Long ago in the town of Marlenburg, there once lived a young woman called Bessica. She was an intelligent and educated woman, but she wasn’t pretty and every day she lamented her lack of beauty. She could not help but notice that all the men of the town ignored her, they liked the prettier women and she was angry with envy. All the men except for Jamie, the fletcher’s son, he liked Bessica and would bring her flowers and sometimes she’d chat to him and tell him of her frustrations. He would listen to her for hours and give her as much of his company he could spare.
Bessica appreciated Jamie, and although she had no romantic interest in him, being a poor boy, she decided to teach him how to read in return for his companionship. Jamie struggled at first, but soon mastered the alphabet and could read a few simple books and letters by himself. The love and respect for Bessica grew deep and strong in Jamie’s heart, in his eyes she was indeed the most beautiful woman in town. He told her one day that he was so thankful for teaching him how to read, that he wanted to marry her. Bessica told him he was sweet, but that they were not meant for each other.
In truth Bessica felt ugly, she felt insulted that she an educated woman was being completely ignored by all the gentlemen, and she could only be courted by a mere fletcher’s son. She would howl with rage at her mirror
“Men! They are such shallow pigs! They see only what is on the outside of a woman and judge her for that! Her mind and heart meant nothing to them! They want merely a trophy to show off to their friends and family! No man ever truly cares for a woman!”
Bessica’s maid heard her howling and suggested she pay a visit to the fortune teller Savanka. Bessica met Savanka in a small room she had rented out in a dirty and dark corner of the town. Savanka wore only rags and her face was veiled.
“Tell me my daughter, why have you come here?” came the soft voice of the ragged woman.
Bessica answered angrily, “it is because of these men! They see my face, they see that I lack pretty features and they want nothing to do with me. I am invisible to them. I want them to notice me, I want them to desire me. I want them to desire me so much they can barely control themselves when they look at me.”
Savanka chuckled, “Yes! Yes! Make those disgusting creatures beg at your feet! Promise me that you will do this for me?”
“If you help me, that’s exactly what I shall do!”
Savanka chuckled again and pulled off her veil. Her face shone with ephemeral beauty, her eyes sparkled like emeralds. She pulled off her rags exposing a perfectly proportioned and exquisitely shaped body. Bessica gasped at her mythical beauty.
“I am a Siren my daughter, I have the power to give you beauty like mine. However, it will only last a month unless you use it to break the hearts of every last young man in this town!”
Bessica gulped, “I can look as beautiful as you, so long as I break every young man’s heart?”
“Then give me this beauty, I will break their hearts for you. One by one. I will be glad to do it, for they all broke my heart!”
Savanka handed her a potion, “Drink this potion and you will grow beautiful, after you have broken all the young men’s hearts, come back here and I will give you the second potion which will make its effects permanent.”
Bessica thanked Savanka and left. She drank the potion and looked at her face in the mirror. Her grey eyes started to sparkle like diamonds, her complexion glowed like ivory, her hips grew shapely, and her bust swelled up magnificently. She was a picture of perfect feminine beauty.
She walked outside and all the men stared at her, she had never received so much attention before. The men followed her and offered her flowers, money and jewels. She was revelling in the attention of the men and the looks of horror and jealousy from the other women. Then she remembered her promise. She came across a puddle in her path. She grunted at a nearby man, who quickly took off his jacket and laid it in the puddle.
“Oh thank you kind sir, could you perhaps be so kind to lay your pants in the mud too?”
“My pants? Ma’am?”
“Yes, if you did I would be awfully charmed, I might even invite you around for dinner this evening.”
The man enthusiastically took off his pants and laid them in the mud.
Bessica laughed at him, “get out of my way you toad, as if a lady like myself would have dinner with such a gullible indiscrete fool as you!”
The man’s heart broke, and in Savanka’s chamber she starred into her crystal ball and laughed with glee.
Next Bessica asked a man to come to her house with his mother’s finest jewellery. The man enthusiastically complied for he was so bewitched by her beauty. When he arrived at her doorstep she took the chest of jewellery, thanked him and then slammed the door in his face. Outside the man’s heart broke. Savanka cackled in her den.
She convinced one man to tell her all of his most damaging secrets. He soon found her at restaurant telling his mortal enemy his most embarrassing secrets. As the days passed she broke more hearts, and the more the men fought to claim her affections, the more she enjoyed breaking their hearts. She often broke their hearts repeatedly because these men were so enamoured with her looks they ignored her vice and cruelty. They worshipped her and she despised them for it.
