Read Part 1 – Calla
Read Part 2 – Tower
Read Part 3 – Beast
Read Part 4 – Rose
Read Part 5 – Quest
Read Part 6 – Banished
ONE YEAR LATER
Ash was up early. Early morning light slipped through the cracks in the drapes, giving the room a purplish hue. Calla yawned, then slipped out of bed reluctantly. The air was cold on her skin. She lifted her son from his crib and relished his sweet early morning baby scent. Edgar told her he could hire a fleet of nannies and baby nurses to come running every time Ash as much as whimpered, but she refused. She trusted no one.
Catherine visited often, always wanting another look at her beautiful grandson. He was perfect. He had his father’s pale complexion and dark hair, but his mother’s soulful brown eyes and full pink lips. She ran her finger over her son’s smooth skin as she fed him, smiling when his eyes locked on hers. It was her favorite time of day.
She and Edgar had married in secret days after she’d agreed to return to the mansion with him. A judge, an old family friend, had been summoned to the property. They’d stood, Calla in a hideous, puffed-sleeved ivory gown, selected by Edgar of course, Edgar in his dinner tux, under the archway in the parlor, rushing through their vows. Calla looked at the floor the entire time.
After they wed, Edgar didn’t come to her room many nights, only a few. She always thought of something else, another place, a time long ago when she was happy, until it was over. The rest of the time was for her and Ash. She read to him, sang him lullabies, took him on long walks in the sun on the beautiful grounds, which were now tended by a team of gardeners. Edgar was happier now that Catherine had finally released all of his inheritance, and rarely lost his temper. He was obsessed with restoring the mansion to its original glory, as well as traveling the country looking for a doctor who would perform the risky, life-threatening surgery to repair his face. Since the growth was engorged with blood, there was a chance for irreparable blood loss during the operation. He thought it was worth the risk. Maybe he held onto some futile hope that one day she would actually love him.
There was a knock at the bedroom door. Breakfast. She ate all of her meals in her room now with her most favorite, and adorable, dining companion. Esme, the new housekeeper, entered the room, carrying a tray that she set on the bedside table. She hadn’t warmed to Esme yet; the sight of her just made her miss Rose, plus she envied that the staff went home at night to homes filled with warm light and happiness, the laughter and footfalls of loving spouses and extended family.
“Mr. Henry wanted me to leave this too, ma’am,” Esme said, placing a folded newspaper next to the tray.
“Thank you,” Calla said with a tight smile, putting Ash on her shoulder and patting his back, hoping to elicit a burp.
“I can take him for a bit if you’d like,” Esme offered, extending her arms. “I have experience with infants.” Calla had overheard Edgar ask Esme to help more with the baby when he thought she was out of earshot.
“I appreciate that, but it’s okay. I prefer to keep him with me.”
Her face fell before she left the room, and Calla felt terrible. Esme probably thought she hated her. She just couldn’t risk letting Ash out of her sight. Ultimately, Esme’s loyalty lied with Edgar, not her.
Bouncing Ash on one arm, she reached for the paper. It wasn’t local, dated a week ago, in a city on the other side of the country. She opened it to see a short article, no more than a paragraph really, circled in dark red ink. Her knees gave when she saw the picture of the woman next to the article, and she sank onto the bed, keeping a tight grip on Ash. The name was different, but it was Rose. Her Rose. She’d been found murdered.
Ash began to whimper. She clutched him close to her chest and they wept together.
Read the final installment – Rescued
My favorite prompt during Story A Day in May was Rewrite a Fairy Tale, so I decided to tackle it again, this time with Beauty and the Beast in a serial form.