Middle School Stories

The Hideous Prince

Prince Gant was young, tall, and extremely good-looking with the most penetrating green eyes anyone in the kingdom had ever seen. When he spoke all the notable men and women of the land stopped what they were doing and listened to him. With the beautiful Princess Everly already devoted to him, he was destined to be a great King.

But, he took a wrong turn. In fact, this story is about how Prince Gant became the ugliest Prince in the World! 

No doubt, you are amazed! How could someone so full of promise become a dud! Now, I don’t know the why of everything, but I will tell you this — it all started at the Winterwood Ball.

As the Prince and Princess were greeting a crowd of young people, one young woman swooned at the touch of the Prince’s eyes on her face. The Prince was so astonished at his power that he immediately began to experiment with it. He cruised the ballroom and soon had more than twenty young women swooning at his slightest glance!

So absorbed in his conquests, the Prince forgot all about his Princess. He did not see her open the door. He did not see her glance back at him longingly, and he did not see her leave. 

Instead, the Prince laughed merrily as one of the boldest noblewomen in the land wrote his name on her forehead in jello!

Moments later, one of the Prince’s oldest advisors approached. “Sire,” he said, “the people of the kingdom are worried you are not treating your noble bride with respect.”

“Who is saying this!” Roared Prince Gant. Drawing his sword he held the point of it to his advisor’s neck.

Sire!” The older man swallowed, and a small speck of blood fell on his starched white collar.

“You!” The Prince said, seeing the darkness mirrored in the old man’s eyes. “You are spreading rumors and lies about me! You and Princess Everly will go to the dungeons!”

The Prince commanded his soldiers, and in swift military fashion the party was over. All his noble guests fled the ballroom, worried that they too might be sent to prison.

Alone, the Prince fell back into his lounging chair. He poured himself a large tumbler of wine and, drinking it quickly, he promptly fell asleep.

As he slept, he dreamed, and his dream became a nightmarish chant sung by the unhappy princess in the deep darkness of the dungeon below.

Turn your face, turn your face,
turn your face to see, the monster you set free
Turn your face, turn your face
Turn and see the trace of evil on your face
Turn your face, turn your face, turn your face to me.

Suddenly, the Prince’s eyes shot open! Hands to his face, he ran to a mirror. He gasped in horrified disbelief. He had four — no, SIX — eyes! 

One pair sat at the top of his forehead and gave off a neon red glow. His own green eyes sat below the red, but they were no longer beautiful. They were tainted by an inky black film.

And his last set of eyes? The Prince raised his hands to feel along the back of his head. He gasped in pain as he stuck his finger in his new black eyes!

The Prince knew he looked monstrous, but he also knew that his eyes gave him great power.

Out of the restless black eyes he could see all the back-stabbing people who secretly said mean things about him. The Prince easily stopped their  wicked rumormongering by shutting them up in the deep, dark dungeon.

Out of his slimy green eyes he saw his courtly friends, and when any of them sat down first at dinner, or wore a prettier coat, or cut his beard in an interesting fashion – Prince Gant’s green eyes gleamed, and he would call out.

“Fashionistas!”

Dressed in black, his fashionistas accosted the tailors, seized their wares, and made clothing adjustments that ensured that all courtly guests were only as well-dressed as Prince Gant permitted.

And those red eyes!! Those red eyes were terrible! They saw every protester, every nay-sayer and every tyrant who would dare rise up to usurp the Prince’s power. His secret police silenced them swiftly with the sword!

But, for all his power, the Prince did not sleep well at night. He wandered the Palace haunted by a song on the wind. He did not know it, but Princess Everly, his devoted Princess, often sang her wishes to the wind.

Turn your face, turn your face
Turn to right ideals
Actions make it real
Turn your face, turn your face
Turn your face and shift
Change and heal the rift.
Turn your face, turn your face
Turn your face to me.

The Prince never acknowledged the song, or the voice, or the wind. Too distracted by his busy life, he had everything he ever wanted! He had gold and jewels, and country villas with swimming pools. He had free tickets to the theatre and season passes to football games. He had everything and his life was full.

However, it may come as a surprise to you to know that Prince Gant was not happy. He didn’t feel loved or appreciated by his people, and then there was the fact that he was ugly. He couldn’t go out in public for fear of making all the babies cry!

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Now, some scientist would say that insects with their gazillion eyes are beautiful.  But remember, these strange admirers are scientists. And even scientists don’t marry bugs.

