Prologue: It's a Long Story
It's every girl's dream to be a princess on her wedding day. Here I stand, looking into a mirror, and I am exactly that- a princess. My hair is wound into an intricate bun, garnished by a dainty tiara. My face is beautifully made up to goddess perfection. The dress matches my curvy form, accented by interlacing frills.
Looking at the blushing bride in the mirror, anyone could tell that something is troubling her. Her lips curve up into a smile, but her eyes speak of repressed fears. Her shoulders are a bit more tense than the tight confines of the blouse require. It is normal for a bride to be nervous. But this is different.
"Are you almost ready? It's almost time." A voice from behind catches me off guard. I spin around to see a familiar face in the doorway. Dark hair curls around her large hazel eyes, complimented by the navy dress I picked for her.
"Oh.. yes. Just doing some last minute touch ups is all." I quickly turn away to dab at the tears that have been threatening to surface all morning.
"Well, you look beautiful. Is everything okay, hon?"
"Yes, I'm fine. This dress is just a little tight is all." I sit down against the bed. It's not a complete lie- this dress, as beautiful as it is, comes with a price. My already petite figure is being squeezed from all ends to fit in this barbie doll of a dress. She comes and sits next to me, lightly rubbing the bare section of my back. I fixate my gaze on my hands, holding my emotions in check. "I may just face plant on my way down the aisle. Wouldn't that be something?" She laughs out loud, as she always does, no matter how lame my jokes are. Her composure suddenly becomes somber.
"Come on, you've been my best friend for as long as I can remember. You don't have to hide anything from me. Plus, as your maid of honor, it's my job to make sure everything goes exactly as the bride wants. So I'll ask one more time." She gently rests her hand on mine and searches my eyes. "Is everything okay?"
I finally look up into her eyes. They shine back at me all the loving devotion that every best friend holds for the other. She knows exactly what's on my mind. Well, almost everything, I think, with a pang of guilt.
"Like I said, it's fine. Just pre-wedding jitters is all. I have nothing to complain about. He's a wonderful man."
Her eyes dig deep into mine. She puts on a big smile, though obviously a bit wounded that her best friend won't be up front with her.
"Alrighty then. I'll just wait outside." She gets up and walks to the door. Pausing for a moment, she looks back at me. "You're right. He is quite the lucky man." She shines a glowing, genuine smile at me before closing the door behind her.
As the door clicks I can't hold it back any more. I start sobbing, letting the tears flow free. I bury my face into a pillow and scream. It's just not fair. I look up to heaven, water still flowing. Why does it have to be this way? What did I ever do wrong?
Again, it is perfectly normal for a girl to have second thoughts before her wedding. But I'm not a girl. Well, I wasn't always.
It all started the Friday before my sixteenth birthday.
"But I don't understand." Why are you breaking up with me?" I whimpered.
The girl who I had adored for the last six months stood before me, outside the school gym. Her eyes glinted with ferocious pleasure. She was enjoying this too much.
"Because, Sean, you're a little pansy. Did you really think that someone like me could ever be with a nobody like you? I've been with Brian for weeks now. You just haven't picked up the hint. I'm way out of your league."
That stung. I had no idea that she was cheating on me. Ever since she joined the cheer squad, she had become increasingly catty and selfish. I had refused to see it, but now my world was crashing down in one swift blow. She was right that she was out of my league. She stood there confidently in her cheerleading skirt, with her blonde ponytail swaying. Meanwhile I'm here with my unkempt ruddy red hair and my clothes that are just a bit too big for me. But I didn't care. This was the only girl that I had ever loved, and I was not about to lose her.
"Karen, please, I'll do anything. Anything you want is yours. I can do more of your homework. I can buy your lunches. I can be who you want me to be, please-"
A crowd was forming around us. We were causing quite the scene. And Karen loved it.
"Sean, stop! You are so pathetic! Needy much? You are such a girl! Why don't you just collect your panties and training bra and go home!"
The crowd rippled with laughter at my rejection. Karen swooped in for the finishing blow. She got right up next to me. I cowered as she whispered in my ear.
"No one will ever love you. You will never get married. You'll die all alone. And all because you're such a little nobody of a pansy." A terrible shiver coursed through my body. "Trust me, Sean. I'm doing you a favor. Accept it now and save yourself some trouble."
She walked away, her hips swaying and that stupid ponytail taunting me all the way into the gym. The crowd dispersed slowly as I stayed frozen, following after her with my gaze. Kevin comes up and puts a consoling hand on my shoulder.
"Dude, that's rough. I'm sorry, man. Are you going to be okay?"
I look to him and force a little smile. I've just been utterly destroyed in public. Everything I've held dear has been torn from me the last few days. But Kev and I have been best friends since elementary school. He's only trying to help.
"Yeah, man, it's whatever. I didn't want to stay with her anyway."
We walked away and the conversation turned to something more platonic, but I barely registered what he was saying. My heart had just been ripped out. I scratched my itchy chest and pretended to be listening. As soon as school ended, I declined Kevin's offer to hang out on account of my severe headache. Even once I got home, I was too out of sorts to even talk to mom.
"I'm going to bed early. Don't feel so good."
I collapsed face first on the bed. After laying still for a moment, I readjusted to my back, since the pressure hurt against my breasts. Too tired and emotionally drained to register anything, I fell asleep.
7 AM the next day, I roll out of bed. I must have fallen asleep in my clothes again. I think, scratching the fabric just below my shoulder. Still groggy, I make my way to the sink. I probably have terrible bed head. Reaching up, sure enough, I am greeted with a huge mess of hair. I comb it out with my fingers, pulling the hair out away from my head. I have more hair than I thought. Preparing my toothbrush, I look in the mirror to assess the damage the night has caused. Brushing long, hard strokes on my teeth, I can't help but notice that something is off about my appearance today. All at once I stop brushing. I know what's wrong. I'm not in the mirror. A small girl in a blue school uniform is staring back at me. She has red hair down past her shoulders. She seems to be right around my same age and height. She can't be me. And yet, she most definitely is.
A week earlier, I would have been in complete disbelief. Instead, I study the girl's face carefully for any clues as to her purpose.
"Alright, girl, I know the drill. What do you want from me?"