Belle sighed. Maybe she shouldn’t have married him. It wasn’t like she hadn’t known that his nickname was “Beast”. She just hadn’t cared. She’d been in love for the first time in her life, and she had gone with her emotions.
In truth, it wasn’t Beast who took center stage in her latest parade of worries. It wasn’t fair to blame him for the way their children were turning out. He was a good father; no one could deny that. The problem was, well, it was the kids themselves.
Amanda, their 16-year-old daughter, was the oldest of the family. She had big brown eyes and silky chestnut hair. She was a beauty, but Amanda was a perfect example of the old saying that beauty is only skin deep. Belle flinched at the sounds crashing down from upstairs. Amanda was tossing the furniture around her chamber in a fit of uncontrollable anger. It was impossible to know what had set her off this morning, but Belle suspected that it had something to do with her current suspension from Princess High School. The girl was going to have to learn to get along with the other princesses before she killed someone and ended up serving a life sentence in the dungeon.
Bertrand was second in line. He was 15 now, and more like Belle than any of the other children. He shut out the world with books. He always had his nose in a book, which didn’t bother Belle; she herself loved to read. However, Bertrand never stood up for himself. Years of being picked on by his classmates and his older sister had turned Bertrand into a pathetic, cringing coward. Belle knew that he was going to find himself tested at some point – we all are – and she hoped that he had also inherited enough of her determination and strength to find a backbone. Unfortunately, she had never seen any signs that he would.
Belle suspected that Cristian, age 13, had recently joined a gang. She knew that he snuck out of the castle at night to meet his “friends”. There had been a rash of petty robberies lately, and the town merchants were determined to catch the group of juvenile delinquents that were responsible. How one of her children could join a gang led by Gaston, Jr. was beyond her. When Cristian was finally caught, she was going to let him rot in a jail cell for a day or two before she went to bail him out. Tough love was the only thing that was going to work with that boy; he had the brains and common sense of a turnip. Still, he was young. Maybe she and Beast would be able to turn him around.
Danielle trotted into the kitchen and pulled a chair close to Belle’s. “Are you all right, Mommy?” she asked as she climbed up into the chair and put her arms around Belle.
“Never better,” Belle answered, smiling at the 6-year-old girl. Danielle was a bit chubby with red hair and green eyes. Belle couldn’t remember anyone in her family having red hair or green eyes, but Beast said that Danielle was the spitting image of his great-great-grandmother. Belle held the girl close and stroked her hair.
“Something’s bothering you,” Danielle whispered. “But you don’t need to worry about it, Mommy. It’s going to be OK.”
Danielle had a touch of magic in her soul. Belle sometimes wondered if the witch who had taught Beast a lesson about love had given Danielle a special gift. The witch visited them often, and she spent a lot of time with Danielle when she was there. But it didn’t really matter what had made Danielle the way she was. Danielle was...Danielle.
“I’m sure you’re right,” Belle murmured into the girl’s hair. She pulled back so she could look deeply into her daughter’s eyes. “You always are,” she teased.
Danielle nodded solemnly. “It’s a mother’s job to worry, though. I understand that.”
“I guess it is,” Belle agreed.
Danielle gave her mother a big hug and climbed off the chair. “I think we should name her Elizabeth,” she said as she pushed open the door to the garden and ran out.
“Wait, Danielle,” Belle called after her. She got up and walked to door. “Who are we going to name Elizabeth?”
Danielle turned around, and Belle could see her eyes twinkling with delight. “My new sister, of course.”
“Your new sister?” Belle gasped. “Oh my.”