“Good God, Gwen, don’t you ever wear anything that isn’t gray? You need to put a little color into your life,” Cynthia Guthrie greeted her daughter at the front door.
“Why, Mother, so people will look at me?”
“You’re a beautiful person. When will you start thinking like one?” petite, blonde Cynthia said, sorting through the mail.
“Maybe when you start looking at me,” Gwen said to her Barbie Doll mother.
Cynthia glanced up sharply, “Spending your money on every beauty ad you read in the magazines is doing nothing but making us poorer.” She shoved a bright pink box into Gwen’s twisted hands. “Carillon Beauty? Another overnight remedy? Another miracle treatment? More like another disappointment. When will you learn, Gwen?”
“Look at me, Mother. Does that answer your question?”
Cynthia sighed, “Physical beauty isn’t everything. You’re beautiful on the inside. The work you do in the Children’s Ward—the hours that you spend at the Homeless Shelter—you’re a kind, giving person. I’m proud of you, I love you just the way you are.”
But too often Gwen had seen it. That look in her mother’s eyes. That look screamed “how could someone who looks like me, have a child this ugly?”
Gwen, clutching her newest beauty aid, hurried past the telltale hall mirror to her room. Her mother would never understand. No one who looked like her mother had ever felt the pain of loneliness that rode on Gwen’s shoulders like a heavy, woolen cloak.
Carillon Beauty. Musical beauty. Gwen had seen the ad on television, had heard a few chords of the sweet elixir. At the time, she had to have it; she was positive that this time it would work where all the others had failed.
Gwen threw the pink box on her bed. Now it seemed a pipe dream— hopeless. Her mother was right. All of her past efforts screamed out at her: each disappointment casting another blemish on her hopelessly scarred face. Idly her deformed fingers traced across the pink box. Fingers that she usually kept hidden, from the stares of curious people. Gwen had been born with three fingers on each hand, each finger branching at the first knuckle with a lobster-claw effect. As little claw-like fingers began working at the box, loosening tape and glue to get inside, her mind wandered back to the charismatic ad. A little renewed excitement grew as she remembered the broadcast. “Your beauty will bloom eternally. Let the genuine Akuba Crystal music box cast a carillon spell for you.”
Rough claws traced the beautiful heart-shaped crystal. Squinting through thick glasses, Gwen could see a stately castle nested on puffy white clouds deep inside the heavy glass. A tiny silver windup key was buried in the base.
How could she have thought that a mere $49.99 would earn her the gift of beauty? Removing the bath towel from her vanity mirror, she turned the music box key.
Winding the key was a cumbersome chore that took forever to accomplish with her twisted fingers.
The music was alive: enchanting bells and chimes wafted from the heavy crystal figurine.
Lilting tones hovered, like fluttering hummingbirds, all around Gwen.
With piercing beaks of melody, the music throbbed into her soul.
Mesmerized before her detested mirror, Gwen watched as beauty from deep within began to surface.
Scarred tissue from years of useless reconstructive surgery smoothed to a healthy pink glow. Jutting, deformed cheekbones melted bringing her beautiful blue eyes out from dark caves of flesh. Clawed talons, separated into ten tapered white fingers: and yes, Gwen’s curved backbone, answering to the subtle chords of the Akuba beat, straightened, bringing her shoulders back and elevating her once heavy head.
As the beauty previously buried deeply in Gwen’s soul moved outward, it was replaced.
Replaced by something dark.
Gwen felt this new outlook slither into the depths of her soul just as she felt the muscles and bones in her body shifting. For the first time in Gwen Guthrie’s pitiful existence, she felt alive—euphoric!
The Carillon Music Box changed Gwen’s life forever. She kept it locked safely away with her growing stash of trophies.
Gwen was beautiful. Even her mother’s fading beauty was no match for Gwen’s bewitching new glamour.
Men who before would have glanced quickly away in horror, now fell at her feet.
Gwen prodded the lifeless male corpse on the floor with the pointed toe of her new, red, spike-heeled pump. With a small penknife, she popped the two unseeing eyes from the face of her dead friend and cut away the excess veins and connective tissues. Two beautiful new trophies to add to her growing collection.
People would see Gwen now; she wanted them to look at her.
The Music Box
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