I’m happy to present… part 3 of Beauty from Ashes! (Beauty from Ashes is a fairy tale mash-up of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. If you haven’t read the previous parts, click herehere to read them.)
Here’s a little refresher from the end of Part 2:
Beast reached out and held my trembling hands in his. My mind was racing. Why was he so anxious? He was frightening me. What was he going to ask me? I could think of nothing that qualified as “the hardest question of all.” He’d asked me everything, everything already. What was there left to ask?
Beast swallowed hard and looked me straight in the eye.
“Ella…” he cleared his throat gruffly, “do you really, truly love me?” His face was intensely anxious as I gasped and turned pale.
Did I love him? Of course I did… or did I? During these past few weeks Beast had become my best friend in the whole world – my only friend, in fact. But he was, after all, only a beast. Could I love him despite his unkempt, shaggy fur; his frowning eyes; his gruffness and his wildness? Could I love him in spite of the hurt he had inflicted on me? I stood before him, my heart once more beating its wings against the bars, looking wildly for an escape, and I knew the answer.
I loved him with all that I was. I loved him completely.
It didn’t matter how terrifying he looked on the outside or how gruff and unfeeling he had been to me at first. Now I knew the true Beast. I could see the warm, loving heart that he had buried deep within a cold, protecting shell; I could see that like a diamond you had only to polish off a little bit of ugliness to find beauty inside him.
“I do,” I whispered. “I really, truly do.”
The Beast’s face flooded with a brilliant flash of joy, but the flash disappeared as soon as quickly as it had come. His face turned serious again.
“Oh my dear, sweet Ella. I love you so very much. But I need just one thing more. Remember how you gave me your shoe as a promise that you would return to see me?”
I nodded. I had nearly forgotten about that shoe in my happiness with Beast.
“I need you to give me something else to seal your promise. This time it will be easier. This time I only need a kiss.”
I drew back, alarmed. Did I really have to kiss his terrible face? My stomach churned at the thought. But I loved him. I could do this. I closed my eyes and inhaled the forest air, my mind whirling with memories of Beast, of our sweet friendship.
I squeezed my eyes shut even tighter and kissed him quickly on his rough, furry cheek. I drew back immediately. Something had not felt right. I blinked.
What had I done to him? I watched in horror as Beast reared to his full height, shuddered, shivered, and began shrinking in size. His massive head was growing smaller, his snout shorter, and his fur was disappearing. His ponderous paws were changing also: the toes were lengthening, spreading apart, growing nails instead of claws. His powerful body was losing its fur as well, turning gold and red and thinning to a smaller trunk. I stumbled backward and fell to the ground, hands over my mouth, eyes wide in unbelief.
Beast was gone.
But even more astonishing was what I saw instead: a young man clad in ornate clothing with laughing eyes and a smile that rivaled the sun in its brilliance. And he was smiling at me.
“Come, Ella, my dear one. I have some explaining to do.”
Oh my goodness, that was so fun to write! I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it!
I really like this story so far. 😀