The Hunk and the Hag – Part III


Two nights later, suffocation tried to squeeze Bella into non-existence, she had to venture out of her stifling hot home into the cool night. The afternoon had been littered with ugly remarks, as Bella had washed the sheets of the beds in her home. She had to look down and avoid the gazes. They were a painful addition to the remarks hurled her way and the girl’s burdened heart could not take it anymore.

It took a whole lot of effort to hide her tears and control them from shedding in front of the people, who only enjoyed teasing further whenever and wherever, they saw or sniffed weakness. People were shallow with black hearts and malice etching their souls. Although, the night had been particularly dangerous two days back yet Bella could not restrain her hurt heart any further.

She weaved her way into the dark with a small lantern in her hand and reached the river. The tranquility of the place took over her shattered spirit and started working as a balm to her weary soul. The sounds and sights of nature always mesmerized the girl. It was only here that she had her freedom from the slicing taunts.

People had a bad habit of stating the obvious, coated in a bitter batter. Although, Bella always tried to shield herself from the snide opinions but always failed miserably. After a few moments of silence of her revolting soul, the girl’s senses picked that she was being watched. But her soul was so tired and torn today that it did not bother to defend itself at all.

Bella was not afraid if a beast ate her whole, it might even fine her disgusting so leave her only partially chewed. She was also not scared of being kidnapped and mistreated or pushed into slavery; words were enough mistreatment.

So she sat there without a hitch in her breath or a drumming madness to her heartbeat. Her body sat relaxed, ready to accept what her deceitful fate brought her next. But nothing happened, occasionally only a few crisp leaves shifted under someone’s weight but everything else remained settled. No disturbance pounced its way into the dark fabric of the night.

Whoever was watching Bella silently matched the rhythm of this heartbeat with the girl’s. Once Bella got her fill of watching the water stream down, she picked her lantern and turned to go. This was where she noticed two pair of hazel eyes, rimmed with curving eyelashes watch her from the cover of the leaves. Bella panicked, wondering about how ugly she looked and disappeared within the night.

A few mornings later, Bella made her usual attempt to escape her mother’s displeased sterns. Even though she succeeded yet her mother sought here out to talk to her. That is where her mother told her that she had given her hand in marriage.

The sound of the word marriage sounded strange to Bella. She meant to question but before she could speak a word, her mother’s excited face told her that the prince himself wanted to tie the knot with her and that the entire town was abuzz about it. Shell-shocked, Bella felt that she was not ready for such a change in her life. Something like that sounded not only difficult but impossible.

The village had seen the prince once or twice and the maidens always raved on about how handsome he was so his union with the ugly duckling of the town made little to no sense. Alas, there was nothing that the poor girl could do, as she had to make the compromise for her mother’s merriment.

Preparations were alight. Even if the town disliked the marriage arrangement yet they chose not to show it. Bella remained in her shell though, unsure of what to think and what to feel. She just got very antsy, careful to not disturb anything with her nervousness or the confusion that prevailed in her mind.

Bella often sneaked out into the night but her hazel-eyed observer did not watch as often now. Strangely she had gotten used to his watchful gaze; now she wondered where he was. Days bled into one another and the day of the marriage finally came. Carts pulled by the edge of the town to carry the bride to-be to the palace where she could be prepared for the day.

Carefully hidden into hood to cover her face, Bella stepped into the carriage. But no remarks or taunts pierced into her mind. In their stead, people cheered. Slowly, Bella let the realization sink in. She was to be their queen soon. And if it were really happening, her fate had suddenly twisted in her favor, something that was too good to be true.

Inside the velvet-bound carriage, a figure set unmoving. At first, Bella assumed that it would someone to accompany her to her new home where the celebrations were to commence. But as her eyes adjusted to the scant light in the carriage, she saw a confident built sitting from across and those same hazel eyes watch her intently.

Bella instantly recognized the person, he was the man who watched her from afar, who often even heard her sing in the cover of the night. And this was the man who had come to pick her. The face lit with happiness and a small smile crawled up his face. This man was the prince himself and he wanted to marry Bella.

Beauty definitely laid in the eyes of the beholder.