I Want To Do Something For Her!
By Misty Nichols
The days were routine. Every morning I would awake to new chores, whether it was scrubbing the windows, waxing the floors, or gathering straw for my captor to spin it into gold. Then in the evenings, I would have dinner, customarily even with him but shortly I would be returned to my 'room.' He was not too social; usually he spent his days quietly, spinning at his wheel. However, every once and awhile words would pass between us – generally him giving another chore to be done, and I agreeing to do it as swiftly as possible. I had realized that the way he asked for things altered over time, as did his manner towards me. Much less was he demanding or crude, instead, he was…to some degree similar - or maybe not? No, it was rather alike sweet and almost kind. He didn't seem to not want my company necessarily, but he didn’t act as if he craved for it – all the same, when I was in his company, I do think I could see that he there was a certain amount of pleasure he derived in having me there. In addition to that, there was also something in the way that he behaved that told me before I had come, and mayhap even still, he was…lonely. I knew he was fairly good at obscuring his feelings and his thoughts, so I could never be too sure.
Since we conversed in moderation (although every once and awhile I would start conversation nonetheless, whether it was about the weather or the reason he spun gold so constantly), what became my pastime was 'dusting' the bookshelves after all my other chores were finished. He had not actually told me to clean them, I found them myself. It was to my surprised and most profound pleasure to discover that he had a considerable amount of books in the lounge near the room where he spun his gold and kept his extensive collection. Truly I only feigned dusting the bookcases, and instead relished any moment that I could perhaps pick one up, touch the thin pages between my fingers and have the treat of sneaking a few words to peruse while he wasn’t in sight. I thought he didn't know, I thought it was my secret. For a while it was my greatest comfort to read the books in passing moments. Or…well, was it really my greatest? Perhaps – Then one day, sometime in the evening - before dinner though - he strolled over to the bookshelves.
His hands were clasped behind his back, and he walked with a graceful, almost predatory stride. As soon as I heard his entrance I stopped reading the passage I was on. I fumbled with closing the fairly heavy book and shoving it back into its place on the bookshelf. Neither had I done it very stealthily or quietly, and so I cleared my throat off-handedly and took the rag tucked in my pocket and swiped it across the shelf. I commenced with humming a tune, as if I had been doing so the whole time. I glanced at him, what are you up to? I thought. It was unusual for him not to be spinning his wheel in order to attempt forgetting whatever it was he wanted to forget, or…had forgotten? I began to recall that special day; I recalled it very often since its occurrence. Even though he had torn me away from my family and friends, he was the only other person here. Yet, it had been my choice to come, and now, he was all that I could know or knew. His companionship was becoming quite…valuable to me. I smiled to myself.
I watched peripherally as he passed the settee in the middle of the room, trailing his hand across the wooden back of it and then proceeding to examine his fingertips for dust or dirt (I would presume). He found it perfectly clean; to be sure, I always made certain that my other chores were finished. I couldn’t discern what the look on his face meant. He seemed pensive, but I knew that when he was truly thoughtful it was when watching the rotating, enchanted wheel of his, and this expression was different needless to say. I was too afraid to put a stop to the pressing silence – no, no, I was not afraid; I am not a fearing sort of person, well not any more afraid of things than anyone else. I liked to try to be more brave than the regular individual…in fact that is what got me here in the first place. Well, perhaps I was wrong about what I said before as well – as much as I may have been afraid of things as anyone else, I wasn't very afraid of him. No, you see, I don't believe it was fear I felt, I suppose it was nerves? Well, then maybe it was a sort of fear? I am constantly correcting myself. Perhaps, I was silent because I was simply content in the quiet. The awkward, piercing, deadly dead quiet? No, not it either. I bit my bottom lip, and then realized –
"Going to finish that shelf, dearie? Or stand there all day with that dreamy, far-off look?"
I gasped lightly – surprised by the interruption of my thoughts.
"Oh, yes, that's right. I am sorry; I just got off-task."
