Beauty

February 20, 2009
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?The prettiest flower blossomed from a weed?.?

The old, gnarled biddies whisper in hushed tones around the fire. Such bitterness in their hearts, like thorns, allow them to voice the past, long-buried beneath the mossy banks of Spindle Creek.

Darkness. Her eyes snap awake. The worn, soft sheets slip off, as she silently kneels beside her bed. Her hands grope blindly beneath the wooden base, until they discover the cool surface of rounded glass. She beckons the looking glass from it?s hiding place, commanding it to look at her face. Her eyes crinkle. The corners of her mouth stretch wide. She smiles. Silky strands of her chestnut locks wisp across her shoulders as she brushes them carefully past her cheeks. ?Mirror, Mirror, on the wall. Who?s the fairest one of all?? she affectionately asks the glass. Belle closes her eyes, feeling the grooves of her lips, jutting out past her teeth, her crooked nose, her delicate, deformed eyes, reminding herself of her curse. Back into its hiding the looking glass goes. With a wistful expression, the girl slips back into bed, thinking how lovely everything seemed in the dark.

?Remember the innkeeper?s son?? one biddy recalls.

?Aye,? the rest all agreed in assent.

?He was a handsome one,? another remarked.

?Oh, if only he?d looked at me!? a wistful sigh.

?No. All he?d eyes for was Belle.? Hearty cackles around.

?One such as he would never have looked at such a disfigured lass.?

?But tis? true! The fool trailed after that ugly beast like a dog after meat.?

?After her dirty flesh, it was.?

?Is that how it became about then??

?Don?t be dim, of course that?s how!?

?Tainted wench.?

?Shameful tart.?

?Aye.?

The creek engulfed her feet, slivers of icy cool water flitting around her toes. She takes a deep breath, a cool breeze reviving her cloudy head. Belle falls onto the damp, mossy grass, breathing, thinking. She smiles sadly. She is usually never allowed to roam outside. But her stepmother was in a pleasant mood this morning, and allowed Belle the liberty. Most times Belle just stays inside her room, feeding the fat, furry mice who keep her company. Belle knows that she must hide. Safe from the village, and also, she knows that the villagers must be kept safe from her. Her curse. Oh, if only she her name held the truth. If only she had listened to the panicked voice inside her head, telling her to run from that snake, the beautiful boy who called her name so tenderly. Now she has two. Her face and It. Oh, how she hates It. Lately, It had been causing much trouble for Belle. She always felt so full, big, and labored. Nowadays, she wishes she could just end it all. She wishes she could die.

?But the little babe was a miracle. Surely it was, though one would wonder why God would bless that ugly hag with the name that lies, with such an angel.?

?My mama was there. She told me it came out with light, even at birth.?

?God?s work!?

?Aye.?

?Come Grace,? Belle calls the little girl gently from the edge of the creek. ?Mama!? she cries as she dives into Belle?s skirts, her deep chocolate curls flying. She lovingly pats Grace?s head. ?Today we are going into town, you will want to come?? Seeing a brisk nod of the little one?s head, Belle clutches tiny hand, merrily leading them down the road.

Belle feels their stares, disbelieving jealous ones that burn into your skin. She feels the hot sun scorching her face, and she scolds herself, she should have worn a bonnet. Then she could hide it. But her bonnet is hung carelessly on a wooden peg in her cottage, so now she must face the villagers, the grocer, the baker, endure the condescending stares from those cruel, biddies, shielding their own daughters behind their weathered skirts. Her heart crumbles, but she knows that she must remain as though she were cheerful, for Grace.

?Such a pretty little doll Grace was, with her heart-shaped face and rosy cheeks.?

?Such a terrible shame what happened to her.?

?Poor little Grace wandered into the woods?..and lost.?

?But that trollop deserved her punishment for her sins.?

?Aye.?

?Come, Grace, you must follow us!? the children tease. Grace frowns, and stumbles forward in confusion. She tries to remember. Grace worries, her mama must be missing her. She must go back. Her short, stubby, legs trip over a wicked root, and she she shrieks as she sprawls, her small, frail form violently crashing against the dirt. Oh, she hurts. Her breathing quickens. The children have disappeared. Grace frantically looks across the dark, moist ground, searching for the breadcrumbs. The forest darkens, closing in on the little girl. She cries.

Belle screams. Her wrenching sobs wrack her thin body. She throws herself at the sullen group of men gathered around her door. ?Now, woman! There?s no need to get hysterical. We told ya already that we couldn?t find yer daughter. We was searching all afternoon in the woods, and now it?s dark. Tis? hopeless to try now. We?re all dreadful sorry, missus, but it?s too late now.? She tries to speak, to reach their understanding of what she felt. But only awful mumbling comes out. She can only continue to weep, the keening shrieks of her soul?..tearing?..dying. And then, she sees it. She sees it in their beady eyes. Through their leering sneers. Satisfaction. The beast has been fed. She screams. But only she can understand her rage. They grunt a scoff, and leave. She stares through her filmy tears in disbelief at their fading, blurry backs. Everything is gone.

?Well, at least the monstrous woman is gone.?

?Nay, she still remains. Even buried in that unmarked mound next to Spindle Creek, she lingers. I can feel it.?

?It can?t be so! We have nothing to be ashamed about.?

?Aye.?

She feels it wet grass beneath her toes. She breathes. She tries to recall what it feels like. What it feels like to live. Just one last time. But she her heart is numb, so are her feet from the icy, cold water. She sighs, goodbye and plunges into the water?s embrace. And as she drinks in the boundless beauty of the woods, she sighs. She had touched, held, such beauty once upon a time. She angrily cries to God, why? And as she breathes once more, sees that untouchable beauty around her, once more, she still wonders why?





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