Belle didn’t like beer. Beer was sticky and tasted strange. She preferred wine, but the tavern didn’t have any, so she took beer. Beer should have made her forget, but then there was a soft-heart dwarf talking about feeling bad, and she couldn’t keep it all in.
He was a silly dwarf, so silly, for not knowing that his friend wanted him to go with her. Belle always knew that her friend wanted her to be with him. He set her free after all, gave her leave to run all the way home to papa. He let her go, even though he said forever, and he was stupid and it was all stupid, and the beer lied.
Belle peered into the mug. Mug was a good word. Big and sturdy.
Rumpelstiltskin wasn’t a good word. It was a stupid word, all long and tangled up, like his stupid, stupid golden threads. His head was all tangled up too, if he thought she would tell some silly Queen about him. He was all tangled up! He was a stupid tangled-up all-cursed and magic thing with more stupid than he had any right to have, and he didn’t even know it.
“Right!” she declared, getting up. The tavern tilted sideways and she leaned on the table. “I’m going to tell him what an idiot he is!”
“Goo’ for you,” someone called.
“Yeah!” She said, waving a finger at the ceiling. “Good for me! Stupid man and his stupid shouting and not believing me.”
She stumbled towards the door. The floor was all wobbling all over the place, and she had to hold the doorframe to make it stay still. Place must be built on water, it was wobbling so much.
Outside was cool and nice and didn’t smell of beer and men.
Belle walked in a circle. She had walked here, and she could walk back, but the roads were all being tricky and dark and same-looking. She frowned at one, then frowned at the next, and they wouldn’t stay still.
“Scuse me!” She grabbed a man who was walking past. “Which way?”
“No,” she said, pointing a finger at his nose. “That’s what I asked you.”
He looked cross-eyed at her finger. “Which way do you want to know?”
“The way back,” she said with a nod. “I want to know the way back.”
He shook his head. “The way back to where?”
“Back there!” She pushed him away and tottered back towards the road. “Drunk! Can’t answer a question straight!” She put her hands on her hips and peered down at the mud. “Aha! I walked this way! I can see my shoes!” She turned to the man, who was still staring at her. “Did you see my shoes?”
“No, Miss?” he said. “I’m just going to… go inside.”
She threw her arms up. “Useless and drunk,” she informed the sky. “Just like him as well, but not so scaly.” She grabbed her skirt in her hands, pulling it up and stamped out onto the mud. It was all squelchy like pudding and she made a face. “Yuck. This is all his fault.”
No one answered but she scowled at the mud as she stamped on. “It is, you know. His fault. Told me to go and leave and not come back, and he didn’t stop kissing me, did he? Oh, no. No, that was all fine and lovely until he went pink.”
He didn’t look not-like him, but he didn’t look like him either. Pink nose. Brown eyes. Pink mouth that was soft. He looked nice like that. Older, but nice and she wished he had kissed her like that too.
“Stupid!” she yelled, looking up at the sky. “Why is he a stupid?”
The sky started raining on her.
“You’re stupid too!” she yelled, waving a finger at it.
She stamped onwards, getting stickier and wetter and colder, and then a big carriage went sweeping past and she was covered in mud.
The door of the carriage opened. “Did my carriage splash you?”
Belle’s eyes narrowed. She knew that voice. That was the voice of the Queen, the one who made him all cross and grumpy and throw her out. She bent down and picked up a handful of mud and hurled it right at the carriage. It went splat right on the side.
She managed to throw three sticky blobs before the black-clad guards grabbed her. She was bundled up in a cloak and tied up to keep her from throwing any more mud, and they threw her into the back of the carriage where the Queen was.
“Hello, dear,” she said, smiling, all dark red mouth and meanness.
Belle stuck out her tongue, puffed out her cheeks and blew a raspberry, the rudest and loudest she had ever made since she was introduced to Gaston when she was ten. The Queen stopped smiling and Belle felt quite pleased with herself, so she did it again.
“Now, is that any way for a lady to behave?” the Queen said sharply, looking at her.
Belle struggled to sit up on the carriage floor. “I don’t know,” she said, “Why don’t you ask one?”
The Queen’s mouth pulled into a tight, angry little hole.
“Your face looks like a dog’s bottom with make-up on,” Belle declared.
The Queen snapped her fingers and Belle was hoisted up onto the seat. “Enough insolence.”
Belle made a face at her. “Enough kidnapping me too, then,” she said. “I don’t want to be kidnapped.”
“A pity, dear, because that is what you have been.”
Belle crossed her eyes and frowned. “If you kidnapped me and I don’t want it, then if you don’t want insolence, I can do that,” she said.
“You’re drunk, child, and can barely stand,” the Queen said, laughing. “You think you can really do anything that will cause me concern?”
Belle leaned forward carefully. “You,” she said carefully, making sure every word came out clearly, “have stupid hair.”
“Oh, see how I am grieved,” the Queen said with a dismissive wave.
“You should,” Belle said. “You look like a bird crashed into your head.” She giggled suddenly. “Is that your name? Dog-bum-face feather-head?”
The Queen stopped laughing and was all glaring and dark-eyed, but Belle wasn’t scared of any silly Queen with feathers in her hair. Belle loved Rumpelstiltskin and Rumpelstiltskin was the scariest man in the world. Every one said so. So how could she be scared of a Queen who he said couldn’t defeat him.
“You’ll regret your insolence,” the Queen said.
“Doubt it,” Belle said happily. “But you’ll regret that hairstyle.”
The Queen snapped her fingers again and a cloth wrapped around Belle’s mouth.
“You’re coming with me, little girl,” she said coldly. “You’ll never see your family or your precious Rumpelstiltskin ever again.”
Belle crossed her eyes. It was all she could do with the gag in place. You’ll never defeat him, dearie, she thought, swaying on the seat. No matter what you do, my stupid idiot is still much better than you.