Her first bed had been an extravagant crib carved from the drooping Snow Willow trees that only grew and thrived in the fetid, murky swamps of the dangerous ogre lands. Such wood, said to be of the purest white and flawlessly beautiful to look upon by all who surveyed the sturdy trees, was sought after by many of noble blood and kingly rule.
The grain of the timber was easy to carve and more precious and rare than gold. Carpenters, crafters, and woodsmen from across the land dreamt of a day to use the alabaster wood to carve meticulous works of art that would haul a small fortune for even the most comely types of art.
However, the precious trees were rare and perilous to obtain. The fierce, barbaric ogres never tolerated pink skin humans upon their lands of constant shade and repugnant odorous swamps fumes. Ogres loathed the humans, and despised the very scent of their pink bodies close to their territory of murky land.
Many men, eager to seek fortune by gathering even dead branches from the fabled trees that drooped over the sluggish, sickly green, scum ridden waters, usually found their end with their disembodied head on a tip of a spear; their faces forever frozen in the last gruesome twist of fear and pain.
Such abhorrent spectacles were the only scant mercy the savage ogres ever displayed. A myriad of huge spears buried in the ground at the entrance to their land were the only warning humans and others, that dared tread their noxious swamps, received as a hint of what would befall their fates should any intrepid human stride over to the awaiting maw of death.
When such a valuable tree was harvested it was almost always a fallen tree visible by the passage leading out of the murky, ever shaded realm teeming with disease and danger.
If any king or noble with enough coin and men caught wind of such a rare treasure blown down by the wailing wind, the massive willow was normally hauled by two score of the hardiest horses plowing through the muck, and guarded by no less than fifty well-armed knights garbed in resplendent plate regalia and spells to ward off any rampaging ogres.
King Maurice had lost twelve good knights that day he ordered his men-at-arms and serfs to trudge to the border of their lands. Men came back wounded for life, and scarred by the atrocities witnessed of lifelong friends being carted off to be stuffed in some ogre foul cauldron for a stew.
Those who had returned, arrived hallow, broken and bitter men, but the kings eyes were blind to their missing limbs and abysmal suffering or the cries of new widows and children bereft of fathers. Nothing was too good for his tiny baby Belle; a few common born lives for such precious material was nothing to one whom wanted to bestow upon his daughter the world and all its luxuries.
It had been a lovely crib with bars carved into the shape of foreign trees from the white wood, which seemed akin to the finest of pure ivory. Each horizontal bar was crafted into the shape of leafy boughs of the trees and on the two panels of head and foot were artistically carved animals from the exotic realms where the land was arid and teemed with strange creatures under stunted trees and sparse oasis.
Those who used to whisper and gossip about their odd princess claimed such a crib had fueled her dreams to see the world and intense hunger for exploration.
She never knew of that sacrifice her crib had wrought till she was in her teens. In her constant reading came across the annals of that tragic day and those who were never to step foot upon their native soil again. It had been a bloody day, swathed with tragedy when they raggedly brought the hardy tree into the castle gates.
Belle, her bright cobalt eyes blinded by scalding tears of guilt and shame never looked upon her crib again, nor thought of the lovely bed of her childhood any longer with the fondness she once held in memories.
The second bed had been a glorious queen sized bed that had taken up half her chamber. The entire plush resting place had been oval and enlaced with sky-blue silks and the softest down of geese and swans that could be acquired in the realm. Pillows of pearl hued satin graced the bed making it seem fit for a true queen in some grandiose palace of yore.
Each bit of delicate linen and fabric was stitched by the most expert dress makers in the land. Every thread was of silver and each sheet softer than new fallen snow.
Though Belle had quietly protested the gift to her father, it was the people who had loving spent the time in making such a bed for their princess. True, they were some minor back realm kingdom; mere serfs wallowing in mud compared to the majesty of Queen Regina's vast estate and realm she ruled, but they were proud of their royalty who ruled, mostly, justly and were equally as proud of their beautiful princess whose brains, kindness, and wit looked to make her another wondrous monarch to rule wisely and promote prosperity.
Such a bed had been seen to by nearly every person in the tiny village. Besides, they had plenty and wealth burst from the coffers of the palace. No one went hungry and all had enough to spare. Yet dazzled in the glow of their prosperity, never they noticed the darkness drawn to their goods.
The third bed had been a decent barracks cot,; stiff but sufficiently warm enough to ward off the chill that seeped through the huge gaps gouged out of the castles stone and mortar.
When the ogres began their murderous march to plunder and enslave the humans closets to their realm of the vaporous swamps and their foul marshes, they had slowly but surely dwindled out the humans coffer gold in supply the war effort. Day after day huge sums of gold and silver were carted off to secure the tiny kingdom.
Knights, and even mercenaries greedily stuck their hands out day after day until the crown itself was being hauled away into shady hands just for them to stay afloat.
Poverty and hunger wracked the kingdom. Pain came all too readily and goodness an elusive dream, sought only in the eyes of the dead taken from torment.
