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My mother was obsessed with Sleeping Beauty. It's the only thing about her I remember, the only thing about her I know. She named me Aurora, but her involvement in my life, even in something as small as a name, failed to last. No one calls me by my real name, instead they call me by middle name: Sidonie. It's not quite as special, not quite as royal, but I've answered to it ever since I was four.

I know I'm pretty. I do. I know I'm beautiful. I don't think it's a bad thing to admit, but many would disagree. We live in a world where outer beauty is always accepted, highly regarded and deadly impressionable, but it's a slippery little secret that's silenced. I'm judged both positively and negatively because of my beauty. I'm also remembered because of it.

I've learned that other girls don't like hearing me say that I'm beautiful. In fact, they hate it. I don't know the true reason why, but I believe it's because us girls aren't supposed to know we're beautiful—that is, not until someone else reveals it and provides us with the physical supremacy. We're not allowed to take the power on our own, we have to wait to be given it. And even then we shouldn't think we're actually beautiful.

But I know it. I've always known it.

I don't mean to come across as conceited, simply factual. Since the age of eleven, I've witnessed how boys watch me. Even men ... Especially men. I felt my gym teacher's salacious stare on me when I ran and stretched, when I was sweaty and breathless. I could see his throbbing thoughts, his illegal wishes and frowned-upon fantasies. And I could see the subtle swelling in his loose shorts as he'd watch me touch my toes. I'd purposely untie my pony and let my long hair fall to the floor. Upside down, between my spread legs, we'd meet eyes and I'd smile. He'd stroke his goatee and grin.

I liked toying with him and playing with the power. I was sixteen and technically untouchable, but that didn't stop his gawking and excessive help to ensure I had correct form. I let him touch my arms and legs, my waist and hips, because it was nothing but a game to me, and I was winning. I controlled him, I held the power, and I shaped his feelings and influenced his thoughts. I made his day better if I brushed against him, knowing I would be on his mind when class was over, knowing it made him happy in a deranged way. But I also made his day worse if I didn't smile at him, knowing he would question his appearance and actions, knowing it tortured him.

I learned to use my beauty as a tool, as a form of manipulation, and it astounded me how often it worked. I always got a good mark if the class had a male teacher, because even a decent male teacher is a wolf—he'd still stare, he'd still yearn—and I used it to my advantage. I'm not ashamed of it, and I don't wish my success was based on the homework that I constantly handed in late or the tests on which I drew heart doodles, because school doesn't teach you about the real world, school doesn't teach you about loneliness or abandonment, or what to do when the people who are meant to protect you end up destroying you. And school doesn't teach you about love.

I've learned more in this past year than in the previous seventeen.

I could've had sex with my gym teacher—it's not as though he was ugly, it's not as though he wasn't willing—but I use beauty as a tool, not sex. There's been only one time, just one, when I used sex as a tool, and it was because I didn't want to die.

I was a virgin throughout my high school years—I'm speaking on a technicality wherein virginity is given and not taken, but I've never shared that important detail with anyone. If I wanted to have sex with any student or teacher in high school, I would've, I could've, but I didn't. Call me a romantic, call me a delusional, silly girl, but I'm not interested in sex, I'm interested in love, and I didn't find anything resembling love in my school years. It wasn't until I graduated, until I left the fishbowl and ventured into the blue, that I discovered for what I had been aimlessly searching. I was a mermaid who'd been confined to a tank with ordinary fish, not realizing there were others like me, others who weren't basic or average—others who held palpable, persuasive power.

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