Okay guys, so the first three chapters are more of a prologue, so if you really want to get to the action, I give you permission (ha) to skip ahead to chapter four; thanks so much for all you do!

Please let me know what you think!!

Bella and the Beast

I was always different. And not just in looks, either. My eldest sister, Renee, had shining honey-blond hair, complemented nicely by lovely beryl-blue eyes. My other sister, Angela, had mahogany hair that fell in gentle curls, like the kind made with a round hot iron, and large emerald eyes. They both had a perfect complexion and delicate features. I, on the other hand, had light brown hair that curled when damp, but not when wet or dry. My eyes were a similar shade of brown. My complexion was fairly inconsistent; it would be perfect one day, then break out in spots the next.

No, I was different because I loved to read. Although I inhaled Euripides and Homer, I harbored a secret love for fairy tales. Wishing wells, wicked queens, charming princes- they were all so foreign to me. And the magic! Because I had never visited the country, where magic abounded, I had never seen it. But that was all about to change.

In the summer of my sixteenth year, Mother became ill. My sisters and I did all we could for her, but she eventually died. A kind neighbor was able to arrange for us to live with our father, in the north. We sold most of our belongings in order to buy a strong horse for the journey. He was a beautiful dark dapple grey with white stockings, and Renee immediately named him Philippe- a kingly name for a kingly horse. I was able to hold on to my most prized possessions: my favorite books, the quilt Mother made for me when I was a child, several changes of clothes, and a beautiful string of pearls Mother left to me in her will. I was also able to hang to Zeus, our gigantic harlequin Dane. Although we had bought him for protection, (after all, we were four women living alone,) he turned out to be a giant puppy at heart. But he did serve his purpose by showing off his massive size.

We headed north early the next spring with a caravan of traders. Several of the older men took it upon themselves to make sure we were comfortable at night- well, as comfortable as could be expected. My sisters and I took turns riding in the small wagon Philippe pulled, and on Philippe himself. Zeus spent most of his time running alongside the caravan, reveling in his new freedom. He became lean and toned, and his coat, though not always clean, took on a healthier gleam.

We arrived at our father's town in late May, just in time for my birthday. Father had planned a party, celebrating our safe journey and my birthday. Most of the town came, and we were able to meet of the villagers. There was much laughing and dancing. At one point I noticed 22-year-old Renee talking to a handsome man in his late twenties, who I later learned was named Fritz. They seemed to get along quite nicely, and I wondered whether he would come calling soon. I imagined the expression on Father's face when he heard a man would want to court one of his newly-arrived daughters, of which whom he had barely been reacquainted.

Later that night Angela came into my room. She told me of the stories she had heard from the townspeople, of the forest and its dangers. They told her of the monsters that lived inside, and that although the quickest way to the next village was through the woods, everyone went the few extra miles around. I was able to calm her down, and she crawled in bed with me. Even though she was older than I by two years, she was the more delicate one, who couldn't kill a spider even if it was dying. As she fell asleep next to me, I pondered her words. I had noticed the lack of forest animals during the day, but had thought nothing of it. Now I realized that even the birds stayed away from the forest, keeping to the trees in the center of town. I put the information to the back of my mind; I needed my sleep, for tomorrow was our first day of real work.

Pics on profile of Renee's eye color and Zeus.