A/N: I found this in my dozens of documents earlier today. There are a million things I've deemed unworthy to put on this site, but I thought I'd give this moderately-short oneshot a chance. One of my favourite characters is Karen, and one of my favouritepairings is Karen x Rick. Rip my favourites apart and you've got beautiful angst. (I'm also trying to overcome my writer's block, so that's another excuse…) There was a poem-version of this but I deleted it. Right, so, author's notes crap aside, enjoy.
You know what irks me so incredibly much?
Words. People. Men.
They're always telling you these lies. Making false promises. Treating you like ornaments and jewellery. Saying things they don't even mean. I mean, I know it's freedom of speech and all— but come on. Maybe if they could just try a little harder, or mean a little more than they already did… or tell me what they thought of me… anything…
Maybe I'm just being selfish… or thinking too much… or not thinking enough. But one question rings in my head and it pains me day after day.
…Why is it that I've never been told I'm beautiful?
I've heard it all. I've been called pretty, hot, sexy; haven't we all? That's not what I'm looking for though. I want to be called beautiful. 'Pretty' is too friendly. 'Hot' is too dirty. 'Sexy' is just… beyond where I am.
I have long, dirty blonde hair and— kill me— pretty eyes, or so I've been told. I'm slender and curvy, and said to be hot. I grit my teeth every time I hear those words. My name is Karen, by the way. And apparently that's a sexy name.
I've always loved men, in general. There were a few things about them that weren't what you'd call exactly attractive. Sweaty pits, sporadic burps, headlocks… girls don't usually mark those things down on their dream guy wish list. Their points usually go as follows: handsome, sweet, handsome, funny, charming, handsome, handsome, handsome…
I'll admit: the female society can be a bit shallow. But what can we say? If you're going to wake up to someone's face every day, in sickness and in health, for rich and for poor, until death do you guys part— well, at least let it be pretty.
See? Even they've got me using that word. Pretty. If things can be so pretty, then why can't they be beautiful? Saying "you're beautiful" isn't like saying "I love you." They're different. They're completely, absolutely different.
I guess I didn't realize that when I met the new farmer, Jack. He had broad shoulders and dark chocolate-coloured hair. Well-toned, tanned, you know the deal. Of course he thought I was drop-dead pretty and we started going out the day after we met. Things started out a bit shallow, but I'll admit, I was pretty desperate.
I was ready to break up with him in about five seconds flat if he didn't say I was beautiful. I told myself I would everyday— but I never did.
One day, though, during the Moon Festival, while we were gazing at the big cornstarch bulge in the sky, he looked at me. And I looked at him. It was the perfect romantic-kiss moment. The perfect confession-of-undying-love moment. The perfect eye-simile moment.
"Karen," he whispered into my ear, when we were that close.
I held my breath. I waited for him to say the two words I was dying to hear—
"I'm breaking up with you."
That was when I paused, mid-sentence. I quickly counted the words. I'm. Breaking. Up. With… that was five, not two. Wait a minute. That wasn't supposed to be happening.
It all came out like a river that had just been clogged, but unclogged. "What? Why? Why are you doing that?" I demanded incredulously, more shocked than hurt.
He shrugged. "I dunno."
From that day on, I swore never to let myself near a man again, let alone date one. I'll admit, the seasons went by rather lonely— but I had my friends to keep me sane. There was Popuri, the ever bubbly. Mary, the ever helpful. Elli, the ever kind. Ann, the ever optimistic. Rick, the…
That was when I realized for the first time one cold, bitter morning. Rick was a…
How did I not realize that? And even worse, I also found out that the strong feelings I had for him weren't ones that belonged to a friendship. They belonged to a… relationship.
So, naturally, he asked me out, I said yes, and we lived happily ever damn after.
…No, of course not really. One day, on that very fateful day, we met up at the Moon Festival. I had vague memories of me and Jack dated back a long time ago, but I tried to sweep them out of my memory. Now it was just me and Rick… pretty Karen and nerdy Rick… watching the big random ball in the sky… yep…
And then he looked at me and I freaked out. Because he didn't look like he wanted to kiss me romantically or confess his undying love or tell me how pretty my eyes were. And he didn't do that either. He leaned forward… past my lips, past my jaw line… toward my ear…
"You're beautiful, Karen," he whispered.
