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Beauty began to cry, and wandered sadly back to her own room. But she soon found that she was very sleepy, and as she had nothing better to do she lay down and instantly fell asleep. And then she dreamed that she was walking by a brook bordered with trees, and lamenting her sad fate, when a young prince, handsomer than anyone she had ever seen, and with a voice that went straight to her heart, came and said to her, “Ah, Beauty! you are not so unfortunate as you suppose. Here you will be rewarded for all you have suffered elsewhere. Your every wish shall be gratified. Only try to find me out, no matter how I may be disguised, as I love you dearly, and in making me happy you will find your own happiness. Be as true-hearted as you are beautiful, and we shall have nothing left to wish for.”

“What can I do, Prince, to make you happy?” said Beauty.

“Only be grateful,” he answered, “and do not trust too much to your eyes. And, above all, do not desert me until you have saved me from my cruel misery.”

After this she thought she found herself in a room with a stately and beautiful lady, who said to her:

“Dear Beauty, try not to regret all you have left behind you, for you are destined to a better fate. Only do not let yourself be deceived by appearances.”

Beauty found her dreams so interesting that she was in no hurry to awake, but presently the clock roused her by calling her name softly twelve times, and then she got up and found her dressing-table set out with everything she could possibly want; and when her toilet was finished she found dinner was waiting in the room next to hers. But dinner does not take very long when you are all by yourself, and very soon she sat down cosily in the corner of a sofa, and began to think about the charming Prince she had seen in her dream.

“He said I could make him happy,” said Beauty to herself.

“It seems, then, that this horrible Beast keeps him a prisoner. How can I set him free? I wonder why they both told me not to trust to appearances? I don’t understand it. But, after all, it was only a dream, so why should I trouble myself about it? I had better go and find something to do to amuse myself.”

Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve

As they walked past the low table, something shiny caught Beauty’s eye. On the glossy surface lay a golden locket, a delicate rose engraved on the front.

“It’s beautiful. Whose is this?” She held the jewelry out to Cybel.

The robot studied it. “Hmm. I’m not sure. But why don’t you just keep it? Think of it as a welcome gift.”

“Keep it? Really?”

“Yeah, why not? It won’t be missed.”

Beauty undid the clasp holding the locket closed. Inside was a picture of a young man, grinning confidently at the camera. His black hair was close-cropped, and his brown eyes glittered with mischief.

“Whose picture is this?” She turned it toward Cybel.

The robot barely glanced at it. “Who knows? Any one of the million who used to live in Wakelight.”

Whoever the young man was, Beauty was drawn to him and to the mystery of his identity. It was a tragic, romantic kind of mystery—just the sort she loved to read about.

“Thank you.” She tucked it away in her pocket.

It was the most valuable thing she’d ever owned. They’d never been allowed to keep anything they found in the ruins, Raphael even going so far as to scan them each night, just in case they’d forgotten to completely empty their pockets. It was for their own safety, he’d said. And anything her parents may have left her had disappeared before she’d even known about it.

The necklace felt heavy in her pocket as she followed Cybel through the rest of the Beast’s cave. She continued to marvel at all she saw, but her mind kept returning to her new secret. Still, she left it untouched until late that evening, when she’d finally gone to bed. Only once she’d assured Cybel that she was fine, that the robot didn’t need to stay with her another night, did she pull it out and unclasp it, peering at it in the dim light.

Who was he? She would never know. But she could pretend. He was a prince, she decided, of a faraway land. A prince of a country no one would dare to invade, too strong to fall to its enemies. Children were born, grew up with their families, played, went to school. They didn’t sacrifice their lives digging through ruins until their fingernails were splintered and their skin torn. They didn’t have to look over their shoulders every step of the way home. Their fathers hugged them close with love, not because of what they could scavenge. They didn’t give their children away to beasts.

He wasn’t a beast, this prince. He was kind and handsome. Very handsome. She touched his face with her pinkie finger. He smiled easily, and laughed, and read books, and…was probably dead.

And so was the one the locket had been intended for.

Beauty dropped the jewelry on the bed as though it had burned her. What was she doing? He wasn’t a prince. There was no such thing. And this locket was only yet another fragment of a life that would never again exist. Grief welled inside her for the young man, and for herself. Before today, Beauty had always looked forward, into the future that would one day come when the war was over. But what if Violet was right, what if that day never came? This young man, whoever he was, would stay forgotten, as though he’d never existed.

Well, not if she could help it. She couldn’t save him, but she could bear witness. Even if no one else ever knew him or remembered him, she would. She put the locket around her neck. The chain was longer than normal, the oval pendant falling over her heart. She pressed it to her skin hard enough to make a mark and promised him: I see you. I will carry you with me always, and when this war is over, I will find out who you were, and I will remember you.  

– Beauty, Unmasked by A.W. Cross