Our Prince looked at his murky green eyes so full of jealousy. Then, he looked at his blood-red eyes so necessary in maintaining power. And last, he held up the hand mirror to examine his black eyes that protected him from hurtful rumors. His shoulders slumped. He needed his six eyes!

But, how could he ever be handsome with six eyes?

He called for his steward – a fine looking young lad who had the grace to lower his eyes and cower at his feet.

“Steward,” said the Prince. “Look at me! I am your Prince.”

The boy looked at his shoes. “Alas, Sire, I can not look upon you.”

The Prince looked to his Prime Minister. “What is wrong with my people? Even my steward is too cowardly to look at me!”

“Mayhap you could give your dagger to the Supreme Court, your Grace. Then, perhaps the lad may look,” the Prime Minister suggested.

The Prince thought for a moment, and then he gave his dagger and his belt to the Prime Minister who in turn gave it to the Supreme Court.

“Now, look at me steward! I am your Prince.”

When the steward did not raise his eyes, the Prince cried with impatience. “Why will you not look at me? I have no sword!”

Plucking up his courage, the lad looked into the Prince’s face. “Oh Sire,” he said, awestruck. “What happened to your red eyes?”

The Prince grabbed hastily for his hand mirror. His red eyes were gone!

“This is wonderful!” The Prince cried. “Surely you must know what this means?”

“You’re becoming human?” The lad asked.

“I’ve been human all along, you fool!” the Prince spluttered, outraged that anyone thought differently. “I am no monster!” 

The clear brown eyes of his steward said otherwise. Enraged, the Prince reached for his dagger, but his hand only grasped the air where the dagger’s hilt used to be.

“Do you need something, your Grace?” The Prime Minister asked, stepping in front of the lad.

“My dagger,” The Prince said through gritted teeth.

“Your dagger belongs to the people now, your grace. To retrieve it would be a long and bloody battle. Only a monster would fight for such power.”

The Prince’s black eyes turned on the Prime Minister with great force.

“Your black eyes, Sire!” He cringed. “There is no kindness in them!”

“Kindness?” The Prince asked. “You, who has called me a monster, who has wrested my dagger from me and left me to the mercy of assassins? You want kindness?”

“I am sorry, your Grace.” The Prime Minister said, bowing again. “Giving up your sword was very brave.”

The Prince’s black eyes glowered at the bowed head of the Prime Minister then flashed to his fidgeting steward.

“My black eyes see you too, lad,” he said. “You nearly called me a monster!” 

At his words, the steward immediately began wailing. “Please, Sire, I know you’re human. I didn’t mean anything by it!”

Suddenly tired of pursuing gossipers, the Prince closed his black eyes and consoled the steward. “Quiet, lad. You have nothing to fear from me.”

The steward stared up at the Prince, his eyes wide in surprise.

“I had green eyes once,” the Prince said, fondly remembering his own eyes. “They were vibrantly green and so beautiful noblewomen swooned.”

The lad flinched away from the Prince as awful stories of the Prince’s jealousy came crowding into his mind. “Please don’t cut out my eyes!” He yelled.

“Oh, how can you say such terrible things about me?” The Prince asked in exasperation. Great tears rolled down the steward’s face. The Prince pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to him.

“You don’t want my eyes?” The steward hiccuped.

“No,” the Prince said. “I have my own eyes.”

The steward and the Prime Minister stared at each other in shock and relief. The Prime Minister recovered first, elated that there would be no more blind stewards to comfort.

“That you do!” He said, grabbing the hand mirror out of the steward’s feeble grasp. He held it up for the Prince to see. “You have your own green eyes!”

The Prince stared at his reflection. The slimy film over his green eyes had completely disappeared!!

In that moment, the wind spoke and all three, the Prince, the Prime Minister, and the young steward stopped to listen to the song until it finished.

“Did you hear that?” The Prince asked.

“Only the birds on the wind, Sire” the Prime Minister said. He snapped his fingers in front of the steward’s face. “Wake up, lad! The Prince asked you a question!”

“I…It was beautiful,” the lad stuttered.

“What? Were you day-dreaming again!” The Prime Minister grabbed the handkerchief from the boy and flicked it at him. “You are with the Prince, lad! Be attentive!”

“I’m sorry, Sire,” the lad shook his head. “I saw an amazingly beautiful blue ocean with a strip of sandy white beach.”

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“A beach!” The Prince exclaimed. “I have hundreds of miles of beaches and I don’t dream about any of them.”