"So I noticed! You get off-task when wiping down my bookshelves very often." He pointed his finger to me with a grin that could not be distinguished as either friendly or malicious, but as some strange hybrid of both.
I swallowed, I didn’t want to be scolded, and I expected that perhaps something of a scold was coming on. Though, I thought again, he has never really scolded you before. I recapped that first day of when I had chipped the teacup; how he had told me it was "just a cup." He had been forgiving and temperate (though somewhat mocking and snide) when I thought he would be cruel. I was about to stammer a response when he extended his hand into the air with a jerky motion.
"Perhaps!" He started in a harsh-sounding tone, coming closer to me. I held back from cringing from the unpredictable turns of eccentricity, and then he continued, "You should start on the bookshelves in the library? They are in dreadful need of a cleaning! Dust everywhere, cobwebs in the corners! Filthy, really."
I looked at him enquiringly.
"Is this not…you mean to tell me, you have more books?"
I bit my bottom lip again, and I considered that though a few bookshelves were in this room, yes, there were hardly enough to let it pass off for a library, and what was a magical mansion without one? A new excitement took over me and my eyes widened with curiosity.
"Why, I should think so! Like I said, it needs cleaning, that it does; and you, m'caretaker, are just the one for the job! You're the only one for the job, as it would appear!" He gave an impish giggle, and I couldn't help but reciprocate with gaiety. I laughed lightly and shook my head at his tendencies. I took notice how he always seemed pleased (and sometimes pleasantly surprised) when I was entertained by his jokes or him. Like a child, grasping for approval sometimes.
The mood seemed to be just as bright as the room he led me through. It was the spinning room, which was where he transformed his straw into gold. It was beautifully lit in it now that I had taken down the curtains, it felt…happier. A slight blush came to my cheeks on remembering that singular day again. That day when he had caught –
"A moment, please!"
He raised his forefinger and grinned at me. It was an unfamiliar door in the sense I had never really seen it before, but it was the same style as any of the other doors in the rather large estate. He took out a ring of keys, waving them in front of me as he retrieved one of the many. Are there even that many rooms here? I wondered, as there were at least fifty keys on the ring. He unlocked the door before us and, after opening it, gestured for me to go in.
It was dark, very dark. I could barely see him or myself when I stepped in.
I whispered with a hint of worry as I had heard the door close. I was still near enough to the now sealed entrance I could feel the slight brush of air from the shutting of the door but not enough to have been able to run out before it had been sealed.
"Are you still there? Where am I? It's so dark."
I outstretched my hands, trying to find something to hold onto. I knew his name, but I had never called him by it. Yet, he never told me what to call him otherwise. I thought of calling out to him now, I had the same feeling I did when I did not want to break that cold and strange silence from before.
I heard a "hush!" to the left of me and I let out a breath of relief.
"Oh, you are still here!"
"Well, where else would I be, dearie? Didn’t you see me walk in too? Or were you too busy getting lost in those reveries of yours again to notice, hmmm?" He answered in his usual custom of teasing.
"Is there no light?" I disregarded his sarcastic remark though my cheeks did redden for him playing at my habit of continuously daydreaming, "Why is it so dark?"
"I am afraid I misplaced the candles!" A maniacal snicker following.
"Why did you shut the door if you did not have any means of light?"
"I did not shut it, it closed by itself – these are old heavy doors, love!"
But couldn't he just - ?
"It so happens that I know where the candles are though! I shall be back, fair maiden, so do not worry your pretty little head! I am going to go fetch them!"
I felt a pat on my head, and I couldn't help but note for a second time that ever since that day…he'd been so much friendlier. I rolled my eyes at the pat.
"Stay here," he told me and then he left my side.
A few minutes passed, they felt like hours, and the seconds that passed felt like minutes. I counted the seconds. Then, no longer did I hear the rustling that had started seventeen seconds ago (which I assumed was him searching for the candles). I expected he would be back by now, with light even. But…nothing. I heard nothing. Where could he be? I began to worry again. I felt anxiety creeping through me. I am alone in a dark room. I can barely breathe. I feel so closed in. Where is he?
