All Little Girls Should Be Told They're Pretty

Short Stories

I rolled my eyes. She was always trying to be like me. She faked her opinions to match mine and sucked up to me like there was no tomorrow.

      “Why are you so annoying?” I said as I sat down at the table.   

     “Marilyn, if you continue being mean to Gillian I’ll take away one of your privileges. You need to think about what you say and before you say it ask yourself: is it necessary is it kind, is it uplifting,” my mom said.

     “It’s okay, Mrs. Vane, I’m used to it,” Gillian assured her. She took a big bite of her pork, and the juice dribbled down her chin and onto her shirt. I sneered at her.

     “What?” she said.

     “Look at your shirt. It’s covered in stains.” My mother looked at me and raised her eyebrow.

     “It’s perfectly alright Gillian. Your mother can always wash it.”

Gillian eyed her shirt and fell silent as she pursed his lips. I swallowed hard realizing I had hurt her.

      “Can we go shopping tomorrow?” she asked me suddenly.

     “Can we mom? It’s a Saturday. Neither of us has homework, and Miss Angela canceled my voice lesson so we’re both free.”

     “I suppose so, but you’ll have to ask your mother, Gillian,” my mother said.


      On Monday we both saw each other at school wearing the new clothing we had bought on Saturday.

     “Wow, you look so different,” said one of my friends Karen as she looked at Gillian’s new outfit and new hair. She had dyed it a brown color like mine.

          “Whoa, you dyed you hair. When did you do that? And I love those pants so much, I would totally wear those,” I said.    

     “I dyed it Sunday. And I’m glad you like the pants. I was hoping you would,” she replied. As she spoke her eyes looked at me so expectantly it made my stomach turn. “I was also wondering if I could take a picture of you.” Gillian said as she stared at me.

    “Erm, I guess so,” I said. She pulled her camera out of her purse and snapped a photo of me.

     “Thanks Marilyn,” she said as she gazed at the photo.

     “You coming to class?” I asked her.

     “What? Oh yeah, sorry,” she said. Karen and I continued walking to class but Gillian lagged behind. I felt her analyzing my movements, staring at me, taking notes on something and writing them down. The scratch of her pen tickled my skin, and I hurried ahead hoping to elude her.

     “Is Gillian acting a little weird to you?” I asked Karen.

     “She seems a little off. But I’m sure it’s nothing,” she said. Easy for her to say.


At lunch, Gillian and I sat at the same table we always did, the green one with the least amount of gum stuck to the bottom of it.

     “What’s that?” I asked as she lifted her sandwich up to her mouth. I noticed she drew something on the back of her wrist that resembled my birth mark that I had in that same place. I looked down at my notes for choir and shrugged it off.

She ignored my question. “How much do you weigh?” Gillian asked me.

     “121,” I told her. She frowned at her waist and at her sandwich, and then set it down back onto her plate. “Don’t you want that?” I said as I pointed to her lunch.

     “I’m not that hungry anymore,” she said as she got up and left the cafeteria. I noticed she had left one of her notebooks. Out of boredom and curiosity I picked it up, I flipped through its pages becoming more and more confused. The book was filled with notes on me; how I walked, talked, dressed, what facial expressions I used, and underlined many times was my weight and my skin color. I had always been darker, older and skinnier than she was. She was a pale ginger with a heavier build and brown eyes while I was tall, tan, brown haired and blue eyed. I left the notebook lying there for her to recover and left the cafeteria.

The school day had finally ended but I had seen Gillian anywhere in the crowd of students.

“Have you seen Gillian?” I asked Karen.

“I saw her after lunch in the girls’ bathroom,” Karen said with a guilty look on her face.

     “What are you hiding from me?” I asked her. When Karen didn’t speak I stared at her to try and get a response. Karen quickly gave in.

     “Well, when I went in there I saw Gillian. I fixed my hair and then I left, but as I left I heard some weird noises coming from her stall so I stopped to listen,” Karen looked down at the floor “she was vomiting up her lunch.”

I felt cold and wobbly and shook my head. “No, she wouldn’t.” I backed away and made for the exit. I stood on the steps and looked all around me. The auburn trees and swift breeze didn’t make me smile. The golden sun and pattering of shoes didn’t comfort me.

     “Marilyn!” I heard someone call my name from far off. It was Gillian, but she was barely recognizable.  She was orange, a bright orange.

     “I got a tan,” she said.

     “When did you have time to get a tan?” I asked.

