For more information about J. Koe and her work, visit her website justkoe . wordpress .com.

Once Upon a Time…

…there was a girl who sat alone in her bedroom, staring at the painting hanging above her bed. She hated it. It was the ugliest painting in the world.

She hated her bedroom; the walls were such a drab gray color. There was little furniture, and the light coming in from the one window only exposed how much dust there was in the corners. The blanket on her bed was already thin when she first got it, and now holes were beginning to appear. She was forbidden to have any kind of decorations hanging on the walls except for the painting above her bed, so her extra canvases were lying in one of the dusty corners, piled on top of one another and forgotten.

Her room was a prison. She didn't get to go out of it much. Correction: she was never allowed to leave. Whenever she entered, the door was locked tight behind her. The window was too high off the ground for her to jump out of because she wasn't on the first floor.

There were two men in the painting, both with grotesquely distorted bodies. They leered at her, mocking her misery. She had tried to rip the painting off the wall many times, but it was stuck. Her mother must have used a really strong glue to attach it when they first moved in.

Her mother was the reason why she was forever trapped in her prison. She was never given the chance to escape, to do things while having free will. Free will was a treasure she knew she could never have as long as her mother was there to control her. Her mother dictated what she ate, when she ate, when she slept, where she went. Sometimes, she wasn't sure if her mother actually cared about her.

She picked up her golden hairbrush, the one beautiful thing her mother allowed her to leave lying in plain sight. Her mother had given it to her on her thirteenth birthday, and it was the only birthday gift she ever got. Slowly, she ran it through her hair.

Her hair was getting long. For a moment, she considered trying to find a way to cut it. But then she heard her mother call for her, and she remembered that she couldn't. Her mother had forbidden her to do that.