Beautiful

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But really, what was she now without her face? With a body that was always in pain? On the surface that sounded superficial, but the fact was, her looks, strength, her drive and passion to achieve had built her confidence for as long as she could remember. What did she have without her confidence? Why was her self-confidence so tied to being able to walk with fearless strength, unconcerned with how she looked?

Why was she so afraid now?

Yes, death had come to visit. Death locked her in that car, but it had chosen Stasia and left her to live. It had taken her grandfather and eventually would take everything and everyone she loved and hated. She’d always had her faith in God. Now she felt that Death was a larger God than God Himself. No, no, she told herself. She didn’t believe that, not really. But she knew Death’s face better than God’s. She felt the suffering of death in her scars and wounds, whereas she didn’t feel God at all anymore.

And now with her friends mostly gone, and everything and everyone moving on without her—oh, how wrong Ryan had been when he said the school couldn’t survive without her; even he was surviving well without her—what had been the point of all she had done? Food drives, spooning mashed potatoes and giving a smile to the lines of homeless at the rescue mission, student council meetings, and all her pages of plans and to-dos.

What was the point in all those things?

Grandfather told me, and now it’s come true.

He had held her chin and looked her straight in the eye. Mom was in the hospital, recovering from what Ellie now knew was a hysterectomy. Grandfather picked her and Megan up from grade school. When Ellie showed him her math paper that said, “100%” and “Great job! Grandfather suddenly came unhinged.

“Who do you think you are? All Miss High and Mighty. You think you’re better than everyone else.”

He’d bent down to face her, roughly squeezing her jaw, the scent of something putrid on his breath. “You will never amount to anything, Elspeth Summerfield. Do you understand me? You will be a failure, and you will always be what you are now. A nothing.”

Her papers fell from her hands as Grandfather stalked away. Megan’s mouth had dropped, and Ellie ran back out the front door. Neither of them ever told her parents.

And even now, knowing that what he had done was incredibly cruel, and that everyone would say to let it go, that her grandfather was a bitter, hateful man, his words stayed within her. They were a wound healed over with bitter scars.

Where is my worth? What is my value?

Could it be bought by service? Did it come from her looks? Would it be found in some African hut as she cared for dying children?

Despite everyone’s saying that a person’s worth was not found in these things, Ellie couldn’t let go of the belief that they were. And she now fulfilled her grandfather’s prophecy. Now the disfigured within her had come to the surface. The inside was clearly visible for all to see.

Ellie’s phone rang on the bed beside her head.

“Cramps?” Will asked sarcastically.

“Yeah. You can’t understand.”

“Oh, I understand. Get ready. I’m taking you out.”

“Funny.”

But his voice wasn’t joking.

“It’s a Friday night. I’ll be there in two hours. Your mom already said yes.”

“No, I’m not going.” But Ellie already knew she would be. Why not? Why keep hiding the monster that she was. “Where are we going?”

Taken from Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma. Copyright 2009 by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee.

This excerpt is featured as part of Teen Fiction Week.


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