"Hello?" I began again.
"Why is it so quiet? Are you still there? Are you alright?" I thrust my hands forward, and took a few steps in - what direction? I had no idea.
"Talk to me. Where-"
My right hand touched something soft, like silk. I wondered if it were one of the lavish tapestries he had hanging all over the place. I moved my hand back to the drapery; I discerned that from it perhaps I could find and follow the wall – or even one of the bookcases – and then I'd be able to find the door. Why did he close – yes, that's right, it closed on its own. Well then, why would he let it close! I questioned silently. He is such a curious man – monster? No, man. Beast? No…man. Man. However, when I touched the fabric again, it wasn't covering anything that seemed to be stone and flat, but something round and decidedly smaller than a wall. I pressed my hands against it, and moved left, the cloth changed. It became different, like supple leather. As my hands rested on the leather material…it dawned on me…
Suddenly, it moved, seeming to turn! Having lost my footing, I sensed myself beginning to tumble backwards but my wrists were grabbed in time. I was shocked, so shocked I would have cried out, but I was too shocked even for that. His hands were like river rock, even, smooth, somehow tough and hard. In some strange way they also managed to be flesh, like normal human skin. They were rough at first, squeezing my wrists as he steadied me. Then the grip began to lax when I finally found stability. I breathed heavily as I stared at his dark silhouette, and I wondered just how long had he been living in the dark?
I was surprised when his warm fingers slid up, relaxed as they rested against what must have been his chest. I swear I could feel his thumbs tenderly stroking the middle of my palms in the most perfectly delicate and gentle manner. As surprised as I was at first, I became blissfully and fantastically calm, a smile beginning to grow on my face. I thought again of that day, I was so delightfully reminded of when he had caught me and how it was something of the same scenario as the moment I experienced now. I seemed to treasure any congenial moments with him. But those were occasional incidences. Am I mad to wish that they happened more often?
I wanted to know him better, ask him questions...be his friend. If I am to live here for the rest of my whole life and know no one else, can't I at least know him? I resolved. How could I though, with these moments being so scarce and intermittent?
As soon as the caress was there, it was immediately gone – my hands were dropped, and I couldn't tell whether they had been carelessly or nervously so. I detected a finger wagging in my direction, as well as strong and firm walls rising around his heart once more.
"Can you follow any of my orders, Princess? I specifically told you to stay! But, nuh-nuh-nuh! You heroes (or heroines, to be exact in your case) just love thwarting their beasts, don’t you? Tsk, tsk, tsk!"
Their beasts? Was he mine? My beast? No…not a beast, not a monster, not to me.
I shook my head, "I was just…worried. It is so dark, too dark to be left alone in."
"Oh, but look,"
Suddenly, light filled the room, candelabras were in all the corners, and a chandelier shone above us in the grand library (I also noted the curtains that were up and most likely nailed in here too). It was grand indeed; bookcases were everywhere in the chamber, and books were everywhere on the shelves, and, no doubt, stories were everywhere inside the books. The walls were a deep rouge, lined with an off-white, and they met the ceiling in a dome-like shape. The floors were the same darkly-colored, cherry wood (that I had become quite acquainted with in my chores, I saw that these needed some washing as well).
"Now! - you can see, dearie!"
He gestured around him, a smug smirk hanging on his lips. Astounded, I blinked and then breathlessly stared upon the magnificent room.
"Nothing to be afraid of! No sharp objects laying around, no monsters lurking in the corners! I mean, no monsters not including me!" He winked with a high-pitched and uneasy sounding chuckle.
I considered rebuking him for referring to himself as a monster, I didn't like it at all when he did – and just as my mouth opened he intervened.
"Well, these shelves will not clean themselves, you know!"
A part of me felt that he had shown me this room for other reasons besides cleaning it, perhaps, I thought (but truly knew) it was a favor?
"I see, yes, I shall get right to work then...and, thank you for before, I seem to have a bit of a habit with falling." I smiled at him for my all-too-true statement.
