Isabella was lying on the bed, staring up at the painted ceiling, when a voice suddenly called, making her jump.
"Hello…who are you?"
"Which "who" are you referring to mademoiselle?" asked a second voice.
Sitting up, examining where the sounds were coming from, she answered, "Everyone I guess..."
"That's an awfully long list, maiden," said a third voice, chuckling slightly.
"In the castle?" she retorted, staring incredulously at her ceiling. "What's going on here?"
"That is a very long story mademoiselle. We wouldn't want to bore you…" said a fourth voice.
"I don't care about boredom. I want some answers. Who is this "we" you're all referring to?"
"We live here…we were once as you are now…in a solid form…" answered a fifth voice.
"Then how did yo- wait a minute! This is nonsense! Sitting here, talking to walls! I surely must be losing my mind!"
"I can assure you, fair lady, that you are quite sane…" assured the first voice.
"Alright, I'll play along…who is your master?"
"We cannot answer that question…not yet anyway. We wouldn't dare reveal his true identity without his consent." said a new voice.
"True identity? What do you mean?" she asked, her curiosity sparked.
"Perhaps someday you will learn of it yourself…" called another new voice.
The beast watched the girl in the mirror, staring up, talking to the ceiling. To any other person, this sight would have been baffling, ridiculous, and nothing short of hilarious.
But he knew what was going on. His servants had decided to make their presence known.
"Why are they talking to her? She is after all my prisoner…" he thought. "Although, I suppose forever is an awfully long time to be alone…I should know…"
He watched her, listened to her words. Something about her curiosity intrigued him. When he heard her ask about his true identity, and his servant's response, he just stared incredulously.
"They actually think that the girl could fall in love with me? How absurd! All she'll ever see me as is a monster…it's hopeless…" he moaned, tears welling in his eyes.
This was the third time in his life he had ever cried.
Eleanor had escorted her father home, and returned to find her husband still in his forge, making a set of keys. She cleared her throat to make her presence known.
He turned around and smiled. "What are you doing up so late, love?" he asked, finishing off his work for the night.
"I need to talk to you…it's about Bella…"
She had grabbed his attention. "Go on…"
"Well…Papa came here earlier…and he wasn't himself…I don't understand…he was ranting about a Beast in a castle, and said something about Bella being trapped…I would like to believe him…but I just don't know…"
James turned around and leaned against his workbench. "A beast, you say?"
"Yes…and he's coming up with all these crazy plans about getting her out of there…"
"Well…let's have a little get together with him soon…give him some time to clear his head."
She nodded in approval of the idea. "Alright…hurry up and get inside...you'll catch your death soon!" She then kissed her husband and went into the house, leaving her husband to blow out the fire, turn off the lanterns, and lock the forge doors.
When he was sure the girl had fallen asleep, he tapped the wall three times, which was the signal he always used to summon his servants.
"What is the girl's name?"
"But sir…we thought she was your prisoner! Why on Earth would you want to know her last name?" asked one of his servants, with a hint of triumph in his voice.
"I ASKED YOU A QUESTION AND I DEMAND AN ANSWER!" he bellowed.
"Isabella…" he said to himself, tasting her name on her tongue.
"Do you require anything else sir?"
"No…now get out!"
"As you wish…"
When he was sure he was alone, he sat down in his tall, overstuffed chair, thinking.
"Isabella…why did I even want to know her name? She's a prisoner! Prisoners and captors should NEVER be on a first name basis…so why did I do it?"
He then decided to go to bed, but it was not a peaceful sleep, for his thoughts kept drifting back to the girl…Isabella…
Although he certainly wasn't sleeping with a clear mind, this was the first time in ten years where sleeping wasn't consumed by nightmares.
Isabella lay sleeping, her dreams willed with thoughts about her family. Were they alright? How was her father coping with living alone? What would her sister think if she knew about the strange circumstances she had fallen into?
She thought of the voices. No wonder the "master" was so miserable! He was living with a castle-full of phantoms! She wondered just how they came to be that way, and how they could have ever tolerated such an awful "master".
Her thoughts drifted to him. What kind of creature was he? Certainly not something any scientist had ever discovered, nor anything like the creatures she read about in her books. And one thought still kept lingering in her head…
She didn't even know his name…nor he hers…
She had decided that if she was going to spend the rest of her life with him, she was going to get to know him, no matter what it took.