“Oh how pathetic men are, beauty is in the heart of a person, not on the outside! It is good that I break your shallow hearts so that the pain of their shattering brings you back in touch with them!”
So long as the men gazed at her, they were under her power, and she tormented them as promised. Sure her mission was complete, she returned to see Savanka. The siren laughed, “you have done very well, you have shattered the hearts of almost all the men in this town as promised. All but one man remains.”
Bessica was surprised, “which young man’s heart haven’t I yet broken?”
Savanka gleamed a perfectly beautiful smile, “the fletcher’s son Jamie’s heart is still intact. He is in the library. Go to him and earn your eternal beauty!”
Bessica left at first with drive, but as she drew closer to the library she remembered that Jamie alone had been kind to her, thoughtful and grateful to her. He had been patient and understanding, gentle and sincere… Bessica started to feel her throat tighten. Could she do this? Could she break Jamie’s heart? She told herself that the alternative was to be ugly again and no one would notice or be generous to her again. Being beautiful had made her so powerful, she wasn’t prepared to give up her power. She was going to break his heart.
She found him in the library, reading a large tome.
“Hello Jamie,” She announced herself.
“Ah Bessica! I have missed you! Where have you been this past month?”
He looked at her face, but there was no difference in his expression from how he usually looked at her. Bessica was astonished, all the other men of the town had reacted instantly when they had seen how much she had transformed. Yet Jamie had not reacted differently at all.
She smiled sweetly, “I’ve been busy on a quest. I am sorry that I haven’t had time to visit you until now. What have you been doing this past month?”
“Reading, thanks to you, I’ve spent this last month day and night learning all the contents of this library. It’s extraordinary, I’ve hardly noticed the outside world. Every day I have thanked you for expanding my mind and world! Why I have gotten so good at reading that I might get a job now as a lord’s secretary!”
Bessica stared at him, “don’t you notice anything different about me?”
Jamie looked at her, “no, you look just as you always have.”
“Don’t you think that I look beautiful?”
“Of course, you always look beautiful to my eyes. You look as beautiful as you were when I last saw you.”
Bessica was startled by this, he didn’t seem affected by her magical beauty. But she needed him to be, she needed him to want her so she could deny him in the most painful way possible. She pulled off her clothes and stood naked before him. Her body was perfectly proportioned, curvy and glowing with fertility.
But Jamie immediately averted his eyes, his face flushed with embarrassment.
“Look at me Jamie,” she commanded.
“No, I can’t Bess, I can’t your body is not for me to cast my eyes upon, please put your clothes back on.”
“Look at me Jamie, look at my hair, look at my breasts, let your eyes drink in my irresistible flesh!”
Jamie started breathing heavily and backed away, eyes covered and fixed on the ground.
Bessica’s voice started to sound strained, “look at me, Jamie, stare at me, see me. Please.”
Jamie turned to face a wall, “No! I shan’t look! You are not my wife, it is not proper for me to do so. Please put your clothes on, my lady.”
Bessica gasped, “Why won’t you look at me?”
“Because if I gaze too deeply at your flesh, I won’t see your soul as clearly anymore.”
Bessica put her hand to her mouth, “Go on…” she choked.
“To see the outer beauty means to he blinded against the inner beauty. To love someone simply for how they look is to love what they have never earned. The greatest beauty lies in the soul. For that beauty is crafted through tragedy in a person’s life and is their own unique beauty. Suffering buys us grace. You took me in Bessica, you were patient and kind to me, you taught me how to read, me a simple fletcher’s son, you did that for me, that kindess is the most beautiful thing about you.
“So if I gaze at you now, I will love only the shell of you, please, cover yourself up, that way I may not be distracted by it and can instead see your inner beauty clearly once more.”
Bessica felt her heart sink and tears well up in her eyes.
“I thought you were a simple fletcher’s son, I thought myself hard done by that only you could fancy me. I’m a fool. A cruel vain fool. I don’t want those other men, they only cared about me if I looked beautiful. You, however, care for me when I act beautifully. You are the most sincere and beautiful man here, and I? Who am I? The murderer of love? The killer of generosity? The slayer of gratitude? I came here to break your heart, but I have ended up only breaking my own. I’m not beautiful at heart anymore, I am only beautiful on the outside and in time I won’t even be that!”
The potion wore off and Bessica’s body returned to it’s original plainness. Bessica put on her clothes and wept. Jamie turned and looked at her with love and admiration in his eyes, for grace is purchased with tears not the satisfactions of lust.