Belle hadn't mind her things being taken away, and a cot was still much better than many people whose homes had been sacked and razed to char and ash were faring to lay their heads upon. The royal courtyard was teeming with ragged, wounded, and ill refugees using stones as their pillows and the war torn earth as their beds.
Each night, Belle felt guilty she laid her head upon a thin military pillow while those who slept on the blood soaked land below wails of misery rose like mist from the night to her ears in their ghastly thin shrieks. What price she would have paid to take them away from such torment and restore their old lives!
Her fourth bed truly hadn't been a bed at all but a pile of hay and straw upon a dungeon floor. Her master, Rumpelstiltskin, had mockingly dubbed it 'her room' and kept her in a cell like some sort of prized animal that would run away if let loose to her own devices in the night.
Though Belle hated to admit it, if he had not ordained to keep her caged for the first few weeks, she most certainly would have ran. There was wisdom in what he did, but that never made her feel better about being gently prodded back into a cell like one of his many trinkets behind their coffins of glass and wood.
At first the scratchy stalks of hay pricked her smooth, soft flesh of porcelain without relent hampering her sleep. Every morning multitudes of bit and pieces of straw stuck in her hair like a matted nest sticking in every possible direction. Mice and rats, eager to make their homes in the cracks and crevices of the Dark Castle, constantly raided her pathetic heap she fell into slumber upon every day for their spoils of warmth.
Still, after toiling in the Dark Castle all day, she was usually too exhausted to think of the stinging and the scratching. Often she merely flopped down on the heaped pile of old straw and was fast asleep before she could even pull her cloak over her to serve as a blanket.
Surprisingly, over time, her master's kindness improved and she had seen him change upon how he treated her and how she looked at him. Some days she would arrive back at her cell and the straw would be clean and not mucky from the rising wet of the stone and the ever present grit and dirt. Once he had even left a well-used, but still thick blanket to drape over her. And then, one night when she had returned to find a straw mattress, full and soft.
Needless to say she had been late rising the next morning after finally having a small comfort. He never mentioned it, but the satisfied smile that snaked upon his face at her bashful apology for being late said it all.
Her next bed was the dry, season old leaves on the forest floor and the tangled roots upraised from the earth all about her.
It had been a cold night out upon the world. Tears still stained her face as she sobbed at what had been lost. She related the love that had formed for him, kissed him upon his thin gray lips, and then when all looked to end well, to banish the evil and the beast festering inside, he had chosen power instead.
That night, her make-do bed felt like her weeping heart, cold and hard with no way to make anything grow again. An eternal winter was set upon her soul, which could not be lifted, no matter how hard she attempted to pick herself up from her banishment. She loved him, and yet, like the crisp leaves under her shivering form, he chose to let his love fall away and lie dead.
That bed had been only for one night before darkness loomed over her and the hard earth became the hard rock of a dungeon. Such a bed was the only thing she knew for years, and then one morning, she awoke in a strange land in tattered rags with a white steel door and an iron grate staring back at her.
The fifth bed had been a slab of concrete, barely padded by some off white, flimsy, cushion that surrounded a small room to keep from harming herself.
For 28 years she had slept on the same pitiful excuse for a bed, every night dreaming of a bale of hay instead of the gray thin sheet of stone.
She had once chalked up the courage to entreat the forever scowling nurse for perhaps some straw. In her mind it was not an unreasonable request. Instead, she had gotten double dose of her pills that only made her sleep and dream more of the straw and the gold man she could never place who would occasionally leave her gifts.
The admitted Belle loathed the thinly padded excuse for a mattress. Some days she spent every waking hour trying to pry away the abysmal, wretched fabric. At least the solid cold of the concrete would banish the pathetic charade of trying to make her comfortable. Yet every day it was to no avail and every day she dreamed of straw. That was until the dark haired man freed her from the abhorrent existence of simply being in some enteral purgatory.
Her sixth bed, however, is still not truly her bed. It is Rumpelstiltskin's bed and she always sleeps nestled comfortably in his arms. How many a long nights has her befuddeled, drugged mind dreamt of being pressed against him; to kiss his weathered cheek and proclaim her eternal devotion? She cannot tell, but it does not matter; he is there and she is with him. And all the world is right.
At night she awaits him to crawl into bed no matter how tired she is or how tedious a day she endured with the curse awoken town. Trying to adapt to this new existence is often tiring and difficult for her long suppressed senses. But every night, she snuggles deeply in his arms and puts her head upon his slowly heaving chest or in the crook of his neck to feel his pulse beat upon his forehead.
His arms encircle her form, which is finally transforming from its malnourished state of years of maltreatment at the hands of cruel nurses who adored taunting their inmate. A warm smile is always the last thing she sees before finally closing her eyes; reassured it is not some dream or hallucination to be snatched away by a dissolving drug.
He whispers his love at night, promising not to leave her and professing how he has missed her smile and her laugh and how she crinkles her nose at his quips. He puts his hand under her chin and lifts her face to meet his own and kisses her gently in a silent promise all is well. Warmth envelopes them both in a cocoon, under the thick blankets and so close she can hear his hearts trepid thudding.
In his wide open arms Belle snuggles even closer to his bare flesh and knows, this the best bed of them all.