I’m bored and have nothing to write about pertaining to school (because I’m on vacation!!!). So, because I want to post something, here’s a bit from a novel I’ve been trying to write since forever. It’s a retelling of my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast (because, and I say this with all sincerity, the world NEEDS more retellings. I seem to have gone through them all and that makes me very sad). So, read and let me know what you think:
Her name was Beauty, her father said. The youngest of three daughters and the most pure-hearted of them al. Where the elder girls begged the impoverished father to bring jewels and gowns for them, Beauty had merely asked for a rose.
The Beast looked forward to meeting a gil who valued flowers so. Nature was one of his greatest consolations here. Unlike his invisible servants, nature was there to be touched and smelled and experienced. He’d spend years cultivating the gardens as best he could. They were a little ragged, a little wild, but they were a riot of beautiful flowers and shrubs and trees.
At least she would like the rose garden.
“Where is she?” he demanded. He rose from his place by the fire and paced. “Is she tarrying on purpose? She must have found the path by now.”
“She’ll be here,” the soothing voice of Mrs. Underwood sai off to the Beast’s left. “Remember, she is coming to a life of imprisonment. That’s not something one generally rushes off to.”
He felt a pang of conscience at that, but pushed it away. “I will treat her as a guest. She’ll have freedom…”
“The illusion of,” was the gentle correction.
He nodded in concession and forced himself to sit down.
The door trembled—a signal that someone was passing through it. “She’s here,” Robert cried. “She’s just come through the front gates. Hurry!”
“I think I should stay here Have her brought to me. Firelight might be kinder…”
“No, master, for she sits poorly on her horse and is a sort of greyish white that tells me she won’t make it more than five steps. We cannot help her, so you must go.”
He growled, but swept from the room. Robert surely exaggerated. As a human, he’d always been prone to wild flights of fancy being turned invisible did nothing but increase his whimsy.
The Beast reached the courtyard just as the girl’s horse stopped at the steps of the castle.
The girl didn’t notice the Beast. She was too busy struggling to dismount the horse. She finally got a leg over and twisted until she law across the saddle on her belly. Her short legs dangled several feet from the ground, and her hands were white-knuckled.
The Beast had just taken a step to help here when she let go of the saddle and fell into a heap on the dusty ground.
For a long moment, she sat there, head down, half hidden by the horse. Then, one of the servants took the horse’s reigns and led it away.
The girl looked up just as the Beast took another step closer.
Her eyes widened and lips tightened. She did not scream or panic or try to run. She didn’t even stand.
As for her…
It wasn’t that there was no beauty to be found. It was there, but buried underneath a death’s head.
Her skin was sickly grey, her eyes sunken with dark circles beneath them. Her lips were parched. Her hair was lank and dull. Her arms were sticks and her collarbone stood out starkly underneath ashy skin.
This child was starving.
This was the merchant’s beloved daughter? If this was how he treated her, how must the others fare? Perhaps he should look on them and provide assistance if needed.
The pinched look of fear had disappeared from her face. A look of peace had taken its place.
“Are you the Beast?” Her voice was deepened and crackled with a cold.
“And you are Beauty.”
Her eyes cut away from his and she nodded. A moment later, she coughed, deep and chest wracking. When she was done, she climbed to her feet.
“Welcome to my home, Beauty.” He bowed.
She looked surprised, but dipped into an uneven curtsy. “I, um. Thank you.” She shivered violently, even though it was a temperate night.”
“We should go inside. Will you take my arm?”
A look of wild fear crossed her face, but she nodded. She stood still as he came to her side. He offered his arm.
Hers was like a twig laying on his massive forearm. He could feel heat radiating from her and it occurred to him that she wasn’t trembling from fear, but fever.
“Beauty,” he said, stepping forward.
She followed him. Her foot touched the round, and her eyes rolled back in her head as she fainted dead away.
He caught her before she hit the ground. His servants let out a cry and the dirt kicked up as they gathered around.
“What’s wrong with her?” Mrs. Underwood demanded. “Is it fear?”
“No. She is ill. Gravely.” He slid his arm under her knees and lifted her. She lay like a feather, almost intangible she was so skinny. “Bring water to her chambers. Broth. We must cool her down and get her to drink.”
Later, when she was well, he’d ask how she’d come to be in this state. The merchant had been poor, yes, but not destitute He’d spoken of his daughters as if they’d been comfortable. One was even married to a famer; surely there was food enough.
This girl had not eaten well in months. He suspected it would be a challenge to get her body to accept food. But he must try.
He lay her on top of her bed. The great satin comforter almost swallowed her. He noticed the hem of her ragged dress was stiff with dirt. There were holes in her shoes. Her fingernails were black with grime. Only her hair seemed to have been paid mind to, as if she’d taken special care to do it in practical braids.
“Step out of the room,” Mrs. Underwood said. “I’ll get her out of those clothes and into a nightgown.”
“Should she wash?”
“I’ll take care of her. Out.”
The Beast did as she said. He closed the door behind him, all confusion. After the merchant had left, Beast had used his magic to spy on the family. He’d never gotten a good view of Beauty, but his impression of her had been different. She’d been taller. Self-assured. And health. She and her sisters had been the pictures of health.
A tray carrying a pitcher and bowl floated past him and into the bedroom. A moment later, tea and soup passed him by. He watched, against wondering at the magic that could take something tangible, like the trays, and allow them to pass through walls in the hands of his servants. A strange foresight of the magician who’d enchanted him.
The door trembled. “She’s dressed, master,” Mrs. Underwood said. “Clean and comfortable. Well. As comfortable as she can be. She’s got a fever and a cough, and won’t stop moving her legs.”
“She need water and soup.”
“Yes, I am.” He opened the door and strode inside.
Beauty opened her eyes and immediately winced. “It’s very bright,” she said, squinting.
The Beast went to the candles and blew them out, plunging the room into a twilight grey.
“You must eat something.”
She nodded and pushed herself up. When a bowl of soup floated toward her, she flinched. When it did nothing more than hang there, she reached for it.
The Beast caught the bowl before her trembling hands did. “Sip.” He brought the bowl to her mouth and tipped it.
She drank the soup. Only a few sips before she pulled back, body convulsing. She coughed a few times, gagged. Tears rolled down her eyes. Bu the soup stayed down.
She shook her head, but leaned forward and drank some more. Slowly, with many breaks and near things they got the soup down.
“I’m sorry,” she said when it was gone. She lay back against the pillows eyelids heavy. “You were probably hoping I was fatter.”
“What?” he said, flabbergasted.
“I’m a paltry meal. All bones. No flesh. You’ll have to wait to eat me. Until I fatten up.”
Ah. Of course that was what she’d think. No doubt her father had put the thought in her mind, fool that he was.
“I don’t intend to eat you.”
She frowned, eyes almost closed. “But she said… I thought…”
“I may be a beast, but I don’t eat people. If you were a deer, it would be different.” He attempted a smile.
She was breathing evenly, near sleep. But she muttered, “Then why…”
“Why are you here?” He watched as the last bit of resistance fled and she fell asleep.
“Because I am lonely.”