Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blog Buttons! :)

Help spread the word about Belle's Bulletins! :)  Beast'sbelle just helped me make these great buttons for my blog.  Pick your favorite and add it to your blog. :)  All you need to do is copy and paste the code beneath your favorite button, add it to your blog sidebar with the "html code/java script" gadget, and you're all set. :)

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October 29th, 2011

Do you know what the worst thing is about being a Disney doll?  There is this built-in desire to sing whenever we experience something.  If we're sad, we feel like singing.  If we're happy, we feel like singing.  If we want something, we have to sing about it.  If we're wondering what will happen in the future, a song practically bursts from our lips!

This isn't necessarily a problem for those of us WHO CAN SING.  But when you're tone-deaf, it's downright humiliating!  There are times when I have to run off alone somewhere so I can get it out of my system without causing anyone physical pain. :(  I just wish I wasn't so alone.  I mean, even Robby can sing!  And Rapunzel probably has the best voice out of all of us (it's even better than the movie Rapunzel's voice).  I wish I didn't feel like such a fish out of water.  And I wish I didn't feel like singing after every experience!  You know, after my conversation with Ben yesterday, I ended up singing this horribly pitiful song while I cried. (Have you ever heard someone sing off-key with a stuffy nose?  It's not pretty.)  I was so glad I was would have been humiliating if anyone had heard me!

Okay, that's all for now...I just had to get that off of my chest.  Now that I have my own blog, I feel like I can allow myself to add short little monologues now and then. ;)  More to come soon, readers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

October 28th, 2011

Oh, my dear readers, I am so sorry that it took me so long to post again. As Maggie mentioned in her post, my pictures were lost on the desktop computer. In fact, some of them are still lost, but I've managed to get enough to continue on with my story. Thank you so much for your patience. :{

It was a wonderful summer. Robby and I spent many happy days outdoors, exploring the backyard, basking in the sunshine, and strengthening our friendship. I began to wonder if I'd just imagined things on our first outing. I never felt uncomfortable with him, or caught him watching me wistfully. It was such a relief! The last thing I needed was Robby falling for me. He was like a dear older brother, and I didn't know what I'd do without him.

Rapunzel and Eugene spent most of the summer busy in their quest for a baby, but Rapunzel did manage to set some time aside to spend with me. We caught up on all the girl talk we'd been missing. I tried to be patient and understanding when she could only talk about her future child. It was pretty easy, because despite her preoccupation, she was still a good listener.

I managed to continue avoiding Ben skillfully for weeks. In fact, the entire summer went by without a single word exchanged between us. Spies could have learned a thing or two from my stealth tactics. ;)

But eventually came the inevitable day, in late September, when I wasn't as on top of my game, and Ben caught me as I was on my way down the hallway.

"Belle, could we please talk?" he asked politely.

I felt my face catch fire. "I don't think that's possible..." I began, frantically searching my brain for an imaginary excuse.

"Please, Belle," he persisted seriously.

I relented. Might as well get it over with, I thought glumly. "All right," I said slowly.

"I wanted to talk to you about our last conversation..." he began.

"Look, about that," I blurted out, interrupting him, "I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have said anything. You have no idea how embarrassed I am...we don't need to say anything more about it!" I turned to make my escape.

"Belle," he said simply.

One little word, my name, and yet I melted at the sound. How sweet it was to hear his voice saying my name! I would have followed him to the ends of the earth if he'd asked me.

"Please stop apologizing. I'm afraid I didn't handle the situation in the most appropriate manner. You startled me with your sudden declaration, and I didn't know how to respond."

If I'd had a heart, it would have been throbbing in my chest. I felt woozy. Was he actually trying to tell me that he had feelings for me too? And here I'd been avoiding him this whole time! I couldn't face him, but I waited breathlessly.

"The thing is," he continued, "I am honored and flattered that you could feel that way about me, you already know, my heart belongs to another."

The hope that had slowly been welling up inside of me died in an instant.

My heart belongs to another! A rather odd statement, considering the fact that as dolls, we have no hearts. I didn't find it humorous, though.

He must have felt unsettled by my silence, for he continued.

"Please try to understand, Belle. I admire and respect you, but I ache for Marguerite. Do you have any idea how it feels to love someone so much that it's almost physically painful to be apart?"

By now, the tears I'd been holding in were spilling onto my cheeks. How could you even ask me that? I wanted to scream. Instead, I turned and looked up at him solemnly. "Yes," I whispered.

