Belle woke in a panic. Her heart was pounding and she heaved heavy breaths.
"It's alright." A gentle voice insisted.
"What?" She asked in a trembling voice. She yanked a cover off of herself and looked at her surroundings. "Where am I?"
"In the chapel," the beautiful woman replied.
She looked around again, "Why?"
The enchantress didn't respond. She waited patiently as Belle thought everything through.
Her hand came to her chest, "I died. Gaston- he killed me!"
She nodded, "A crime for which he met a similar fate."
"Tell me Beast didn't kill him!" she insisted.
"No. Your father did."
Her heart still pounded in her chest as she pulled herself together.
"Where is he?"
"Until only a moment ago he'd been by your side. He just went to talk to the villagers and the rest of the castle."
"And who are you?" She ran her fingers through her hair. Blood had dried on the longer pieces. She stopped touching it and turned back to the woman.
"I am the one who cursed him."
At first the confession angered her. Outrage and protests caught in her throat as she considered how much he had changed. She wanted to call her selfish. She wanted to call her cruel.
"He had learned a lot," Belle insisted. "I hope you will let him live in peace."
The enchantress smiled. "One like you comes along every once in a blue moon; a beauty both inside and out. He learned more from you in your short time here than he had since I'd cursed him. That's why I brought you back."
"Because he deserves a happy ending." Belle nodded.
She carefully placed her soft hand under Belle's chin and lifted her face to look at her. "No, because you do."
With that, Belle was alone in the chapel suddenly. Pulling her collar down, she looked at the wound that had been sewed shut. Though the stitches remained, the skin was healed. Most of the blood on her chest had been wiped away, but streaks were still crusted and dried.
Carefully, she lowered her feet to the floor. Her limbs weren't stiff as she had expected. Mrs. Potts walked through the door sniffing. She carried a basin and a change of clothes. She suspected she'd been sent to prepare her for a burial. When she looked up, Mrs. Potts dropped everything in her hands. Water splashed all over the floor.
"Belle?" she asked in awe.
Smiling, she jumped up and threw her arms around the old woman's neck. "I'm okay!"
Concern filled her motherly face. "Belle- you were dead! There was no mistaking it! It's been a full day!"
"I guess it wasn't too late for a miracle." she kissed her cheek, "Where is Beast?"
She didn't wait for a response. As she exited the chapel she found her father sitting in a chair. His head was in his hands and she dropped down in front of him.
"Papa?" She touched him lightly. His head snapped up.
"Belle?" He gasped. Again they embraced, but she didn't have time to answer his questions. She didn't know the answer to most of them anyway. Skirt over her knees she ran through the castle. Servants greeted her in shock but she hugged them all and continued on. Finally, in the front room, she found the villagers and Beast gathered at the foot of the stairs. Blood from where she'd been stab had been scrubbed away, but there were dark stains on the drying carpet. He was speaking to them about continuing forward; reassuring them all he would be there for them as he hadn't before.
Without hesitating she ran to the top of the steps and shouted, "Beast!"
Everyone looked up in surprise. Slowly, Beast turned around in shock. She smiled at him, gripping the railing as he staggered forward a few steps.
"You came back?" he breathed.
She continued running down the steps and he leapt up them two at a time. When he reached her she laughed as he lifted her up and spun her around. Desperately he crushed his mouth to hers before stepping back and looking her over. He touched her hair, face, shoulders, anything to help reassure himself he wasn't dreaming.
"How did you-?"
Belle smiled, "She brought me back. She said I deserved another chance."
Laughing he spun her around again. "It's a miracle!"
The day was spent trying to convince the villages she wasn't a ghost or an apparition of some from. Sometimes people reached out to touch her, but Beast politely angled her away. It would be quite some time before he'd let her out of his sight again.
Slowly, everyone began to accept that she and the prince were both truly here to stay. They were married very quickly. Neither of them cared for a long engagement nor staying away from each other through the night. Both had nightmares often about a time that felt almost like a dream. Each time they woke the other would sooth them back to sleep. Many things changed, rumors spread, some things grew and some things faded.
In the end their love for each other echoed across time long after they were both gone.