Beauty or a Beast – Part 2

Beauty or a Beast – Part 2

If you haven’t read the beginning of Beauty or a Beast, you can find it here.

“Where are we going anyway?” Nell asked. 

“Somewhere I know you’ll love,” Silas replied.

“But you barely know me!”

“I know enough,” he said with a smirk.

Nell wasn’t sure how to take the comment. She was unsure about Silas as well. In some moments he seemed shy and earnest, other times too charming and full of secrets. But she decided she’d at least see where he was taking her before she made up her mind about him. She hoped she wouldn’t regret it.

They walked along through the snow until they came to a small brick-and-mortar building. There was a faded wooden sign on the outside, but the words were illegible. Silas led her up the steps and opened the door for her. 

While her eyes adjusted to the dimness after the bright white of the outdoors, her nose was accosted by a familiar earthy scent of wood and mildew. Before she even saw her surroundings, she knew she was in a bookstore.

Nell laughed lightly into the sacred quiet of the shelves. “Of course, any book-lover would want to come to a bookstore. I should’ve known.”

“Not just any bookstore,” Silas said with an open-hand gesture at the shop. “My favorite.”

Nell’s vision became clear, and her jaw dropped. It was a two-story bookstore with wooden panels and railings, rolling ladders leading up to towering shelves of mostly leather-bound volumes. This wasn’t your modern bookshop. The texts looked old, but well cared for, and soft leather chairs were placed throughout. 

“How did you find this place?” Nell whispered in awe.

Just then, an elderly man ambled over. “Welcome to Word to the Wise. Have a look around; bother me if you must.” As the man turned to Silas, the edge of his face seemed to smudge on the side next to her. The man nodded at Silas, then promptly turned away and went back to his seat behind an ornate wooden desk and covered his face with a book. 

Nell raised an eyebrow and looked sideways at Silas. “I’m assuming the grumpy old man is not the reason this bookstore is your favorite.” 

Silas grinned. “He’s not as gruff as he seems. He just takes time to warm up.”He grabbed her hand and led her toward the stairs. “But I’ll show you why I come here.”

The winding stairs creaked as they walked upward. Nell inhaled the scent of old books deep into her lungs, following Silas through a maze of shelves to the far corner of the shop. He stopped in front of an alcove with “Rare Books” carved into the archway. Dangling below was a wooden sign that read “Absolutely NO Touching”. Below that was a smaller sign that said “Only ask for help if you’re interested in purchasing.” 

She coughed out a laugh, trying to cover it with her hand. Silas just smiled at her knowingly and tugged her under the arch. 

Nell spun in a circle taking in the gorgeous collection. The alcove was filled with small pedestals recessed into the wall. Each pedestal held an old leather volume. It took all of her self-control not to run a finger across the covers and flip open the books to smell their ancient pages. 

“I can see why you love it,” Nell whispered. “Even if I probably couldn’t afford a single book in this room, I could sit here and stare at them all day.”

Silas smiled and scanned the titles. “I wonder if he found anything new since my last visit.”

“You know, when I first saw you, I wouldn’t have thought you were into rare old books.” she teased. 

Silas’ eyes darkened and deep emotion flickered across his face. “People seem to…misjudge me.”

Nell’s stomach felt like she had eaten a spoiled meal. She had the feeling she’d said something terribly wrong. Grasping for the right words, she decided to go with the truth. “I’m glad I’m getting to know you beyond that first impression.”

The storm that had crossed his face calmed. “Would you like to get to know each other more? I could make you dinner tomorrow night and show you my book collection.”

“Of course.” Nell beamed up at him. She couldn’t believe just this morning they had started their day at the coffee shop as strangers. It seemed like they had known each other for years. 

The next evening, Nell smoothed down her dress and turned from side to side in front of the mirror. Then she shrugged, grabbed her purse, and headed out the door. Her thoughts were racing as she drove to Silas’ house for their first date.

She felt a pull to him, a connection between two people with similar passions who just wanted to be understood. But there was also a part of him that was walled off from her. Something in her gut told her it might be a bigger secret than she could imagine. 

She shook her head. She was being absurd. They had only spent one day together. Of course, he was not going to reveal all his secrets yet. But she hoped to earn his trust in time. 

Silas opened the door with a wide grin. “Dinner will be ready in about half an hour. I thought I could show you my library while we wait.”

