• Home
  • Wendy Mass
  • Beauty and the Beast: The Only One Who Didn't Run Away Page 10

Beauty and the Beast: The Only One Who Didn't Run Away Read online

  She shakes her head and starts walking again. For a girl with short legs, she truly is speedy. I hurry alongside her.

  “The crystal is pink,” she explains. “The size and shape of a strawberry. I was two years of age when last I held it. It is valuable beyond measure. Our quest is to find it.”

  I nearly trip over my feet. “We are searching for a priceless stone? I thought we were trying to find your mother.”

  She stops and fixes those eyes on me again. “If we find the crystal, we will find my mother.”

  Godfrey! I assumed everyone had run last night, even him. After all, a monster had entered the castle. One does not usually stick around to see what happens next. “Er, one moment, Godfrey.” I back out of the room and close the door. “What should I do?” I whisper to the seemingly empty hall. “If he sees me like this, it would be the end of him. He is not a young man.”

  “He is very nearly blind,” Alexander says. “Mayhap he will not notice?”

  “I think he will notice when he tries to dress me and all my clothes are ten times too small!”

  “You must tell Godfrey you are not in need of his services anymore,” Father says, his voice breaking. “Seeing you this way would distress him too greatly.”

  I cross my arms. “He has been with our family forever. I cannot send him away.”

  The door behind me creaks open to reveal Godfrey, holding the towel and a ball of lavender soap. “Indeed, Prince Riley, you cannot.”

  I hear my family scramble out of the way as Godfrey steps into the hallway.

  “There is no need to hide,” he says loudly. “I know you are all here.”

  No one replies.

  “I can hear through walls, remember? I know what is going on.”

  “You … you do?” I ask.

  “Your voice is deeper, true.” He looks directly at me, squints, and gives me a once-over. “You have grown considerably taller. And quite a bit wider.” He reaches up to touch my head, then lets his hand trail down my arm. “And quite a bit more hairy.”

  “Indeed I have,” I reply, surprised. “Are you not frightened? An evil magic is afoot, and I am quite the beast. If you could see better, you might run from me like everyone else.”

  “I am old,” he replies with a shrug. “I have seen many things, including some that cannot readily be explained. I am your chamberlain. I always have been, and I always shall be.”

  Tears sting my eyes. “Thank you, Godfrey.” I want to thank him for still treating me like a person, but I am not so good with my words.

  He leans around me and squints down the hall. “I can hear you breathing, King Silas. And the queen and Prince Alexander, too. Where are you hiding?”

  Since there is no use pretending with him, I say, “Actually, Godfrey, they are not hiding at all. They are right beside me.”

  He shakes his head. “I may see most poorly, sire, but even I can tell the hallway is empty besides you and me.”

  “’Tis true, I’m afraid,” Mother says. “We can see ourselves but are invisible to everyone else.” Godfrey twists first to the left, then the right, then behind him. Seeing nothing, he turns in all directions again. Before he can comment on this unexpected development, Mother’s voice hardens. “Alexander! Put your vest back on!”

  “But why? No one can see us!”

  “I can see you. It is not proper. You are still a prince!”

  I can’t help but smile as Alexander grumbles.

  “I am sorry, Prince Riley,” Godfrey says, thrusting my towel and soap at me. “But I cannot stay in these circumstances. This is a deep, old magic, and I must not be around it.”

  My heart sinks. Having Godfrey here made everything a little less frightening.

  “Dearest Godfrey,” Father says, sadness lacing his voice, “we understand. We never meant to get you involved. We shall miss —”

  “I am merely jesting with you all, sire,” Godfrey says in the general direction of where Father’s voice came from. “My place is at your side.”

  Father laughs his big booming laugh. “Good one, old man.”

  Godfrey chuckles. “I could not have been your chamberlain for all those years without picking up a trick or two.”

  “I could eat you, you know,” I tell him, handing him back the towel and soap. “I have been motivated by less.”

  Behind me, Father chuckles.

  “I assure you,” Godfrey says, “I would be quite stringy and bland. Come, let us get you washed up and put some real food into your ample belly.”

  I follow him back into my chambers, and hear the rest of my family trail behind. I stop. Alexander bumps into me. “Ow! You are quite a bit harder than you used to be. It’s like walking into a wall!”

  “We must have some ground rules,” I proclaim. “Just because you are invisible does not mean I need to have you sharing my bath. Or sneaking up on me. There is such a thing as privacy.”

  “He is correct, of course,” Father says. “As tempting as it is to play around, we must be sure to make our presence known to Riley and Godfrey at all times. Else they would be at a terrible disadvantage.”

  “Agreed,” Mother says. “We shall announce our presence upon entering a room, unless a stranger is in the midst.”

  “Where is the fun in that?” Alexander asks.

  Ignoring him, I nod. “Thank you for the courtesy. In return I shall refrain from eating all of you for supper.”

  “Your bark is worse than your bite,” Alexander teases.

  “Try me,” I reply.

  “Come, Prince,” Godfrey says, leading me over to the tub in the corner of the room. “You smell a bit … how shall I put it … ripe.”

  I am about to comment on that remark, when I approach the mirror and catch sight of my reflection. For the second time in two days, I am shocked at what I see in the glass.

  I had thought being dressed like a roasted pig with vegetables was bad. This is so much worse.

  I can hear the monks chanting their morning prayers while we are still half a block from the monastery. I used to love hearing them sing when I was younger. I am tempted to close my eyes and listen now, but time is of the essence. We enter the courtyard to find the others already gathered.

  Handsome is wearing a large pack looped over both shoulders, a wide-brimmed hat, and a canteen attached to his belt. He certainly looks ready to travel. I had to convince Papa that it would not be practical to wear a dress, and he had finally relented. I am pleased to see that Veronica is in breeches, too.

  Veronica’s grandfather and Papa shake hands. Clarissa gives me a tight hug, engulfing me in her new cloak. She even wears it to sleep. “Be safe,” she says. “Have fun, make friends, and bring me something. A nice hat, perhaps. I could use a hat.”

  I laugh. “You will have a whole pound a week to buy a hat. You could buy six hats for that.”

  She grins. “You are right! I forgot.”

  “If you do not get fired, that is.”

  She pretends to pout. “I am much more careful now.”

  This is true. Yesterday, she did not set a single thing ablaze, nor turn anything (or anyone) a different color. Although it had taken Master Werlin an entire morning to figure out the correct combination of oils and minerals to get the green color from her hair.

  “Thank you for taking over my job until I get back,” I tell her. “It is very kind of you.”

  “I enjoy it,” she insists. “It makes me feel useful.”

  “Perchance the boy of your dreams will come into the store while I am gone.”

  She smiles. “If he does, I shall do my best not to give him an ointment to make his hair fall out.”

  “That sounds wise.” I hug her again until Papa pulls me aside.

  “Beauty, I know you are not a quitter, well, except for a job or two, but if you do not feel safe at any point, I want you to come home.”

  “I know, Papa. But I gave my word that I would see this through.”

  He reaches for my ha