By the time her sixteenth birthday comes around, Belle feels more convinced than ever that she is being called by the wrong name. Unlike her older sisters Celeste and April, whose names suit them perfectly, Belle knows that she is not beautiful. She begs to be called by her given name, Annabelle—or even Anna for short—but to no avail. Belle agrees, never dreaming that she and the Beast have the same wish: to be seen not with the eyes of the mind, but of the heart.
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By the time her sixteenth birthday comes around, Belle feels more convinced than ever that she is being called by the wrong name. Unlike her older sisters Celeste and April, whose names suit them perfectly, Belle knows that she is not beautiful.
She begs to be called by her given name, Annabelle—or even Anna for short—but to no avail. Belle agrees, never dreaming that she and the Beast have the same wish: to be seen not with the eyes of the mind, but of the heart. Think about it for a moment. It sounds nice. A way for every face to be beautiful, if only you wait for the right pair of eyes. If only you wait long enough. A girl who is considered drop-dead gorgeous in a town by the sea may find herself completely overlooked in a village the next county over.
That, by its very nature, it is obvious. In other words, Beauty with a capital B. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Our Beauty—or, more precisely, our lack thereof—has already been established. It will come as no surprise that it is, of course, my story. Which means I should probably back up and introduce myself. Annabelle Evangeline Delaurier. That is my name. But, though it was my father who decided the entirety of what I would be called, it was my mother who sealed my fate and set my tale in motion.
For she was the one who decreed I would be known as Belle, a name that means Beauty in the land of my birth. There were problems with this decision, though nobody realized it at the time.
Two problems, to be precise: my older sisters, who displayed such extraordinary Beauty that they were famous for miles around. My oldest sister was born at straight-up midnight, on a night so clear and cold it snatched the breath. A night that made the stars burn sharp and bright as knives. Celestial Heavens the baby might be, but even before the ink on her birth certificate was dry, my sister was being called Celeste, as she has been from that day forward.
My second sister was born on the first day of the month of April, just as the sun rose over the horizon. My father, now somewhat prepared for what might come next, took it in quiet stride when my mother named this daughter April Dawn.
By the time the baby had been tucked into her cradle that night, she was being called just April, and she has been ever since.
And then there was the day that I arrived. At noon, on a day in September that could have been either spring or autumn, judging by the blueness of the sky. Or by the temperature, which was neither too hot nor too cold. A quiet, peaceful kind of day. The kind that, at its end, makes you wonder where the time has gone. It was on just such a day as this that I was born. Even my coming into the world was straightforward, for my mother later related that the time of her labor seemed neither too short, nor too long.
My father sat beside her on the bed, and both of them or so I am told gazed lovingly down at me. She knew what to call my two sisters without hesitation. But here a curious and unexpected event transpired. Accustomed as my mother was to the spectacular arrivals of Celeste and April, my appearance called forth not a single inspiration. Though her imagination was vivid, my mother simply could not conjure what to call a child who had arrived with so little fanfare, on a day that was so very unremarkable.
My mother opened her mouth, then closed it, without making a single sound. She took a breath, then tried again. And when this attempt also failed to produce a name, she tried a third time. Finally, she closed her mouth and kept it shut, looking at my father with beseeching eyes. But I wonder if I might ask for one thing more. I wonder if you would allow me to name this child. In this way, I became Annabelle Evangeline, and no sooner had my father proclaimed his choice than my mother recovered enough to announce that she wished me to be known as Belle.
If I could not have an arrival quite as remarkable as those of my sisters, I could at least have an everyday name that, like my sisters, would match the Beauty I would surely become. Allow me to set something straight at this point.
I have long brown hair that generally does what I ask it to, except on very rainy days when it does whatever it wants. In fact, I have a face that is much like the day on which I was born. It contains neither too much of one thing, nor too little of another.
A perfectly fine face. Just not an extraordinary face. And therein lies the problem. I think my favorite example was when April surprised a would-be burglar in the middle of the night. She was no more than nine years old—which would have made me seven and Celeste eleven, just so you know where we are. The thief, who turned out to be not much older than Celeste, had come to steal the brace of silver candlesticks that always stood on the sideboard in our dining room.
April had gotten out of bed for a drink of water. They encountered each other in the downstairs hall. The thief saw all that Beauty, sucked in an astonished breath, then fell to the floor like a sackful of rocks. The would-be robber was still passed out cold, the candlesticks on the floor beside him, when my father summoned the constable.
Belle: A Retelling of Beauty and the Beast
So she withdraws from society, devoting her time to wood carving. Secretly, Belle longs to find the fabled Heartwood Tree. Now Belle must carve the Heartwood to save her father, and learn to see not with the eyes of her mind, but with the eyes of her heart. And when I brought it to mind as a novelization, my recollection was that it was okay, but nothing out of the ordinary. God, memory sucks.