Forget Beautiful

Annabelle Willows. Daughter of famous model Jenny Willows. Sister of Miss USA winner Charity Willows. Cousin of cover girl Kaylee Manning. Yet she isn’t like them. She hates makeup and wants nothing to do with the business. Her family says it’s because she isn’t pretty enough. They are always insulting her appearance. One night, while in her room, she thinks back to something her dad said. “Hoping won’t get you anywhere. Doing will.” She realizes what she has to do. Hoping things will change, won’t do a thing. She packs up some of her clothes, and runs. She has no idea where to go, but wherever she goes, people compare her to her family. Until she meets a certain someone who is fighting for the same thing she is....

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1. Chapter 1

I sat on my bed, looking in the mirror. My orange sweat pants, my green shirt, and my tennis shoes. It was exactly how I liked it. Running a brush through my curly brown hair, I walked downstairs to my mother and sister.

    “Annabelle! Upstairs and change, right now!” my mom screamed with a look of disdain. She was in a pale blue gown with sparkles on the chest and a silky white lace hanging over the bottom. I didn’t move.

    “Annabelle! We don’t have time for this! Go!” Again, I didn’t move. Eventually, she would give.

    “Look, if I could leave you at home, I would. But I can’t, so go change.”

    “Why can’t you? I’m seventeen. I can look after myself.”

    “Just stop arguing and go upstairs and change! Change into this.” She tossed me a silky red dress. Grunting slightly, I walked upstairs. As I was going, I heard one more thing escape from her mouth.

    “That girl. Wanting to show off her hideous side every chance she gets. Maybe someday she’ll learn.”

    I closed the door to my room and changed into the dress. Admittedly, it was comfortable. Though there was a pair of high heels sitting on my dresser, I didn’t dare look at them. A dress, I could handle. High heels, wouldn’t even try. It was good my dress was long, so she wouldn’t be able to complain about me having tennis shoes on with my dress.

    I walked back downstairs and she looked at me with slightly less disapproval. My sister stood up. She had been so quiet I had forgotten she was there. It was shocking. She had on a bright yellow dress with a white half-sweater on her shoulders. She was only two years older than me, and anybody would have said she had gotten the looks of the family. I would agree she was beautiful, when the makeup touched her face, she lost almost all of it.

    “Alright. Let’s go.” I followed them out to the car. The second we stepped outside, my sister put on a couple sprays of perfume. It was repentant, but I couldn’t stop her from putting it on. The best she could do was wait until we were outside to put it on.

    I sat in the backseat of the car so I could roll down the window. It got rid of the multiple smells of the car. Also, it only blew my hair back, which meant nothing to me. As soon as it started, my window was down and I was taking in the blissful breeze coming into the car.

    A half an hour car ride of listening to my sister and mom talk about anything that came into their mind, we arrived at the big stadium. Though we had moved a few times in the past, we decided that moving was more hectic than just taking long car rides or planes visits. So, we stuck with that.

    The doors unlocked and I opened my door and stepped out. Camera people immediately came over to the car to get shots of my mom and sister. As soon as they stepped out, they flashed their too white smiles in their direction. While I, stood off to the side. I hated being the center of attention. While it seemed they couldn’t get enough of it.  

    I sat on a bench and looked over to a stand of magazines sitting there. They were to read while at the event, or waiting for it to start. They were all pointless fashion magazines. I slumed in the bench and looked up to the sky, wondering what I would be doing if my family wasn’t full of famous models. If I had more of a normal life, where fashion was only a tiny portion of my everyday life, instead of fashion consuming it against my will.

    The camera people started to come closer to where I was as the two of them made their way to the door. They were as noisy as ever. I stood up and walked inside to avoid the media attention. My mother and sister prefered that anyways as well.

    I took a seat towards the back where the lights were always darkest. The seats were also more comfortable in my opinion.

    As the show started, the lights went down where I was and I let my mind wander. Though I wanted to just fall asleep, I couldn’t. There was too much noise surrounding me.

    My mind fell back into the world where my family wasn’t full of famous models. Where my life might actually be half normal. Instead of sitting at fashion shows all day, I’d be sitting on my bed, doing homework, before watching a movie and then eating dinner with my family. They ate a lot of grilled chicken and salad. And if I wanted anything else for dinner, I was the one to cook it. With my sister though, my mom would cook anything for her. She can get filet mignon and I couldn’t even get a grilled cheese.    

