Written by Maquaela Adria
Once upon a time in a land not so far away, there lived a girl just like any other named Xandria Dubois. Now, Xandria was seemingly plain. She had untamable brown hair, mud brown eyes, and had always been somewhat overweight. When it came to talent, Xandria could sing but not well enough to be noticed, and she could paint but not well enough to make a career of it, and she was smart but not the smartest in her classroom. In all, Xandria was perfectly average.
Although somewhat unfortunate when it came to her attributes, Xandria did the best she could to make sure that she stood out. Unfortunately for her, this task was impossible due to one thing: the land where Xandria found herself was full of people who were more beautiful and more talented than she.
In order for there to be some sort of balance in the land where Xandria lived, Mother Nature had tried to make sure that the talent and beauty were not unevenly distributed. This meant that none of the most beautiful in the land could excel at anything, whereas those less physically blessed were able to excel at many a thing. If this rule were to be put on a spectrum, those with immense beauty would be put at one end, those with immense talent would be put on the other. Xandria would be placed perfectly at the centre of the spectrum. Despite this, she believed that everyone deserved to be noticed and that, deep down, there was something special about her.
Although life was not hard for Xandria - as she had many friends and enjoyed many things - she was never anyone's first pick: whether it be her younger sister, Diäna, who was definitely on the beauty side of the spectrum, who managed to steal the spotlight when it came to their family as well as the entire kingdom (she was, in classical fairy tale terms, “The Fairest of Them All”) or her brother, Ephron, the youngest sibling, who managed to steal the spotlight when it came to talent, as he was known to have the voice of an angel, Xandria was never the highlight.
As she grew older, Xandria became more accustomed to her way of life. Everyone she loved abandoned her for someone more beautiful or talented. Everything she aimed to be a success in earned her nothing more than fourth place. But even though she was unsuccessful and alone, she kept pushing herself, always having that constant belief that everyone should be noticed.
And yet the years wore on, and Xandria did not grow any more beautiful, nor any more talented. After so many years of people telling her that she was nothing more and nothing less than herself, Xandria became distant and cold, and she lost her belief that she would become someone. Thus, she closed off her heart, turned off her mind and banished her soul to avoid the hurt and humiliation of being nothing but mediocre.
By the time she was seventeen, she had almost completely hidden away from the world and covered herself in a veil of darkness. Although her friends had tried to pull her out, one by one they eventually stopped trying. Her family persevered for a while longer but there was only so long that they could last. At the age of eighteen Xandria was nothing but the shell of who she used to be.
Those with talent yearn to be with the beautiful and those with beauty yearn to be with the talented. Who then shall yearn to be with me?
On the other side of the large kingdom lived a man of quite the opposite predicament. Prince Aaron was not only the heir to the largest and most prosperous kingdom the world had ever seen, he was also blessed to have an abundance of both talent and beauty. However, to him, it seemed more like a curse.
Ever since a young age, the prince had been forced into activities he hated just because he was good at them. He hated horses but he was the best equestrian in the kingdom. He hated art yet his paintings were worth more gold than a house. Most of all, he hated how people looked at him and only saw his talent, beauty and riches. He felt as if he were a perfectly carved puppet that existed only to entertain and be controlled.
The worst of it was that he didn't get to choose whom he was to marry as that (along with his many activities) had been chosen for him. The name of his betrothed was Diäna. He had met her once when he was fifteen and she was eleven. Even at that young age, Diäna had been the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She was slender and athletic, had long dark hair and deep green eyes. Everything about her drew you in. Aaron hated her on site. He didn't care if she was the nicest person in the world or if she had the glossiest hair. He hated her for the same reason he hated himself. She represented the way of life he wished did not exist. They both represented the fact that you cannot become more or less than who you were born to be.
Every night since first meeting his betrothed, Aaron would sneak away to pray to Mother Nature at the Hallowed Oak that stood tall in the courtyard of the Palace. He prayed for a way out of the system. He prayed that She would send him a way out of this cycle that She had created. He prayed for a miracle. She never answered. He prayed for five years and still no answer came.
That was until the night he met the family of his betrothed. He didn't notice her at first. When he had arrived at Diäna’s house, he was met with the bustle and noise of a large family. They greeted him at the door and ushered him inside. From then he was bombarded with questions and compliments. Through all of this, how was he meant to notice the quiet girl reading in the corner of the large sitting room?
When he first saw her, he noticed she was plain. Her dark hair, dark eyes and slightly overweight figure were nothing like her sister's features. Due to this, he had automatically assumed that she was on the talent spectrum. But as the night went on and he looked around the room, he came to notice that he only saw two names on all the trophies and certificates that hung on the walls, Ephron and Mrs. Ellisandre Dubois, both of whom he had been introduced to. It was then that he deduced that she must be modest. This idea flew from his mind when he finally heard her speak.
‘Father, mother, I feel as if I have had my fill of socializing for the night. May I retire?’ She spoke as if she had a thousand armies behind her. Each word held as much prestige as the next. Aaron found it hard to believe that this girl was anything but confident.
Ellisandre spoke in response. ‘You have not said one word to anyone all night, Xandria. How have you been socially fulfilled if you have done nothing but read?’
‘We both know that I do not need to talk to understand what is going on. In fact, the less attention I pay the better. See, as I was reading, I managed to deduce that our lovely,’ Aaron noted the venom in the word and winced as he anticipated the next – ‘Prince Aaron seems to have no interest in marriage just as Diäna has no interest in men.’
Gasps rang out throughout the room as Xandria quickly excused herself and went towards what Aaron assumed was her bedroom. Adoration for the girl shone in his eyes and he knew right then that she was the answer to all his prayers. Xandria had no cares for conventional thinking and behaviour. Somehow he was enticed by her brash honesty.
‘Diäna...’ her father started questioningly.
She cut him off before he could get further. ‘Xandria is right. She's always right. God knows how when all she does is hide away in her room and the library. I only went along with this marriage because I could see no other option but I may as well tell you now. I met someone. She's from the town over and her name is Isla. We're in love. I was planning on running away with her and leaving this all in a letter for you to find but I guess now it's out there.’
Aaron could see the rage in her father's eyes as she spoke. Before there could be an outburst Aaron interrupted. ‘If I may: as right as Xandria may have been, she was wrong about one thing. I am interested in marriage. I've just come to realize that you've offered me the wrong sister.’
‘You're choosing me over Diäna?’ her small voice echoed around the large room, breaking the silence that had accumulated since Aaron had spoken.
‘I am.’ Aaron admitted as he stood and made his way to the doorway in which Xandria had been standing hidden from view.
‘May I ask why? I mean, I'm nothing but mediocre. I don't excel at anything and I definitely wouldn't win any beauty pageants.’ Xandria lifted her head so that she could look into Prince Aaron's ocean blue eyes.
‘I don't want all of that. All my life I have been surrounded by people that excel at everything and I have been forced to do the same. You, you're like a breath of fresh air. You speak the truth, not just what people want to hear. You have the ability to ignore the surface and see what's underneath. You don't seem to care for money or talent or beauty. In all honesty, I wish I had found you sooner.’
I seem to have everything in the world but now that I have met her, everything is nothing to me. All I want is her and her approval.
Xandria and Prince Aaron were married in the autumn of the following year. Their wedding was anything but extravagant. Xandria's dress was simple yet beautiful just like the ceremony itself. The wedding was held in the large park just outside the palace gates. And as she gazed upon the colourful autumn leaves, Xandria found herself wondering how it was that she got there. It was only at "I do" that she told herself that sometimes it's better to be the odd one out because maybe your odd is exactly what someone is looking for.
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