Chapter Eight: The Dance

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"Here, I think you'll like this," the beast said as she left a novel on the arm of his chair. They sat side by side in the library now, companionship replacing the uneasy truce they'd called on his first visit to the library. "What are you reading?" She asked, peering over his shoulder as the illustrations in his book caught her eye. Her veil had dropped over his arm and Beau was alarmed to realise he couldn't feel it. Was any part of her corporeal? Solid? Or was he living with a ghost as well as a beast.

"A Study of 17th Century Dance," he replied, his ears colouring ever so slightly as he wished he'd picked up a book on politics, or the classic novel he'd been reading yesterday.

"Oh," she said, drawing back so that she could move instead to his side. "I can't remember the last time I danced. Can I look with you?" She had sat herself on the floor at the arm of his chair, veiled head hovering just above his knee.

"Um.. Sure," Beau replied, tilting the book so that she had a clearer view.

She sighed happily, taking in the images.

"Did you used to dance a lot?" The steps and terminology were so foreign to Beau that he felt as though he was looking at a text in a different language. Louis and Gabe had attended raucous dances in bars when they had lived in town, but he couldn't imagine his brothers doing anything as refined, or skilled, as the steps set out in the book before him.

"All the time," her voice carried a sunny lightness he hadn't heard her use before. "We had more balls than breakfasts," she laughed softly, moving a skeletal, grey-skinned hand forward to skim the illustration on the page.

"What's this one then?" Beau asked, eager to encourage this new lightness.

"It's a gavotte," she sighed again. "It was one of my favourites. We used to stand in big long lines, filling the entire ballroom. But the dance itself was done in pairs. Oh the relationships that started on that dance floor! Have you never danced it before?"

Beau shook his head. "I've never even seen these before, let alone danced them. If it hadn't said so on the front cover, I wouldn't even have realised it was a dance."

"Come on," the beast said, getting to her feet. "Stand up, I'll show you."

Nervous that he was about to make a fool of himself, but unwilling to disappoint her request, Beau put the book to one side and stood up.

He faced the beast in the centre of the library.

"Don't look so terrified!" She chided him. "All you have to do is copy me. We can do it facing each other to start with. Now, hold your arms like this." She held her hands out loosely at her sides, slightly raised. The fabric of her grey dress shone beneath the midday sun streaming through the window.

Beau tried to mimic her posture. Her legs were shoulder length apart, the toes of the right one pointed towards him. "Well done," she told him. "Now copy my movements. I'll take it slowly, don't worry."

They began. The dance was slow and stilted; Beau was by no means a natural and could only copy steps after he had seen them a few times. They moved towards each other, then away, circling slowly.

After a few minutes, Beau started to relax. He could do it - sort of. He started to imagine music filling the air, accompanying their steps. Around him, the library stacks became courtiers, all mimicking the steps as they stood in lines, filling the dramatic ballroom he had passed last week.

He'd never been happy in town; never felt that he could be a part of the bustling, vibrant community it offered. But here, in the ballroom of his imagination, he was pleased of the company, of the joy and mirth that he pictured there. A smile on his lips, he stepped to the left, then the right, his eyes glued to her feet so that he didn't go wrong. But they had done this bit before, and he was delighted to realise he could remember it! His raised his eyes, gleaming, to the beast's and the ballroom emptied again. They became the only people in the vast universe; playing at courting lovers in a dusty library. And their solitude was even better than the imaginary-company. For the first time in his life, Beau felt as though he fitted somewhere. Strange though it might seem, imprisoned in an empty castle with a beast; this was the closest Beau had ever been to belonging.

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