     “I gave myself a spray tan a few minutes before English. I was a little late but it was totally worth it. What do you think?” she asked me, as she put her arm next to mine to compare our complexions. I jerked my arm away.

     “I think you look terrible. Just stop being so stupid.”  I said as I walked away. I left Gillian standing on the steps alone and orange. I looked back to see her face. It was so pathetic looking. I found my mom waiting by the curb and climbed into our old Honda.

     “How was school?” my mom said.

     “Let’s just go home, please.”


    It was 4:20 pm on a Saturday, Karen was over and Gillian hadn’t texted me in over 30 minutes.

      “You mean to tell me that Gillian bought an outfit from a costume store to match yours?” Karen asked.  “What were you wearing?”

    “My vintage fringe vest with bell bottoms, sandals and a headband. Then when I saw her in math class she was wearing one of those cheap, awful hippie costumes. Except everything she was wearing was like 4 times too big for her, as usual,” I poked the table with my fingernail as I recalled my embarrassment. “And the next day she did something just as bad.”


     “We were in history together when she just got up and ran out of class screaming. She said she had to go the nurse’s office. Later we found out all she went to do was weigh herself...and then I found her vomiting in the girl’s bathroom….again.”

     “This has to stop, Marilyn. What are you going to do?”

     “I don’t know. I’ll see her in an hour. She signed up for choir,” Karen looked at me with disbelief. “I can’t believe it either. That girl can’t carry a tune in a bucket. She’s going to embarrass herself,” I said.

 Karen looked thoughtful for a moment then hesitated as she spoke. “How did you react when you saw what Gillian was wearing that day?”

     My stomach turned my pizza over and over in my stomach as I thought about it. “I told her,” I swallowed hard. “I told her I hated her and her outfit and that she embarrassed me, then I got up and walked to the other side of the classroom,” I groaned as my cell phone rang. It was Gillian. “That’s the tenth call today. She just won’t leave me alone. And every time I ask her to she bursts into tears and says she’s sorry.  Either that or she denies what she does and says I’m just mean and full of myself.”

The clock’s digits changed to 4:30. Karen left and I got ready for choir. When we arrived at the small white building I saw Gillian outside waiting for me.

     “Hi Marilyn, how are you? I’m doing great. I signed up for choir. I just love singing. Don’t you? Every time I sing I feel so wonderful. It’s like I’m floating quietly up into the clouds. I couldn’t live without singing. Hey, maybe some time or another we could sing together, maybe write a song, or work on your singing. You do need to work on your range as well as controlling that vibrato of yours,” Gillian babbled on and with each word my neck grew hot.

     “Look, Gillian, get this through your stupid little head, okay? You do not like singing and you never have. In fact you can’t even sing. You sound like a whale being run over by a pickup truck. You don’t have the right to say you couldn’t live without singing and offend people who really truly love singing. And one more thing, you can’t just tell me I need to work on my voice and expect me to be okay with it. You are not an expert and I did not ask for your opinion,” I said all of this without taking my eyes off her, making sure she knew how furious I was.

    “I hate you. You always do this. Every time I have my own opinion you tear me down, whenever I’m myself you hate me,” she said.

     “But that’s just it Gillian: you’re not being yourself. You’re being me. You’re trying to be someone you’re not.” Gillian tried to protest but burst into tears. She tore off her choir robe and shoved it at my face. “Gillian,” I gasped as I saw how skinny she was. For the past week she had worn the same clothes I had but in much bigger sizes, now I saw why. Her bones stuck out from her thin skin and her body was gnarled and fragile. “Gillian, why would you do this? You’re killing yourself. Stop, please,” I said.

Gillian looked down at the ground as her back faced me. She turned around, her eyes bright red with tears. “No! I will be who I want to be! I’m not you, I’m me! Me! Do you understand?”  Then she fainted.


I stood over Gillian’s limp body as nurses attached wires and whatnot to her.

     “Why didn’t you tell us what was going on with Gillian?” Her mother asked me. I couldn’t look her in the eye. Please stop looking at me like that.

     “I don’t know,” I said. How could you not know? You’re her mother.  “I just didn’t want you to know that I had hurt her.” I walked out of the room wiping away a tear.

     “Marilyn, she’s awake,” her father said to me as he poked his head out of the room, but I didn’t turn around. I sighed and turned my eyes towards the ceiling, trying to let my tears slide back into their ducts.

   I heard a groan. “Is Marilyn here?” I heard Gillian say.

     Her father poked his head back out and looked at me for an answer.

     “No,” her Father said when he saw me shake my head.

     “Good,” said Gillian. “I never want to see her again.”


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