Beast Discovers Beauty

An image of a man in a leather armchair, slumped forward, to go with my story 'Beast discovers Beauty' where Vera helps Bruce to understand what had happened in the fire.

The story below works as a standalone, but is also the third in a series. These are the first two:

His morning wood nestled against her bottom when Vera slowly opened her eyes. Gentle snoring told her Bruce was still asleep. She needed to get up — up and away. Out of this cabin, and far away from Bruce.

What was I thinking, she scolded herself, sleeping in his bed? Coming here?

Ever so slowly, she lifted his arm, which he had wrapped around her when he spooned her during the night, and crawled from under it.

The creak of a floor plank woke Bruce.

“What are you doing in my room?” he asked, his voice still hoarse with sleep.

Vera stopped.

Good, he doesn’t know I slept in his bed.

“Just checked to see if you’re still sleeping. Coffee coming up.”

She had no intention of making coffee. She needed to get out of this cabin, away from him. Vera rushed over to the couch and frantically looked for her boots. She couldn’t find them. Neither could she find her coat. Panic rose in her, knowing her window of opportunity to get away was closing.

Then… it was gone.

Bruce emerged from his bedroom.

They drank their coffee in silence. Just like the night before, the air between them was charged, but it was different.

Not warm.

More… ominous.

Several times Vera caught Bruce looking her over, but not with the longing she had sensed the night before. The warmth in his eyes had gone, leaving two dark pools of… hate?

Bruce only spoke when he sat down again after pouring both of them a second cup of coffee.

“So,” he said, “your car broke down, Ve-ra?”

He emphasized her name.

“Ye-e-es,” Vera answered, stuttering.

“Strange,” he said, but offered no further explanation.

Vera took a sip of her coffee before she snapped: “Cars break down, you know?!”

“Yours didn’t.”

She opened her mouth to speak, closed it, opened it again. Not a sound came from it.

“It’s outside, Ve-ro-ni-ca.”

Fuck, fuck, fuck, he knows!

They looked at each other, their bodies tensed. He knew she had slept in his bed last night. He found her car where she had hidden it. Drove it to the cabin.

He knows!

Vera bolted from her chair, but Bruce caught her long before she reached the door. She kicked and clawed, struggling to get away from him. He lost grip on her body, and she crawled away from him. He grabbed her leg, but was left holding on only to the leg of her denim pants.

Vera fought to free herself, while Bruce held on tight. Vera lurched forward and fell to the floor when her pants slipped over her hips. She lost her will to fight.

Behind her, Bruce’s expression changed to horror.

Scars covered Vera’s right thigh. They resembled the scars on his face, neck and shoulder.

Burn scars.

Intense anger flooded his body and killed all rational thought. He jumped up, grabbed her arm, pulled her up from the floor, and threw her body over the back of the couch. He clawed at her blouse attempting to push it up, but only managed to tear it. It revealed what he knew he would find: scars covered the right side of her back.

Abruptly, he let go of her.

“Who the fuck are you? What are you doing here? Is this some kind of sick joke?”

Vera got up, put her denims back on, and sat down on the couch.

“Sit down, Bruce.”

Bruce continued to pace the room, thunder on his face.

“Sit. Down. Bruce.”

Vera paused between each word.

He grabbed a chair from the kitchen corner and positioned it across from her.

“Talk!” he barked.

“Remember the party? Our senior year at uni?”

His eyes grew when she said ‘our’.

“Yes, Bruce, I was there too. I wasn’t part of the popular crowd. Not a beauty, you see.”

A sad smile played around her lips.

“But… I was there.”

Vera swallowed. Dark eyes penetrated hers.

“I watched you and your mates play with those spray cans and lighters. Saw when… it happened. Horrible. We were chatting with each other at the snack table when we heard your best mate’s horrible screams. Flames obscured his face… we ran… tried to help him… put out the fire…”

She paused. Swallowed again, tears in her eyes.

“The fire brigade came too late… our clothes took fire too.”

Her voice was stronger now.

“Your mate died on the way to hospital. I was there for months, but you disappeared. I knew you blamed yourself, but it wasn’t your fault. You didn’t kill him. You just couldn’t save him.”

A howl covered the space between them as Bruce sobbed, head in his hands. Five years he had believed he had killed his mate. Five years, he hadn’t been able to recall everything. So many times in those five years he had played the words of his mate’s fiance in his head: “You killed him, you beast, you killed him.”

She had made him believe it was his fault. That he had caused the fire.

All he remembered was waking up, and the intense pain.

Now he remembered something else: Veronica — Vera — the quiet girl at the party.

The one whom had piqued his interest.

He looked at Vera as if he saw her for the first time.

Vera rushed to him, clambered in his lap, and put her arms around him, her head on his broad chest. He held her close, trying to come to terms with the betrayal which had cost him to hide for all these years.

Note: This story first appeared on Medium, written for a prompt.

© Rebel’s Notes
Photo by Gadiel Lazcano on Unsplash

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