I stared at my face in the mirror. The makeup hid the scars, but my skin looked thick and unnatural. I gulped. Please Lord, let everything still be the same.
“Sheila, come on! The curtain’s about to go up!” Miss Ray hissed at me. I scurried out the dressing room, adjusting my cap as I went. My stomach felt sick and queasy.
The play went normally, and I tried my best to act normal right along with it. But my heart kept pounding, and seemed to speed up as we approached the ball scene.
Finally the music played, and I stepped onto the stage, in my pretty dress, my “glass” slippers, and my hair all done up. There was nothing to hide my face behind. Carl looked at me just as he was supposed to, but I still couldn’t breathe normally. The scars were concealed right now, but what would he think later when I took all the makeup off?
We said our lines, we danced, the play continued as usual. We came to the kiss, and I wanted it to last forever, fearing it would never happen again.
The clock struck twelve, I made my exit, Carl chased me, we made it off stage. Carl turned to me once we were in the wings, and whispered, “Why do you have so much makeup on?”
I giggled, trying to appear just excited and nervous, and hurried away to the dressing room. Hidden away in my little corner, I started praying harder than ever as I changed. Lord, I need to take it all off. I have to let him see. But I can’t! I can’t do this!
“Without me ye can do nothing... I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me...” I stared at my reflection, my hands, holding my makeup remover, shaking. Lord, please.
“I can do all things.” I gripped the box and took a deep breath. I had approximately three more minutes before I had to get back out on stage. I grabbed a makeup wipe and began furiously wiping at my face. Slowly the covering on my face smeared away and my scars became visible. My hands trembled again and I put down the wipes. I had to go back on stage.
Lord, I can’t do this on my own. Take my right hand, please. Uphold me.
As I hurried towards the stage I kept my head down. Carl’s back was turned, I was relieved to see, and I made it out on stage without him seeing me. Tracey looked at me, started, then reverted back into character, but I could see the shock in her eyes that I had actually gone ahead and removed all my cover.
The next two songs, and the search for the missing princess, flashed by, and then I was discovered and Carl came forward to see that I fit the shoe. My head was bent, and I hoped it looked like I was staring in awe at the glass slipper on my foot.
Carl took my hands and I stood up, trying to breath normally. I raised my head and looked at him straight on.
His eyes widened, and my heart and stomach wrenched together. The lines came automatically for me, and my head felt light. I wanted to go home and cry in a curled-up little ball of misery. Carl gave his lines without stuttering, but I noticed that he kept looking closely at my face.
The wedding scene came, and I stood opposite Carl as the cast sang the final lines of the song. Carl took my hands in his, bent near to me, and kissed me. I kissed him back, but my stomach was heaving so much I thought I might throw up.
The curtain came down, and then back up. We bowed, the audience applauded, we bowed some more. Finally the curtain concealed us and I stepped away from the chattering, excited actors and actresses. Carl looked at me but didn’t say anything, and I hurried away back to my dressing room. I barely made it inside before I started crying. The sobs wrenched out, making my throat clogged, but I couldn't stop. I didn't want to stop. Maybe crying could make the ache go away.
I changed, accepted congratulations from friends and acquaintances, and slipped out of the theater and headed towards my dorm. My stomach felt numb, and all I wanted to do was get home.
Lord, why did he have to react that way? Why did this all have to happen? I don’t understand Your plan in all this. I started crying again, and sat down on a lonely bench in the middle of the park. Crying. Was that all I could do? Would I ever stop hurting?
Lord, I need You.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Give me rest, Lord. Please.
“Sheila!” Carl ran up the path towards me, his coat flapping in his hand.
I looked up at him, my hands covering the scars on my cheeks.
“Sheila, why didn’t you tell me the accident left scars?” He sat down beside me, panting. “Why didn’t you let me see this before tonight?”
“I was scared...” I whispered, rubbing my face. “Cinderella isn't supposed to be ugly and scared. She’s supposed to be beautiful. I... I’m not pretty anymore.”
Carl took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Sheila, I’m sorry if my initial reaction hurt you. I can’t deny that I was shocked to see what had happened. But anyone would be. I had no warning, no prior knowledge of how you looked.”
I lowered my head, my hands still in front of my face. “But it wasn't just an initial reaction. Even after that, you kept looking at me, examining how bad it all was. Seeing how terrible I looked.”
Carl was quiet for a moment, then I felt his hands on my own. “Sheila, do you know what my favorite song from Cinderella is?”
I shook my head.
“It’s ‘Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful.’ Because... I personally feel that the Prince was telling Cinderella why he loved her. It wasn’t that he loved her because she was beautiful, but that she was beautiful because he loved her. It’s the same with you. I was looking at you so closely, because I was trying to see past the scars, to see the woman that I love. I’m only human, Sheila, and I have to admit that seeing your face like this is going to take a little getting used to. But I didn't, and don’t, love you because of how you look. I love you because of who you are. You’re beautiful because I love you.”
I started crying again, and Carl slowly removed my hands from my face. “Look at me, Sheila. I think that too much store is put in how beautiful Cinderella was. How beautiful any woman is. The Lord looks at the heart, remember? I can’t pretend that I can know your heart like God does, but I know part of it, and I love the woman it shows me. Why should your outward appearance make me stop loving what’s on the inside?”
I lifted my eyes and looked at him straight on, still choking down sobs. In my heart, and my stomach, was a flood of relief and joy. More tears came to my eyes, and they were tears of relief mixed with tears of letting go of my fear. I pressed my face against Carl’s shoulder, and he hugged me close, then lifted my face away from him and touched my scars.
“I love you, Sheila. And you’re beautiful because I love you. Not the other way around.”