of the beauty and the beautiful beast
Yes, she was not the ruler of all things popular. She was not the face at the top of the ladder. In fact, it was her beauty that pushed her to the corner, where they can pretend that she does not exist. No girl can envy what does not exist.
It was only he who saw her; he who cared not for her natural blush or her siren’s voice, but for her silliness and boisterous laughter. He cared for her unladylike manner of speaking, her far from dainty sips from their cups of tea together. Yes, he with the unsightly scar about a half inch above his left eyebrow, a deformity that pushed him to another corner.
They did not banish him for his beauty. Like her, he too, was beautiful. No, they exiled him to nothingness because of his imperfection, scared of the notion that there could still be beauty in someone so damaged. It was either black or white, no grey areas. They were blind idiots.
And so it began. Amidst the dawn of friendship between the beauty and the beautiful beast, a rebellion against all things deemed perfect was played out into existence. She never wore her corset, and her skirts showed her ankles. He didn’t even bother wearing a top on some days when they were alone. Their schools looked down on their brazenness but were too afraid of speaking ill of them, for they were of wealthy families who had power over their reputations. The two would meet in their sanctuary, a forest clearing somewhere between the walls separating male from female, and would not hear a word from the popular and the preening. It was a silent pact; they of upturned, imperfect noses had cast them aside due to their uncontainable jealousy, and the two never once complained about their abandonment. For that, they must leave them invisible.
They shared this heaven, this separation from the world of debutante balls and arranged marriages based on wealth and practised French. They shared everything. She told of her woes of becoming just another prize sold to the highest bidder, a wife of impeccable manners and finely tuned drawing skills, subservient to a man she does not love. He told of his father’s demoralizing words meant to encourage him to be the richest man in England, second to him of course. It was a shared life they lived. A shared friendship, filled to the brim with hopes, dreams, fears and secret stolen stashes of toffees and chocolate sent from the families of their enemies. It was a sweet, sweet secret shared between them.
For years they have kept this clandestine, this alliance called friendship. Only the young ladies in finishing school and the men in the academy knew of their shared world. Yet all they really know is that the two were a match against the rules, and a mismatched one at that. One so flawless, one so scarred.
They told no one of their understanding, their comfortable way together. They shouldn’t, for it would shame them both. They don’t, but only because they needn’t. Everyone could see their escape, their oneness in the desire to be different and not care if they weren’t accepted into proper society. Every single girl and boy could not pretend that they did not exist, no matter how much they tried to. They couldn’t, not when it seemed that they were the ones backed into a corner, away from the world of possibilities that the unwanted two held in their hands.
When the time came for them to be come out, the girls all envied her, for they knew that although for many years, they had pretended that she did not exist, the men could not do the same. One look was all it would take for hordes of potential husbands to flock to her just for a dance. However, it was much to their surprise that on the day of the last ball of the season, she declined all offers, winked at the scarred man in the corner, who stood up from his seat and proceeded to run. She bunched up her skirts and followed behind him, away from the ballroom with a grin so broad, it stretched from ear to ear. The ladies all stifled their snickers behind gloved hands, feigning scandalized looks but really delighted at the rudeness and boldness of the most beautiful.
She ran away, ran to him. He reached their place first, for he dashed right through the tree branches and jumped the roots that she couldn’t, not with such heavy skirts weighing her down. Once she reached their clearing, out of breath but still a beautiful sight, she laughed a laugh so loud, the birds all sang along. He laughed along with them, clutching his stomach and bending at the waist. They couldn’t believe their own nerve.
After they settled, she removed her gloves, elaborately designed gown and delicate shoes and plopped down on the grass, only her chemise covering herself. He chuckled and followed suit, laying his head down on her lap. She leaned on the tree behind her, and hummed a tune she had woven together herself. His eyes glittered, charmed by the melodies, and slowly closed. A lock of his hair was twirled round and round on her finger as she hummed her sweet song.
After a forever and a day, he stopped her by grabbing her left hand. It was supposed to have a ring by that time, but since she ran away from her line of suitors, her hand was bare. She was silenced by his stroking it with his thumb, light gentle circles as he continued her song. When she intertwined her voice with his, it was became a shared melody, a shared song.
They stayed that way for hours, until the sun kissed the seas goodnight, right before the moon took over and reined the skies. He had not let go of her hand, never ceased his gentle strokes across her palm and the finger that denied rings.
“Suppose a ring would be allowed to touch this finger, would that be such an awful thing?” he asked. He knew how much she dreaded getting married, and was curious about the answer she would give.
“Well, yes,” she said slowly, a question in disguise. She was confused by his random question.
“What if you liked the man?” he said, thankful that he had his eyes closed and she could not read them just like he knew she could.
“I don’t know. That never occurred to me before,” she said. Her forehead crinkled in thought.
He smiled from his place in her lap.
“Would you marry someone you dislike, if you were me?” she asked him, words silently dipping on waters they haven’t treaded yet.
“No,” he answered. It was a resounding no, and she was glad he had his eyes closed, for a smile blossomed on her lips. “I would marry the one I loved.”
“What would you name your daughter, if you had one?” she asked, changing the topic, for she was uncomfortable with the unfamiliarity of it all.
“Oh, so you are thinking of having my daughter?” he smirked and snickered. And once more, she thanked the gods that his eyes were shut. Her natural blush couldn’t be enough an excuse for the fire in her cheeks.
“Hush. And answer me, please,” she managed to choke out.
“Hmm. Well, I like the name Calla,” he mused. After a beat, his face held a decision and his eyes opened. They stunned her, for they whispered a promise. He continued and said, “My child would be named Calla, short for Calixta. Not only would it mean that she is beautiful, it would mean that she is the- ”
“-Most beautiful. I can’t believe it. You stole the name of my future daughter.” Her voice was laced with awe, but her eyes flashed dangerously. She shook her mane of dark waves, her mouth laughing with no sound. It was a terribly beautiful picture of a girl annoyed.
“I refuse to share my daughter’s name with yours!” She pointed her finger at his face, and laughed when he crossed his eyes trying to look at it.
He watched her, a soft smile playing on the edges of his own lips, and his face held a decision just like it did when it decided on the name. He caught her chin and she was forced to look down at him, but not without her jaw set, for he still stole Calixta. Of all names, Calixta. He sat up, but her eyes stayed defiant, not giving up on her favourite name. Her lips suddenly forgot how to smile, for his was so close.
“We could always share,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. His tone was all jokes, but underneath, she saw a sombreness that couldn’t be laughed at. And so she smiled.
Yes, we could indeed.