Of Beauty and the Beast, book covers, and dreams (once more)

Photo by Kelvin Smit on Unsplash

… Both a little scared,

Neither one prepared,

Beauty and the Beast…

F# – E- F# – A – D

D – C# – D – F# – G

F# – G – E – F# – D

The first three lines are under copyright and they won’t appear in my book; the transcription of the music (a big thanks to my pianist brother!) that matches the words might. (If I get the green light form my copyright-and-trademark-agent sister, that is.)

Photo by Meredith Whitman on Unsplash

Dizzy with excitement of finishing my first duo–Asanni and Ellida–head full of new stories, I wrote the next chapter in my Red Cliffs saga.

And then life happened. Sort of.

Now I’ve decided to finish what I started three years ago. I’m making significant changes: it’s going to be one volume instead of two, 250 pages shorter than the first draft. Elizabeth is still a vardanni, ‘the guardian of the realm’ (about vardannies next time) and Brian is still a blaidd (a werewolf), but some things will be different. The book covers that I commissioned, lovely as they are, don’t work anymore.

I’ve loved this story (no title yet!), perhaps even more than Asanni and Ellida. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, my favourite fairy tale. It’s complex, emotional and deeply moving. There are scenes that never cease to make me laugh; others that always make my eyes burn every time I read them. And inside this long story, there are seeds of a few shorter ones, waiting to be written.

There are several dreams in this novel. They prepare Elizabeth, a young human woman and the unsuspected ‘guardian of the realm’, to face and accept the ‘slightly different’ nature of the man she’s fallen in love with, and the world that will soon become hers.

So here’s one of Elizabeth’s dreams:

We were walking through a forest. The ground was soft, covered with a thick carpet of new grass, pine needles and moss. Our steps didn’t make any sound. The forest was filled with lemony-yellow morning light.

“See, it’s still me,” he said. No sound came from his muzzle, but I could clearly hear him in my head. “Now that you know, you won’t go, will you?”

“It’s still me, too,” I said in the same way and turned around to let him examine me. ”How do you like it?”

“Oh, I like it fine, Elizabeth Chatwin. So fine I have some interesting thoughts. About something I’ve never tried before.”

I tilted my head and gave him a meaningful look. “You mean you can be my first lover, after all?”

“And you mine.” He came closer and licked my face. “You taste good.”

I tilted my head and asked, suppressing laughter, “You’re saying I’m a virgin?”

“Well, in a sense.”

‘Omigod, I’m almost thirty, I’ve had tons of lovers, and I’m still a virgin. Hilarious!”

“Tons of lovers, huh? How many exactly?”

“Many. Enough. And still a virgin!”

“Not that I care, but you can count all your lovers on the fingers of one hand.”

I knew I should be upset. My lovers, or lack thereof, were my darn business. But somehow I wasn’t. “And how do you know that?”

“Ha, you think you’re the only one who knows how to do research? In any case, if you’re a virgin, then I am too. In spite of all the women in my long life.”

“All the women in your life is not a topic I want to discuss. But tell me honestly, do you really like how I look? My fur is dark and all curly and I think my hips might be a bit wide. And my breasts,” I looked down at my belly, “are suddenly too small.”

“Your breasts are perfect. And your hips even more perfect. Let’s run. There is a creek up ahead. I’m thirsty.”

“At least I’m not small anymore. I like my size!” I shouted as we ran.

We jumped into the water. It was shallow, barely to my belly, but cooler than I expected. I shrieked and tried to get out, but my playmate jumped on me and we rolled back.

“Let me out! Let me out!” I shrieked and laughed. He gently grabbed my neck and pulled me out.

I was soaked. I shook vigorously, sending droplets of water flying.  In the bright morning sunlight it looked like rain of tiny diamonds. “You still find me attractive?” I said looking at my wet, shiny black fur.

“You’ll always be my Beauty, no matter your current shape or the state of your fur, Elizabeth Chatwin. Come closer, I’ll warm you up.”

“You don’t look like the Beast either. Okay, maybe a sexy beast, but that’s no matter your shape.

I shook once more, and the water drops turned into a small segment of sheet music. I looked at it.

F# – E- F# – A – D

D – C# – D – F# – G

F# – G – E – F# – D

and sang

‘Na-na- na-na naah…

na-na- na-na naah …

Beauty and the Beast…’

I gasped and opened my eyes, pulling myself upright. I heard a splash of water. For a moment I didn’t know where I was.

The song I sang was still ringing in my ears. I look down at my goose-bumped skin and shivered. Okay, I’d fallen asleep; the water had gotten cold and it provoked a dream of falling into a creek, naked. It was dangerous to fall asleep in a bathtub. And before that I’d been thinking about the moon and moon festivals and gotten all these Canagans mixed up – realtors, chefs, philanthropists…  

“It was just a dream. Just a dream,” I kept repeating as I tried to put on my terry-robe. It took me a while to push my arms through the sleeves and tie the belt. I drained the tub, squirted some toothpaste out and brushed my teeth.

It’s been just a silly dream.

The room was warm, but I was shaking when I slid under the covers, still in my robe.

I started thinking out of the box more than was necessary, that’s the problem.

I continued with my monologue to calm myself down. It didn’t help. I was still shaking like a leaf.

Then I pulled the cover over my head, and said aloud, as if the sound of my own voice could bring the sense of reality. “I had a weird dream, that’s all. I won’t even remember it tomorrow morning.”

I closed my eyes and by sheer force of will dove into welcome oblivion.

About jfkaufmann

Not unlike my characters, I lead a double life: by day I'm a mother, a friend, a colleague, and the queen of my kitchen. When the moon rises, however, I shift into my other self and, as Queen of the Night, I reign the magical world of my imagination.
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