I knew I’d get around to it eventually. When I posted Beastly, Part I, I did not realize that my life would be taken over by my decision to become a vegetarian.
Fortunately, I have my husband to remind me that it is bad manners and poor self-marketing to leave a story unfinished.
So now, after long delay and several empty promises, I give you Beastly, Part II:
The extensive wine cellar was the only thing that got AnaMadeline through the next few days.
Interaction with the creature continued much as it had that first night. Brute – as she called him – appeared only when she ate, and reminded her that all she need do was accept him and they would be free. As soon as the initial shock of him wore off, AnaMadeline didn’t hesitate to answer honestly.
“Fat chance,” was her usual reply, spoken around mouthfuls of roasted squash and apricot preserves.
Brute never tried to touch her, or even make a move in her direction, but she knew he was only interested in one thing, and that once he got it, he would surely eat her. The hogwash about spells and marriage didn’t fool AnaMadeline. Brute wasn’t the marrying type, and even if he were, he hadn’t mentioned anything about the spell keeping anyone on the property. Why couldn’t he go out and find someone on his own?
The upside to the whole ordeal was that her day-to-day living situation was quite an improvement over her father’s cottage. Her room in the beach house was lovely and soft, and furnished with every necessity. As far as she could tell, there was no one in the place other than Brute and herself, and the seemingly invisible beings that provided for every need and want.
The passage of time and comfortable surroundings lulled AnaMadeline into an aimless daze. She began to feel detached, and realized that the weeks of rich food and sleeping in were making her fat.
Fortunately, the house’s expansive library, grounds, and extremely accessible and newly renovated kitchen offered plenty of stimulating activity. AnaMadeline started taking two walks a day, joining the sheep in rolling down the hills, and strolling in the gardens. The exercised justified her budding enthusiasm for traditional French cooking, which she was slowly mastering in the afternoons. Her evenings were spent in guilty pleasure: romance novels and lusty historical fiction.
To amuse herself, AnaMadeline started pretending she was simply at a quiet ladies’ school for the domestic arts. But the fantasy was always destroyed when, on his rounds, Brute would discover her in the midst of pastry decoration or creative dance. There he’d be, hungrily eyeing the whipped icing, or her latest interpretation of Gregorian chant.
On one such occasion, Ana Madeline expressed her displeasure with the intrusion.
“You know, it ruins my concentration when I notice you there.”
“My apologies, lady. You see, I so rarely get the chance to see other people, and then just from a great distance. You dance so well, and are so beautiful. Might I watch you, just a little while?” He gazed at her in his way, and any allowance she might have made vanished with his words.
“No. I am off to take my nap. I’ve finished dancing for today.” As she turned to go, AnaMadeline decided to test how Brute took to a woman’s input concerning household upkeep. Not that it made a bit of difference, but it might come in handy, since it seemed they were to share the property for quite some time.
“I have noticed that some of your flowers in the north garden are looking parched. And today three sheep nearly fell off the cliffs into the sea. Perhaps you could see to that?” She then raised one eyebrow, a tactic she’d seen more powerful men use on her poor middle class father, usually causing him to grovel and spew promises of results.
“Of course, if it pleases you. Anything to make you happier here.” Brute’s manner had resumed its usual air of an inn manager trying to better accommodate his guests. Why did he care a bit for her comfort in the first place?
“Goodnight,” Ana Madeline replied.
“Goodnight,” he murmured.
Ana Madeline quickly retreated to her rooms. After locking the door and removing her house dress, she slipped into a warm milk bath and thought hard about the progression of events since her arrival at the beach house. If she was going to be honest with herself – and she usually was – it was tough to deny that life at Brute’s beach house wasn’t so bad…
She was drowning.
AnaMadeline saw her brief and humble life in a blur: Holidays full of craggy relatives, aspic, and her father’s drunken laughter. Convincing girlfriends to practice tongue kissing behind the stable. Her mother’s sudden and permanent visit to a small coastal village. Pathetic blind dates set up by a boy-crazy cousin. Quite moments talking to the horses and collecting cranberries on the farm.
And finally, that last look at the cottage, before everything turned black and there was nothing but the sea, and a calm voice telling her over and over again that if she just gave in, everything would be alright…
AnaMadeline popped, gasping and shrieking, out of her lukewarm bath. She looked around the room – her room. This was it. This was her life. There was no one to compete with, nothing to wish for.
And nothing to look forward to. Finery and cultural enrichment were nice and all, but when it came down to it, whom would she impress? With whom would she share it? Who would care?
What if she never found a way back through the woods? What if Brute caught her and ate her?
But then, why hadn’t the creature already forced himself upon her, and used her for his own satisfaction?
What if he couldn’t?
AnaMadeline froze, milk and water dripping off her body.
What if Brute hadn’t been lying about the spell?
She was stuck.
It became clear at that moment that there was one, and only one, clear answer. And since she had always considered herself a practical person, she decided to make do.
There was nothing for it. If she was going to do this, she would have to be realistic. And she would have to be drunk.
AnaMadeline made her way down to the wine cellars, and threw back most of a bottle of their best year. She let the red liquid run down her chin and onto her thin yellow shift. Clutching the bottle in one hand, then wiping her mouth and flipping back her wet hair with the other, she teetered back up to the main floor.
