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So It Passed

So it passed that, to escape the monotony of her peers, Shane spent the summer of her seventeenth year in the stacks of the local library. She found this to be increasingly practical the longer her transformation from "precocious girl" to "elegant woman" lingered at "spindly-limbed lemur." Shane met him owing to the storybooks she studied to discover what attributes made one princessly-this wasn't technically a word, but she felt there should be equity in adjectives if not in life. Her straw-colored pigtails did not qualify her to be Rapunzel and could not be spun to gold by imp fingers, she was too active to be Sleeping Beauty, too outspoken to be Cinderella, too keen on tall fellows to be Snow White. She held little carriage with sleeping upon legumes to display her regal daintiness and imagined that the only result would be a mushy, green stain on the underside of her mattress. Her eyes met the criteria only of the evil, ice queen. So involved was she is figuring her place in the realm of fantasy, she was blind to the boy and his pushcart, loaded down with misshelved and misplaced books-only some her fault-until both threatened to plow her under. Though she made a practice of never getting in anybody's way and a far more careful practice of avoiding attraction to anyone her age (or at least in her age; she encouraged herself toward crushes on James Dean and young Ernest Hemingway), this boy snuck up on her. He stood slightly taller than her, though a glance through the almanac later told her she was barely above average in height and below average in weight. His unfocused hazel eyes stared behind thick-rimmed glasses. He wore a little facial hair, an attribute Shane never before considered attractive. Yet, on him, the goatee did not mar his boyishness. His hair was a little long, but she did not think it was intentionally so, more like he had been meaning to get a haircut and it persisted in slipping his mind. She considered herself one of the few who found absentmindedness alluring. He looked torn out of a daydream. "N... no problem," he stuttered and, looking down at the mound of mixed-up children's books she had created in the middle of the 598s, mumbled, "fairy tales are good." Shane blushed scarlet, an ability she never before had occasion to learn she possessed. "I... these are for a project?" She hoped and feared he would inquire as to her research in the summer, but he did not. He looked at her and, in the reflection of his square framed glasses, she saw herself. Not the girl she was only a little while ago or the misshapen goblin that so often greeted her in mirrors. While she busied herself learning about chrysalises, she emerged woo-worthy. The boy pushed his cart away. Of course, she thought, I'm not a princess. I'm the ugly duckling.

Read the rest in Find What You Love and Let It Kill You or the book this story inspired, We Shadows.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

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