    I sighed and I got snapped out of my thoughts. I could tell only a few minutes had passed. The show dragged on as always. Why did they last so long? A woman walks on stage, shows off her outfit, and walks off. They should take ten minutes at most. Yet somehow they found a way to make them last for what seemed like hours.

    

    Finally, the lights went up and the show was over. It took my mother ten minutes to change out of her outfit, and fifteen for my sister. We walked outside and I climbed into the backseat of the car again.

    My sister put on the radio. Top 40 radio. It was all terrible songs, but I had no choice but to listen to it. The only good thing about them, was they were a lot easier to drown out than the fashion show. Not like that was hard to beat.

    We arrived at my house and I went straight to my room. I shut my door and laid down on my bed. In the stillness of my room, I could hear my mother and sister talking. I couldn’t tell what they were saying, but I knew it was about me. That much was obvious. Even without words, I could hear the disappointment in my mother’s voice. And, to a lesser degree, my sister’s.

    I didn’t want to be in the fashion business, I was in my home life. That, I couldn’t control. A part of me said to block out what they said, to ignore it and think nothing of it. Except, the rest me couldn’t do it. The rest of me wanted acceptance from them. Wanted to be loved by them. Or even to be proud of me for once, instead of disgusted by me. Though it was just wishful thinking.  

    “Annabelle! Make yourself dinner then get to sleep! You have school tomorrow!” My mom called. Not a surprise. It was a typical night. I didn’t move. I just wasn’t hungry at the moment. Maybe I would get something in a little bit, but not yet. “And make sure you have your homework done!”

    Walking over to the corner of my room, I looked at the folder on my desk. It held all my homework. Sliding into my desk, I looked through the folder. All the homework I had been assigned two days ago was finished. I didn’t mind doing homework, not like I had a choice anyways. If I didn't, I would get yelled at because she spent all the money on a homeschool teacher. If I got anything less than an A, I got the same lecture. No matter what she says, I know why she hired Mrs. Chankin. I couldn’t go to public school, with all our moving around and how popular they had surprisingly become, and she couldn’t be bothered to teach me anything herself.

    With another sigh, I shut the folder and sat back down on my bed. Through the floorboards, I heard more talking downstairs. Again, I couldn’t tell what they were saying. Not like I had no clue what they were saying. My mom would tell a modeling story, my sister would tell a story about a friend or enemy of hers, and then they would discuss more fashion. Their whole world revolved around fashion. Just like this whole town. Every once in a while, though, they would say something about me.

    Finally, I shut off the light and laid down. I would eat something in the morning, just not now. Slipping under the covers, I shut my eyes, and tried to force myself to fall asleep. It took probably a half an hour, but it finally worked, and I was asleep.

 

    Standing on stage, I looked out to the crowd. They were all cheering. Lights everywhere were pointed at me. Looking down, I had on my normal clothes. A baggy t-shirt and an old pair of jeans. As my hair fell down the side of my face, it was straight as usual. Nothing super fancy.

    I heard a scream out in the crowds and my mother came up in front of the stage. She had on the same clothes as me, except her hair was up in a messy bun. Without any makeup on, she looked like a normal mom.

    “What do you think you’re doing? This is my show! Not yours!” she yelled at me, stepping up to the stage.

    “I-I was just- I mean-”

    “Be quiet and get off the stage!” she yelled, pushing me off the stage. I fell to the ground and hit it hard. Flat on my back. Except I didn’t get hurt. At all. Standing up, everyone was now cheering for my mom. I went back to my seat, except someone else was sitting there. My sister.

    “Aren’t you in the show?” I asked. She didn’t answer me, or even acknowledge my presence. “Hello?” Even standing right in front of her, she did nothing.

    Grunting, I walked back over to the stage. “Mom! Get Charity to move! Now!” Like my sister, my mom said nothing, and did nothing to show she knew I was there. Frustrated, I went to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. Nothing. I had no reflection. Everything else around me did, but I didn’t. As if I didn’t even exist.

    

    I shot up in bed, my breathing was heavy. Climbing out of bed, I walked to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. A sigh of relief came over me. It was all a dream. What it meant, I had no idea. It was one weird dream though, and that was all that I knew for sure.

    “Annabelle! Out of the bathroom, now!” Charity commanded, standing at the door. I definitely existed.

“Whatever you wish, princess,” I said in mockery tone. She slammed her hand on the door frame as I tried to leave, blocking my way.

“What did you say to me?!” she yelled.