With utter disregard for whatever might happen, perhaps hoping it would happen, she stumbled around the hall yelling “Brute! Come and get me! I am here and I am recklessly inebriated and I am yours for the taking! I need to be held, even if it means my death!” She spat out “death”, hoping to entice the animal, and blood lust, in her host.
But there was no answer.
AnaMadeline continued her brash behavior until she was out of breath. Then she crumpled on the floor crying, because even a freak like Brute wasn’t there for her.
How perfect, that there was finally a… a man, who seemed to have all that any woman AnaMadeline had ever known had always wanted, and sure he was a beast, but he was a nice enough guy.
And here she was, offering herself to him because she thought she knew what he wanted, and had resigned herself to almost wanting it too, and now, he was ignoring her.
A long life of wine, the company of sheep, and restless quiet stretched out before AnaMadeline. Crying suddenly seemed very pointless. Might as well save some of that misery for the coming decades.
Dejected, she started the long walk back to her rooms, but stopped at a mirror hanging on the wall. When she looked into it, she saw her own tear-stained face staring back at her.
Then, silently, Brute came up behind and grinned at her reflection.
“Ana,” he said softly.
Embarrassed, and, for the first time in his presence, without much to say, Ana Madeline raised both eyebrows at Brute and gave him the faintest little smile. She turned to face him.
“It’s AnaMadeline.” He waited patiently for the rest.
“I have nothing else to do. I can make bread and tango and read aloud wonderfully, but for whom? I need to feel another person, or whoever else is available. For whatever reason, you seem to like me enough not to destroy me, and that’s more than a lot of girls can say for themselves. If your offer still stands, I will marry you and share your bed.”
Unexpectedly, Brute maintained his calm manner and detached air, though she thought she detected a slight tensing in his shoulders. “I have no priest, although I’m not sure if…”
“Well then let’s just do it.”
AnaMadeline downed another swallow, and thrust the wine into his giant fist. Brute said nothing, but gulped a drink that would intoxicate a lion. Then he looked at her as if for confirmation. Ana Madeline took back the bottle and pointed in the direction of Brute’s corridors. He put out a trembling paw, which she also took, and led her to his bedchamber.
Not at all like she was anticipating, Brute’s apartments were in perfect order, and smelled of roses and sandalwood. It was a pleasant atmosphere, and they found themselves chatting about raw food diets and his collection of modern art.
Eventually though, the bed seemed to loom larger in its corner. Conversation tapered off into silence, and Brute cleared his throat before standing up to cross the room.
Banishing all thoughts of the potential consequences of what she was about to do, AnaMadeline quickly threw her wine-stained shift over her head. Brute, who had been poking at the fire, turned just in time to see her crawl slowly onto his inviting bed, keeping her eyes determinedly fixed on his.
Naked and anxious, yet strangely, not afraid, AnaMadeline settled herself on the comforter. Still holding his eyes, she crooked a finger and patted the space next to her hip. Brute walked over, slowly eased down next to her, and began to loosen his scarf.
It took a full hour for him to undress. Whether shy or insecure, Brute was perfectly content to simply look at AnaMadeline, and gently stroke her body. When she finally got him out of his robe and matching lounge pants, he promptly leaned over and blew out the solitary candle.
Moonlight streamed in to give their two contrasting bodies a similar hue. AnaMadeline then touched him as he had her, and was greeted with a healthy male response. Brute tried to suppress his audible pleasure, but was unable to do so when she straddled his thighs and finished the deed. The entire process lasted only a moment.
Afterward, AnaMadeline felt herself sobering up, but somehow not revolted, as she’d prepared herself to be. Next to her, Brute was breathing heavily and smiling, she thought, at nothing and everything. But then his arms and legs stiffened, and a blinding light filled the bed chamber. AnaMadeline had no time to react, and simply stared at her companion in wonderment.
Before her eyes he was transformed into a rather handsome man with only the slightest pudge and receding hairline. After inspecting himself thoroughly, he turned to the dumbstruck woman still wrapped in his bed sheets.
“You’d better be the same next time,” was all she said.
Not completely sure what she’d meant, Brute wrapped his arms around AnaMadeline, and promised her that even if it had just been the wine before, he was now the happiest man alive, and would take care of her forever.
The couple enjoyed more wine and got reacquainted, in a sense. They even took a walk to ensure that they could, in fact, leave the property. Now more at ease, being back in his own skin, Brute related his entire history. It was a lot to take in, but AnaMadeline learned from the tale that it is unwise to refuse the favors of a wandering drag queen, especially one with voodoo capabilities and a fondness for fur.
She also learned the true name of her new-found true love.
But AnaMadeline insisted on continuing to call her lover Brute.
“It helps keep the relationship fresh, you know, reminds me of the early excitement,” she’d tell the other women from the village, with a well-placed little shiver of delight.
In the years after, they had many children, and AnaMadeline kept up with all her hobbies. Her father came to live at the beach house, and Terry was lodged with a stable full of mares. It was not exactly a fairy tale, but it worked, and Ana Madeline only seldom wondered how it might have otherwise been.