best when viewed in low light


Beauty & the Beast

[This is the first draft of a retelling of Beauty & the Beast. Keeping my fingers crossed that mom is gonna take this on as an illustration project.]

Beauty & the Beast

Page 1:

Beauty woke up as usual, tossed on her tunic and took off for the wooded stream beyond the olive trees. The mangy Gaul who ran her father’s slaves watched her go, intending to tell her father should she take longer than expected. Dashing along the foot-worn path warmed her legs and she dripped with morning dewdrops by the time she gained the water. Pausing just long enough to toss her covering cloth, she dove directly in.

Page 2 & 3:

She saw it clearly as she surfaced. A raging pair of eyes and dark white teeth. She stepped onto the sand and the thing shrank into the shadows.
Fear not, said Beauty, as the swaying leaves closed over the space where the beast had been. The suckling spaniel that lived at her heel whimpered in response. Beauty exhaled as she sank into the pool’s depths. She would meet her husband tonight.

Page 4 & 5:

Her father let her pursue her interests from a girl, and her mother had lived only long enough to instill in her all the values that might be fitting in a young woman of privilege. Courting seemed a waste of valuable air and sunlight when the world was open to Beauty. She traveled well and far with her grandmotherly chaperone, and she radiated health in mind and body. When the war stripped her father of cash and chattel, he made for her the first marriage he could find.

Page 6 & 7:

Still, she appeared lucky. Though he was several years her junior, the son of her father’s liege was chosen. Beauty’s handmaids twittered interestedly on her good fortune. Beauty was uncertain.
He was handsome, and well-born, and possessed all the qualities her father could want for her. But though he seemed to admire her, she could not meet his eye, try though she might. She watched their marriage ritual as through a looking glass.

Page 8 & 9:

A moment after their arrival at her husband’s villa, he bid her goodnight and left her standing in the archway. Several days passed before his man came and asked if she was in any way displeased. Having resumed her routine immediately, she asked only for directions to the nearest freshwater pond; she was eager to bathe unobserved. He showed her the path and returned to his master. She ran to the water, shedding clothes as was her custom, and dove in momentarily.

Page 10 & 11:

She floated alone in the pool long after the mood rose. As long as her husband had no need of her, she thought, the nights were her own. She relished this small freedom, but something ate at her – how could he be so cold? To leave her alone in their house without a word of explanation! She resolved then to seek him out, and move to her clothes. It was the beast she had seen before, lurking in the dark, reflecting moon beams from his eyes and teeth.

Page 12 & 13:

Beast! she commanded, and saw it pause for a beat, as if stung, then leap into the underbrush. Hurrying into her clothes, she rushed back to the house to search out her husband, and – without other reason to disturb him – request his protection from the beast.
Coming in view of the house, she saw her husband’s shadow in the doorway, and she hastened to him. As she reached the light, she saw that it was her father standing impatiently with her maids. Perceiving her approach, he dispatched the girls with a short order and met her on the steps. “Your husband has done with you! We depart directly.” She followed him wordlessly into the carriage, and left without looking back.

Her father’s displeasure was unbearable, and she felt it keenly. She was surprised by the thorn of hurt left by her husband’s dismissal. She could see no reason that, without giving her a moment’s recognition, justified such summary judgment. Though she resolved to set it out of her mind, it was difficult, and she spent many hours seeking distraction.

Her old routine seemed unwelcome with her father’s sullen resentment seething in every corner of her childhood house. She walked without destination for hours in a day, often losing herself and her old granny guardian in dense underbrush in the wilderness around her father’s house. She would return to the old lady, napping unmolested in a grove somewhere near the place that her path had gone past the familiar. This reassured her, but each time she ran back near dark imagining bloody scenes featuring the beast. She was most horrified by the beating of her heart when she envisioned the beast’s eyes – bloodshot and feasting on her, specks of her granny’s red flesh in his fur. Beauty shivered with pleasure.

On this particular day, Beauty lost herself more readily and wandered much further than she intended. She was far beyond the boundary of her father’s holdings, and saw nothing she recognized. Suddenly conscious of the sinking sun, she turned towards the way she thought was home. She was running, but was getting no closer to finding a familiar field or forest path. By this time her breathing was hard, and as she slowed she heard heavy panting that was not her own.
She saw the glow of the beast’s eyes between the leaves by her hip. Without thinking but with a hunter’s skill, she sprang on the beast to kill it.

As they battled, she heard gruff laughter, and before she became conscious of the change, she and the beast began to wrestle with no thought of winning or losing. If she stopped long enough to catch her breath, the beast would nip her ear or shoulder, baiting her to continue. They carried on in their mock battle for what felt like an eternity. As they learned each other’s weaknesses, they laughed louder and lunged again to press the advantage – one over the other. Exhausted, finally, to her core, she pushed the beast playfully away and lay in the mossy undergrowth.

Just as her eyes drooped closed, the beast nudged her, but she ignored it and drifted off. She woke with a start – seconds or hours later, she could not be sure – and sat up looking for the beast. She feared it gone, but she found the glowing eyes only a few feet in front of her. She heard the gruff laugh as the beast blinked and turned into the woods.
Beauty ran until her lungs were ragged and her legs moved muddily, tripping over every obstacle, but on she ran. She followed the beast instinctively in the dark, turning when her ears pricked and trusting that the blackness would become darkness only when she could no longer feel his presence.

Light from torches filtered into the trees, and she knew the beast was no longer in the woods. She turned towards the unknown villa, realizing as she trudged through the fields that this was the house of her husband. The house that, for a short time, had been hers as well, but from which she had been so recently dismissed. She loathed the sight but could discover no other means of reaching her father that same night. She continued on, expecting no mercy from this man that was her husband, but hoping she might have the chance to question his harsh treatment of her.

Rage just below the calm surface, she approached the house in shadow. As she marched through the open archway, she was stunned by the sight: the beast lay prostrate on a thickly padded mat, writhing in pain and losing chunks of flesh and fur as he struggled.
She ran to him without thinking and held his dear head in her lap. She stroked and pet him as she watched her beast transform into the person of her husband. Relieved by the apparent cessation of his pain, she bent down to kiss his smooth forehead. Beauty found herself kissing his cheeks and whispering sweet words into his ear. When his breath finally settled, the beast – her husband – held her face in his hands and returned all her kisses with words of love and gratitude.

Dawn found them still in each other’s arms. In the language lovers use alone, he made known to her the reasons for his rough treatment and the ancient and powerful curse that made him take the form of the beast until his true and equal love was found. And with the same meetings of the eyes and lips and fingers, Beauty let it be known how thoroughly she loved and needed him, and that – should he ever turn into the beast again – she knew where in the woods to find him.

With this understanding, and full hearts, they lived happily ever after.

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