Soks Gemma
Twisted Fairytales: Beauty and the Beast

It’s your present.

Over the next few weeks, Kenneth saw very little of Maverick, usually exploring the castle on his own and eating meals with the three servants. He kept thinking of his father and brothers, wondering if they would come looking for him or thought he was dead. But Kenneth began seeing his captivity in this castle as a mixed blessing. He wasn’t being told daily that he needed to find a girl to settle down with and was never bored; but he missed his family and seeing his friends.

One day during his exploration, Kenneth stumbled upon an old ballroom. He’d seen many other ballrooms in the castle, but this one was more like a lounge, a small space for a gathering of close friends to sit and talk and dance. He ran his hands along the old upholstered fainting couches and beautifully sculpted chairs until he spotted the one thing he missed the most about his old life.

In the corner of the room, beside a large window overlooking a dimly lit courtyard was a dusty grand piano. Its white surface was grey from dust but it still looked magnificent against the view of the coming evening. Gently, Kenneth opened the piano and ran his fingers softly over the ivory keys. He found a sturdy bench and sat down at the instrument. Closing his eyes, Kenneth began to play.

The sounds of a beautiful piano song drifted throughout the silent castle. This caught Maverick’s attention, sending her tearing through the palace, looking for the source of the noise. She stopped just outside the small ballroom, listening to the song before silently entering. The sun was setting over the courtyard outside, bathing the room in a deep orange light. Silhouetted before the window was Kenneth and the piano he was masterfully playing. Maverick slowly made her way across the room, amazed at the skill with which the man played. Once she was close enough to see his face, Maverick blinked.

His eyes were closed, feeling the music, rather than seeing the keys that he played. The woman stood beside him, watching until he finished the song and opened his eyes. Kenneth didn’t jump or dart away in fright as he looked up at his audience. Instead he smiled at her. It was first time he’d ever seen her in daylight and he didn’t want to say something that would make her turn away.

Finally, Maverick spoke, her voice in its usual soft tone. You play beautifully.

Kenneth’s smile widened, Thank-you.

Both sat in silence for a few more moments before Maverick couldn’t help asking, Why do you close your eyes to play?

This caught him off-guard. Kenneth blushed, looking down at the keys.

My mother taught me to play, but she was blind. Whenever I tried to play with them open, I would trip over myself. So she told me to close my eyes and learned the same way she did... Maverick nodded, her gaze shifting over to the view out the window. Kenneth waited patiently, joining her in her gaze at the courtyard.

Could you play one more time? She asked so quietly, he almost didn’t hear her. But Kenneth nodded and shut his eyes as his fingers glided over the keys.

Many months had passed since Kenneth came to live in the castle in the woods. He had befriended most of the staff, though he didn’t really get along completely with Jasper; however Maverick remained a mystery to him. They would see each other around the castle, Kenneth smiling while she simply nodded. Whenever Kenneth felt the need to play or found a new piano in the palace, Maverick was there in an instant to listen to him. But it was a warm autumn evening that changed this.

The sun had already set and the stars were beginning to twinkle into the sky when Jasper told Kenneth of a kind of flower that lived in the woods.

I’m a little busy but Edmund really needs it to make his favorite tea. They’re moon blossoms, small white flowers that only bloom at night during the half moon. That’s tonight, so do you believe you can find them and pick a few for us? Kenneth, not sure Jasper could be trusted, agreed because he believed he spoke on behalf of the elderly Edmund.

So Kenneth set out into the forest, his dark cloak fluttering around his ankles in the breeze. It was a clear night and the half moon shone bright, so Kenneth did not need a candle to see. As the man traveled farther away from the castle, a few night time animals took notice, particularly the wolves.

Kenneth kneeled beside a patch of tiny white blooms in a brightly lit spot. He felt the stems to make sure they were healthy plants before he picked up a sharp rock to cut the flowers. He was so occupied by this that Kenneth didn’t hear the pack of wolves that was circling around him.

He stood up, wrapping the flower stems in a bit of twine and placing them in his waist pouch. He turned around and gasped as two or three wolves moved forward out of the shadows, licking their muzzles and snarling. Kenneth stepped back, still gripping the rock he had used to cut the flowers. He looked up, spotting a dead branch above him and ripped it off the tree. He threw the sharp rock, which the wolves easily avoided. Looking back at the frightened man, they howled, calling their brethren to the feast.

More wolves closed in on Kenneth, whose knees began to buckle. One wolf grew restless and pounced, getting whacked by the branch the man was holding. Another wolf launched itself, sinking its teeth into Kenneth’s cloak.

