Writing: Beast + Beauty Part III

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Firstly, I want to say thank you so much for all of your wonderful feedback - I rarely share what I've written with others, so there's an enormous amount of vulnerability in posting this. But you've all been so encouraging in the comments and on IG, so thank you! Hopefully I'm halfway decent at doing these characters justice...it's easy for writers to think themselves good, so I try to prepare myself for the worse when others read my work.

In case you're reading along for the first time, this a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast that I've been working on all semester. You can read Part I and Part II, as well as see the inspiration board for this story here. This is a nine-part story, so I'll be posting a chapter each Thursday. 

-slight disclaimer: there is language and slight sexual references in this story. I believe in realistic -not crude - writing. As such, a story about gang members means the dialogue will not be of Victorian standards. It is used for certain characters and in order to move the plot along - there is not, however, anything dirty or extremely vulgar. But in consideration of your discretion, you have been informed. 

Also, for those of you trying to imagine what Adam looks like...this is similar to how I see him. ;)


The next morning seemed unreal. Her father’s cheerful prattle, steaming coffee biting her tongue, the bell’s jingle as the usual Thursday customers stepped in for their orders all blended together in a haze.
“– Alina, I said Mrs. Goddard’s come for the Shakespeares.”
She blinked and refocused on him.
Elias Barra, a short and grizzled man, raised formidable grey eyebrows over amused blue eyes; he gave his only daughter a benevolent smile. “Daydreamin’ again, huh?” he chuckled. “That’s what I get for letting you pick up orders – I had a whole crowd on my hands yesterday while you were off playing hooky.”
“Sorry, Dad,” she murmured automatically, her hand brushing against her forehead before she could stop it. The painful pressure where it’d slammed against the floor brought her back to reality. “The subway...was insane.”
“Yeah, for all we know it’s Fashion Week and those damned designers are clogging up the subways” he snorted. “Now be a good girl and get the Sir Williams. Or Mrs. Goddard’s class might explode if they don’t learn whether ‘to be or not to be.’”
She hurried to the classics corner in the back of the small, shabby but clean room. Paperback copies of Hamlet peered down at her besides the Othellos and Dr. Faustuses; she quickly counted out twenty.
“Is that your daughter, Mr. Barra? So quiet and polite – looks just her mother,” the elderly woman’s voice chirped, carrying from the front of the room. Her voice lowered in what was apparently supposed to be a whisper. “Except for that nasty scar, of course.”
Alina’s hand slipped. The twentieth Hamlet tumbled to the floor with a soft thud.
A moment of silence. 
“It’s from the accident,” her father’s gruff voice replied. “She was in the car with her mother when...” He cleared his throat. “Doctors managed to stitch everything else up. But that one - was from the giant piece of shrapnel. The one that went through Claire’s heart.”
Breathe. In. Out.
“Oh dear...I’m so very sorry.”
“’S all right,” Mr. Barra said with false cheerfulness as she picked up the book and carried the stack to the front. “Looks never mattered much to Alina anyhow.”
She deposited them on the counter and turned away, suddenly needing fresh air. Her eye fell on an illustrated children’s book with a tower of ivy on the cover  - no roses... She stiffened, almost able to smell the leaves' faint, fresh aroma. Images flickered in her mind of golden wood, musty books, the shadowed stairs, and dark eyes following her every move from the doorway.  
I never said thank you. 
“Dad?” Alina called over her shoulder, reaching for her purse hanging on a hook by the storage room door. “I just remembered an order. House delivery. See you later!”

