praising me all he wanted? Wow, that was the best offer my painter had ever made! Well, perhaps she wasn’t that ugly, after all…
But my Prince Charming just said slowly: ‘But I don’t want to have her. I want to have you.’
I went silent. My painter went silent. Both of us couldn’t believe what he just said. Nor I wanted to believe it.
What happened next… I don’t want to remember it. She eventually accepted his offer. Her face had turned all red when she carried me to his car. They left me in the back seat while they, the Prince Charming and the Ugly Duckling, chatted merrily in the front. He asked her many things: what sport she liked, how long she had been painting, how many paintings she had made — but not even one question about me.
Not many days later, the Prince came again. I could hear his voice downstairs when I was in my painter’s bedroom. She squealed happily when the bell rang, and I heard him telling her, ‘You’re dazzling’ — the words he should only say to me.
As time passed by, they went to a date more and more often, and before I knew it, my painter had cast me aside. I no longer sit in the spotlight. She no longer looks at me and sighs, wishing she could be like me. Now I’m just sitting in the corner as she makes a new painting: the next fairy tale of her life. And she looks happy, too; she’s ugly as always, but happy. What about me?
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I will look at her sleeping figure and weep. I wish I could weep. I wish I could express this grief. But I can’t. I just can’t. I’m a painting, and paintings don’t cry.
Then grief turns into jealousy and jealousy turns into hatred. Why can’t be like her? She’s ugly. I’m beautiful. But why is she happy? Why does she smile? Why can’t I experience LOVE?
You’re ugly, Gertrude. I wish I could be like you.