Mabel Krump was the homeliest, no ugliest, girl in our high school. She had a small upturned nose that almost looked like a pig's snout, crooked teeth, and flat drab dishwater blonde hair. She was short, flat-chested, and had a stooped posture. There was also something asymmetrical about her head. It was like there was slight bulge on the right side of her pallid acne-scarred face. Her stomach had a small pot belly. She was the ultimate wallflower. She blended into the background, never drawing attention to herself.
I hadn't really noticed her myself, until I was assigned randomly as lab partners in chemistry class. It was probably my weakest course in my sophomore year.
I was going over the assignment sheet trying to understand how to set up the equipment, when Mabel spoke up in a small voice. "Here, let me show you." She proceeded to put together all the bunson burner, beakers and tubes, explaining to me what she was doing and why. And she actually made it all make sense!
"Wow!" I exclaimed. "You really know your stuff. I'm in danger of failing chemistry. Do you think you could tutor me?"
She smiled shyly, displaying her horrible teeth. "Do really want me to?"
I nodded. "Please; you are my last hope."
Mabel's house was about three miles from my house, in a slightly higher class neighborhood than mine. I went there the next day for my first tutoring session after school was over.
I met Mabel's mom, Agatha. And I don't know where Mabel got her looks, but it wasn't from her. Agatha was incredibly beautiful. I mean, drop dead gorgeous. Even at her age, she could be a model for any fashion or men's magazine. I won't go into details, but she was everything her daughter wasn't.
She seemed happy that a man was paying her daughter any attention, and invited me to stay for dinner. After I called home, I accepted.
After an hour over the books, I understood my class much better. When not in the public, Mabel came out of her shell more. She was actually a very nice girl.
Agatha came in and announced that the dinner would ready soon.
Coming through the door, just as we were sitting down, was a Mabel's father, Henry. He was a bland, ordinary-looking man. It made me wonder what he did to snag such a hot woman like Agatha.
I ate one of the most delicious meals of my life. Now don't get me wrong, my mom is great cook. But she doesn't hold a candle to Mabel's mom. Eating this great food must explain Mabel's pot belly. Both women shrugged it off as being nothing special.
Henry winked at me. "Mabel learned how to cook from her mom. She is just as good."
I started to look at my tutor in new eyes.
After the meal was over, I headed for the door. Mabel walked with me.
At the exit, I handed her a twenty, but she waved it off. "It has been my pleasure.
"You need help on the earlier chapters as well. When will be a good time for you?"
I was stunned for a minute. "If this is going to be a regular session I need to pay you something."
She thought for a minute. "Why don't you save up all the money you would have paid me and take me out on a date, this Friday?"
It was Monday.
This took me by surprise. "You want to date me?"
She shyly nodded and blushed. "I've never been on a date before."
That I could believe.
I could not see how to get out of this without further humiliating her.
"You're not dating anyone, are you?" she asked.
"Not at the moment," I answered truthfully.
I mentioned a new Sci-Fi movie that was coming out Friday. Secretly I hoped she would not be into that genre.
She seemed elated. "Ooh! I've been wanting to see that!"
We set two more tutoring dates on Wednesday and Thursday, before our date.
During that week I asked some of the girls in school about Mabel.
"She is so nice," said a girl I had known for years, but only saw me as a friend. "It's such a shame that she's so plain.
"I tried to work on her, to improve her appearance. The results were less than great. The acne scrub I used did not work on her skin. I worked on her hair to give it more color and volume. The color did not take and her hair stayed limp."
I talked to some guys who knew her better. One of the few I found had parents who were friends with Mabel's parents.
He said, "Man, that girl is ugly!"
"But she seems nice," I opined.
He shrugged. "Nice enough. But who wants to get to know a girl who you have to put a bag over her head?"
That made feel sorry for her. I mean, I not the handsomest guy in the world, but I've dated a few girls. She's not had anyone.
The two tutoring sessions went well. Each time I stayed over for supper. Each one was incredibly good.
By the time of the date I had caught up on two months of Chemistry and finally felt like I understood what my teacher had been talking about.
I picked up Mabel at her house for our date. She wore a nice dress that did its best to make her look good. She was obviously thrilled to be out with a guy.
I figured she deserved to have a good time, so I took her to a nice Italian restaurant before we went to the movie at the cineplex.
The movie was one of those 3-D shows where you had to wear those dorky black-rimmed polarized glasses.
While the movie was starting, I glanced over at my date. What I saw amazed me. Through those glasses she was beautiful, not just cute but stunningly beautiful. Her hair was a shiny platinum blonde; her skin was clear and glowed with health. Her teeth were straight and dazzlingly white. Her posture was perfect, showing off her full figure. She should have been a model or at least a cheerleader in school.
