The moment I heard of Gaston’s fall, I felt an odd sense of freedom. It wasn’t an all out and out push of momentum--it was more of a quiet, sad sort of relief. I didn’t have to lie anymore. I could just pretend it had never happened--that love that I had felt for him, the admiration--and I could move on with my life.
It didn’t really hit me until I was looking in a mirror the day of the ball. Everyone’s memories had been restored, bit by bit, until the entire village and castle folk remembered each other. The Beast had been a prince. Loved ones were reunited. And yet--and yet, there was no Gaston. In trade for our new found memories, the memory of the man I had secretly yearned for...he was gone.
I did not weep. It wasn’t like me to cry, not really. I wasn’t sure if I could cry over him, after what he had done. Everyone knew, now. Everyone knew that even I didn’t mean anything to him. In the end, I doubt even Belle did. It was all him--all that ego and fluttering pride.
Silently, I resigned myself to loneliness for the rest of my days.
The mirror shimmered, reflecting my image back at me. I stared into it for some time, straightening this, fixing that, until there was nothing left to fuss with. The new moustache I had grown felt funny on my face. I twitched my upper lip and watched it dance, a patch of black fur. I sighed deeply.
At the ball, I danced with women. It was expected of me. I twirled and spun, spinning them into an orbit of white. There was laughter. Mine was forced--I didn’t belong here. Panic started to set in my chest as I held the hand of the next woman. Again, again, again.
Then there was a rough hand in mine.
I looked up, surprised to see that I was suddenly dancing with Stanley, of all people. He looked as surprised as I was, but his face quickly softened into a smile. I watched his lips twitch ever upward. Swallowing, I felt that I was looking at a different kind of beauty suddenly, and my heart tightened in my chest.
“Pardon me,” he said once the dance was through. “I didn’t realize--I must have gotten away from my partner--”
“It’s okay,” I replied. I licked my lips a little. “Would you care for a drink? I think there’s punch. If there isn’t, there certainly should be.”
He laughed a little. “Of course. I’ll go with you.” He followed at my heels as we exited the dance floor. We, together, found the punch bowl and drank after he tipped a little something into our glasses. It left me feeling light headed and hot all at once; I liked it.
“It’s awfully warm in here,” I offered, hoping Stanley would take the hint. We moved as one again, exiting the castle all together for the front gardens. There was no snow anymore; rather, it was a lovely June day with the sun beating down upon our heads. In all honesty, it was probably warmer outside than within, but neither of us really minded.
Silently, we found each other beneath a twisting rose bush with snow white petals dancing gracefully downward. It took a few breaths to realize I was holding this hand, and he, mine.
I forgot about Gaston that day, completely and totally, as Stanley and I found each other.