Rose entered through the massive iron gates, and, passing under the trellis of roses at the entrance, emerged in a large courtyard. The biting night air filled her lungs. She stared in awe at the lofty granite towers, turrets, and gargoyles gazing down at her. Shivers crept down her spine as she had suspicions the gargoyles were not the only eyes watching. The walls were covered in climbing vines, hung with roses like the fateful one her father had picked. She lifted the goblin-faced door knocker and let it drop. After waiting a terrible, silent moment, the door swung open. Pushing her long brown hair behind her ear, she stepped inside.
The grand hall was empty, dark except for dull candlelight from brass sconces mounted on mahogany wall panels. She stood between two cold fireplaces, willing herself to take a step forward. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, a movement on the landing caught her eye. It was him, the beast. Squaring her shoulders and bracing her arms at her sides, Rose faced the curving red staircase, determined to meet him with dignity.
She set her jaw and climbed the stairs slowly. He will not get the best of me, Rose thought. He may have threatened my family, but I won’t let him see my fear. Straining to make out features, she could only catch a glimpse of sharp claws and candlelight glinting off thick fur. A soft growl escaped his throat and he motioned her to follow.
Rose walked behind him, close enough to not feel alone, but far enough away so there would be no chance of having to touch him. His padded feet made no sound on the mosaic floor. Rose felt like they had been walking forever. Rose cleared her throat and said, “Excuse me...uh, sir. Where are we going?”
The beast gave a little growl in the back of his throat and stopped walking abruptly. They were in front of a doorway and he spoke. His voice was not cruel, but hoarse, as if it hadn’t been used in many years. The beast said, “Here is your room. Is there anything you will need?” Rose shook her head, thinking I need to leave but knowing she had to stay. She’d made a promise to the beast. She had traded her freedom for her father’s life, and she would keep her promise. The beast disappeared in the shadows, and she was alone.
She locked the door and collapsed into the bed, falling asleep in minutes. When she woke the following morning, Rose found herself lying on a large bed with a canopy overhead. The posts were carved intricately with climbing roses winding around the frame. She ran her fingers over the soft, fine bedding so different from her cottage in the woods. She climbed down off the tall bed to find a breakfast tray waiting on a small table. As she ate, she studied a wall hanging depicting an overflowing rose garden that was hanging on the creamy white walls.
Rose explored her room, hoping that since she had been treated with such hospitality, the beast had decided to keep her around for a while instead of eating her. In the closet were a dozen dresses in her size. She chose one of the more modest ones, a dark red, simply cut dress with a single rose embroidered on the sleeve. She left her room and began opening doors in the hall. Many revealed empty bedrooms, but one caught her attention. It was the library. She could smell the scent of paper and leather when she opened the door. There were more books than Rose had ever seen in her life! Shelves upon shelves of knowledge were right in front of her. She read the titles and excitedly ran her hands over the leather spines.
After some time, Rose walked down the long hallway to the end where there was a single door. She peered inside, and was startled to see the beast sitting in the middle of the room, gazing into a mirror. She had not expected to see him, and his hideous appearance was clearer in the light of day. She gasped, and the sound startled him. The beast turned and said sharply, “What are you doing here?”
Terror lit in Rose’s heart. She nearly flew back to her room, not hearing the beast call after her, “Wait! Rose!”
Back in her room, she sat thinking, unsure of what to do. I should apologize. Go out there and apologize. Face him, she thought. A card slipped under her door. She cautiously picked it up to discover an invitation to dinner: “I cordially invite you to dine with me at eight.” Scrawled under the print, in barely legible writing, it said, “I apologize for the way I spoke. Please come to dinner.” Bracing herself and facing her fears, Rose went to the dining room to meet him.
The dining table was long, with one place set for her. The beast sat across from her, without a place setting. She sat, and helped herself to the delicacies in front of her. There were exotic foods Rose had never tasted before, meat and vegetables in a spicy sauce, pasta and hearty bread on the side. As she ate, the beast sat silently and watched her. Several times it looked like he was about to speak. Uncomfortable with the silence, Rose put down her fork and began, “I’m so sorry...” but the beast interrupted, “May I show you something?” They walked together to the room where Rose had seen him earlier.
“This is the mirror room. It is the only thing I have left that really matters,” the beast sighed. The room was almost empty, except for a few chairs and four mirrors in a line on the wall. “This,” the beast said, pointing to the first mirror, “is the Mirror for Remembering. It can show you anything you want to remember in your past. It can take you back to your childhood if you want, or back to your darkest moment. I hardly use this one...”
Trailing off, the beast moved to the next mirror, “This is the Mirror for Travel. You look into this one and imagine a setting, and it takes you there. Not physically of course, but you feel as if you have been transported to a foreign land, with foreign people who speak to you. And no one cares what you look like or who you are because it’s magic.”
He sighed and then gestured to the next mirror. “This is the Mirror for Forgetting, which can create a new life for you. When you gaze into the mirror, you can become whoever you want to be, and you see the way you want your life to be. You can be the person you could never hope to be. You could be the person you always wanted yourself to be…” He walked over to the last mirror on the wall. “And this, the last one, is the Mirror for Watching. This mirror allows me to see whatever I want. It was through this one that I saw your father, lost, and offered him shelter.” The beast looked at Rose to see if the mention of her father upset her, but she was looking at an empty space next to the Mirror for Watching.
“Is there a mirror that goes here?” she asked, pointing to the space on the wall.
