Happily Never After

 

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Dedication

This collection of short stories is dedicated to both of my parents, who bought me my first fairytale ever at the age of ten months old!

More specifically, I'd like to dedicate it to my mother, who gave me the gene of "Creativity", and to my father, who gave me the genes of "Diligence" and "Industriousness"!

Of course, this collection is dedicated to you, too; because you know that not every story has a happy ending and yet you're willing to read it!

-V

© Victoria Moschou. All Rights Reserved 2016.

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Copyright

Copyright © 2016 by Victoria Moschou

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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1. Beauty And The Feast

Tale as old as time... True as it can be... Barely even friends... Lalalalala...

Belle was singing casually, staring at the front yard of the castle. The roses had bloomed. Their beauty was undeniable. A little color inside that castle would be nice for once. But what if the Beast wouldn't like them? She didn't want to irritate him. Their relationship had improved lately and she wanted to keep it that way. And yet... they were so pretty.

I can pick only a few and put them in a vase in my room, Belle thought and started walking towards the door of her bedroom. A few roses never hurt anyone.

She put her blue coat on and walked down the empty halls and corridors of the castle. As winter was approaching, Beast's home had become more dismal, depressing and cold. Along with his downbeat attitude, Belle's prison needed some serious makeover.

She went down to the ground floor of the castle and moved towards the front door, when she came face to face, as much as that could happen, with Chip.

"Good morning Chip!" she greeted him happily.

"Hi, Belle!" Chip replied, as cheerful as always.

"Where are you going? Please, don't tell me that you're hiding from your mother again!" Belle pretended to scold him.

"No! I'm hiding from Cogsworth. I was playing with Sultan in the kitchen and Lumière and Babette were doing... well, their usual staff... And well, maybe... I accidentally, slightly fell on Babette and she fell on a pile of plates that my momma and Cogsworth were trying to put in order!" Chip said all in one breath.

"So you are hiding from your mother!" Belle said and she smiled at Chip. "Come along now. I'll protect you! Let's go pick some roses from the garden!", she went on and walked outside the castle, with Chip behind her, making his usual clicking sound.

The temperature outside the castle was mildly different from the inside; still freezing cold. It would probably start snowing later this evening. Chip started rattling and Belle put her hands inside the pockets of her coat.

"Belle, I think we should go back inside", Chip grumbled.

"We will in a little while", she said and walked closer to a red rosebush. Chip followed her reluctantly.

"What's the occasion?" Chip asked. Belle was about to cut a beautiful rose with a pair of scissors that she pulled from one of her pockets.

"All Saints' Day is coming, Chip! I think we should celebrate this special holiday!" Belle said and kept cutting roses from the rosebush.

"I'm not sure his grace will approve of that!" a stern voice said. Cogsworth had come out of nowhere, right next to them.

"Oh, hello Cogsworth!" Belle said, without feeling disheartened at all.

"Hello miss. Like I said, his grace is not in the mood for celebrations", Cogsworth said, looking as strict as always.

"And when is he?" Chip whispered near Belle.

"Well, I wasn't planning to celebrate with him Cogsworth. But, I am aloud to decorate my room and put some color in it, aren't I?" Belle asked as politely as she could. She had actually started to feel annoyed. The Beast continued to be bossy. I guess, old habits die hard, she thought.

"Well, of course you are, miss!" Cogsworth said.

"Splendid! Come along now Chip!" Belle said and started walking away from Cogsworth.

"Miss, wait! There's something I need to tell you", Cogsworth shouted.

Belle turned around and looked at Cogsworth. She was feeling kind of lost. Chip was jumping here and there impatiently. It was a miracle that Cogsworth hadn't said a thing about today's recent events in the kitchen, so Chip didn't want to stay there for much longer.

"What is it Cogsworth?" Belle asked.

"It's his grace. He wants to dine with you tonight", Cogsworth said nervously.

"A few minutes ago you said that he is not in the mood for celebrations and now you're telling me that he wants to dine with me?" Belle asked, feeling quite puzzled.

"This is different miss!" Cogsworth protested. "His grace also requests that you wear a red dress at your dinner tonight. Madame Armoire has already been informed", he went on.

Belle rolled her eyes but she didn't complain. It was a nice change to do something else, aside from staying in her room or going to the castle's library to read. She had read pretty much every single book.

"Very well Cogsworth. Tell your master that I will see him tonight at seven. Let's go Chip!" she said and started walking towards the castle, with a bouquet of roses in her hands and her little teacup-friend following her as fast as he could.

***

Belle was walking up and down her bedroom anxiously. The red dress that Madame Armoire had showed her was a piece of art! Long and strapless, with little silver details like roses and stars around the waist and its train, which seemed to be almost two meters long. It looked like a dress that a princess would wear. And she wasn't one. She was just a plain girl, locked inside that castle. So, what was the meaning of all this?

She wasn't used to Beast's fondness and generosity, so that present should definitely have an alter motive. But what was it?

"Don't get all crazy about that dear! Just enjoy it!" Madame Armoire said gently.

"I'll try... It's just that one minute he doesn't want celebrations and all, and the next he's all about those fancy meals and expensive presents!" Belle said, staring blankly at the roses on her night table.