When I lifted the glasses, Mabel was her usual homely self. The girl I saw through these 3-D lenses was the same girl, but with all the physical imperfections removed.
Another difference I noticed when I wore the glasses, was a silver ring she wore on her left middle finger. Even in the flickering light of the movie screen, the ring glowed and flashed in brilliance. I could not see a ring when I took off the glasses.
I did not see any of the movie. I spent the whole time staring at the two Mabel's, trying to figure out what is going on. Were these glasses enchanted in some way?
My date did not notice my staring. She was enthralled by the show, munching away on her popcorn.
About midway through, I left the theatre and went to the bathroom. The attendant outside insisted that I leave the polarized glasses with her. "I'll give it back when you return," she assured me. I guess they were expensive and the cineplex did not want to lose them. When I returned, she gave me a pair back. I noted that she didn't give me back the same pair.
I returned to my date, and she looked just as stunning through these lenses as the ones I had originally worn.
When the movie ended she stood up, and I followed suit. I took her hand and we walked out of the theatre together.
As we were leaving, the attendant cleared her throat. "Glasses please," she said.
I was still wearing the 3-D glasses, and to be honest, I didn't want to take them off. But they didn't belong to me. I reluctantly took them off.
Mabel was back to her ugly self, though my memory of her other self lingered in my mind.
We walked out into the parking lot. She talked excitedly about the movie. I nodded my head in agreement.
When we got into the car, I noticed that Mabel was actually wearing a ring on her left middle finger. It was a plain band of badly tarnished silver. It was not obvious unless you were looking for it.
"That's an interesting ring," I said.
"It was a gift from my dad. I've worn it for as long as can remember."
How could a ring continue to fit from childhood into adulthood?'
I held out my hand. "Can I see it?"
She blushed. "I'm sorry. It doesn't come off. Dad says that when I marry, my husband will take it off."
We went to the Dairy Queen and had a dipped cone.
I then drove her home. I escorted her up the walk to her front door.
"I had the best time," she gushed.
"It was fun," I agreed.
I then leaned in and kissed her. I had planned on it being a proper peck, but remembering the other her, it turned more passionate than I had intended.
She gasped from the kiss, and her cheeks flushed. "Good night," she said then went inside.
The next evening, I called Henry Krump, Mabel's father. I asked him if I could see him in private.
He sounded mystified and intrigued. "Sure; I'll meet you out front of the house."
True to his word, the middle-aged man was sitting on the front step, waiting out front. "Mable is downstairs watching TV," he told me.
He escorted me into the house and into his private office. It was lit by just a desk lamp. The walls were lined with law books that could barely be seen in the faint illumination. He sat down behind his desk, and I sat down opposite him. "Now, how can I help you?"
I proceeded to tell him about what happened at the movie.
"And you say that all it took was the polarized 3D glasses?"
"I'll need to get myself a pair," he muttered to himself.
"Can you tell me what I saw?" I asked. "Does it have something to do with that ring Mabel wears?"
Henry appraised me anew. "You are very observant," he said.
"But you are right. It is about the ring. It is at least 200 years old. My father-in-law told me that it was originally made in Ireland by a witch who wanted to protect her daughter from the lascivious attentions of the local boys."
"So it is making her appear ugly?" I asked.
"If that was its original intent it has grown far beyond that. The longer the girl wears it, the uglier she appears and the more beautiful her true appearance becomes."
It took me a few seconds to fully appreciate the implications. "How long has she been wearing it?"
"I put the ring on her the day she was born."
I gaped. "And she can't take it off?"
"Only the person who put it on her, and her eventual husband, can take it off."
"Does Mable know about this?"
He shook his head. "If she knew I'm afraid she'd beg for me to take it off. I don't think I could refuse her."
"But why don't you take it off her? She's plenty beautiful already."
"Before I answer that, you need to know about the other effect of the ring. It also affects her personality. The longer she wears it, the sweeter, kinder, and more generous she becomes. I guess the idea is for her to attract a husband who can see beyond outer appearances and look into her heart.
"If I were to remove the ring, the effects would fade away in about a week, and all her sacrifices would have been for nothing. She would become not only a normal looking girl, but her personality would revert to that of a normal teenage girl."
I pondered the situation. "I understand," I said finally.
"Once Mabel gets married, and a wedding ring is put on the ring finger, the ring on the middle finger will come off for her husband, and all the effects of the ring will be permanent. She will be radiantly beautiful, like her mother before her.