“It could be that you have too many beaches, Sire.”

“Too many?” The Prince scoffed. “How can anyone have too much?”

“Excuse me, Sire, but it’s like your eyes. Six eyes are two pair too many.” 

The steward dared a glance at the Prince, but the black eyes intercepted him. As he drew back in horror, a song, as clear as a bell, filled the air.

Turn your face, turn your face
Turn, return to me
Sweet love, you’ll always be – 
Turn your face, turn your face
Turn, and fear will cease
You’ll start to be at Peace
Turn your face, turn your face
Come, return to me

“Did you hear that?” The Prince asked again.

Too afraid to speak of the captive princess, the Prime Minister ducked his head. “Surely, your black eyes know all, your Grace.”

“It is the Princess Everly,” The Prince said. “Bring her to me.”

While the Prime Minister called for the Princess Everly, the Prince smoothed down the hair at the back of his head and closed the black eyes forever.

Power, gossip and vanity he would leave for others. He wanted to be surrounded by good people, people who loved him, people who were kind.

“Sire,” the steward gasped. “Your black eyes are gone!”

The Prince looked at the lad and smiled. “No, I still have them, but I choose not to use them. After all, I am not a monster.”

Middle School Values

Taking a step back from the easel, I reviewed my work. Something was still not quite right. I groaned. This artistic challenge was proving to be tricky! 

The assignment called for choosing an idea or emotion. I settled on ‘Freedom’. To illustrate this idea, I drew a picture of a boy on a bicycle with his arms outspread embracing the limitless expanse of sky. Working from that drawing, I tried to convey ‘Freedom’ in an expressionist painting.

I carefully dabbed at the canvas, putting the bicyclist in the foreground as a bold flash of red.

“So, this is freedom?” Ms. Ann asked from somewhere behind me. I turned to see her contemplating my work with her chin on her fist.

“Why is the bicyclist red?” She asked, licking her red lips.

Ms. Ann, my teacher, is an artist and the first art she did every morning was her face. She was a powdered tan sculpture with intense blue eyes rimmed in kohl. 

“I thought red was expressive and fun,” I explained. “I put the smudge of red thicker on one side to convey movement.”

Ms. Ann nodded, apparently satisfied with my explanation. As she moved on to the next student, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Not even a week ago, Ms. Ann had asked Brooke a similar question. Brooke had simply shrugged her shoulders.  Ms. Ann did not like that! She ripped Brooke’s entire painting apart, element by element, until Brooke fled the classroom crying. 

Teachers weren’t supposed to rip into their students, but everyone knew that in order to get a good grade you had to please the teacher.

Ms. Ann was key to my career. I knew that if I pleased Ms. Ann, she would help me get my art work in the best galleries. I needed to please her. Otherwise, my artistic career would end before it even began – and I didn’t want to be another Brooke.

“These are bold, confident strokes!” Ms Ann said, coming up behind me with a smile. “It looks very good, Eugenia.” Suddenly her expression turned thoughtful. “Eugenia,” she repeated my name slowly. “Do you mind if I call you Gene?”

“Gene,” I swallowed, “is fine.” I hated the abbreviated version of my name, but somehow I could’t stop myself from allowing Ms. Ann to use it. 

She beamed at me. Then she turned to the entire class.

“Gene has done something amazing here, people. She is challenging you, her audience, to identify with a feeling. What feeling do you see in these bold strokes?” She asked.

My stomach sank. My peers are nice, for the most part, but some of them liked to criticize.

“That red smudge looks like anger,” Isabel said, scratching her nose. “Is anger what you’re going for, Gene?”

Ms. Ann raised her hand to stop all further comment. “It’s very hard to get an emotion from these modern pieces. The interpretation must come from inside you.”

“Isabel is very angry inside,” Gavin said, agreeably. I smiled at him, appreciating his humor.

“These strokes are masculine and bold,” Ms. Ann interrupted, clapping her hands. “Only Gene has conveyed strength and boldness with a single stroke.” She sniffed, and her eyes rested on Gavin until he looked down, betraying his discomfort. Yesterday she had accused him of lazy thinking and sloppy execution.

“It’s not easy to challenge the status quo,” Ms. Ann continued, her hands curling into fists, “but as artists you must challenge! Challenge people, challenge ideas, challenge beliefs — that’s how you get a reaction! That’s how you get people to think!”

