Continuing Tales

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 8 of 33

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Kissed by a Rose

Belle returned to consciousness slowly. She was very comfortable; that was the first thing she noticed. In fact, it felt as though she were resting on a cloud. A warm, smooth cloud. She snuggled deeper into it. It smelled odd for a cloud: mostly like cotton, with a hint of must.

She opened her eyes, bringing things into focus. She was in a room she had never seen before. It was a very pretty room, done mostly in pale blues with accents of mauve and gold. The bed on which she lay was fit for a princess, with a velvet canopy, fine cotton sheets, and a well-stuffed mattress. Now that she thought back, she remembered collapsing onto it, but here she was neatly tucked in with the covers to her chin. As she slid out from between the sheets, she saw that she was still dressed in her blue dress and white shirt, though someone had thoughtfully removed her shoes and apron. Belle decided someone else had to have done it; she certainly hadn't been awake enough.

How long had she been asleep? Belle looked around worriedly. There were two tall windows draped in velvet to match the bed curtains. The curtains were drawn back to show that it was snowing outside, quite heavily. The sky was an ambiguous dark gray that told her nothing about what time it might be. In a snowstorm this bad, it might be noon and she would never know. A dim lamp was lit by the door so that she wasn't in total darkness.

Belle swung her legs over the edge of the bed and instinctively put a hand to her head. Her hair ribbon was still in place, but it had slid down to hang nearly between her shoulderblades. The rest of her hair was tangled, and tendrils of it hung irritatingly into her eyes.

On a bedside table sat a hairbrush. Belle seized it and began to brush out her hair, a process that always soothed her. As she did, memories began surfacing. She remembered especially her bargain to stay in the castle forever.

What had she been thinking? She could only blame exhaustion for addling her judgment. Could she really spend the rest of her life in this awful place, where carved faces leered at her every turn and a tyrannical bearlike monster lurked in the shadows? The empty eyes of the carvings, and the glittering blue ones of her captor, had disturbed her dreams several times. Gaston's lighter blue eyes had appeared as well, though at a greater distance.

Still, things were not as dire as they could be. She was not locked in the dungeon. If her gaoler had spoken truly, she could go wherever she liked in the castle…except one place. The West Wing. She wondered briefly what was there, but put it aside to deal with later. This place was so large, she might never find the West Wing, or even know she was in it if she did. This room was comfortable enough, and someone had taken care of her while she slept.

Belle retied the bow in her hair, feeling much better. Her head was clearing, and she could examine her situation much more rationally. The baby was fine as far as she could tell. She herself wasn't in any pain. Her weakness was mostly gone. She was well away from Gaston and any pressure to marry him. And it was getting easier to shove the idea of 'forever' to some back corner of her mind.

It was not so easy to banish thoughts of her father. Just bringing his face to mind as she had last seen it brought fresh tears to her eyes.

A light tap on the door startled her. "Who is it?" she called.

"Mrs. Potts, dear," a matronly woman's voice called back.

Just the sound was soothing, like stepping into a warm bath. Breathing a slight sigh of relief, Belle went to open the door.

There was no one there. Puzzled, Belle put her head further out into the corridor. Still no one was in sight. She was about to call when the voice spoke again, from somewhere around her ankles.

"I thought you might like a spot of tea."

Belle looked down—and suppressed a cry. A white china teapot on the floor had been the source of the voice. Worse, it was hopping, making a gentle tinkling noise whenever it hit the marble floor. It hopped onto her carpet and into the light of the lamp.

It was the strangest thing Belle had ever seen, and in the past twenty-four hours alone she had seen a great deal of strange things. The castle's master might be a terrifying mix of animals, but at least he was a living, breathing creature. This was like nothing Belle had ever heard of or even read about. The teapot was certainly a teapot; its top and foot were delicately patterned pink and purple and gold. Yet it had a face, positioned so that the spout was also the nose. It had definitely spoken. It was also still hopping towards her.

Belle backed away instinctively. "But you're a…you're a…" She bumped into an enormous wardrobe she had not noticed standing against the wall.

It, too, moved, in a way that wood could never do. "Oof! Careful, dear!" it said to her, through a face at its crown Belle had not noticed before.

Now Belle did cry out, though very softly. She backed into the middle of the room so that she could see all the…things? people?…at once. "What…who are you?" she asked.

"Mrs. Potts, housekeeper and cook," the teapot said. That confirmed it. The kindly voice definitely came from the teapot.

"Madame de la Grande Bouche, wardrobe mistress," said the wardrobe with a creaky bend that managed to suggest a bow. It gave a giggle. "Literally, of course."

Belle couldn't help a small smile. "It's nice to meet you both. I suppose. But…oh, this is impossible!" She sat on the bed and buried her head in her hands for a moment. When she removed her fingers again, there they both were, looking at her and smiling benevolently. She was not hallucinating.

Uncomfortable memories stirred. Last night, something that felt like wood had half-carried her to the bed. Belle, looking at the wardrobe, now realized what it had been. Her father had been taken away in a litter that walked by itself.

Things in this castle were alive.

"Impossible," she repeated.

For a moment, she thought the bed itself was rising up to disagree with her. When she whirled, she realized the wardrobe had draped itself across the bed beside her, and the mattress had risen into the air with the extra weight. "I know it is," the wardrobe said in reassuring tones, "But here we are."

"I told you she was pretty, Mama, didn't I?" cheeped a voice from the floor. Belle turned to find the teapot had been joined by a sugar bowl, a tiny pitcher of cream, and a teacup with a small chip out of its rim. All were decorated in the same pink-purple- gold pattern. It was the teacup that had spoken.

