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Sierra Warner leaned back in her chair slowly. Her sensitive ears pinpointed the sound of a solitary robin warbling outside her apartment window and the quiet hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen. Above her the sound of footfalls on wooden boards clattered and in the flat to her left a television blared. The city street beyond the building bustled with life and that filled her with sadness. She could hear the blaring of car horns in the distance and feel the rumbling of a passing bus, but she saw nothing. It had been more than a year since she had last seen a sunrise or even her own hands in front of her face. Some might say she deserved the blindness, and at one point she might even have agreed with them. But at that moment she allowed herself to wallow in self-pity.

She had once been a successful beauty queen with hoards of devoted fans and trophies piling up in the cabinet that took pride of place in her lounge. Her career had begun in her infancy when her mother had entered her into a toddler pageant and she had wowed the judges with a dance number that had been credited as both adorable and skillful for a girl of her age. She had been to events almost every weekend from that point onwards, and the pageant circuit had rapidly become her reason for living. By the time she was ten she had made a name for herself and had begun to win events without even really trying, with her parents having befriended half of the regular panel members who judged the shows. For a long time she had taken almost every crown she had competed for, and even found her way onto the international circuit. Things had become more difficult then, and she really had to fight for her wins. She took dance classes on Wednesdays and had vocal coaching twice a week to improve her singing voice. Her gym trips went from three times a week to five. She even expanded her hair and makeup team from one woman to three. She was committed to winning.

By virtue of a specially made bikini and a heartfelt rendition of a song her mother had discovered a judge was a particular fan of, she had even found herself a place in the Miss World competition. Everything had been in place for her to secure a win. She could remember it all with crystal clarity. She had arrived early as she always did and her team had begun the task of perfecting her natural beauty. Her bright blonde hair was backcombed and styled to within an inch of its life and two pairs of false lashes were glued around each sparkling blue eye. Her bronzed skin was rendered flawless with aerosol foundation and her lips painted a glittering red. Her ageing mother had told her she looked like a Goddess, and she had sneered at her wrinkled face. What did she know about beauty?

The contest itself had gone perfectly as they almost always did. She had sung an old love song and performed a group dance routine with the other girls in which she subtly tripped another competitor and threw her out of the running. Her ball gown and swimwear rounds had been well received and she had been feeling confident, but that soon began to fade. Miss Cuba was a knockout. The second she had begun to sing the judges had chosen their winner. She had the voice of an angel and a body to match; the sight of her in a flowing red, satin dress had sealed her place as winner. The other girls had no chance, and could do nothing but watch as she won over the crowd with a smile. Her name was Nereida Duarte, and it was burned into Sierra's mind. It did not matter that she had placed as a runner up, or that she had done well just to find a place at the contest. The only thing she could think of was how she had been cheated. The crown should have been hers, she deserved it! Hers should have been the name on everyone's lips.

Sierra had cried to her boyfriend Warren for weeks, lamenting at the unfairness and determined to have her revenge. Over time she had managed to persuade her doting partner to do something that she knew she could never get away with herself. Something insidious and terrible. They had booked a flight to Cuba and settled in a hotel just streets away from Nereida's home. The day after they touched down, they put their plan into motion. Warren snuck out into the night dressed in a second hand delivery boy outfit with a pizza box in his hands, and boldly walked up to Nereida's door. Sierra watched from the street, hidden by the property walls as he pressed the doorbell and waited. Nereida stepped out onto her doorstep with a confused smile, Sierra watched her lips move but she could not hear her words. Warren lifted the box and held it out to her, and she held up her hands to indicate that she did not want it. He waited for her hands to fall and then he lifted the lid. Out of the box a fine spray jetted up and onto her unprotected skin. She screamed and they ran, but not before the acid began to eat away at her once beautiful face. Sierra briefly saw her full lips and nose begin to melt, her eyes were hidden behind frantic hands, but she knew that his aim had been true. Nereida had been blinded.

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