Once upon a time there was a French teacher who deviated wildly from the grammar point in hand, telling lots of stories.
One day, he decided to illustrate the verb "aimer" (to love) with a version of Beauty and the Beast the class had never heard, where Beauty didn't love the Beast and he died beneath the jasmine bush.
Most listened but one girl absently picked up a pen. She wanted to change the story. What if someone had loved him?
Thus Sienne was born, and this is what she said...
Beneath the jasmine I saw him, lying there, still, beneath the jasmine.
From a distance, as I was, he could easily have been sleeping outdoors like
the little boy blue of the old nursery rhyme- albeit clad in silks
and damasks instead of rough shepherd cloth. I wanted it to be so,
wanted on approach to find the smooth-skinned youth I had known,
dreaming peacefully in the shade, improbably untouched by the years
that had passed. But I knew better, and a cold dread filled my heart.
It couldn’t be good news.
Before I had time to fully comprehend what was happening, I found myself
running barefoot through the tangled grasses towards him, throwing
myself down beside him. He didn’t move. Blinking through the
moistness stinging suddenly at the corner of my eyes, I looked at
him. And gasped, in spite of myself.
He was changed- altered- almost unrecognisable. This I had known, with the rational part of my mind, but I hadn’t quite been able to imagine
the full extent of the change that had melted and bubbled his
familiar features like wax. The disgust lasted only a second though;
I reminded myself that it was the boy I had known beneath all the
thick, bushy hair and tentatively, marvelling at my own
presumptuousness, I touched his bristly cheek with a soft hand. It
was too cool.
That was when I couldn’t pretend any longer: he was gone.
I couldn’t say how long I lay there, weeping tears of silent grief that choked
back the words, which, even now, when it didn’t matter, I couldn’t
say. Nor would I want to dwell too long on them. At some point,
though, I realised how unseemly it was, how ridiculous I must seem to
the villagers if any of them had been there, sobbing like a child
before the body of the enormous, shaggy creature Charles-Auguste had
become. Composing myself, therefore, I swiftly wiped my eyes on my
apron, and stood up with a sudden purposefulness.
“I’ll be back,” I murmured to his unhearing body, and began to walk
towards the palace in search of the woman who’d killed him.