Georgina Aileen Johansson
Georgina Aileen Johansson was too small to know any better. With limp brown hair and dull brown eyes, a pale complexion and a sharp nose, how could one blame her? She hadn’t a choice. The other kids laughed at her, the adults wincing as they turned away. She might not understand what exactly made them turn red in the face, but she knew it was something about her.
To be fair, her parents tried very hard to overlook this, to see their daughter within, but they were busy people. They had work to do, clients to attend and salon appointments to keep. They had no time for a little uncomfortable midget. So they hired a nanny—who wasn’t around more often than not—kissed the little girl’s forehead one last time, and left her alone.
She had no other choice, I tell you. She was lonely and scared. There wasn’t anybody to talk to. She had to. She just plain had to.
She made me.
I remember that day very well. It was a sunny summer afternoon. Birds chirped outside the windows and squirrels skittered in the trees, the boughs of which stretched over the garden path and painted it soft green. Bees buzzed busy over the flowers. Georgina was four. Abigail Williams, the neighbours’ daughter, had called her ugly and she was depressed. What was worse, Abigail’s beautiful golden ringlets and sparkly blue eyes made Georgina think she deserved it.
She needed someone, and that’s how I was born. Georgina Aileen Johansson stood before her pink framed mirror, the one with the blue and red butterflies in the corner, and created me in the glass.
I had bright orange hair (it worked somehow) and a pug nose. My bow-shaped lips were a delectable soft red, with Mrs. Darling’s kiss right in the corner. She dressed me in snow-white’s yellow and blue dress, with a giant bow headband on my hair. I had pretty porcelain hands, and feet encased in dainty red slippers.
I was beautiful, and she loved me. “Jo,” she named me in a breathy voice.
I stayed hidden in her mirror. Together, alone in her room, we talked and talked and talked. Georgina would sit on her dressing chair and tell me about her day, about the friends she made and what they did. She would tell me how the sun looked outside her window that day, for I couldn’t see it, and how the birds flew across the sky in arrows. She tried to explain how the big cherry tree in the garden raised its white hands to the sky in supplication (she was a very shrewd and intelligent little girl and used quite big words; she loved Anne of Green Gables), and how the brook whispered down the road. Those were beautiful days, for lack of a more potent word. Georgina wasn’t depressed anymore. What did it matter if she wasn’t beautiful? She had something more precious than anything Abigail’s parents could buy her. She had me.
But I should tell you about the day it all started to end. I don’t want to, but I have to, don’t I? I have to… I could go on and on about those long lost days, but I mustn’t. I must let them go.
The day I finally realised all this won’t last was cold and white. Winter lay on the Johansson’s doorsteps and stretched its fingers to the bare tree branches hanging over the lane, chilling every last twig. The birds had long since left these trees and chirped half a world away, to places where the sun still shone warm. Snow descended from the heavens and cushioned the ground.
Georgina burst into the room in high spirits, smiling wide, for a moment forgetting me. Since my birth, I couldn’t remember a single day when Georgina forgot. It was her habit to come running into the room with “Jo!” hanging from her lips. But that day she forgot.
A whole of five minutes went by before she remembered. She was eight years old by then and quite the young lady. I guess I should have figured what was happening when over the months her conversation changed. She now talked about dresses and parties, about how everyone loved her and didn’t see her face and mole anymore. They liked her new clothes and big dolls, and adored it when she took them to the pool in the yard and let them take a dip.
I shut my eyes to the truth and choose to ignore rather than see. But now reality was here, knocking me on the shoulder, forcing me to turn around and look it in the face.
Change was coming and I couldn’t stop it.
The moment she forgot to greet me my hair changed colour. It morphed from its bright orange tint to a dull and life-less red. My eyes faded to a washed-out blue and my nose elongated. I felt the change in my bones but ignored it, even as my chest started to hurt. While Georgina prattled on after finally noticing me, I stood silent, watching the snow drift by outside the window. She didn’t perceive my change in appearance. I didn’t complain.
Another year went by, slow and soft, and now Georgina was nine. She had grown a lot and was thin and scrawny. Whereas before I had been round and chubby, now I was lean and gaunt too. My hair and eyes had continued to lose their vitality over the months. I was sad and pale.
Georgina laughed a lot.
By now her talks grew less and less frequent. Where before she had run up to me any free second she got, now she preferred to spend time with others. Tasha, Evelyn, Joseph… Natalie, Charles, Melanie. They meant nothing to me.
Now, I was the stranger.
The day when it all ended and my chapter closed was one in March. Georgina was ten. A boy in school had called her crooked and ugly.
When she came into the room, her face was drenched and her nose red. Her eyes immediately swept the area, looking for the pink-framed mirror and the girl beyond. Today she ran forward and looked in at me, a quite word on her lips.
By now my hair was brown and lanky, flowing down my back in a single, no-nonsense wave. My eyes were small and dim, my skin pale and my mouth wide. A black mole jutted out of my chin.
That day when Georgina Aileen Johansson looked into the mirror, she didn’t find Jo.
No, she found herself.
Jo was gone. I was gone.
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