I'm doing this thing on Tumblr where every now and then, I open up the floor to five-word-and-under prompts from the people lurking me. Then, I take the prompts, and write heartbreaking Rumpelstiltskin things.
This prompt was: The world is becoming smaller
The World is Becoming Smaller
The world is such a very full place. Everything a man—aha, whoops, well, everything he could want in any case, whatever it is that he is these days. Oh yes, the world is such a very enormous place.
He has more gold than he could ever spend. The magic, the means, the time, the skill – and skill is in such a very short supply these days, not that he had anything at all to do with that, mind you – all the tricks and tools of trade that one could ever need to make this fat bellied world a sweet little nest to sleep in.
He has all that.
He has much, much more than that.
Belle smiles at him over supper when she thinks he isn't looking. Then quick, so quick, such a sharp little rabbit, those searching eyes dart down into her soup again. But the smile is still there. Hidden. Like a kiss. In the very corner of her mouth.
Belle touches his hand when he appears unexpectedly in the library. She is so, so excited to tell him of the newest story she's found, as if he has not read every book in this ill-begotten library of his several times over for want of company. She tells him this story, her fingers on his hand, on his shoulder, on his elbow and he leans in, leans in, and thinks he does not remember this story, not the way she tells it. But he much prefers her version to his own.
Belle dances with him. Unexpectedly. At least, he does not expect it. But she must. Or else she would not have swept him up – like a wind, like a wife with a husband just home from the war – when he brings home a golden harp that plays by itself. He can't make it work and he is frustrated, he is raging. But she laughs. She laughs and she asks, only asks the dumb, wretched thing,touches a hand just so on its sweet little cherub face and it plays, it plays—and she sweeps him up and it does not matter that he cannot dance, does not dance. He learns in her arms. In her happy eyes and laughing mouth, he dances.
Belle knows him. Keeps him. She smiles when he is sharp; she soothes when he is sullen. She knows his roughest corners, his sharpest teeth, his bloodiest claws, and she bats them all away, easy as kittens.
And Rumpelstiltskin realizes, one day, that this very, very large world of his is becoming so much smaller. Becoming precisely the exact size and shape of the smiling, book-hugging woman he finds standing in his foyer one night (of all places), watching as he walks up the drive. Waiting, she says, for him to come home.
This will all end badly. The world is becoming smaller. Any smaller, and there will not be places in it for the both of them. But Belle has been waiting for him to come home. She is so happy to see him.
No one is happy to see him, not ever. But here, this woman is standing barefoot and bed-disheveled in his foyer, waiting for him (of all people). And when he slips in the door, she puts the book to one side and forgets it immediately.
Because he has the tiniest little scratch on his chin. As if scratches on chins were ogres on the horizon.
He can see the way this ends. Or he could, if he wanted. But Rumpelstiltskin does not want and so he does not look. He closes his eyes, and he leans into the arms closed around him and he is careful not to step on sweet bare feet in his enormous muddied boots.
Because the world is shrinking yes, oh yes. But right now, he is warm in the circle of Belle's arms, and the world is just the right size.