With a bow he exclaimed, "Of course!"
He began to turn but then after a moment, hesitated and shifted towards me again.
"Belle…" He started, catching my attention as quick as a flash of lightening. He seldom used my name, in fact I found myself becoming accustomed to being called by his pet names, "dearie," "love," or "my dear." Whenever he did use it though, he would say it so softly, wrapping it in silvery and smooth tones.
"Perhaps you should begin with the books over there?"
I examined the dusty books he had indicated to; they were my favorite sorts of stories – ones about adventures, far-off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, princes in disguise, heroes, True Love. I could not wait to "clean" them, and beamed with happy wonder at my captor.
"Yes, as soon as possible!" I concurred.
"How soon is possible for you, I wonder?” His expression became calculating whilst he drawled the words out peculiarly, “I think," He paused, "I shall make you a deal!"
"A deal? What sort of deal?" What is he plotting now? I speculated, what deal could he want to make with me?
"What would you say to an agreement that proposed if you successfully cleaned these cases and books," He motioned to them, "you would be able to read anything that your precious, bibliophilic heart desired to - even without having to keep the act of doing so undisclosed – "
"My castle, dearie; I know all!" He declared matter-of-factly as if he had read my mind.
"Yes," He continued, "They could all be yours for your keeping and perusal! That is, of course, if you clean them all by, hm, say – tomorrow.”
"What if I do not get it finished by tomorrow?"
"Hmm, nothing would happen, no definite loss. - Just hours of slaving away done in vain! And bear in mind, that even if you succeed, you must also finish your chores each day before starting on your pastimes!"
"I understand, and, what exactly would the time-limit be again?"
"Tomorrow precisely, dear! 12 o'clock am, tonight."
Consequently I had around 6 and-a-half hours to carry out the undertaking. I made the decision, and grinned roguishly at him, of course I would accept the deal…but then I thought of a change in this pact that could be perfect, that would make communication and interaction much more of a possibility.
"So?" He pressed, his long fingers coming together in the shape of a tent.
I put my forefinger on my chin, as if I was contemplating something. I raised my eyes to the ceiling, down to the floor and back to his expectant gaze and then, I tweaked the contract.
"I would like to alter it slightly, and then you’ll have yourself a deal made."
"Oh?" He probed with an impish expression. "And what would this change be?”
"If I manage to clean these all by tomorrow, I would still like to be able to read them at my own leisure (not including when I have chores to be done though, certainly), but, I also ask, if you are not busy, that I may request you read with me. How does that sound? Is it a deal?"
He arched his brow, and looked at me not with disapproval or shock necessarily, but it was with a countenance that conveyed a distrusting amity, a sort of calm happiness that didn’t quite want to yield. Something that sought to say that he delighted in something…and in this moment I was sure it was something in relation to me. He held out his hand, his face adorning a special smile that was both suspiciously mischievous and thoughtfully pleasant.
"'Tis a deal, love. I shall…read with you, if I am not otherwise indisposed.”
"Honestly indisposed, though? No making up ridiculous excuses not to?"
He made an obviously fabricated sound of disbelief. There was a twinkle in his strangely-colored eyes as he put on a grin.
"Ah, what a clever mademoiselle! Of course, I shall be honestly indisposed!" He emphasized 'honestly' with what may have been all of his sarcastic might.
"All of this only if I get it all cleaned by tomorrow. My, we are certainly dangling from the dubious ledges of the Cliff of If."
"Most deals do, dearie!"
I gave him my hand; the act was reminiscent of when he had held – when we (for some extraordinary reason, I much more preferred to consider it as a mutual act, and not any mistake or one of our faults) had held our hands not so long ago. I made a decisive shake and began to pull away but stopped in the instant that he placed his other hand over mine. Inclining his head he reminded me -
"By tomorrow!" His tone was high and spirited. He released me, leaving me with a feeling akin to...loss? After he took his leave I determinedly began my new job with new excited thoughts swimming in my mind from what had just taken place and what may and could ensue in the future.
Now, time to get to cleaning.