“I said I would leave,” I answered. I rarely said anything to them, as I knew I was already walking on thin ice with them. Late recovery was better than none.

“Good,” she said, removing her arm from out of my way. I then left the bathroom, and the door was shut almost immediately. A normal day in my not-so-normal life. With a sigh, my stomach growled and I knew I had to eat. I walked downstairs into our large living room, and went through the archway into the kitchen. My mom was sitting at the table, eating some fancy egg-dish.

“Oh. Good morning Annabelle,” she said, not very cheery though. It almost sounded sarcastic. I didn’t comment on it, I just went to the fridge. Grabbing the carton of eggs, I set it on the counter and got out two pieces of bread from the breadbox. I put the bread in the toaster and pushed down on the little levers to make the toast, and grabbed a frying pan. After turning on the stove and putting a little oil in the pan, I cracked an egg into the pan. It starting sizzling with brief contact from the egg, and sizzled louder as the rest of the egg hit the pan. I threw away the shell and grabbed the spatula.

My mom stayed silent, eating her breakfast. Though I could feel the disgust emitting from her. She liked her eggs, but not the way I did. Frying up eggs was how I cooked them, boiling them and completely butchering the natural taste of the egg was how she ate it.

After letting it cook for about ten minutes, I flipped it, causing the pan to sizzle more. After five more minutes, I shut off the stove and grabbed a plate. I slipped the egg onto the plate and grabbed the toast that had long-since popped up, placing them onto the plate as well.

“School starts in twenty minutes,” she reminded, and I nodded, grabbing a fork, and going to my room to eat.

Once in my room, I shut the door and sat on my bed, taking a bite out of my toast. A typical breakfast, and it was really good. Better than the fancy stuff, it that mattered at all. Not like I would get to eat it much no matter what I thought about it.

After about ten minutes, I had finished my breakfast. I then got dressed in a green sweatshirt and a typical pair of jeans. Nothing special, just an ordinary day, in ordinary clothes. I then ran a brush through my hair as I heard the doorbell ring. Pulling my desk out of it’s little corner, I positioned it at the foot of the bed, facing sideways. I then went downstairs and answered the door.

“Hi Mrs. Chankin. How are you?” I asked politely. She greeted me with a smile.

“Hi Annabelle. Ready for class?”

“I’m ready,” I answered, and we went up to my room. Mrs. Chankin was a fairly young woman with long black hair. She usually wore t-shirts that were a bit fancy and a pair of nice leggings. To top it all off, she was really nice and a great teacher. It was a breath of fresh air from my day of being dragged down by the rest of my family.

“Do you have your homework done?” I pulled it out of my folder and handed it to her. “Good. I’ll check over it with you. Let’s see if you have this down.” For the next few hours, I had my schooling. We went over math, reading, music, and we even did a few exercises. All without the annoying classmates or even one disruption from my mom or sister. It was paradise for me.

“Alright. Well, looks like we’re good for today. See if you can finish that math booklet I gave you. I think you can,” she said with a smile.

“I’ll work on it,” I answered, smiling as well. She nodded and picked up her things, before leaving the house. I moved my desk back to the corner. Math homework could wait. For a little while anyways.

Just as I went to go sit on my bed, my sister was at my door.

“Look. Mom and I are having top-class models come in for a meeting. Stay in here and don’t bug us. Got it?” Without even waiting for my response, she spoke again. “Good. We don’t need you ruining this for us.” Charity then left, whether to go to her room to get ready or go to the living room with our mom.

I got up and shut the door. More as in a light slam. I was sick of being disrespected. Tired of being looked down on. Being judged, talked about, disprivileged, all because my family was full of vain divas, who couldn’t see past their ridiculous amount of makeup. I just wished I could be accepted, that all that beauty would be forgotten.

Hoping and wishing won’t get you anywhere. It will only get you started on the quest to make it happen.

The words rang true in my ears. I looked up to the sky and closed my eyes. I knew what I had to do.

“Thank you,” I whispered, tears welling in my eyes, breaking my gaze from the ceiling. Walking over to my closet, I dug through it until I found my suitcase. Just the perfect size for what I was about to accomplish.

My mind was raging with questions, concerns, what-if’s, and problems. As well as dangers, possible scenarios, and anything else that could possibly come to mind. I was not prepared for this. I just wasn’t ready. Though I knew I had to do this. This was my time to prepare, to get ready, so I could do this without a hitch. Or, at least, without any big ones.

