One thing was common knowledge in the little village at the edge of france. No one who wanted keep their peaceful lifestyle would dare to piss off Gaston, the village hunter. Not only was the young man twice as big and strong as any other man in this village, but he was at least ten times as brutal once he became truly upset. Most of the villagers however, saw him as something close to a god anyway, too much respect kept them from acting against him. Now, in the dark winters of December, he would often go to the tavern, to brag about his newest trophies, whether those were poor animals he had killed or naive women he had charmed. But as much as he flirted, Gaston never bothered with them for too long. Truly, there wasn't one he thought of as deserving. That is until...
Florence was on her way to the market. The snow lay deep on the ground and she had trouble walking. Her ankles long dress didn't help. Her mother told her to get her some bread and tea before the shops closed. Luckily, she already had gotten her bread at the bakery, the tea however was a bigger problem. Only one person in this town possessed tea and that was Maurice, the elderly inventor who lived with his daughter at the edge of the town. He moved here two and a half years ago. Before that he and Belle had lived in Paris, along with his late wife, Madeleine DeBeau. But after the womans death, the poor man and his child had been kicked out by his father in law and hunted out off town. Rumors said, that the old Lord had never liked his daughters spouse nor had he any love for his granddaughter Belle.
Now, they lived here, where everyone thought of them as weird. Maurice, for his strange, progressive inventions and Belle, for her love for books and her curiosity, which seemed unfit for a young woman. Florence, however, always liked to talk to the two of them when she got a chance. Belle and Maurice were a small but loving family. He'd never do anything to harm his daughter. Florence let out a sad sigh as she knocked at the door.
"Who is there?" an old mans voice asked from behind the door.
The door opened and she looked into Maurices smiling face. "Oh, Florence, child. How are you?"
"Come in." Maurice offered her a place beside the fire place. "You must be frozen to death!"
"'I'm fine. Mother wanted me to ask for some tea..."
"I understand. But first, I'll get you some of it. And a bowl of soup!"
"Where is Belle?" Florence asked and looked around.
"Oh, just cleaning her bedroom. I'm sure she'll be here soon. As if Belle would ever miss dinner!"
And indeed, a few minutes later the brunnette girl stood in the dining room. "Florence? How are you?" she asked.
"I'm fine. How about you?"
"Oh, couldn't be better. I bought a new book, it's about fairies and unrequited love and a man turned into a..."
"Oh, Belle. Once you start talking about a book, you just can't stop." Maurice said laughing as he put the huge pot of soup on the table.
"Is that chicken soup?" Florence asked. Maurice nodded and filled Belles bowl, than Florences and than his own.
"Hope you'll like it." Belle said and they started to eat. "But you know, one thing does upset me...Gaston!"
"Hm? Why?" Florence asked. She knew Gaston was a jerk, but why would he bother Belle?
"He flirted with me. Now, usually I'd brush it off, he does it to every girl in town, but he's so...he keeps doing it!"
Florence looked at Belle with a disbelieving stare. Gaston? The man who thinks he was greater than the king of france himself? He actually had chosen a mortal woman to be his wife? Yes, Florence and Belle had often joked about him and that he'd never marry, unless he met a fairy or maybe the goddess Athena herself.
"I'm sorry. I suppose telling him to cut it won't do it?"
"Well," Belle said. "He's Gaston after all..."
"True. It'd take years to get through his thick head." Florence said grinning.
"I just want him gone." Belle said as she put another spoonful of soup into her mouth. Florence nodded sadly.
"I understand that Belle."
After they had finished eating, Maurice gave Florence a few teabags and the girl was on her way home, where her mothers was already impatiently waiting. "And what took you so long?" she asked in a grumpy voice. Florence took off her cape and put down her basket. "Monsieur Maurice let me stay for a bit and eat from their dinner."
"Florence, you know I don'r want you too interact with those people more than necessary."
"No! Look, girl, there is something we need to talk about!"
She nodded over to a chair and Florence let out a deep, annoyed sigh, as she sat down.
"Monsieur Gaston was here this morning when you went off to borrow some books. By the way, I still don't think you should read that much. Do you wanna end like Belle, being talked about by the whole town? Anyway, he came here to ask for your hand in marriage."
"What?! No!" Florence shouted.
"What do you mean? Don't you want to be his wife?"
"I'd rather die!" Florence shouted. She started to shake. If her mother once decided on something, she'd do everything to make it happening. "It also doesn't add up! Belle just told me, Gaston wanted her to be his wife!"
"What? Belle? Are you insane, child?" her mother asked in shock. Then she slammed her fist on the table. "Florence, we are poor. Ever since your father left us we are looked down on by the others. My work as a seamstress doesn't earn us enough!"
"I know that. Mother, don't worry. I'll work hard, I might be good enough at playing by now, so..."
"So, you think by playing your violine and dancing ballet you can earn us anything? Life isn't that easy, my dear!"
"Aunt Annabelle taught me well. And she always said-"
"You aunt Annabelle was a dreamer. Dear, why do you think she died poor?" Her mother gave her a worried look. "Gaston said he wanted your answer by tomorrow evening."
"Well, tell him that I'd never marry him!" Florence crossed her arms. "And if you want to force me, mere, than I think I shouldn't stay here any longer!" She stood up and went up to her room. After she had closed and locked her door, she leaned on it and started to sob, while she slowly sank to the ground. Why? She didn't want to leave. She loved her mother but she was just so unfair! And marrying Gaston was out of question. Why did he ask her? There were many pretty girls in town. The Bimbettes, the daughters of the butcher, were all over him. Florence on the other hand preferred to coldly ignore him.
She went over to the big mirror and looked at her wet, waist long blonde hair, then into her face where two bright blue sapphires sparkled back at her. Pretty, she might have been. But did she care? Everything around her was boring and conservative and afraid of everything different. The only good people here, Belle and Maurice, where shunned by the villagers. If they had only known that Florence was more than the dancer and violinist they knew. That she was a bookworm, an adventurer at heart and a firm believer that women should get to do more in life than marry.
She switched into her nightgown, laid into her bed and fell asleep, as tears streamed into her pillow.