A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away, there lived a beautiful princess… I put down my book and stared out the window, frowning. That seems to always be the trouble, I thought. These princesses who have dreams of finding a handsome prince to rescue them – or just marry them so they can live happily ever after.
I glanced at the fire roaring in the fireplace, and sink back into the plush cushions on the settee. I would tell them there is no happily ever after, simply happily enough, and for that you should be grateful.
I, for one, am grateful for many things.
This library, for one, I thought as I smiled at the many shelves filled with books, all offering windows into worlds outside of here; escape – I held my hand over my mouth as a burst of laughter left my lips. Escape. There is no escape. There is only this existence. Comfortable enough, yet –
Across the castle, I can hear the dull roars echo against the stone, snarls and roaring mixed with – I cocked my ear, listening – why, yes, that was is – the lowing of a cow, bovine grunts twisting into a piercing screamand soon cut short as the poor creature is torn to shreds, and then silence.
I know there will be beef for dinner tonight.
For the Beast does provide. I know he does, and he cares, too, in his own way.
It is he that requested I stay – or was it demanded? I’d have to check my journals for the details, but I am to remain as his guest within these walls –
That’s it, one more thing to be grateful for – my journals, and notes. Small sketches, and nothing of significance, but the Beast permits me to write in my journal daily. He watches the sharpened quill move across the parchment, and supervises the whole affair. When he first permitted me to write, he’d hover over me, hawk-like, as he said he would read every word to make sure I had the truth of the matter down correctly.
Now, I am almost certain the Beast cannot read, he may be in fact illiterate, but, I dare not take a chance to offend him with the question, and instead appease his strange tastes by reading aloud as his fancy dictates.
Picking up the journal resting beside me on the settee, I heft its weight; and flipping through pages and dates, I can only guess at the length of my stay.
Picking a page at random, I skin it, picking up stray details of my arrival. Oh – it appears I was quite upset, and missed my father – I put down the journal and stare into the fire, trying to recall the day I arrived.
My father was involved, somehow – perhaps he was here already – I shook my head, frowning. But where is he now?
He has forsaken me, I know that. It is only the Beast who truly loves me, who cares for me and keeps me here.
I would be lost without him.
I tried to recall a time before now, before my stay in the castle.
Sunshine and green grass, fade into shadowy figures – I suppose those are the men the Beast warned me of. Men, they were evil, and not to be trusted.
There, of course are people within these castle walls, for this luxurious existence would not be possible without an army of servants, and, as I check my notes again, I am surprised to see I was frightened of them at first.
For what could be more natural than a table that waits upon itself, and chairs that seat one with gentleness and grace?
Again, a sound from outside the library catches my attention, the rattle of the tea cart coming toward me. I glance at the window, assessing the remaining daylight available, for timepieces are not permitted here, so I can only guess it is tea time.
After tea, comes dinner. I am sure the Beast would insist on dining with me, he usually does; but given the cow he devoured this afternoon, perhaps he would be too full, and rest instead.
Then, comes night, and this remains an unsettling time for me. I suppose it must be my modesty, for the Beast simply asks for affection, in his own way, and his claws and teeth are not so sharp on my skin, he rarely leaves a mark, but, still, the whole process is unattractive to me, and, I feel the Beast knows this, and understands, in his own way.
He is always most tender afterward.
The library door opens and a cart wheels forth, moving across the carpet in eerie silence. I do recall screaming foolishly when I first saw it, so long ago. Now, a comfortable quiet fills the library as tea is poured out by hands unseen, and a lid is lifted from a tray of crumpets and cakes.
I select a crumpet slathered with strawberry jam, and nibble at it, while paging through my journal.
It does seem funny, I thought, licking the red juices from my fingers as I turned to early entries – my terror when I first arrived. I fought – yelling, and screaming – striking at anything that came near me; I was out of my head with fear.
The Beast had no choice but to lock me in that room. I shuddered at the memory. The walls were damp stone, with only a cot and blanket for comfort, and simple meals shoved beneath the door – but, as the Beast explained, he feared for my safety – in a fit of madness I might through myself from the turrets or tumble down the stairs.
Far better to keep me locked up, and safe in the basement.
I agreed, of course, once it was all explained to me; and it was, only for a little while, until I returned to my senses, for the Beast cares for me, and wants to see me safe.
That is why he keeps me here, so we can be safe together.
Liz McAdams is a short, sharp writer living in the wilds of Canada with her black cats and laptops. Her work appears in Spelk, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, and all over Twisted Sister. You can connect with Liz through https://lizmcadams.wordpress.com/