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Thursday, July 20, 2017

La Belle et La Bête

The giant rose in the bubble mesmerized her. Her big round eyes grew wider as she admired the sealed glass jar with the flowers inside, the white rose nestled perfectly among the other flowers. So pretty, so beautiful. She reached out a hand to touch the glass jar. It's calling her.

"Don't touch it," barked a harsh voice. She turned to see her captivator standing in the doorway with a nasty snicker on his face. "It will outlive you," he said with a grin, "It's specially preserved to make it last forever while still looking fresh." She looked at him with hatred but stood her ground. There is no way she'll let him bully her around. He stepped closer and lift up her chin. "Too bad we can't do that with the human body," he whispered, "You'll look great in my parlor." She snapped and ran away, with his laughter following her, echoing in the empty castles.

In the comfort of her room, she furiously threw her pillows and duvet covers to the wall, over and over again. The soft pillows make no sound as she frustratingly punched them vigorously to release her anger. The best code breaker in her division, the top of her class in the military, the darling of the commanders, yet here she was being trapped with no one to save her. If only her dad weren't stupid enough to get caught up with this swastika-loving lord, and promising her in return for his safety. Which is why her team cannot 'save' her. Despite the obvious siding, she's the resistance and he's the enemy supporter, her captivity was considered as 'servitude' and her commander refuse to act on it. "Stupid men. Stupid, stupid men," she fumed.

Deep down inside, she knew they will not help her. More than once she intercepted a request to transferred her to a different division, from the genteel request "It is far too dangerous for the young lady to be in the midst of the battle" to the chauvinist demand of "She's a looker, and that's where my men look, instead of focusing on the battle ground." Her commandeer knew her worth, but it was only time until she got relocated in some obscure department and indirectly pressured to resign. It's a man's world indeed, she thought bitterly.

But he did not treat her like that. On his better days, they'll have long, interesting conversation together. He's far more educated than any of her compadres in the resistance, and more eloquent as well. It's just Stockholm Syndrome, she said to herself firmly, more than she liked to. He'd debate her vigorously, he'd laugh and admit defeat if she managed to outdo him in a debate (which didn't happen much), and never once he showed any disrespect towards her or telling her she's just 'a woman'. Her attempt to seduced him to buy her freedom, to her embarrassment, had been greeted with a hearty laugh. 

"Belle," he had said gently in front of her locked bedroom door after that particular incident, "Your beauty is what you have in you. Don't sell it so cheaply." She had told herself it was only a dream, that she was imagining things. After all, it was probably the very first time someone had say no to her. It's understandable if she's making things up to escape from the shame, because there is no way that scarred, horrible looking man who pledged allegiance to the Fuhrer will be kind enough to say those things. Yet she saw kindness in his eyes, especially when he thinks she wasn't looking, the kindness and warmth that made her heart skip a beat. For the first time in her life, Isabelle de Honore was at lost on what to do.

She hated how he treated her in the vault, teasing her about preserving her. She hated how much power he had over her, and the simple gesture of touching and lifting her chin send shivers down her spine. She hated how she gave in to this Stockholm syndrome, thinking that this man could actually be someone decent, even believing the maids' story on how selfless he was and how his pledged allegiance is a way to protect his people. She hated for wanting more from him, for the desperation that's gnawing on her, for realizing that the scarred-face man with arrogant attitude might just be the true Prince, the true 'La Beau', and she was the unworthy hideous peasant, 'La Bête'. She cried bitterly in silence.

The night was late when she woke up with a grim determination. He is not The Beast, and she is not The Beauty. This is real life and not fairy tale. The enchanted rose will never wilt, and the curse will never be lifted, if it ever exists. The only curse exists is the curse of her weak will power. He's the enemy, she's the resistance. It couldn't get any simpler than that. She got dressed and readying herself for an overdue escape. Her team, the resistance movement, that's where she needed to be, instead of playing an obedient hostage in a luxurious castle. She needed to get away. She needed to get things done.

The castle was deathly quiet, but she had learned to walk like a cat. It wasn't long before she found his bedroom, the door slightly ajar. She put the pistol that she had stolen in her hand, readying it to be used immediately, before silently entering the room. The fire burning low in the fireplace illuminated the room, but the man sprawling on the bed was unperturbed even as she inched closer to the bed. He had put the glass jar with the rose on his bedside, and for a moment she wanted to run and hugged him instead. Duty comes first, she said to herself. She steeled herself and silently climbed his massive bed, kneeling next to him and aiming the pistol right between his eyes. 

The eyes that promptly opened. The eyes that looked straight back to her eyes, full of pain, full of question, full of understanding. They were the deepest blue, like the beautiful summer evening, with long, lush lashes. The body underneath the blanket was rigid, solid, and exceptionally fit. As she kneeled there in shock, the horror of her action came rushing in as if a flood gate was opened.

"Belle," he whispered.

She was going to kill an unarmed man, a sleeping man.

"Belle," he whispered louder.

For what reason? Only because he was not interested in her.

"Belle?" he asked quietly.

Her pride was wounded and she's ready to lodge a bullet in an unarmed, innocent, sleeping man just for that.

"Belle," he said louder, alarmed.

Where's her dignity? Where's her integrity? He was not the beast, she was. She saw her true, vain self that moment, and she loathed herself.

"Belle," he called, louder, but he did not move. How could he? The pistol was there, ready to slay him. 

"Wrong target," she whispered. She pulled the pistol from between his eyes and placed it on her temple instead. The beast must be killed.

"Belle!" he shouted, and in a quick move wrestled the pistol from her and tossed it across the room.

A moment of silence. She still kneeled next to him, paralyzed in shock of what she almost did.

"Belle," he called out firmly, hands clasping each of her wrists to prevent her from fleeing. Tears started to fall on her cheeks. She struggled to free her wrists but she was no match for him. She kicked and she pulled, but he wouldn't let go.

"Belle," he said gently, "It's ok." With that, her barrier broke and she cried. Her sob echoed in the room. He pulled her into his arms in a gentle embrace. "It's ok," he said, "It's ok." He said that over and over again as he caressed her hair, as he lovingly kissed her cheeks and forehead. "It's ok." 

The fire crackled softly, illuminated the two figures sitting together in the center of the bed, embracing each other tightly. The white rose bathed in the fire's orange glow. The fairy tale had just begun.

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