By Sue Simpson

Chain Border

Twas beauty killed the beast, or at least that's the way the saying goes.

The Beauty of our story's no killer, no femme fatale; she's unaware of the effect she has on that oddity the opposite sex.

She's not really called Beauty of course, but the name suits her, she's lovely inside and out.

She's tall in her heels and leggy. The perfect ten, but she wears an eight, and wears it damned well. The thing with Beauty is that she radiates her special something, everybody she touches is aware of it. She has no air of greatness about her, she doesn't see the heads turn as she walks past, and she has the same hang ups as the rest of us.

"Does my bum look saggy in these jeans?"

"Can you see my stretch marks?"

See; she's beautiful, but not perfect, she still bears the marks of motherhood with pride, well apart from when she wears her skimpy tops and then the pride bit becomes redundant. Her family's grown up and left home and after years of being a slightly frumpy homemaker she has found her flame of liberty.

That was five months ago. That time when she grabbed at her missed youth so greedily, made the changes, secured her place in the world, started again after divorce. She ran five miles a day. The weight not only dropped off her, but dropped to the ground and lowered its head in respect. Her body honed itself from twelve, to ten, to nine stone and then sensibly, she made it stop. She looked good without being scrawny. She looked fantastic. Sometimes she tried to make me feel better about my own imperfections.

"Oh I wish I had your boobs," she said wistfully, "I'd kill for those." She didn't know how they cause lower back pain, or how they bounce painfully if I even attempt a sedate jog. And she hasn't seen them loosed from the constraints of unindulgent underwear. If she knew about these things she wouldn't have been so keen.

She showed her age, more so than I did even, but with her, the maturity only added to her allure. Young boys barely in need of a razor lusted after her and watched her as she jogged down the street, feeding their fantasies, giving them ammunition for their furtive times alone. Young men, pub peacocks, preened for her, playing games of bravado glancing peripherally to see if they were impressing her. Our generation made their admiration obvious, obvious to me anyway, but she didn't notice. To her she was nothing special. Old men leered, gazing round their wives' jowls to gaze with longing at our Beauty. She smiled sweetly, thinking that they were being kind to her. She didn't see the dirty-old-bastard-lust in their eyes. She just didn't see it.

One night we were out right, and this bloke came over. All chest and designer label, you know the type? Not medallion man, classier, covered chest, covered with a tight shirt, defined, you know? Good body and knows it.

He sat down while I was getting drinks, leaving me nowhere to sit. One arm casually slipped along the back of her seat, hand just brushing the skin of her neck accidentally like. Smiling at her with the smile that they all use, the pseudo honest one, the sickly smile that says 'I want to fuck you so much.' She was smiling back, friendly like, open. She pointed out that he had taken my seat. He shrugged and reluctantly moved his foot from the stool at the end of the table for me to sit down.

I could smack him in the gob right? Or I could let it go. Hell it was a seat, no big deal. I let it go.

"Your skin's soft like a kitten's."

Oh Please! This was it, he was moving in for the kill. His finger had become more active in its molestation of her.

Beauty moved herself out of his finger range. She blushed embarrassed, but still not realising that she was being hit on.

"Oh thank-you," she mutters her head down looking for a cleavage to hide in and finding no retreat in her own. "What do you do for a living?" she asks, not really caring, not being a gold digger or anything, sussing out his work before deciding whether or not he was shaggable, no, not like that, just covering her embarrassment with words, any words would have done.

"So Big boy you got your Calvin Klein jocks on tonight or are you really hangin` free there?" Not those words thought, that's just me pissing about. She wouldn't even think that, never mind say it out loud.

"I'm a camera man Babe, and a freelance photographer for one of the tabloids."

"Really? Wow." She says genuinely impressed.

Oh C'mon girl, get real, like he really works for the News Of The World or The Sun or something. Jesus, sometimes she's gullible.

"What do you do Babe?" he asks, still basking in the glory of her undisguised admiration.

"I do outwork."

I almost laugh out loud at his blank expression, for the first time he's showing his true colours, thick-git. I hide my smirk behind a sip of warming cola.

"You know? Factory work at home."

"Oh right," he says, visibly disappointed. But he bore it well bless him and made a quick recovery plastering the smarmy 'I want to fuck you so much' look back on his face.

"Hey, Sally's a film producer and she's in a really good band," she said proudly. She gestured towards me, trying to drag me into the conversation.

Old Chiselled Chin looks at me for the first time since he kicked the stool over towards me. Any fool could see that our occupations were more suitably matched for conversation than his and Beauty's, but then he didn't want conversation did he? Jerk-off!

"Really," he said in the same tone of voice that you would greet the news that someone had shit all over your morning paper.

"But you don't want to know about that." I said in my best Chris Tarrant impersonation. It was wasted on him; he had already turned away from me with distaste.

"So Darlin` tell me more about your work. It sounds fascinating."

It was always like that with Beauty. Don't get me wrong I didn't mind, how could you mind being looked down upon my a dickhead? It wasn't worth worrying about. Beauty was always loyal in her friendship and no matter who intervened throughout the night; we always went home together. Boyfriends might come and go, but mates stick together no matter what. That's the way it is with us, we look out for each other. Or we did back then when life was good and she was discovering herself.

I might just be the person that men crawl over to get to her, but Beauty doesn't see me like that. She sees what's inside me. She sees me. Or she did when she saw me as someone to look up to.

That's why it's so hard.

Such a pointless stupid argument.

Why the hell had I stormed off like that? Our Janie does dress like a slapper. Beauty was trying to be nice, to warn me that my daughter was getting in with a bad crowd, getting a reputation like, putting it about a bit. She was being caring, looking out for Janie, trying to protect her.

But me you see, I've always had a gob on me. I'm the first one to call our Janie a little tart when she goes out in those short skirts and all that make-up. But that's me innit? I don't mean anything by it, I won't hear her put down by any one else. Not even anyone so well-meaning and kind as my best friend Beauty.

I never should have left her that night. She was an innocent in a wicked world that she couldn't understand. She had looks, but she was never very bright, wasn't Beauty. She needed looking out for.

I went to identify her with her son Aaron, she didn't look good. So much bruising, so many cuts, we almost couldn't tell that it was her. Only her eyes gave her away, even in death they looked kind. Wide open; eyes that said, I trust you.

She trusted me.

I was the one men crawled over to get to her.

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