A town of many riches had it all, but one. A beast. I had been teased as a child that it would eat me. And consume me it did.

Silk ribbons were braided into my hair. It had only been a few minutes but every second that remained, I held onto. I held a part of my skirt so that the jewelled hem didn’t drag through the mud.

His almond shape eyes held no promise of violence, but the sharpness of his bared fangs spoke otherwise.

He didn’t go near me, night after night, nor the night after that. I sat upon the finest satin covered chair in front of a magnificent dresser. Delicate flowers of gold twined through its outer frame.

My face didn’t look sunken or solemn in any way. I didn’t look like anything. I stared at the powders and perfumes and wondered how they got here. But mostly I wondered how I came to be seated in this ridiculously, finely furnished mansion.

A tray of food lay nestled in a basket at every meal time. I supposed it had been a week since I had been escorted by the beast. From the gate through to the exuberant lit halls with streams of light from its large windows. Around every turn there were volumes and volumes of wild flowers set in man-sized vases, and finally after walking past paintings of the outer gardens – we had reached my room. Without a word he left.

The beast had never requested a girl before as the annual payment. He was no villain nor foe. However, every year the towns people paid him for his seclusive disposition.

As I walked from my room, I felt, fine. I wandered for a bit.

I found a study with hundreds of books. I grabbed two and read them aloud in a corner. When I noticed the shadows shift in the candle light I continued. Once it struck twelve, I yawned and said,

“Breakfast in the dining hall makes sense,” I nodded to myself, closed the book and left.

The next morning, in broad daylight the beast sat in the dining room as I had entered. Food was spread before me. I smiled, helped myself to raspberry jam and toast and settled in my seat.

“What is your name?” I asked and he said after a while that it was Lucas.

After four years I told him I loved him even though he had told me so much –much earlier than I. He transformed into a man and my mothers words the day I left made sense,

“When it’s true love, it shows on the outside too.”

And I thought he might just smile more. In any case, I was very glad to be wrong, very glad indeed.

I never saw my family again. It was not the beast who had need of the people, it was the people who had need of the beast. And so stories of the beast still circled beyond our little town. Our town was never the centre of battle nor robberies. Life went on. The protection of the beast lived on far after our deaths.

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