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Fairytale turned modern – a take on Beauty and the Beast

Protagonist – Elle
‘Beast’/roommate/old friend – Aaron

Day 2

After a day of isolating with Aaron, his house was still as messy as ever but the rooms felt empty. Old crisp packets on the kitchen tables, stained coffee mugs that were drunk by late-night friends but were never cleaned. Piles and piles of overdue laundry were still on the sofa, even though Aaron said that he put most of it away. His house was crowded with stained cutlery and fabric debris, but it wasn’t a comfortable home. Instead, it was a hotel with two abandoned customers left to take care of the mess but neither of them knew how to.

When I got up this morning, it took me about half an hour to go to the bathroom without collapsing from the weight of my headache. I knew that the symptoms were going to be awful, but no one could ever fully describe just how unnecessarily brutal it was going to be. Luckily, I already knew my way around the house, so I could nearly tell where I was going with my eyes and brain half-open. The bathroom lights were as strong as the sun, its brightness was rapidly pricking my eyelids bit by bit. The sour taste in my mouth and the tightness in my chest told me that it was going to be a long week. A long week with Aaron. Out of all the people I had to live with, even isolate with, it just had to be Aaron. Then again, if I had to choose between me isolating with him or staying over at my dad’s house for the holidays and infecting him, I’d pick the first in a heartbeat.

He was cooking when I went to the kitchen. Fried eggs, leftover beef and noodles were placed in one grey ceramic bowl, which had a tiny crack near the rim. The wok had half of the portion and Aaron was moving the remaining food over to a white bowl thoughtlessly like he didn’t care if the food looked, smelled, or tasted good. His hands just wanted to get it done and over with and his stomach wanted to break its fast.

“Morning,” I tried to say without sounding too terrible. Aaron glanced at me without any expression. His long hair was frizzy near his scalp, it still surprises me that his man can even comb it.

“Morning, Elle,” he replied and took a seat at the end of the dining table with his white bowl of noodles in his hand. The two seats next to him would have been perfectly fine, but it was common sense to me that the other end was the only suitable place. After all, I already invaded his space quite enough. I took the grey cracked bowl of noodles and sat at the other end, opposite him. A wooden no man’s land for us.

As I started eating, the silence was slowly inflating. There was a lot that I could say, but breaking the silence was only going to be more awkward each time I tried. Instead, I couldn’t help but look at him with the words stuck in my throat.

His eyes were more sunken than I remembered, the blue that used to be as bright as the sky seemed to be fading into grey. The cheeks that bloomed in roses whenever he smiled were barely hanging onto his cheekbones, like wilting clothes on a washing line. Why did I do this to him? It wasn’t his fault.

“You like the noodles?” he finally asked after minutes upon draining minutes. The silent air deflated. “Yeah, it tastes pretty good.”

His eyebrows furrowed a bit, “Mmmh.”

The clock ticked like raindrops on glass and the ends of my chopsticks were wrapped in sludges of oil. I looked at him again.

Sunken eyes.

Sunken cheeks.

The words burst through and I couldn’t stop them.

“I’m sorry,” I murmured.

“Hm?” He lifted his head. Another chance. To stop or to fix it?

It was the quiet before the storm and I didn’t know whether I’d be saving him or driving him away.

By Ivy Huang

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