The Curse of Being Beautiful

Tabitha watched in envy as the black cat that had been sleeping on her tiny porch stretched its paws out and arched its back. Sometimes, she wished that she had turned herself into a cat instead of cursing herself to be a little old lady. At times, it seemed much easier to pass the days basking in the sun and catching mice as opposed to the life of solitude she had subjected herself to when she'd used her own magic on her herself.

She'd never meant to actually curse herself; it had always been an idea in the back of her head, but what that prince had said to her when she'd asked him why he loved her had finally pushed her over the edge. She didn't want to be loved simply because she was beautiful. She knew she'd been born with a thirst for knowledge and had grown to become a very powerful witch. She wanted to be acknowledged for something more than looks. Ever since her rash decision to curse herself, her fellow witches had deserted her, muttering stuff about never using magic for self-use.

"I guess it's just you and me, cat," she said in a croaky voice that she'd never been able to get used to. The cat gave her a disgruntled look that clearly said it didn't want anything to do with her. "Not you too," she huffed out as she watched the cat jump off the porch and trot through the tall grass toward the dark woods that circled her little cottage. Well, fine, she hadn't wanted to get to know the cat anyway.

Running a gnarled hand over her wrinkled face, she figured that it was about time to start her day. She couldn't be like a cat and sit on the porch all morning to soak in the sun. Plus, she was getting stiff from sitting for so long. Why couldn't she have just made herself ugly? Why did she have to throw being old into the mix? She was only thirty, for heaven's sake. Surveying her front yard once more, she turned to go inside.

"Waiting for me?" a voice called from behind her. She turned to find the familiar face of Fritz, the woodcutter who frequented the nearby forest. Tabitha would never admit it, but his stopping by for a cup of tea was the highlight of her day. She let out a snort as she stepped into her little cottage.

"You wish!" she tossed over her shoulder. She always felt lighter, younger when she was bantering with Fritz. She didn't know if it was because she was finally able to talk to another human being or if it was actually him who made her so happy. She returned with the kettle and two mugs, stopping for a moment to watch Fritz fiddle with bits of wood in an attempt to light a fire.

She set the mugs on the table before trailing her fingers over the logs. Making sure that Fritz wasn't paying attention, she summoned the magic that had been kept at bay for so long. Soon enough, the familiar warm feeling soaked through her body to her fingertips, allowing sparks of fire to emanate from there. Fritz looked up, a proud smile on his face. She wanted to laugh at how such a small accomplishment could make a man happy and want to show it off.

Easing herself down into one of the chairs in front of the fire, she held the kettle over the crackling flames and listened to Fritz's latest tales of the forest. There was always at least one deer that had scampered across his path or a bird that had landed on his shoulder. Even though she knew he had no magic inside of him, he managed to enchant any creature with simply his presence.

Today was different; he seemed to regard her in a way that put her at unease. Every time she looked up from the burning logs, he was staring at her. She was close to demanding what he saw. She had no idea that every time she smiled, he could see her younger face under the wrinkles and when she laughed, her whole body changed to that of a young woman.

"I give in," she snapped. "What are you staring at me for?" She raised a hand to her face to check for any remaining food. There was a pause as Fritz searched for the right words and she took that moment to pour hot water into both mugs.

"I heard of a tale the other night. It's one about my kingdom and it really caught my attention," he finally said. At his words, Tabitha stiffened with fear.

"Oh? And what would that be?" she asked, attempting to keep the tremors out of her voice. She had an inkling that he had finally caught onto her secret. And then where would she be? Old and entirely alone.

"Ten years ago, our king, then a prince, fell in love with a witch," Fritz's eyes never left hers as he recounted the story. "She was the youngest, brightest and most powerful witch in all of the kingdom. And what's more, she had beauty to rival the most colorful of sunsets.

"There was a short courtship before the prince asked her to marry him. She said yes but only on one condition; he tell her why he loved her so much. The prince's only answer was that it was because of her beauty that he loved her. With that, the witch fled the kingdom and was never seen, nor heard from again," as he finished the story, Fritz leaned forward so his eyes were level with Tabitha's. "Now, this whole story is very interesting but the thing that really caught my attention was the witches name. Do you have any idea what it could be?"

"Tabitha," she let out in a whisper. She looked down at her lap in shame as she cursed herself for never changing her name. She'd never thought it would be an issue.

"Exactly," Fritz reached a hand out to take hers. "So, Tabitha, are you really that witch that disappeared all those years ago?" Tabitha waited a heartbeat before nodding. Squeezing her eyes shut, she waited for him to run away. After a while, she realized he still hadn't left and opened one eye to look at him.

"You're not running," she said in a voice laced with surprise. "Why are you still here? I'm a freak, a young woman stuck in an old woman's body. I did this to myself, I couldn't stand being only categorized as beautiful anymore."

"When you smile, it shows who you really are," Fritz said. "I've known all along who you were, I was just waiting for you to realize who you are. You're smart and funny. I'm sure you're beautiful too but I could care less about that."

As soon as he spoke those words, Tabitha felt the warmth returning to her body, changing it and shrinking it. Just like the tale with the beast and the love that changed him, the words of someone who loved her broke Tabitha's curse. When she had placed the spell on herself, she hadn't realized there had been a loophole. And now, what Fritz had spoken had returned her back to her natural state.

Her hands were the first things she looked at, free of all the wrinkles and liver spots. She felt stronger and more youthful, like she could spin cartwheels across the lush grass. Touching her face, she found it to be soft and smooth. She'd never been happier to feel her face. When she finished examining herself, she turned her attention back to Fritz.

"You… freed me," she said. "Thank you." Fritz's eyes roamed over her glowing face, took in the bright green eyes and flowing brown locks.

"So the tales are true," he breathed and Tabitha felt her heart sink. Perhaps he'd always been after her beauty, everyone was. Why should she have expected him to be any different?

"And what would those tales say?" she asked tentatively. She toyed with the frayed edge of her dress as she waited for his answer.

"You really are the brightest, most powerful witch," Fritz's answer startled her into looking up. A huge grin crossed over face, the curse had worked after all.

This is a story that I wrote for a writing festival. I got a lot of positive feedback about it so I hope you all like it as well. This will be my last update for a while as I really need to focus on school. I will start updating in three or four weeks but will only focus on one story. You guys have to decide if you want A Beastly Predicament, Oranges With a Hint of Sadness or Making Chemistry. I will make sure to finish each of them but one at a time. Thanks for all your patience!

-Liz