Clearing his throat, the beast replied abruptly, “There was another mirror once,
but it is gone now.” He looked at her and, softening his tone, said, “Would you like to look into one of them?”
“Yes, I would, thank you,” she replied, looking him squarely in the eye. She went to the first mirror, and gazed into its depths. At once her old home appeared in the mirror, a large city house with servants and many rooms. She saw herself, younger, unhappy with her life. She saw a younger Rose hiding from parties by going to the stable or the garden or reading in her room. She watched as her sisters flirted with young men, dancing and laughing, while Rose stood in the corner. Then the scene changed in front of her eyes, and she saw her father receive the news that his ships had wrecked in a storm. She saw her family moving out of the city house into the cottage in the countryside. Rose tore her eyes away from the glass, turning to face the beast. “May I look at a different one?”
The beast nodded, and Rose stood in front of the Mirror for Watching. “Tell it what you want to see,” he said.
“Mirror, could you show me my family, please?” In the mirror, she could see her father and sisters at home. She reached out a hand but all she felt under her palm was cold glass. “They don’t even notice I’m gone,” she said, and then looked up at the beast with a sad smile. His face twisted into a horrible scowl, and it took Rose a minute to realize the beast was frowning.
“I had a family once,” he said, “I was very different then. But I don’t miss any of it.”
Rose wanted to ask what had happened, but decided not to when she saw the expression on the beast’s face. She instead remarked, “I hope you don’t mind, I saw the library earlier. I was hoping you could show me...” The beast smiled at her, and they left the mirror room.
In the library, the beast shared his favorite books with Rose, and she turned the pages for him while they took turns reading. Over the weeks, reading together in the library became a daily habit as did taking long walks around the grounds. On one such walk, Rose and the beast were in the orchard, peach juice dribbling down their chins, laughing at Rose’s unsuccessful attempts to reach the fruit on the tall branches. As the beast reached up and picked a peach, he said, “I used to come here often, before....well, things were different then.”
Rose asked, “What is your real name?” The beast laughed at the question, startling Rose, and replied, “It’s not important. I’m not who I once was.”
“But I have to call you something.”
“Call me Beast.”
“It’s not a real name. I want to call you by a real name.”
“Fine,” he said, chuckling. “I suppose you could call me Edward.”
Rose smiled and took his arm. “Shall we, Edward?” she asked as they walked inside.
The two spent many months together, and Rose, though at first she did not want to admit it, was beginning to enjoy Edward’s company. They spent their days together wandering the grounds and exploring the many rooms, some of which even Edward hadn’t ever seen. One day, Rose and Edward explored the attic. Edward hadn’t been up there in years. While he was looking through an old desk, Rose explored in the corner. Underneath an antique sheet, she uncovered an old mirror. As she looked in, the reflection of a man appeared behind her. She was startled, and turned right into Edward’s arms. Rose stammered, “A strange man, someone...” And he slowly turned her around again, so she was looking into the mirror.
The man’s reflection was still there. He was intelligent looking, serious, and he was holding Rose in his arms. Edward and the man in the reflection whispered, “The Mirror of Truth.”
“It’s you?” Rose turned to gaze at Edward. His eyes were the same eyes in the reflection. He sighed, shakily, and pulled the sheet back over the mirror. He gently stood up and left the attic, leaving Rose staring into her own empty, sad eyes.
The next day, Rose could not find Edward anywhere. She searched for him in the library, the gardens, and the orchard. She finally found him in the mirror room, looking into the Mirror for Forgetting. “Edward?” she said, entering the room but he did not respond. “Edward!” But he was lost in the pull of the Mirror for Forgetting and did not notice her. His eyes were glazed over, unseeing, and his shoulders were slumped.
Rose stood behind him and touched his shoulder gently, “Come away from there.”
“Why?” he asked, so softly she hardly heard him speak.
“So we can talk and laugh. So we can do something worth doing.”
“There’s nothing worth doing,” he growled. “This isn’t a life.”
“Please,” she tried to say, but the word caught in her throat and came out garbled.
Edward was silent.
Rose looked over Edward’s slumped shoulders and gazed into the mirror. She saw Edward, as he looked in the reflection that day in the attic, and her reflection standing with him. They were smiling. She knew that this image was a reflection of the way she wanted things to be.
Her heart jumped into her throat. She let out a sob, thinking of all she’d ever wanted and all that Edward had given her. Rose looked at Edward’s slumped shoulders and bowed head and thought, How can I free him from this torture? What will it take for him to see how I feel? What will it take for him to realize that everything he wants is within reach? We’re not trapped. I won’t let us be trapped in the magic of these mirrors.
“I will not let us be trapped!”
She grabbed one of the chairs and raised it high over her head, letting it crash into the Mirror for Remembering. The mirror smashed, sending slivers of silver glass all over the room. Edward was wrenched out of his thoughts by the sound, emitting a cry, “No! What are you doing?” Rose ignored him and dodged him as he tried to restrain her. She lifted the chair again and again, smashing the Mirror for Travel and the Mirror for Watching.
As the last mirror, the Mirror for Forgetting, broke into a thousand tiny pieces, sparks flew and a great wind sprang up. Rose crouched, head in her hands, unable to see. She heard Edward cry out, a long, excruciating scream. Then it was silent. Rose opened her eyes, slowly lowering her hands from her face. In front of her was the Edward from the mirror. Their eyes met, smiles creeping across their faces. Rose reached out and grasped Edward’s warm hand in hers. The two left the mirror room, firmly locking the door behind them, leaving the dust to settle on the empty pieces of glass.