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There was once a woman of incomparable beauty. She dreamt her whole life of being a mother. She couldn’t wait to start a family, so when she met the man of her dreams, they married and started a family as quickly as they could. When they were blessed with triplets, both families were overjoyed and eagerly awaited the arrival of three precious boys.

One night, she felt a pain in her stomach and was rushed to the doctor, where she went into labor. All through the night, she prayed for the safe delivery of three healthy babies. Luckily, all three were born safely and mother and father were over the moon. But, the last triplet was much smaller than his brothers, and did not nurse as easily. She prayed and prayed for him to mature as his brothers did, but through his childhood the third boy was meager, sullen, and not nearly as handsome as his siblings. He was not good at sport, or academics. He was not social, and had few friends. His brothers teased him mercilessly, and he became withdrawn and sad.

Ashamed of himself, and the disappointment he believed he brought his family, he ran away into the dark of the night. In the cold woods, he slept on leaves, and fed himself stream water to survive. He traveled on foot for a long time, reaching new towns and eventually, seeking shelter in a church alongside the road. Not knowing to whom the boy belonged, who claimed no knowledge of his family, the priest took him in, too afraid to place him for adoption. But still, the altar boys and school children visiting the church jibed at his poor physical likeness and lack of special skills. Sad to leave the graciousness he was shown, he ran away once again, and many more times until he was a taller and older version of his former sullen self. Only now, he was simply taller. For some time, he hopped trains and stole food to survive. He slept with vagabonds, who also seemed to find pleasure in his ugliness.

Until one day, he looked down at his dirty, calloused hands and saw how firm and thick his fingers had become. The sound of his voice startled him, since he rarely spoke to anyone, and it was robust and deep. His clothes (usually stolen or discarded in trash) were too tight, or fraying. It felt as if overnight, he was almost like a man. He had long lost memories of his childhood, blocked from his mind almost like magic. One afternoon, he came across a quaint, clean, picturesque town. It was finely trimmed, polished, and charming. He longed to fit in there, rather than be the dirty vagabond boy lost in time. From a distance he spied the most beautiful woman he had ever set his eyes on. She was tall and lean, with creamy white skin and shiny amber hair. She was glowing, like an angel. With her were two impossibly handsome boys, in her exact likeness, and he felt a pang in his stomach.

He ran into the trees and spent the night wondering how he could ever be so beautiful and accepted. He went back again to that house and spied across the street to catch a glimpse of them once again. Only this time, when he saw the woman she gasped. She must have seen him, and he started to run in fear and shame. He heard footsteps closing in on him, and he ran furiously fast, hoping not to have scared her.

When he looked up from the ground, his head twinged with pain. What had he hit? Why was he on the ground? Was he seeing double? As he peered up and opened his eyes, he saw himself, two of himself. I must have knocked my head, he thought. But the likeness of him offered their hands to lift him, their mouths agape in shock. He knew he was ugly, but he had never been looked at with such awe, like a monster. But from their eyes tears started to stream, but not sad tears, they looked like tears of happiness. He rubbed his eyes furiously because he felt like he was in a dream, another plane of the universe. But it was real.

In a daze, he let the boys lead him towards the clearing, and there she was. She grabbed him frantically, holding him close to her bosom, crying out loud with joy. The ugly young runt had been the handsome young man missing from their family puzzle, and she welcomed him home with ecstatic triumph. For the first time in his life, he felt love and acceptance. He was home.

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