He seemed startled by this. "Oh," he said quietly. There was silence between us for a moment.

"How long?" he asked slowly.

"I don't know!" I burst out, letting my tears fall. "It all happened so fast!" I struggled to regain my composure and forced myself to think. "I guess...about four months or so."

Ben swallowed hard.

Neither of us knew what to say. But then, I knew what I had to ask, even if I hated the answer.

" you think might ever change your mind?"

Ben looked down at me sorrowfully. "I don't know," he admitted. "But I wouldn't recommend waiting around to find out."

I nodded bravely, pasting a wobbly smile on my face. "Well, that's...that's good to know." I turned to go a second time before I made a complete fool of myself. Perhaps I was already too late.

"Belle." Once again, his honey golden voice stopped me. I turned reluctantly back to him.

He smiled gently. "You are going to make some doll so happy one day!"

Tears blurred my vision. I wanted to make you happy, I thought desperately. I had no clue how I should respond, so I simply nodded and moved away before he could rub any more salt in my wound. I was determined to find a private spot where I could cry my eyes out for a good half hour undisturbed. I didn't want to see Robby or Rapunzel and have to explain everything to them. Not yet.

Later that afternoon, as I arrived back at my normal spot, I stole a glance at Ben. I was amazed to find him watching me with such compassion and tenderness, it was almost overwhelming! But in the next instant, it all faded as Marguerite and Raoul returned from their afternoon walk. Suddenly, he only had eyes for her. How miserable he looked! I pitied him. Because I knew exactly how he felt.

August 24th, 2011

For a month, I managed to avoid Ben. It was a pretty big feat to accomplish, considering that we lived on opposite ends of the same dresser. There were times when I caught him looking across at me, and even a few days when he looked like he might try to start up a conversation. I always came up with some way to escape, though. I didn't see how I could ever have a conversation with him again! I'd never been so mortified in my entire life.

How could I have let myself get so carried away? I had let a few little minor situations lead me into planning a life with him. And then, I'd babbled like an idiot about how I loved him...I still blushed every time I thought of it. He must think I was a complete lunatic.

For the first few weeks, I felt very alone. I was trying to keep as far away from Ben as possible, and it seemed like everyone else was too busy for me. Eugene and Rapunzel had discussed their desire for a baby with Beast'sbelle shortly after my conversation with Rapunzel. Now, they were busy planning and searching with her. I rarely saw my friend alone, and when I did, she was extremely preoccupied. It was as if having a baby of her own was all she could think about. It was an obsession that consumed her every waking moment. I hoped Beast'sbelle could find them a baby soon so we could get on with life.

Robby wasn't busy, exactly, although he had a lot more scheduled than he normally did. But things were different between us. We'd somehow lost that easy familiarity we'd always had together. I thought of Rapunzel's suspicions that Robby might love me too. I shook my head at this. There was no way he did. We'd even laughed about it before. Besides, what would he see in me anyway? I was nothing special...obviously, since I couldn't hold a candle to Ben's Marguerite. Marguerite was classy and exotic with her beautiful French accent and sweet singing voice. I was the off-key singing, clumsy one who craved french fries and hamburgers over baguettes. It did seem like Robby had been avoiding me, though, almost with as much determination as I'd been avoiding Ben.

By the time the fourth week since my conversation with Ben rolled around, I was feeling pretty miserable. I hadn't really had anyone to talk to. Ben was always there, across the dresser, a painful reminder of my embarrassment. What made it worse was that I still had feelings for him. I dreaded catching his gaze from across the room, yet longed for it at the same time.

I was sitting in my spot, wondering when it would get any easier, when Robby pulled himself up over the edge of the dresser. He hesitated when he saw me. I thought he might make an excuse and leave again (like he usually did), but he didn't. Instead, he came over and sat down beside me.

There was an awkward silence for a while. Neither of us seemed to know what to say. I felt a strange sense of relief, though. It was so nice to have a friend nearby, even if I didn't have any clue how to talk to him anymore.

"Are you okay?" Robby finally asked, breaking the silence. "You've been...different the past few weeks."

I shrugged. "Maybe. You've been pretty different yourself."

He was quiet for a while. "I've been working through some things," he said soberly. "I'm sorry if I pushed you away."

Tears pricked at the corners of my eyes. That's exactly how I'd felt...pushed away by everyone. Of course, in all fairness to Ben, I supposed I'd done the pushing in that instance.

"Do you want to talk?" Robby asked gently.