"He wants to please you! Just give him a chance to prove that he can become better!" Madame Armoire said and smiled at her. "People can change, you know!" she started singing. She was an opera singer, after all.

"I am giving him lots of chances to prove that he can be better! But every time, I get even more disappointed!" Belle whispered.

"It's just that he has forgotten how to be a gentleman", Madame Armoire defended him.

"The problem is that he has forgotten how to behave, in general!" Belle said and let a deep breath out.

***

It was almost seven o'clock and Belle was staring at her reflection in the mirror. That red gown had transformed her completely! Angelique had helped her do her hair and Babette had spent the entire afternoon pointing out the colors she should use for her make-up.

"Oh, mademoiselle! You look extraordinaire!" Babette cheered.

"Of course she does!" Angelique replied. She looked really satisfied with that Beauty in front of her.

"Ok, girls... Stop mumbling. You make her nervous!" Madame Armoire said. "Everything is going to be just fine!", she went on.

With shaky hands, Belle opened the door and walked silently down the corridor that led to the dining room. When she got in, she felt completely mesmerized.

There were hundreds of candles all around the room.  Chandeleria was glowing and Lumière was standing proudly on the table.

Forte and Fife were standing next to the fireplace and when Belle walked into the room, they started playing a beautiful melody. Their song!

And then she saw him!

"How do you say it exactly?" the Beast asked suddenly.

"How do I say what?" Belle asked back.

"That song of yours. Love as red as wine... Sweet as it can be... Flowing like your blood... Or something like that", the Beast said.

"As promising as those lyrics may sound, this isn't the song Paul", Belle said seriously. She was rarely using his real name. She wasn't sure whether he remembered it or not.

"But they are suitable! Especially since you're wearing that dress. I'm glad you liked it!" the Beast said and moved closer to the table. "Come on! Let's eat!" he said and waved his hand towards Belle.

Belle walked hesitantly towards the dining table and when she saw the Beast pulling her chair for her to sit, she felt a little bit better. There is hope for him after all, she thought.

He walked to the other side of the table and sat, too. It was actually surprising that he didn't make any noise!

"Bon appétit!" Lumière said and Belle took a look at their dinner for the first time.

All of her favorite plates, right in front of her. Ravioli with ambercup squash, shallot brown butter and green apple chutney. Pork with honey and orange, served along with vegetable couscous and parmesan risotto. And the most tasty of them all: blueberry streusel cheesecake.

"Chef Bouche created a masterpiece!" Belle said and looked at the Beast.

"I guess so..." he replied indifferently.

"So... how was your day?" Belle asked. For some reason, she wanted to diffuse whatever tension existed inside the room.

"Actually, I'd like to know how your day was!" the Beast replied and looked straight in her eyes.

"Well, I've just finished the most fascinating book about an inventor whose auger could turn anything into gold. And his own son-in-law was trying to steal it from him. And at the beginning his wife didn't want to see what kind of man he was but in the end..." Belle was narrating in excitement.

"Fairytales again..." the Beast interrupted her. "Pathetic, little stories for weak people. You think that love conquers it all? It doesn't! Power does!" he shouted.

"What's gotten into you?" Belle asked. She looked astonished. "Fairytales teach values and honor and selflessness and sacrifice. I am truly sorry that you have forgotten their meaning! But then again, maybe you never knew their meaning!" she yelled back at him.

"Rubbish! It's all rubbish! A big lie!" the Beast screamed and jumped on the dining table. All the plates and the glasses fell on the floor and broke into thousand little pieces.

Forte and Fife stopped the music. Lumière, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts were shaking near the fireplace. They all looked anxious, almost scared. Silence covered the entire room.

"What are doing? You act like a wild man!" Belle said with a trembling voice.

"Isn't that what I am? A monster? A beast?" he yelled. "And since there are no pedals left on the enchanted rose that that evil witch had given to me, there is no need for you to stay alive anymore!", he screamed and pounced on Belle.

Everyone inside the room screamed. But Belle's shriek was the most frightening sound of them all. The Beast started tearing her into pieces. Her blood flew like a river on her red dress, on the floor, everywhere in the dining room.

Her face turned into a mask of pure terror! And when there was no breath left for her, when there was no life inside her body, the Beast ripped her heart out and threw it into the fireplace.

"Not all fairytales end with the line and they lived happily ever after I guess!" the Beast said and wiped Belle's blood off his face.

Her dead body was lying on the floor. Her eyes were glassy from terror. Half of her left side was completely torn apart from the rest of her body. And yet, there was still some beauty left on her. Her hair. No matter how viciously the Beast killed her, he hadn't touched her hair; the last sign of her former beauty.

***

There was no Beauty left inside that castle. Only a Beast. A soulless monster. A monster that killed its only hope, the only beautiful thing that was part of his life, without regrets, without qualms.

There was no Beauty left inside that castle. No love story. No fairytale ending. No Beauty and the Beast.

Only a former Beauty and a visceral Feast!

All Saints' Day dawned. Another meaningless and lifeless day for the Beast. Without his Beauty. Magic had died once and for all!

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2. Children Should Listen

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3. Somethin' Pumpkin This Way Comes

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4. The Devil's Music

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5. Once Upon A New Moon

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6. Jingle Hells

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7. Those Stolen Christmas

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