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Bianca Cotuț participates in the “Short Prose” Section of the English Category, International Literary Creation Contest, 3rd Edition, from Bistrița-Năsăud, Romania and is 25 years old. We thank her for this participation and wish her success.
Essence of a woman I've been surrounded and nurtured by guys since I was a child. My father was the first person to hold me since I was born. I never met my mother, and to be honest, I was never interested in her. Everyone said she was young when she had me, possibly too young and immature to take on the task of rearing a child when she was one herself. When I initially confronted my father about her, he stated that they had never planned for this to happen. They were not even a couple, let alone married. It was just a meaningless adventure. They both agreed that my mother would give birth and then hand me over to my father to manage everything. She didn't want to be a part of my life since it would destroy her youth with a child. It was too much of a huge responsibility for her. My father, on the other hand? He was much older than she, and the notion of abandoning a part of himself disgusted him, so he took me into his protecting arms with pride. He was the first man of my life. Oh, I am sure you're wondering who I am. Well, my name is Felicity Knight, and this is the story of how I created an empire in a world of men. The given name was my father's idea; it meant happiness because that's what he felt when he first held me. The greatest gift a man could have is a daughter. I was born in London and lived in the center of the unique and rich in history city. I know you're curious about who I am, but for you to understand me better, I need to tell you more about my father because he was the first drop of essence that shaped me into the person I am today. My father was a businessman; some would call him cruel with an iron fist, and others would call him the epitome of what a man should be; assertive, confident, and prosperous. Women desired him, and men wanted to walk in his shoes. I recall the Friday nights when he would have his male friends over for poker nights. The table with the cards and chips, along with the finest whiskey. I could still smell the heavy scent of cigar smoke and rich, masculine cologne. The attractive men seated around the table sent pointed glances in my direction. I was standing at the bottom of the steps around the corner, watching what the grownups were doing. They were all dressed in pristine, tailored suits, exuding power and wealth. "Hello there, little girl. Arthur never mentioned having a daughter." One of them said with a charming smile gracing his lips, holding between his fingers a brown cigar. My father never mentioned me, all to protect me, for the world he lived in was a wolf's world; harsh and brutal, not for the innocent lambs to enter it. Now the question is: "Was I a wolf or lamb?" "Felicity. Go upstairs." My father told me with a firm timbre coating his voice. "Come on. The little girl is curious. Let her see the world, my friend. You cannot keep her locked forever from reality." Another one of the men said, swirling the brown liquor in the crystal glass, smirking with amusement as I gazed at them with innocent eyes. My father sighed, but he knew at that time that it would be inevitable. Eventually, I would grow up, so he nodded, motioning for me to come closer to them. I don't think I was older than six at that time. It was the first time I entered the world of men. The only thing I did that night was watching the men play poker and debate various issues, ranging from business-related matters that I couldn't grasp at the time to chatting about women. I was very ignorant at the time, but I can now state that guys gossip more than women, and men have no filter on that topic. This condition continued for a few more years until I was around twelve years old, and my father could communicate with me in greater depth. After everyone had left, I was eager to return to my room on the top level of the house. You might say that the entire attic was my bedroom; it was enormous and expansive. "Stay. We have to talk." My father's voice halted my moves, so I remained in the comfortable armchair, my fingers playing with the lace of my pastel pink dress. "I know you love these Friday nights, just sitting there and basking in the attention of my male friends, but my dear daughter, you have to understand that this is only temporary." I was perplexed, and I assumed I had done something wrong. Yes, my father's friends always complimented me about my youthful beauty, how fabulous my golden hair looked in braids, and how the color of my dress made my sky blue eyes stand out. "What do you mean?" My voice was barely above a whisper since I was still timid and introverted in adolescence. "Good looks will only get you so far." His statement was blunt and perhaps a bit too harsh, but everyone needs a drop of reality in their life, even at a young age. "A true woman's essence in success beholds more than the shell. The pearl inside is inestimable." "What are you saying, father?" I was more than intrigued back then. "Focus on your passions, education, and skills. Master them so that none can question you." The question was: "What were my passions?". If you had seen my bedroom, you would have entered an artist's world: infinite shelves of books, sketches on the walls, tailoring supplies, and even a mannequin in the middle of the vast space. I stood out from the crowd; I was a wolf among lambs. All of these young ladies are squandering their potential in the twenty-first century in favor of online social networking. That was not my character. My focus was on my studies, honing my skills, and expanding my interests. Walls were surrounding me, made of books, learning more and more. It was an addiction and a very satisfactory one. Each day I would write stories that my mind created from hours of research, sculpting characters, bringing love stories in endless pages, and adding tragedies with black ink on pure white paper. If I wasn't writing sins and tragedies, I was sketching down creations, costumes, and dresses. The power of fashion was next to the lecturing fire that scorched inside my soul. These were my passions: writing and fashion, and I spent my life mastering these two. After years of struggling with the critiques of the sheep in high school, I continued my educational path, entering college. I got a master's degree in art, literature, and culture. Did I stop just there? I could, but I pursued more, continuing to study marketing and business. I've lost count of how many novels I've written, but one of them catapulted me to the top of the literary food chain and made me a best seller. My name began to stand out more and more, and the monetary pit began to fill. You ask me what I did with the first big paycheck? I could have bought a 100.000 £ car or thrown it all for a luxurious vacation, right? No. Only a fool who earns fast money does that, much like these temporary names on social media who sell themselves for nothing of value. My father had a saying, and rest him in peace for his wise bluntness: "A woman is like a porcelain doll. At some point, she can fall and shatter into pieces, and if she hasn't built a stable foundation, she is empty, hallow like the inside of the said doll." The first paycheck was invested in the second business venture, fashion. It wasn't an easy journey, and don't ask me about all the struggles I had. A wise lady does not cry when things get complex in the first place and don't ask me about how men mocked me at my aspirations. I only smiled their way and proved them wrong. After all, I joined the world of men, and they don't weep when faced with a difficulty, so why should I? If I cried and let the feelings get the best of me, I wouldn't be standing in front of the colossal building that exuded power and wealth, with the name 'Black Knight Inc.' in big letters at the top. I strode up the marble steps to the front entrance of the empire I'd worked so hard to construct, my red heels tapping against the white-gleaming floor. The engagement ring on my finger was gold, much like my hair. I couldn't help the smirk of amusement to cross over my red lips as I recalled a conversation I had with one of these foolish young ladies who believe their looks will bring them a fortune. "Oh? You have many guys chasing after you? Oh, honey, I am married to a man that makes like 1000 men combined together. He is the Devil and we will conquer this world together as king and queen." Yes, I was a best-selling author, a well-known fashion designer in London and most important, married to a man out of love. I had embraced books, and been reborn because good looks will only get you so far.