When I was 16 years old, I took home the crown for the Hartford City Annual Beauty Pageant. With ease.
The girls I was competing against never phased me one time. When I was 17 years old, I took home the crown once again… just as easily. The photoshoot for the local newspaper that happened afterward felt natural to me the second time around. I felt like I belonged there on that stage and knew exactly who I was meant to be. This year, I’m 18 years old and my excitement about winning the title and crown for the third year in a row is literally the only thing I can think about. Third time’s a charm. Especially when it comes to beauty pageants. Winning once is impressive and winning twice is totally fabulous. But winning three times proves that you really are someone special.
I’m not trying to say that I’m a cocky or conceited girl, but I do know that I am a beautiful girl. Winning the crown sort of solidified that fact for me. I grew up being told how pretty I was by just about everyone around me but I never fully believed anyone until that crown was placed on my head for the first time two years ago.
A panel of strict and meticulous judges analyzed every detail about me and decided that I deserved to win. My self-esteem might have been slightly lacking before, but there on that stage, everything I thought negatively about myself was instantly washed away.
I remember hearing them call out my name “Nora Micheals!” two years ago and then placing that gorgeous crystal-covered crown on my head. No other feeling has ever compared.
I was born and raised in Indiana. The most boring city in Indiana, to be exact. Hartford City. There’s never anything fun or exciting to do in my city which is why I dedicate so much of my time and energy towards prepping for the annual pageant. My mother passed away when I was young but based on all the pictures my father saved of her, she was the definition of beauty. She won beauty pageants herself when she was my age before my dad knocked her up in her early twenties. She was still just as beautiful while she was carrying me and still as beautiful after she gave birth to me.
But cancer doesn’t care about how beautiful someone is. It devoured her from the inside out before I was six years old.
My dad works in maintenance and he is usually always busy or always tired. He’s a good man but he doesn’t talk much and we don’t have a tight-knit bond. I remember him being super talkative and chatty when I was a child before my mother passed away. It seemed like after she died, he fell silent. I’m not pushy with my dad when it comes to talking. I let him keep to himself and I do my best to be a good daughter and make him proud. He’s proud of me for following in my mother’s footsteps with my beauty pageant wins. Making him smile makes winning so much more worth it to me.
My boyfriend, Doug Figglehorn, has been in the picture for a year or so now. Everyone in our town has known each other since elementary school but Doug didn’t admit to me that he liked me until our junior year of high school. My dad describes us as “going steady” but I don’t use that outdated terminology. We’re just your typical high school couple. We go to the movies together, get milkshakes at our favorite diner together, go for drives around the neighborhood in his truck together, and more basic stuff like that.
I let him take my virginity on our six-month anniversary too. It wasn’t great but I don’t think anyone’s first time is. Unfortunately, every time we’ve tried after has sucked also. I don’t tell him that or complain because I don’t want to hurt his feelings.
My best friends are Riley and Ruthie Richards. They’re twins and whenever I’m not with Doug, I’m with them. They’re obsessed with our small town, Hartford City, despite how boring it really is. They love everything about where we live and every time I complain about how boring it is to them, they come up with reasons to defend it. Having hometown pride is not something that exists within me, but since they’re both so passionate about it… more power to them. Their parents work in city government which is where they get their zealous opinions. Picture Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation. The twins' mother and father are just like her.
I look over at Doug in the driver’s seat of his truck as he pulls up to my house to drop me off.
“I’ll see you later,” he says, leaning over to kiss me. I kiss him back and jump out to meet Riley and Ruthie on my driveway.
They’ve come over to help me narrow down options for the evening gown dress I’m going to wear for the pageant. I’ve got three options and they are all equally stunning.
“Hey girls,” I say hugging them at the same time before pulling out my house keys.
“We have some bad news,” Riley says to me in a very low and serious voice.
“What’s up?” I ask, staring at their concerned faces.
“Our parents were at city hall today and they saw a new girl entering the pageant this afternoon,” Ruthie says.
“Okay...” I reply. “And?”
“She was filling out the official paperwork and everything,” Riley tells me.
“Her name is Trixie Townsend,” Ruthie adds.
We walk into my house and head up the stairs to my bedroom. “What’s the issue?” I ask.
“Our mom said this Trixie girl was like… really pretty. So we looked her up on Social Splash and… like, she kind of is really pretty.”
“I don’t see what the issue is,” I continue. “Every year, all the girls who enter this pageant are pretty. It’s obvious I’ll still come out in the lead regardless.”
Ruthie shoves her phone in front of my face to give me a glimpse of Trixie’s profile. I take the phone and scroll through a few of Trixie's pictures. Her modelesque jawline, her shiny platinum blonde hair, and her bright blue eyes definitely stand out.
But I’ve also got an extremely nice jawline, hair filled with voluminous body & curls, and dark eyes framed with some of the longest natural eyelashes you’ll ever see.
“Thank you girls for the heads up but I still know that I’m going to be fine. Now, can we go over my dress options?”
The twins shrug and nod their heads. I pull the dresses out of my closet and let them examine the details of each one before I try them on. The news about this new girl Trixie feels a bit unsettling inside my soul but it’s nothing I’m going to dwell on. I know that I still have this pageant in the bag.