Alina stared up at the sprawling brownstone house covered in ivy, just as she’d remembered it. It had been a formidable feat tracking down his address on her phone at first, but there weren’t that many old houses like this left – and anyone in their right mind knew Brooklyn when they were in it. That and Google satellite imaging had made it all too easy.
And now here she was, standing on Admiral’s Row in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. She’d found it.
She’d found him.
Alina climbed up the large steps cautiously, clutching the purse holding her father’s oldest edition of Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo and a tiny, shabby Tennyson’s In Memoriam. The latter was the least she could offer after what he’d done for her yesterday.
She halted at the door, peering hesitatingly at the thick ivy swallowing it. Now that she was here, the stupidity of her actions loomed alarmingly...it had seemed a good plan in the shop. But she had no idea who this man really was or what another encounter with him would involve.
Alina straightened up. No. He didn’t have to help her, much less take her back home. But he had. And that was somehow enough for her.
Disregarding every bit of common sense that her entire life as a New Yorker had taught her, Alina pushed aside the ivy and banged on the door.
Nothing happened.
Undaunted, she banged again, her hand landing on something hard and dangling. Lifting up a particularly thick patch of foliage, she discovered a rusty chain attached to an enormous bell. She pulled it and winced at the loud clang that resounded. It kept on, like a small gong growing louder with each reverberation.
“-the hell!?
Something yelled on the other side of the door and with a painful groan, the front door creaked open. A spiky head poked out, spouting an impressive fount of profanities. The owner of the head – Lee, she assumed, recognizing the younger voice from the warehouse – caught sight of her and froze, his mouth falling open. He couldn’t be more than eighteen or nineteen.
“Fuck,” he said at the same time she said “Hi.”
Alina shifted, embarrassed. “I...was in the neighborhood. And – wanted to drop something off.”
Lee’s eyes, huge with panic, widened even more. “Zvijer!” he bellowed over his shoulder without moving.
She frowned. Was that some foreign curse word? No matter. She’d come, and no spiky-haired, foul-mouthed gang member was going to stop her. Ignoring his horrified sputtering, she pushed past him and ducked under the ivy, through the door.
A huge, carpeted hall. It led away, lined on either side with portraits and valuable-looking paintings encased in heavy frames. Alina hurried forward, casting a glance at the harsh faces that peered down at her. The mammoth library beckoned tantalizingly from double doors on her right, but she kept moving forward to the door at the end of the hall. Water streamed and she could hear someone moving around, dishes clinking faintly.
Lee’s panicked shout – “Hey, uptown girl! You really can’t be here!” gave her the courage to push against the door and step in.
She stood in a small, shabby kitchen; his tall, wide frame was bent over the sink, rinsing a plate off. The door creaked under her touch and he turned, dripping plate in hand.
Crack.  Old patterned china smashed against the wooden floor.
The boy stumbled in behind her. “Zvijer! She’s inside! I couldn’t...stop her,” he finished slowly, looking between the two of them guiltily. “Sorry, Zvijer. I tried.”
The man was still staring at her, his mouth slightly open like Lee’s. “How did you find this house?”
Alina raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms, feeling bolder at his complete bewilderment.
“I might been been in shock when you took me home, but I'm not blind. Do you know how rare houses like this are? Besides,” she smiled – prompting further shock on the man’s face – “Your library called to me.”
He blinked, as if unsure whether she was joking or serious.
“You saved my life,” she said quietly. “And I don’t know your name or who you are, but...” she hesitated. “I couldn’t not say thank you.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the two books; she held them out, looking him fully in the eyes. “I figured even your collection can use some additions.”
Still frozen, he let his gaze flicker down to the titles in her hands; the dark eyes swung back up to hers. “Count of Monte Cristo? Interesting choice.”
Alina bit back a smile. “I thought you might identify with it...since you seem to be exiled in this grand place. That and your insistence that you don’t have a name.”
Dark eyes surveyed her intensely. Several seconds passed.
He held out his hand. “Thank you...”
“Alina,” she said firmly, placing the books in his hand.
He set them down on the table next to him without breaking eye contact. “A pleasure to meet you, Alina,” he said, his rough voice holding a trace of smile in it.
“I’m Adam.”
Lee choked behind her, sputtering and flailing his hands.
Zvijer, are you out of your fu-”
“Lee,” he barked. “Language. We have a guest now.” He bent down to pick up the plate shards.
“What does ‘Zvijer’ mean?” Alina asked, stealing a glance at the outraged boy.
Adam hesitated, focusing on sweeping the larger pieces into his hand. “It’s my street name.”
“Oh, sure!” Lee threw his hands up in the air, looking thoroughly pissed off. “Tell her everything why don’t you... ‘It’s my street name,’” he mocked, imitating the other’s deep voice. “Why not just dial 911 and let her call the cops while you’re at it?” He glared at Alina.
“Lee’s a little protective,” Adam murmured in an undertone, standing up and dumping the broken china in a trashcan by the sink. “But he means well.”
“Then consider the subject dropped,” she said, silently deciding it was time for her to leave. “Thank you again.” She turned around and stepped through the doorway.
“It’s Croatian.” The boy’s sullen voice mumbled, stopping her in her tracks. “Means ‘Beast.’”
Adam looked somewhat embarrassed. “I had quite the temper when I first joined.”
Resolving not to push Lee’s limits, Alina nodded and continued through the door. “Oh, and some of your books need to be re-bound,” she turned around and looked at Adam. “I’ll just take the most obviously derelict ones and come back for the others.”

Contrary to Lee’s loudly-voiced wishes, Alina returned two days later with Adam’s books newly-bound and instructions from her delighted father to maintain the new, mysterious client for as long as possible.
“Oh, book-binding? Is that what you two are calling it?” Lee snorted. “For the love of God, get a room!” Seeing the murderous glint in Adam’s eyes, the teenager wisely and hastily made an exit.



  1. Replies
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    2. Definitely what I was going for - thanks, Grace!

  2. Yay!! I'm really enjoying this and I had hoped you would keep giving us more. =)

    1. I certainly will be! I'm only posting the short story version as this is actually a novel that will have much more in-depth scenes + character interaction. But I'm so glad you like it!

    2. Wow! Are you going to become a published author? I would totally buy your book if so...

  3. Way to go gurl! I am really glad that you choose to do "realistic" stories.
    The raw, true-to-life stories are the ones that touch people the most i think. ^_^
    I have read several fairy-tale stories, (many of which were "Beauty and the Beast" spinoffs) and this version is right up there with the "besties" in my opinion!
    Oh, and Richard Armitage as an inspiration for Adam's looks? Love it. (i mean, who *doesn't* want to think about Richard Armitage?!) :p

    1. Clare, thank you so much for your comment! As an avid fairy-tale retelling fan myself, I've read as many as I can find, but never one that tried to tell it in a modern setting from Belle's point of view. But as someone wise once said, "If the book you want to read doesn't exist, write it."

      And yes - Richard is wonderful. I agree that everyone must want to think about him. ;)

  4. Replies
    1. <3 <3 <3 Thanks so much for reading, sweet girl!

  5. Oh goodness, I am totally hooked on this story. Cannot wait to find to find out what happens next!!! You are an amazing writer, seriously. And Richard Armitage? <3

    1. Thank you, Kathryn! It means the world that you enjoy it enough to keep reading! And one cannot go wrong with Richard, yes?

  6. This is so wonderful! I'm always sad when I read the end. The readers have spoken! We want, no..we need, more!

  7. This. Is. Awesome!!!!!! I cant wait for more! Will you ever publish the novel version? I'd buy it if you did! :) And I think it's so funny that Adam looks like Richard Armitage, because that's how I was picturing him while reading parts I and II.