The Ugly Duckling Debutante Online - Rachel Van Dyken

Chapter One

The English Countryside

Miss Sara Ames had no desire whatsoever to extend a greeting to her Aunt Tilda. Greetings were natural assumptions of welcome, and Sara did not want her aunt to get the wrong impression. She was most certainly not welcome.

Soon enough she would be encouraged to extend said welcome to her aunt, but naturally, she was in no mood to rush the first step into the inferno, as she so delicately thought of the situation. No. She would greet her soon, but not too soon. Not until the time was forced upon her—much like the current situation had been thrust upon her.

At least she could spend these last few hours in solitary lamentation, mourning the life she once dreamed for herself. A life filled with nights sitting by the fireside reading novels. After all, she wasn’t pretty enough for a debut, a fact of which she was reminded daily by her sisters and her mother.

Debuts were reserved for comely, dewy-skinned girls; not ugly girls, as her father had often so delicately put it. She hadn’t even been provided with a dowry. And according to her father, the main reason for that being, “No man in his right mind would take you, even if I offered him the blunt of the ton.” He’d repeated such sentiments to neighbors on many occasions as well, the first time on Sara’s sixteenth birthday, when during the middle of her party he drunkenly announced to all her friends she was worthless.

At least novels provided the escape she desperately needed, a diversion into a world where she felt loved, cherished, and desired—the most scandalous of all the emotions, or so she thought.

Men would never desire her; even her own father despised her for how she looked.

For one thing, she was straight where all the other women had curves. Her skin was dark olive, but that was to be expected when one spent hours contemplating books in the fields. Her lips were too large, her eyes too big, and her nose—well, she didn’t know much about noses, but she figured something had to be wrong with it, too. It always seemed too invisible next to her lush mouth, which her father had often called sinful.

How was it that her sisters were both gifted with angelic faces and soft bodies, while she was cursed with a hard-muscled body and a long mop of black hair? She was nearly convinced her mother had taken a lover of some sort, or at least had an affair while her father was away on business. It was the only explanation for her looks; certainly, her own father must have thought as much as well, because she received the most despised spankings as a child, and allotted the most horrid of all chores.

Her parents meant well, her beautifully gifted sisters often told her, but she had her doubts. As of a few days ago, she accepted her lot in life was to be a spinster; to spend the rest of her days longing for something she’d never had to begin with…love.

“Sara!” Her mother’s impossibly loud voice never ceased to carry for miles on end.

“Coming!” she called, although not at the same decibel. It was nearly impossible to reach the same frequency as her mother on any given occasion. A gift is what her mother called it, but her father called it a curse behind her mother’s back.

Sara reluctantly pushed herself off the ground and walked slowly into the lion’s den. Her fate to be decided by the two most unlikeable people in her existence: her mother and her aunt.

Both eyed her speculatively when she approached them in the garden. Heat encompassed her body while observing her aunt’s disapproving gaze trace her from head to toe. She was used to being criticized. Holding her head high when subjected to rejection had once been a trying chore. Now she did it with ease, her only recourse, as if to say she didn’t care what everyone else thought. Though in her heart of hearts, she always did. Didn’t every girl?

She resolved to always maintain eye contact—to communicate to everyone within distance she accepted the way God created her. The local vicar once told her there were worse things in the world, and sometimes you only see what others want you to see.

Sara had her doubts about the local vicar after that day, yet her faith in God was the only solid thing in her life. She had to trust that possibly, when she went to