I put my suitcase on the floor and went over to the computer desk. It was my sister’s old computer, but it still worked. Logging on, I was glad I had finally figured out how to change the password. I felt disgusting typing in the other one.

My fingers were shaking as I got onto the internet. What would I look up? A map of the city maybe? It would have to be one that showed the buildings, or it would do me no good. Look up abandoned buildings and houses? No, that would probably just lead me to haunted houses. I was not looking to stay in a place someone died at.

Taking a deep breath, I tried to clear my mind so I could think straight. The up-side? My mother and sister were busy downstairs, so they wouldn’t walk in here and disrupt me or start asking me questions about the suitcase and other things. Despite them not really caring about me, they wouldn’t let me leave here that easily. No matter how much they didn’t care, they had to keep up the image as a “loving family.” The youngest running off would shatter their image. What fakes they were.

Sighing, I repositioned myself at the keyboard. Multiple search possibilities came to mind. One by one, I started typing them in, making notes in my notebook. I drew out maps, wrote out notes as in where not to go, and where I could possibly go.

On one site, as I was looking at the map of the city, I noticed something. There was a laundromat right across from the diner I went to whenever I had extra money and didn’t feel like cooking, or just needed to get out of the house. It had been abandoned for years. A smile came across my face. Perfect. I knew how to easily get there, and nobody would expect me to stay at a broken down laundromat, no matter how close it was to familiar places. It was all too perfect.

After finishing off my notes, I walked over to my suitcase and placed it on the bed. I unzipped it and pushed the flap open. My notebook was the first thing to go in there. Next, I grabbed a couple other sweatshirts, a few shirts, and a few pairs of sweatpants. I even included in a couple pairs of pants and two pair of capris. That was more than enough clothes, but I wanted to be careful. None of them were too fancy, in fact most of them were faded or ripped. That’s exactly how I liked it, though.

I was considering packing food, but it would be a waste. It wouldn’t stay good. Besides, I had some money on me. I knew I would have to get a job, but that was fine by me. A job didn’t sound too horrible, as long as it wasn’t at a fast food restaurant or fashion store. Even if I wanted to pack food, I wouldn’t be able to. They were still in the living room.

Looking over to my desk, I grabbed the folder that held all my school work. I may need to refresh my brain every once in a while, and that folder was my best bet. Slipping it in on top of my clothes, I realized I had a bit more room off to the side. It was a fairly big suitcase, because my suitcase usually held my family’s stuff too, whenever we went on vacation. So, I grabbed a pillow and stuffed it in, along with a sheet and a small blanket I had made in my free time when i was ten. It was old and ratty, but I loved it.

Now my suitcase was stuffed. It was a bit of a hassle to get to zip, so I took out a pair of sweatpants and a pair of capris, stuffing my pillow in more. Eventually, I got it to zip up. Once I did, I took a deep breath.

This is it. I thought to myself. I looked up to the ceiling again. I wouldn’t be leaving if you were still here. You know that, don’t you? Please, I’m begging you. Please keep me safe. If you’re even listening, please keep me safe.

Tears were again welling in my eyes and I snapped them shut to hold them back. I could cry later. Right now, I had to leave. Sighing, I opened up my window and looked outside. It was only barely starting to get dark, so now was my best chance to leave. I put my suitcase across my back with the long strap that was attached. I then swung my leg over the bottom of the window sill, placing it on the small roof below.

I swung my other leg over, placing it in the best position, when my first leg slipped. I lost my balance and grabbed the window sill to keep from falling off. Curse my clumsiness. I pulled myself up and found a firm position to stand in. Shutting my window, I knew it wasn’t locked, but I was fine with that.

Looking down, this was one of the parts that scared me the most. I sat on the edge. The porch roof was closer to where I was. Hopefully, I wouldn’t miss. I took another deep breath, and hopped down, landing on the roof.

This room was flatter than the one under my room, so it was easier to land on. From there, I climbed down the decorative metal fence on the side of the porch. Once I hit the ground, I knew where to go. With one last goodbye to the big house and the comfort of it. Reminding myself what I was exactly giving up. I knew that I would miss all the positive things about having rich parents and a big house, but I also knew none of it was worth it, because of all I went through on a daily basis. Making up my mind, I started heading away from the house. Away from my vain family, and into the town.

I wasn’t sure how this would work, if it would work at all, or what might happen to me on my own. But I didn’t stop. I left the yard of the house, ready to never look back on it, and focus on my new-found future and freedom.

I was terrified and excited at the same time.

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