The next morning I scooted past Ms. Ann and Clark/Celeste talking in the classroom doorway. “This is really quite beautiful lace, Celeste. Where did you find your gown?” Ms. Ann asked.

“Downtown Threads,” Clark/Celeste answered, pushing their hair back with black-painted fingers. Clark had decided to try out a feminine persona sometime around Thanksgiving. He made a striking girl.

Everyone was in the process of finding their seats, rummaging through their bags, and generally making a noisy transition from lunch. I stuffed my bag under my seat, and paused to listen when Ms. Ann began talking.

“We are artists people!” She said in a loud voice, tapping on the blackboard and interrupting everyone. “We take pride in our work and in our persons.” She gestured to me. “How can you be an artist when you come into this room dressed like that?”

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Immediately I wanted to shrink into the size of an insect and disappear!

“She looks good,” Gavin said from the back of the room. As all eyes swung to Gavin, he gestured to me with a sweep of his arm. “She looks normal,” he said.

“Normal!?” Ms. Ann looked at me. “Is that the best you can say for yourself, Gene?”

Too embarrassed to speak, I sank into my chair.

“I wear make-up,” Isabel chimed in, pointing to the winged eyeliner she had painted on her eyes. “We don’t all dress boring.”

“Lace is my signature look,” Clark/Celeste said, running his fingers up his lace-covered arm.

“Tattoos are mine,” Winston said, wiggling his fingers to show off his tattoos.

“What are you trying to say with your tattoos?” Ms. Ann asked.

“I can’t say, Ms. Ann,” Winston said. “Tats are private.”

“They are private,” Ms. Ann agreed, coming to stand over him as he sat at his desk. “I hope you have a good reason for them. It’s dumb to follow the crowd.”

I had changed my look. With a quick flick of his wrist, Gavin exposed my newly shaved head. 

“You cut it off!” He exclaimed, shock all over his face. “I can’t believe it! You followed that old toad.”

“Ms. Ann is not a toad,” I said, defending her. Gavin had a nickname for all of our teachers. Some of the names were funny, but calling Ms. Ann a toad was just plain mean. He called all of her favorite students toadies, too.

“You used to be cool,” he said, not hiding his disappointment.

“I was boring!”

“Boring to who? To Ms. Ann? Who cares what she thinks!” Gavin shoved my hat into my hands not bothering to hide his disgust.

“No, I —” I started to deny it, but instead I got angry. “Of course I want her to like me. I want to get a good grade. I want my art to be noticed – to be good!”

“Art,” he scoffed. “Is that what we’re doing here?” 

“Yes!” I said, but Gavin was done talking to me. He walked to his usual desk, shoved his earbuds into place and completely blocked me out.

“Wow! Now that’s short hair!” Isabel said as she entered the classroom. “Gene, you really are coming out.”

Clark/Celeste entered, their lacey top rustling around them in a feminine swirl. “Is that your statement?” They asked, rubbing their hand over my shaved head. “I like it.” 

I felt strangely detached as they played with my head, their hand teasing the little bit of fuzz that was attempting valiantly to grow back. Ms. Ann came rushing through the classroom door. She spotted my shaved head and her dark eyes sparkled her approval as she called for our attention.

“Class,” she said, addressing us all. “Today, we are going to pick apart one of our own.” She walked to the easel and pulled off the paint-smattered cloth with one tug. “‘Freedom’ by our very own Gene.”

“No!” I protested. I wasn’t done yet, and I didn’t want any advice for the class.

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“Now, Gene, we all have to have a critique at some point. This is your turn.” She turned back toward my painting and pointed to the red cyclist. “Do you see how the artist has tried to convey the feeling of freedom and movement? What do you think of the color choice?”

“It’s almost looks like she doesn’t know what freedom is. She needs to…” Isabel was eager to pull apart my painting but she stopped talking as Clark/Celeste put their hand on her arm. An expression of guilt played across her face as Clark/Celeste shook their head.

Isabel turned back to me, looking tragic. “I’m sorry, Gene. Do you want to be referred to as ‘they’, or ‘he’?”

I felt the pressure of all eyes, curious and careless, on me. Eager to tear and rend and remake without a thought for the outcome. For me.

“It’s Eugenia,” I said, my voice sounded scratchy and unused.

“Gene?” Ms. Ann asked, concern in every line of her body. “Are you sure?”

“It’s Eu-gen-i-a,” I said again, enunciating every syllable. And this time, my voice was firm.

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