Status: I will be posting a new story soon, so this one might be delayed a bit.

Rarae Aves

The Swan That Got Treated Like an Ugly Duckling

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Flashbacks are in purple

Amber yawned. It seemed she was always sleepy, no matter if she managed to get any rest or not. All of the work was draining her; making her constantly crave sleep. Most teenagers were energetic and didn’t sleep nearly as much, but then again, most teenagers didn’t have the life she had, either. Well, Mason wasn’t in the mood to talk, and it’d be a while before they arrived to school. She figured it couldn’t hurt to get a little more shut-eye. She yawned a second time before slowly closing her eyes and dropping her head, resting her chin against her chest. Soon, she began to dream, remembering some of the many times that Delia made fun of the way Amber looked or suggested that she was strange…

…“Jun-jie, dear, I thought I told you that this was a nice restaurant,” Delia said through a forced smile, unamused, “Or, did you forget what I said?”

“No, I remembered what you said,” Jun-jie reassured her.

“Oh yeah, well then, what did I say?”

“You said that the place we were going to was nice and fancy and that they had a dress code, so we had to dress nice.”

“Well, it seems you didn’t pay any mind to the dressing nice part,” she grunted.

“Oh,” Jun-jie softly spoke, looking downward at his attire. He was wearing a very nice dress shirt, a satin tie, dress pants, dress shoes, and a matching jacket. “I thought this was okay.”

“No,” Delia remarked, “You’re fine. She’s the one that isn’t.” She pointed at Amber, who was wearing a polo shirt and black pants. “That’s nowhere near nice enough.”

“Well, she’s just a kid. I figured this would be fine,” Jun-jie said, “Surely they won’t care if a five-year-old girl isn’t dressed in the nines.”

“Oh, no, no, no,” she asserted, “You are going to put her in something presentable this instant. People are going to think that she’s a half-raised wild animal if they see her like that.”

“Are you sure?” asked Jun-jie, “Because, honestly, I don’t see what the big deal is.”

“Well, I guess you just don’t want to take me out on a date, then,” Delia pouted, “We’ve planned this date for weeks, but apparently, you just don’t care.”

“No, no, I care,” Jun-jie appeased, “I do. I’ll dress her in something else.”

“You better,” she snorted, glaring at him.

“Come on, Am,” sighed her father, taking her hand, “Let’s get you back upstairs and change your clothes.”

Upstairs, Jun-jie picked out a yellow dress shirt, khaki pants, and a crème colored argyle sweater vest. “This should be fine,” he decided.

“Daddy, why do I have to change clothes?” Amber asked.

“Because we’re going to some fancy place, and apparently, you have to wear your best clothes there. I don’t understand it, either, but it’ll make Delia happy.” Amber began to put on her pants. “No, put on your shirt first, so I can tuck it in,” he told her.

Amber put on her dress shirt. “Can you help me with the buttons?”

“Sure,” he grinned, poking her tummy, making her giggle, “But, not before I do this.” He pulled her close and quickly blew on her belly button, causing more laughter from the child. He did it a second time.

“Heehee, stop it, Daddy,” she laughed. Jun-jie could feel his daughter’s stomach rising and falling against his lips as she laughed when he blew on her tummy a third time. “Eww, you made my tummy all wet with your spit,” she complained as he pulled away.

“Sorry, baby, Daddy didn’t mean to slobber on you,” he apologized in a cute voice, rubbing the slobber off. Afterwards, he buttoned her shirt, tucked it into her pants, and helped her with her sweater vest. After Amber put her shoes back on, they went back downstairs.

“Here she is, all pretty and nice,” he announced.

“That’s what you call pretty and nice?” sneered the adult woman.

“Yeah. What’s wrong now?” he questioned, irritated.

“She’s a girl, Jun-jie. She should be in a dress.”

“No,” retorted little Amber, “I don’t wanna.”

“Calm down,” her father told her, smoothing down her ebony hair, “I won’t make you. Delia, you know she doesn’t like dresses. I told you this before.”

“It’s not right, Jun-jie,” she rejoined, “A young girl should like wearing dresses. That’s what’s normal. Aren’t you concerned that if she doesn’t start taking a liking to more girlish clothing that she’ll…end up becoming strange?”

“No. Why would I be? She’s just a kid. She’s fine. She looks cute, I think.”

“Other people don’t think that, Jun-jie. She’s going to be bullied all her life if she doesn’t start acting normal soon.”

Amber hugged her dad, a pout forming upon her lips. She was little, but she understood when she was being talked about badly. What she didn’t understand was why Delia was always making a big deal about her not wearing dresses. Was there something wrong with her?

“I promise, she’s fine. Nothing bad is going to happen just because she doesn’t wear dresses. She’s more comfortable this way. Look, you wanted her in a nicer outfit, and now she’s in one. Let’s just go already,” Jun-jie assured, trying to keep the peace.

“Fine, but I still think there’s something funny about her,” Delia grunted, pointing at the child.