No! he grunted, swinging to get the creature away. Another wolf snapped at his ankle and Kenneth thought for sure he had lost.

But out of nowhere, something rammed into the wolf snapping at his ankles. It was Maverick, snarling viciously at the ravenous beasts. She scratched, bit and kicked at the creatures until she got her arms around one of their necks. The poor creature never knew what happened when Maverick gripped its muzzle and the back of its head as she roughly snapped its neck. She stood up, looking as the war-worn wolves fled their comrade who fell to the ground, dead.

Kenneth watched in amazement as Maverick let out something between a roar and a scream after them. The young woman swayed slightly, turning to look at the man, only to faint. He rushed over, catching her awkwardly so she wouldn’t hit her head. Peering hastily around them, Kenneth picked up Maverick like one would a sleeping child and carefully carried her back to the castle.

Jasper looked nervously over the shoulder of Edmund as Victoria placed a bowl of warm water and a cloth on the table by the fireplace. Kenneth had placed Maverick on the fainting couch before the roaring fire, sitting beside the passed-out young woman. He thanked Victoria and dipped the cloth in the water, wringing it out before placing it across Maverick’s forehead. He took the flowers from his pouch and handed them to Edmund. The old man nodded and tottered off, gripping the blossoms stiffly.

Go get another cloth at once, Victoria said sternly to her son. Both young men in the room looked surprised at the woman’s tone, but Jasper did as he was told. Once he returned, his mother ripped it from his hands, her expression one of angry disappointment.

Here, dear. Start cleaning her wounds, I am going to check on Edmund, Victoria said gently, handing it to Kenneth. She then glared at her son and dragged him out of the room by his ear.

Once they were alone, Kenneth sighed. Edmund came and told him to use the tea he had made with the flowers to clean Maverick’s wounds and left them alone again. With another sigh, Kenneth dipped the cloth in the tea and wrung it out. Gently, he moved Maverick’s arm to expose a large bite mark. Shivering, he pressed the damp cloth to the wound. Softly, the young woman hissed, opening her eyes slightly to look at Kenneth. The man pulled the cloth away to see the wound bleeding freely. He reached over and grabbed a piece of gauze that Edmund had left. Quickly, Kenneth replaced the cloth with the gauze and wrapped Maverick’s arm.

Slowly and efficiently, he dressed each wound as Maverick watched him closely. Soon, he was sweating in concentration which forced him to remove his jacket and vest. His suspenders hung around his hips as he finished tying a bandage high on Maverick’s thigh. With some difficulty, she propped herself on her elbows to look at her dirt- and blood-smeared frock. She carefully inspected each bandage and finally nodded. Her piercing green eyes met Kenneth’s soft blue ones, and Maverick silently thanked him.

Over the next week, Kenneth got to know Maverick very well. She was what most people would call crazed, as she ate raw and bloody meats as well as young onion sprouts. But Kenneth didn’t mind preparing her meals and bringing them to her in her room. Her room was on the side of the castle, in what Edmund said had been the princess’s old room. The bed’s canopy had come down long ago and it was little more than a few mattresses stacked on one another with a nest of pillow, blankets and books on top. He discovered that Maverick could read, and quite enjoyed doing so, especially the plays of a British playwright named William Shakespeare.

On the fifth day, Kenneth brought up a tray of fresh deer meat decorated with chopped onion sprouts and a goblet of water from the fountain in the courtyard. Maverick was hidden in her nest, resting. The young man placed the tray on the edge of the bed, reached over and stroked the tangled mess poking out of the blankets. Maverick slowly emerged, sniffed the air.

Kenneth smiled to see she was still clutching the book she’d been reading the night before, a play called Macbeth. She placed the book to one side and pulled the tray to her, picking the meat up with her bare hands and tearing into it. Kenneth picked up the play, skimming the first page.

How is the food? he asked as Maverick lifted the goblet to her blood-stained lips. She nodded, swallowing before talking.

Very good. You are taking such fine care of me during my injury, Outsider. How could I thank-you? The young man smiled, looking down at his lap.

Well, for starters, you could call me by my given name.

Maverick considered this as she chewed a particularly tough piece of meat. After swallowing, she nodded.

Very well, Kenneth. His gaze returned to her face.

Second, perhaps we could have dinner together? This surprised Maverick. She looked down at what was left of her meat and the blood that covered her hands.

Are you so sure you would want to eat in the same room as me?

Kenneth chuckled, Yes. I’d like to have dinner with you, Maverick. You’ve healed nicely, so we could have dinner and dancing. At her unsure expression, he added, And I will play for you.

 
        — excerpt