Nell laughed at his excitement and followed him through the house, as he gave her a tour. When they reached his library, he opened the door with a flourish. The room had floor-to-ceiling shelves covering every inch of the walls. A large wooden desk sat in the middle of the room with a stack of books on every corner. 

She turned to Silas. She wanted to learn more about him and his collection.  “What’s your best find from Word to the Wise?”

“A History of Curses,” he answered without a thought.

“Intriguing,” she replied. She wasn’t sure what answer she expected, but that wasn’t it. It made sense now why he had seemed interested in her fantasy reading. She was pleased to find they shared an interest in the occult. “Why is that your favorite?”

“It gave me…insight.”

“Insight? Into what?” she asked.

“Well,” he scratched his head, “into history…and curses.” 

She chuckled, and there was an awkward silence.

“Would you like to see it?” Silas asked, running a hand through his hair.

“I would love to!”

He walked over to his desk and lifted a large book with a cover of burgundy leather from atop one of the stacks. He held it out to her, and she took it gently. She ran her fingers over the soft, worn leather and smiled up at Silas. 

A timer went off in the kitchen. “Time to put in the bread,” he said. “I’ll be right back. Look around.” He gestured with his hand at the shelves.

Once Silas left the room, she began flipping through the pages of “A History of Curses” and one image caught her eye. The contorted, blurry face pulled at her memory. She started to read the text beneath, and her brows crinkled. 

The section was about Glamours. It said that a tell-tale sign that Glamour magic was being used was the blurring or smudging of the bearer’s face or body as different people viewed the bespelled area of the body. 

Nell’s eyes widened. She had thought she was tired or something was wrong with her eyes each time Silas’ face blurred, because of course that was the only logical explanation. But what if there was a supernatural explanation? Every time it had happened, they’d been around other people – the girl at the coffee shop and the man in the bookstore. Could magic be real?

What did it mean if it was? Was Silas a monster Glamoured to look human? Had he been trying to lure her here for some nefarious purpose?

Just then, Silas returned. He took one look at her expression and the open book in her hands, and his face twisted. 

“I can explain,” he told her.

Nell backed away. “Why did you bring me here? Are you going to hurt me?” she asked, but as soon as the words left her mouth, they felt wrong. Silas’ face was full of pain, not cruelty.

“I wanted you to get to know the real me, the me behind this perfect mask,” he spat the last two words. 

“You…don’t want to look like that?” The realization dawned on her. “You didn’t Glamour yourself did you?”

He shook his head roughly as if he could fling away the spell over his skin. “I was unhappy and a witch offered to help me,” he choked out. “You must be careful of witches. Sometimes a curse can be disguised as a blessing.” 

His tone was bitter as he went on. “She put a Glamour on me to be whatever those who looked at me most desired. At first, I was thrilled by all the attention. I thought I would finally find love, that women would give me more than a second glance. But I soon realized their affections were shallow. No one cared to get to know the me inside when they already saw everything they wanted on the outside. 

“I returned to the witch to ask her to remove the Glamour, but she refused. She told me I must pay the price for my shallowness. That’s when I became obsessed with the rare books on magic. I was trying to find a way to break the curse.”

“And did you find it?” Nell whispered.

Silas scoffed. “True love, of course. The one thing I had been seeking but could never attain, especially not with this Glamour masking who I am.”

Nell’s heart cracked for him, just as it had cracked many times for each of her own heartbreaks. He just wanted to be seen and loved. She realized all that she wanted was to see the real Silas.

At once, his face began to blur and shift. She stepped forward and ran a finger over his crooked nose and thick eyebrows. The eyes underneath were your average brown, but they were kind. They looked at her with such vulnerability, and also confusion. She pulled a compact mirror out of her bag and held it up to him.

Silas gasped. “I’d almost forgotten..” the word trailed off, as he turned his face to examine it. After a moment, he looked at Nell with a question in his eyes. 

“You asked me when we first met if I believed in magic. Well, I think there’s something magical about you just the way you are.”

Silas reached for Nell and pulled her into an embrace. He kissed her softly, his lips uncertain, but they were his at last.

What did you think of the story? Did the ending surprise you? Clever has always wanted to write a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, her favorite fairy tale. What’s your favorite fairy tale?

Thanks so much for reading!

-Clever and WTF

2 thoughts on “Beauty or a Beast – Part 2

Leave a Reply