“I can see why you think that, but you’re wrong. She’s a kid. There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Whatever,” I’ll be waiting in the car, Delia huffed.

When she was gone, Jun-jie bent down toward his daughter and spoke softly, “Don’t feel bad, baby. I like you just like you are. Daddy thinks you look cute. Delia…she…just doesn’t understand you yet. After all, she hasn’t known you all that long. She will grow to love you, just like I do.” He gave her a kiss on the forehead. “There’s nothing wrong with being a little different.”

That had happened after Delia had dated her father for a few months. Delia never did grow to love Amber like her dad said she would. Delia even made fun of her even after they were married…


“Stop staring at me with those weird, misshapen, wide-set eyes of yours,” she had demanded one time when she saw Amber looking in her general direction.

“There’s nothing wrong with my eyes,” the little girl protested.

“Yes there is. One minute, I look at you and they’re too small for your face; the next minute, they’re big like frog eyes. No one else’s eyes change size like yours do. They’re such an ugly color, too.”

“They’re the same color as my daddy’s,” she pouted.

“No, his are brown like almonds. Yours look like two shit stains pressed into your face.”

“You’re mean,” Amber mewled, starting to cry.

“Well, you’re ugly,” Delia snapped, “You’re the ugliest little girl I ever saw.”


“Ow, ow, ow,” cried Amber as Delia jerked a hairbrush through the little girl’s hair. It was when she was six years old, back when her hair was still long. “Stop it! You’re hurting me!”

“Well, if you’d stay still, it wouldn’t hurt so much, idiot.”

“Wahhh,” she whined, pulling away, covering her head with her hands.

“You idiot, stop moving so I can finish,” she grumbled.

“It hurts,” protested Amber.

“Well, it’s not my fault that you have a dry, brittle rats’ nest on top of your head instead of hair.”


The insults became more pernicious and mortifying after Jun-jie passed away. When Amber first decided to start cutting her hair short, Delia remarked, “Humph, this isn’t surprising at all. I knew from the start that you were going to end up just like this. It won’t be long before you let your leg and armpit hair grow out, stop wearing undergarments, and start binding your breasts...not that there’s much to bind, anyway.”

Later on down the road, when Amber was twelve, she had a bit of an awkward stage because her body was developing. Her figure was becoming more shapely, more womanly, and less like that of a little girl. Her formerly ruler straight figure was starting to acquire slight curves. She had put on a bit of extra weight that fall and winter, before growing a few inches taller later in the summer, which would end up slimming her back out

Amber hadn’t really noticed the change all that much, until one day when Delia told her, “You aren’t wearing that jacket; it’s wearing you. It looks like you were melted down and poured into the thing. Put on something that actually fits and hides that little bump you’re getting.” She gestured towards the young preteen girl’s middle, “You’re starting to get a little pudgy, don’t you think?” A few times afterward, Delia would drop comments about Amber’s “chubby cheeks”, the size of her butt, and the shape of the thighs. Of course, it didn’t help the girl’s self-esteem. She had once overheard some of the girls in her class talk about how their mothers also made rude remarks about their weight, but that knowledge didn’t comfort her any. It still hurt at the time. She tried to ignore it and just play it off as Delia just being a bully as usual, but that didn’t deter her from sometimes looking at herself in the mirror and seeing if she could pinch anything from her body, or from rubbing various body parts down with her hands to mentally evaluate if they were too big or not.

Even though the comments were far between and eventually ended once Amber slimmed back down, it still wasn’t nice whenever Delia had made them. Amber, like most girls her age, did have times when she was a little insecure about her body. It was the reason that she now wore her clothing a little bit looser.


“Don’t flare your nostrils out at me,” Delia had said just the other week during the middle of one of their arguments. Amber didn’t even notice that she was doing it; all of her anger must’ve been making her nerves twitch. Delia continued, “The last thing you need to do is something that draws attention to that huge nose of yours. It’s so wide and nearly takes up your entire face. You could land a plane on it.” Later that night, the poor girl kept staring at her nose in the mirror and lifting up the tip of it, trying to make it look slimmer.


It seemed Delia had a comment for almost everything. They way Amber dressed, her haircut, the way she didn’t act ladylike enough, all of it was wrong in Delia’s eyes. She criticized the girl’s voice, made jokes about her having small breasts, and said she had a hideous face. Nothing about Amber was right to Delia. She shape of her jawline, her short-ish stature, the fact that to Delia, Amber’s legs looked “just like toothpicks”…those were just some of the things that Delia had made fun of over time.

Delia just hated her, and didn’t mind hurting her feelings. Amber tried to figure out how it was that she didn’t completely hate herself at all since she wasn’t really surrounded by a loving and supportive environment. She had to stay tough mentally and emotionally; she couldn’t let Delia being her down. If Delia caused Amber to lose all faith in herself, she’d end up having all control over that girl. Amber wouldn’t let that happen. She had to love herself, no matter how flawed she was, because no one else was around to love her anymore. Someday, she would meet someone who would help her discover just how beautiful and precious she really was. That certain someone would be unlike anyone she had ever seen before.