Megan was an ugly girl.
She knew this, because everyone told her so. Even her mother.
“You’ve a crooked nose, a chin like a frog’s arse; no man will ever want to take you as a wife. But you have other talents. You do well in school; if you apply yourself, you could make money as a tutor; and then possibly become a teacher; but that’s all you’ll ever have in this life.”
She believed this, and so concentrated on her studies.
One day, Megan’s mother received a phone call from Mrs. McGuire; she asked if Megan would be interested in tutoring her son.
Megan knew the McGuire boy; he was very dense, poor at school, and notorious for having many girlfriends.
He was also very handsome.
“There you have it,” her mother said. “He’s thick as anything, but if you can make a little money off him, why not?”
“I don’t want to. I don’t like him. He’s an idiot, and he goes around with all the pretty girls. I don’t trust him.”
“You’re not one of the pretty girls, Megan. He’s not going to bother with you. Just teach him the best you can, and take his mother’s money.”
And so she approached the boy, nerves awry, and made arrangements
to meet him at his home for tutoring.
He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
She wasn’t so nervous when she went to his house; after all, he wouldn’t try anything with her; why would he?
She soon became frustrated, however, because he was a poor pupil.
“I can’t concentrate,” he said, smiling. “Why don’t we go for a walk, so I can clear my head a bit?”
Clear it of what? She thought. There’s nothing in there.
But she went with him all the same; keeping a few paces behind him, just in case. The farther they walked, the more concerned she became.
“Where are we going?”
“Someplace special. You’ll see.”
He led her to a small cemetery on a hilltop. The plot was over-grown with thistles,wildflowers, and woodbine.
“Whose plot is this?”
“Dunno. I’ve never seen anyone here before. Someone comes two or three times a year, to tidy up; but that’s the thing; it’s lonely, and you can be alone, and it gives me time to think.”
“Think about what?”
He smiled at her.
“You think I’m stupid, don’t you?”
“I didn’t say that!”
“You didn’t have to. Everyone thinks that. My own mother thinks I’m stupid.”
Megan was an ugly girl. She knew that because everyone told her so, even her own mother.
The boy took a blade of grass and put it in his mouth, and laid down on a grave.
“That’s blasphemy !”
He laughed. “How is it blasphemy? These people are dead. They don’t even know we’re here, and even if they did, they would probably appreciate the company.”
He crossed his hands behind his head and closed his eyes.
Megan felt something; she wasn’t sure what it was, but it was stronger than anything besides hurt that she’d ever felt in her life.
“Will you keep your eyes closed? I want to give you something.”
The boy just laughed. “Yeah, sure.”
She gathered some woodbine and made a bracelet of it, something her mother had taught her when she was a little girl.
I can’t believe he still has his eyes closed, she thought. He’s so trusting for such a slut.
She began to wind the bracelet around his left wrist.
“Whoa! What are doing?”
“Keep your eyes shut. There, now.”
The boy opened his eyes. Megan stood back.
He cocked his head to the left, looking at the woodbine bracelet; he looks like a dumb dog, she thought.
Then he cocked his head to the right and looked directly into her eyes.
“This is beautiful.”
She didn’t know what to say.
“And I think you’re beautiful.”
Megan fought back red-hot tears. “That’s a hurtful thing to say. I’m leaving.”
“Why is it hurtful? Can I kiss you?”
“Why? So can tell everyone that you kissed the ugliest girl in school?”
“Who told you that you were ugly?”
The boy shook his head and smiled. “Will you sit for a minute?”
Megan did sit, because her knees felt weak.
“You’re good at school; everyone knows that. I’m not; everyone knows that, too. Now; I can milk cows, plant crops, drive a tractor. Can you do any of those things?”
He leaned back and closed his eyes again. “There you have it. There’s different types of smart, so there’s different types of beautiful. Now will kiss me?”
“No. I’ve seen the girls you go around with. They’re all prettier than me.” He sat up and looked at her.
“Maybe. But none of them ever gave me anything like this,” he said, holding up the bracelet. “I’ll prove it to you; I’ll walk you back to my house, and then tonight, I’ll sleep in this cemetery; if I do that, will you kiss me then?”
“You won’t do it.”
“I will. Nothing to be afraid of here.”
That night, Megan couldn’t sleep.
I should have kissed him. Tomorrow, I will. In front of everyone. Then we’ll see what they have to say.
But the boy wasn’t at school the next day.
Or the day after.
She became concerned and went to see his mother.
“I haven’t seen him”, she said. “He’s probably run off to Galway with one of his whores. He does that sometimes. Nothing you need worry about. Here’s your money, sorry for your time.”
But she did worry; and she went, on her own, back to the cemetery.
There was a man there.
With a shovel.
And a woodbine bracelet on his wrist.
There was fresh dirt on the very grave that the McGuire boy had laid upon.
The man looked at her. “What are you doing here?”
“Taking a stroll.”
He grinned, and pushed the shovel into the dirt. “All the way out here? By yourself?”
“Yes. That’s an interesting bracelet you have there.”
“I found it,” the man said, still smiling. “You find all sorts of interesting things out here. Like yourself, for instance. You’re trespassing on my family plot, you know. And you’re not leaving here without giving me something I want.”
Megan smiled. “I’ll give you something. Just lay back and close your eyes.” The man leered at her, and laid down on the freshly dug grave, unzipping his trousers.
And then she gave him the shovel.
When he stopped moving, she took the woodbine bracelet off his wrist and placed it on the grave.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” the man gurgled, with blood spouting from his mouth.
She glared at him.
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
Megan wasn’t an ugly girl. Not anymore.
She was beautiful.
By Robert Emmet
Robert Emmet© 2016