I should've felt happy. I should've felt overjoyed. It was what I wanted to hear all along… but I couldn't feel anything like that. I was just frozen. I couldn't even reply.
Because Rick wasn't handsome. He was funny, sweet sometimes, mildly charming if you thought about it real hard, but… not handsome. Rick wasn't handsome.
It was kind of like an unwritten rule. Even if he did call me beautiful, it wouldn't count. Anyone could call you beautiful— but they didn't have to mean it. Unless they were beautiful too, it didn't matter. Because they wouldn't know about beauty, would they?
I felt my insides crumble as Rick paused, waiting for a response. I couldn't even pretend to smile or say "thank you." I could just sit there, blank, and emotionless.
Then I screamed something at him… something I don't remember saying but know I shouldn't have said… and stormed off. Something about someone else being the first, if I recall. Something about Jack…
And now, as I exit my home and local supermarket, I stare at the empty bench where Rick and I were supposed to meet every morning since the incident. I stared at it, but I didn't sit on it—as if it were tainted. I thought about what happened, vaguely, but I couldn't bring myself to feel regret.
No, I think I was the tainted one.
Rick knew we weren't right together. He knew. So why did he have to go and say…?
Why was it that I wanted Jack to say it, when my feelings for Rick were stronger? I mean, I didn't even like Jack that much. But…? Was it because of Rick's exterior? Was I the one who was too beautiful for him?
Or inside, was I the ugly, hideous sham to be kicked at and spat at? Was he the beautiful herald within that bespectacled shell?
Many years later, on the precise day of the Moon Festival, I look bleary-eyed into the sky. Time's done its course. I'm not that pretty anymore. And I'm certainly not beautiful.
Just as I'm sick of watching the moon, and feeling dizzy from its blinding brightness, I turn around. I see Jack standing in front of me, and even though he too is older, he is still handsome. My mouth creaks open as I begin to say something, but what, I don't know— when another figure appears behind him. It's Elli. If I think about it, they're kind of cute together.
Jack looks at me and smiles kind of shyly. That's kind of odd, because he's always been the snotty loud-mouth: obnoxious and kind of arrogant. Maybe Elli has remedied his insolence. Maybe just a little.
I give them a small wave, knowing I'm intruding and they should be the couple at the mountain peak, not I alone. So I wander off to the near edge, staring not at the moon, but at my feet.
I haven't been told I was pretty in years. I haven't been told I was beautiful since Rick. And I probably never will again. So why didn't I just enjoy being pretty while I was? What was I now? How did people see me, now that my exterior had crumbled?
Footsteps sounded from behind me. I turned around, seeing Rick. My heart begins to rattle, as does my chest. I weaken as he approaches me, looking sad yet hopeful.
"Karen," he murmurs, drawing nearer. "Why are you all alone?"
Then I look him in the eye, and he looks back.
And just this one time, I want to hear someone tell me they're pretty.
Oh. I'm crying. I hadn't realized.
He stood his ground; he didn't come any closer. Like I had a fatal disease that could be contagious if you were within five feet of me. Maybe I was like an animal in a cage— come any closer and I'd give you my ugliness and charge at you.
But, no. He's just staring now.
More people come up from the mountain trail— what is this, a parade? I recognize Claire, the new farmer. She was young and pretty. Unlike myself.
"Karen," Rick says again, sounding like he's let me down.
But he hasn't. I have.
I gaze sadly at the moon, ready to hear those words.
"You're not so beautiful when you cry."
I managed to shoot him a weak smile. "And when I'm not crying?"
He tilted his head, moonbeams making his face glow. "Then yes. You're beautiful."
Maybe I am… just a little.
I really smile now. I decide to end things quickly as his wife makes a quick eye-notion to her watch, and how dark it's getting. This time, I know my answer.
That's all I need to say.