Ugly Beauty (first chapter)

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(This is the first chapter of my novel in the works, Ugly Beauty)

Mirrors. Sierra hated them. Every time she looked into one, she was reminded of what she wasn't. And that was pretty.
     Of course, her parents assured her that she was beautiful. And at one time, Sierra had been naive enough to believe them. But on her first trip to Siris, the huge metropolis they lived on the outskirts of, she realized that she was what they called Flawed.
     And she also found out why they didn't live in Siris. After all, only the richest and the prettiest could live in Siris. 
     And those two words--rich and pretty--didn't describe her family even if you used your imagination.
     With a sigh, Sierra let the tiny gilded mirror fall from her hands to the rocks below. There was a tinkling noise as it broke, and she regretted what she'd done. But only for a moment.
     She shielded her eyes as she glanced at the sun. It was time to go home. Much like a monkey, she scampered down four or five branches and then leaped to the rocks below. 
     "Ow!" she yelped in surprise, as a shard of glass from the mirror embedded itself in the calloused underside of her foot. Hopping around on one foot, she carefully squeezed out the tiny sliver and wiped away the blood.
     She stared at it for a moment, long suppressed feelings bubbling up again. "Yeah, I bleed everything time I look in a mirror," she muttered angrily, tossing the piece away and limping home.
     Sometimes, as she walked, she imagined that she was beautiful and rich, and living in Siris. And she had a boyfriend. But Sierra was too old for that, now, and her hopes of becoming beautiful when she hit her teenage years had shriveled up and died. So had the dreams of living in Siris before Governor Sharon. It was she who had made the first push to "cleanse" the city from "undesirables" such as Sierra's own self. Fifty years had passed since then, and Governor Sharon's goals had been carried out by her successors, Governor Lyron and Governor Petrie. 
     Upon reaching the small, two-story house that she knew as home, she paused to watch the sunset before pushing open the weathered front door and entering into the dim interior.
     "Hello, honey," her mother called from the stove. The greeting was cautious, testing to see what Sierra's mood would be today.
     "It's getting cooler, so that's nice," Sierra responded, heading for the stairs.
     "Yes, that is," her mother agreed. She didn't press for any more conversation, recognizing that her daughter needed some additional time to think things through.
     Sierra's mother wasn't plain, but she wasn't beautiful, either. However, something about the golden-red hair, blue eyes, and the graceful, proud way she carried herself often turned heads. Perhaps she would even have found a place for herself in Siris if she hadn't have fallen in love with a young man, who was both poor and flawed by a huge scar on the left side of his face.
      Sierra wished she'd gotten her mother's elegance and grace, but she hadn't. She'd gotten the same reddish gold hair, only perhaps more red than gold, and her eyes were sky blue. Her skin was pale with freckles, and something about her face was just...plain.
      It was of these things that Sierra thought as she stared out her window. Rheal, her best--and only--friend, had told her to quit thinking about her looks and try and help her parents out.
     "Stop daydreaming, wishing you were beautiful because you're not. And you've got to come to grips with that," Rheal had broken out, at last, a little harshly. "I used to be beautiful until my face was burned in that big fire in Siris. If anyone has a right to complain, it's me, losing everything I knew. But you don't see me leaving at dawn to wallow in self-pity while my parents and siblings do all the work."
     Sierra hadn't really talked to Rheal after that. She knew that he was right, and she didn't want to admit it.
     "Time for dinner!" Keagan, her little brother, hollered up the stairs.
     Sierra started from her thoughts, then collected herself. Turning away from the window, she hurried down the stairs to the dinner table.
     There wasn't much talk. Her father was bone-tired from whatever it was he did at the power plant, and her younger brother was too busy stuffing his face with food to talk. Her mother, ever sensitive to Sierra's moods, just let her have her quiet.
     Sierra gathered the supper dishes and washed them while her parents talked quietly in their bedroom. Maybe about her? She considered eavesdropping but pushed the thought quickly away. What was the point?
     After washing the dishes and drying them, she lingered by the family room to watch her brother play. It was one of the rare moments in Sierra's life when she actually felt happy, watching his youthful innocence, as well as his curiosity at work, crafting impossible stories for his toys to play out. She actually smiled a little as she watched the giraffe and the ant fly to the moon to discover the charm that would make everyone beautiful.
     I wish, she grinned, shaking her head.
     Keagan, sensing her eyes on him, looked at her. "Do you want to play?"
     He asked the question so often, and Sierra had said "no" so many times, she wondered if he would ever ask it again. But he had.
     For a moment, she considered actually playing with him. But then she remembered that she was sixteen. This was a world she'd been shoved out of a while ago. Now it was like she was between two worlds--the world of her childhood and the world of her adulthood. And it was like neither wanted her.
     "Not tonight, buddy. I'm a little tired," she responded, smiling at him. "But maybe tomorrow."
     Keagan considered her for a moment, then smiled wider. "Okay!"
     She lingered in the shadows, watching him return to his ridiculous fantasies, and then turned to the stairs and the haven of her bedroom.
     Emotionally drained, she stiffly lay down on the bed, her sun-browned arms spread wide across the clean sheets. Gradually, as the moon rose in the sky, and her eyelids closed, her fingers worked their way beneath her pillow and closed around the small mirror she kept there.
     For someone who hates mirrors, I sure have a lot of them, she thought wryly to herself.
     The other part of her brain responded It's because you keep hoping that one day you'll look in that mirror and see a different face.
     If only.


                                        
Title:Ugly Beauty
Author: Abigail Burchwell
Word Count of Excerpt: 1,105
Genre: YA/Fiction
Age Range: 14-18
Synopsis of Ugly Beauty: Sierra Rosenberg only wants one thing: she wants to be beautiful. After all, your face and your money are what gets you a place in Siris. Unfortunately, she has neither of those. She must learn to come to grips with her reality and learn that looks aren't everything, and ultimately, what true beauty really is.
Why I Believe This Project Holds Potential: Nowadays, a lot of emphases is placed on what you look like and how much stuff you have instead of who you are. A lot of teens are struggling to meet people's expectations of perfection and are left feeling inferior and worthless because they simply can't. It's important for every person to realize that their attitude and their personality is what makes them beautiful, just as Sierra does.

Education: Homeschooled/Private Tutor
Platform: Self-published on Amazon
Website: https://shadoweliteallies.wixsite.com/shadow-elite
Preferred Genre: Science Fiction/ YA
Age-Range: 14-18
Previously Published Works/Experience: The Motto Trilogy Book One: Together We Fight
Article in the Clarion Mirror
Three-year course in creative writing
Currently taking a year-long course in crafting short stories and novels
Likes: Outdoors, running, dog training, writing, swimming, hanging out with friends
Hobbies: Running, writing, drawing, and doing things with paracord
Bio: I've been writing since I was seven, and I haven't stopped since. I've only self-published one book, however, to "test the waters". I come from a large family consisting of four older brothers, a younger sister, a dog, and a snapping turtle. It can be hectic at times, but it's usually pretty fun, and never cease to give me encouragement, inspiration, and criticism!
Hometown: I was born in Hagerstown Maryland, but my family moved to North Carolina when I was three. I have recently moved to Pennsylvania.