Belle, with motherhood looming inevitably, gulped slightly at the term "Mama." She also tried not to think about how a teapot could beget a teacup in the first place. That was simply beyond her at the moment. Wrapping her mind around living household objects and furniture was stretching enough of her credulity, though she could just manage it. She had never been so thankful for her love of reading.

While she had been pondering this, Mrs. Potts the teapot had filled the chipped teacup with steaming tea, and milk and sugar had been added. Belle had never drunk tea with sugar in it. Most people she knew made do with honey for sweetening; the few that could afford sugar did not waste it on tea. It certainly smelled inviting, however extravagant.

As she lifted the cup to her lips, the teacup asked, "Want to see me do a trick?"

"What?" said Belle, pulling back in surprise.

Taking this as a yes, the cup took a deep breath. The hot tea began to bubble, for all the world as if he were blowing into it.

"Chip!" his mother admonished.

"Oops, sorry," the little teacup said. He looked at Belle with big, innocent eyes, and Belle thought if her own child could be this sweet she might actually look forward to having him. It was a novel thought.

"It's all right," she assured Mrs. Potts and Chip with a smile. "I don't mind. Maybe you can show me another one later." She finished the tea as quickly as possible without burning her lips. Once done, she shifted her grip so the light-as-air cup could sit in her palm. He continued to stare at her.

"It was a very brave thing you did yesterday, my dear," Mrs. Potts said.

"We all think so," added the wardrobe.

Just the mention of the bargain she'd made caused Belle's eyes to start to fill. She looked away out the window at the falling snow. "I'm not brave," she said sadly. "I was foolish. I didn't really think about what I was doing. I wanted to keep my father from dying, but the way things are now, how will I ever know if I succeeded? I'll never see him again." Her voice wobbled on the last word.

The wardrobe and teapot traded glances. "Trying to save someone you love isn't foolish, dear," Mrs. Potts said. "And an unselfish deed usually has a way of coming back to us."

Belle wasn't sure if what she'd done could be considered entirely unselfish. After all, one of the deciding factors in her choice had been sparing herself the embarrassment of being whispered about in the village as well as the constant grief and humiliation that would be her lot if she married Gaston.

Mrs. Potts must have seen the uncertainty on Belle's face, because she said, "Cheer up, child. It may yet turn out all right in the end."

"I hope so," replied Belle. She wished she could believe that something good would come of all she had lived through in the past year, but she just couldn't see how.

Again, teapot and wardrobe exchanged glances. Then Mrs. Potts seemed to collect herself. "Oh, listen to us, jabbering away when there's supper to get on the table. You need to get ready, dear. Come along, Chip." She led the way out the door.

"'Bye!" the cup called to Belle as he hopped out the door in great leaping strides. Belle couldn't resist a smile and a wave in return. The little thing was so charming.

"Isn't he just adorable?" Madame sighed, echoing Belle's thoughts. "He brightens us all on our darkest days."

"Yes, I can see that," Belle agreed.

The wardrobe extended a door, which Belle took and allowed Madame to help her to her feet.

"Well now that it's just us," Madame said cheerfully. "What shall we dress you in for dinner?"

"Dinner?" Belle repeated. Despite Mrs. Potts' hurried departure, she had forgotten about it. And the order that she had no choice but to attend. A strange hot-cold feeling settled around her heart. It was the same feeling that led her to refuse Gaston's offers of marriage time after time, when logic and custom and even her own fear said she should have just given in.

"Of course, dear," the wardrobe was saying gaily. "I've got so many things in my drawers I've been just dying to take out!"

"That's very kind of you…" Belle began, but Madame was already extracting a pink silk confection and waving it around like a graceful banner.

"Here we are, you'll look ravishing in this one! I've been saving it for just such an occasion. How wonderful that you're so well-developed!"

"…but I'm not going to dinner," Belle finished. She chose to ignore the comment about her bosom, though it made her want to wince. She had been decently well-endowed before, but pregnancy had seen fit to improve her in that area even more.

"But you must go to dinner!" Madame cried, shocked. "The Master—"

They were interrupted by a knock on the door. Into the room scurried…a clock. A mantel clock, that ticked and had a clearly moving pendulum inside. Belle, though starting to get used to inanimate objects being alive, backed up. Her knees hit the bed and folded, so that she sat down with a plop.

The clock tactfully ignored her reaction. It—he—bowed low. "Ahem. Dinner is served."

The wardrobe waggled her doors in a gesture very reminiscent of throwing up her hands in exasperation. "She says she's not going!"

"What?" the face on the clock's face looked thoroughly alarmed. "But, mademoiselle, you must attend. The Master specifically ordered—"

"I know what he ordered," Belle interrupted. "And you can tell him I have no intention of coming down. I'm not hungry."

"But—but—but—" For a moment, Belle thought the clock was going to stop ticking, so great was his distress.

"He'll be angry," whispered Madame, in a tone that suggested there could be nothing worse.

For some reason, Belle could not bring herself to care. "I've seen him angry before. I may be his prisoner, but I don't have to do what he says." She folded her arms.

Wardrobe and clock were now both clearly frightened. "What should we do?" asked Madame in a stage whisper.

The clock gulped, and seemed to square his shoulders. "See if you can reason with her," he said. "I'll…I'll go…go tell the Master." He looked terrified at the very prospect, but nevertheless nodded politely to Belle. "Mademoiselle, I strongly urge you to reconsider."

He left, closing the door behind him. Despite her resolve, Belle could not help swallowing. What had she gotten herself into? Well, there was no backing out now. The Master might be a terrifying monster, but he could do no worse to her than she had already survived.

Kissed by a Rose

A Beauty & the Beast Story
by SamoaPhoenix9

Part 8 of 33

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