Chapter 7- Beautiful as Me
It was Valentine's Day, the morning after his twenty-fourth birthday. He decided to take a hot bath in the wooden tub in the back of his childhood home. It was freezing out here in the cold air, and yet so warm in the tub; he dreaded having to climb out, go back inside, and get dressed.
But he had to get on with his day, and his duty. Another wonderful day of being the best. The town expected no less from him.
He stood up, feeling the biting cold against his naked, fine specimen of a six-foot-four body which was dripping wet from the bath. There was not a soul present behind his house, so he stretched a little, braving the bone-chilling air.
What's a little cold? I can handle anything!
He heard the twitterings of birds in the air; a pair of chickadees in the evergreens above him. Gaston laughed, and called out to them cheerfully.
"Bonjour, my little cheep-chirp chickadees! Looking for l'amour on Valentine's Day? Be thankful you're so small, you won't be going on my tavern wall!"
Whoa, that rhymed. Better not let anyone hear that, they might think I'm turning into some sissy poet!
He ducked inside and found a towel. Welcoming warmth from the fireplace relieved his icy shivering form. He strolled back to the bedroom, where a set of clean breeches and tunic hung over a wooden chair. He passed his favorite full-length mirror, and couldn't help but to stop and look.
My, what a fine looking example of manhood.
He flexed his biceps, and gave his reflection a dazzling smile. He turned to the side, admiring his profile, the way his chest and shoulders were so massively huge, tapering down to a trim waist sculpted with a set of tight abdominal muscles. He turned his back toward the mirror and admired the V-form of his gluteus maximus. His calves were like a work of art. His back was well defined and beautiful, although covered with a slight carpet of hair. His hairy chest was magnificent, but he preferred the look of his back when shaved. Hmm...he couldn't reach his back with a razor. And the village barber only did heads.
I'll have to get Lefou to shave my back for me.
He turned back around and kept smiling, stepping closer to the mirror. He had just shaved his face in the bathtub, sans mirror, and nicked his chin a little. He caressed the lower half of his face, jutting his chin out and making his face look menacing. The sight made him laugh out loud in delight. No one stood a chance to defy the best hunter in this region. He could charm the bloomers off the ladies, but also convey dominance and authority toward all men, both young and old.
Perhaps one reason had to be his fine, chiseled lantern jaw and strong cleft chin he had inherited from his father, Jerome de Soleil. His Pere had literally put Molyneux on the map decades before. He hunted the largest animals, provided the region with meat and furs, so folks came from all around to partake. He had entertained both travellers and locals alike with good beer and a festive atmosphere in the tavern, originally owned by his father before him.
Stepping even closer to his reflection, he stared at himself in the eyes. Pale, cornflower-blue eyes he had inherited from his mother, Genevieve. She had been a doting mother, always at Papa's side in admiration. She cooked, cleaned, washed and dried their clothes. A perfect mother. She had been the most beautiful girl in town, of course.
Girls. That was the challenge Gaston set up for himself in this year. He had just turned twenty-four yesterday. He had been a young bachelor for long enough! He had to take a bride. This house was too empty, too quiet for just himself. Sometimes at night, the quiet smothered him, made him start hearing things, echoes of the past. He would hear his mother's voice singing, and his father's loud guffaw. A few times he'd hear the barking of long-dead hunting hounds, dogs just as dead as his parents.
Where is that girl? That perfect beauty, one suitable for ME?
He was determined to discover her soon, and woo her. When he travelled to Thionville to buy beer next week, he would look for her in that city. And the day she sets her eyes on him, she will fall to her knees and swoon! And if she plays the elusive coquette, all the better.
Gaston puckered his lips in front of the mirror and imagined what his dream bride would see when she kissed him for the very first time. She would be dazzled at this sight. He knew it.
Happy Valentine's day to me! This will be the year a lucky girl's dreams will come true.
His lips hit the cool mirror, and just then, there came a pounding at the front door.
"Gaston! I'm heeere! Are ya ready?"
"I'm coming! Just a minute!" he yelled. He dressed warmly, and took his blunderbuss down from the gun rack he made from a set of elk antlers.
After that morning and afternoon out in the woods, Gaston marched back into town, his bow over his shoulder. Lefou trudged a few steps behind, laboriously dragging a wheeled cart behind him. This day, it was laden with two medium-sized deer and a wild boar.
The Beaudette girls were sitting at the fountain waiting to see him.
"Ooh!" Gigi gushed. "Two big deer! You're so talented, Gaston!" Mimi and Fifi sighed and gazed flirtatiously up at the hunter. Gaston gave them a brief wink and a nod, and kept stomping up the cobblestone walk. Lefou stopped to talk to the triplets.
"We got this, too! I helped bait 'em!" He proudly pulled a red fox from his game bag by its furry tail. The triplets wrinkled their noses at the sight and smell of the deceased carcass.
"Lefou! Come here!" Gaston commanded. He had stopped in his tracks to stare at two people- strangers in town- leaving the bakery.
"What is it, Gaston? Who's that?" Lefou followed Gaston's gaze to see an older man of about sixty, short and portly not unlike the lackey himself, speaking with the town clerk and the Widow Germond. Madame Germond had put her family cottage up for sale and had moved in with her grown daughter.
And speaking of grown daughters- the old mustached fellow was accompanied by a lovely girl in her late teens. She wore a modest blue dress and a shawl for warmth, and her hair was dark auburn, pulled neatly back with a blue bow. Her face was flushed pink from the February chill, and she hugged a thick book to her bosom.
"Oh, yeah!" Lefou piped up. "Monsieur LeBlanc was telling my Pop and I yesterday that a new family was moving in this week! Guess that's them, huh...Gaston?"
The hunter stared at the vision of loveliness before him. It was as if he were struck by an arrow in the heart himself. Cupid's arrow.
She was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Her straight and demure posture, her youthful form that was just about to bloom in full womanhood, the curve of her rosy cheek, the daintiness of her pale hands, the way she brushed a bit of hair from her temple.
She was going to be his. Absolutely no mistake about that.