That was all it took. I started sobbing. Loudly. I'm amazed Beast'sbelle didn't come in from the living room to see what was going on. Robby put a comforting arm around my shoulder and let me cry. There was no condemnation in his eyes, just sympathy and understanding. Which, of course, made me cry harder, because I was so overwhelmed by what a great friend he was.

When I had controlled myself somewhat, I told him all about Ben and everything that had happened. I even went into my feelings about Rapunzel and Eugene and their future baby. Through it all, he just listened patiently. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed our talks until that moment.

"I wouldn't beat yourself up over it too much," he offered when I'd finished. "I know it was embarrassing, but what's done is done. And hey, if someone like you confessed that to me, I'd be flattered!" His tone was light, but when I looked up at him, he avoided my eyes. "Just give him some time." He looked over at me again. "You can't avoid him forever, though."

I nodded miserably. "I know...I'm just aiming for as long as possible."

Suddenly, a grin spread across Robby's features. "You know what you need?" he asked.

I shook my head. "What?"

Still grinning, he took my hand and rose to his feet. "Come with me."

Robby lead me out of the room, down the hallway, and all the way to the side door of the house.

"We're not going outside, are we?" I asked worriedly. I wondered what Beast'sbelle would think.

Robby smiled. "Don't worry. I've been out lots of times." As if he could read my thoughts, he continued with, "Beast'sbelle doesn't have a problem with it as long as we stay in the yard."

I was still doubtful. "How are we going to get out, anyway?" I questioned.

Without another word, Robby climbed up onto the computer desk. He stood at the edge for a moment, as if making calculations in his head, and then leaped for the doorknob. I stifled a gasp, waiting for him to splat against the door. He obviously knew what he was doing, though, because he landed right on the knob and grasped it tightly. Then, with an expert's touch, he used all of his body weight to turn it. The door slowly creaked open.

Robby looked down at the floor, paused, and then let go of the knob. I cringed and closed my eyes, but he landed gracefully on his feet. He pulled hard on the door so that it opened just enough for us to get out. He turned and smiled. "Are you ready?"

I laughed. "Wow, you're full of hidden talents."

He winked. "You have no idea. Now, come on! The great outdoors awaits!"

Grinning, I followed him out of the door. We left it slightly ajar so that we could get back inside later.

It didn't take long to get to the back yard. The grass was dry and brown (a problem with the sprinklers, Robby explained), but it couldn't have been more wonderful! Although it was warm, there were clouds that passed over the sun every few minutes, and there was a deliciously cool breeze blowing. Never had I felt more alive and free. I wanted to laugh and cry and run as hard as I could.

"What do you think?" Robby asked me.

"It's wonderful!" I beamed.

He smiled back. "Come this way...I'll show you around."

He led me across the grass to a giant shed against the back fence. Right in front of the shed was a huge (at least to us!) lion statue. I reached out and touched the cool cement. I turned back to talk to Robby, but he was climbing the side of the statue. Already, he stood on the lion's protruding front paw.

"Come on up," he encouraged with a grin.

"I don't know..." I said hesitantly.

"This is way smaller than the dresser you climb every day," he pointed out. "Here, give me your hand."

Still a bit reluctantly, I walked over and put my hands in his. It was a bit of a struggle, but we managed...barely.

Once Robby had pulled me up, there was hardly any room on the lion's foot. I nearly slipped, but Robby caught me. It all happened so moment I was losing my balance, and then suddenly I was wrapped in his arms. I found it difficult to breathe, but not because he was holding me too tightly.

When he was sure I had a handhold, he gently let go. "I'm going to climb around the back," he said in a voice that sounded as flustered as I felt. "There's more room at the top."

I just nodded. He jumped down and went around to the back of the statue. I looked out at the yard, balancing against the lion's head. At that moment, the breeze picked up again and played gently with the ends of my hair. A smile found its way to my lips. What a beautiful day! I tried not to think about the strange way I'd felt in Robby's arms. I mean, he was just...Robby. We'd hugged was just too much to think about right now.

"So, it's not so bad up here, right?" Robby's voice broke into my thoughts.

I looked up and found him standing on top of the lion's head. I nodded and looked back out over the lawn. "Not bad at all."

"Good," I heard him say. It was nice to hear that he had apparently recovered from our impromptu hug as well. The last thing I wanted was for things to be awkward between us, now that we were finally talking again. "So that means," he continued, "that you're ready for my favorite tree."

"Tree?" I questioned, spinning around quickly. Too quickly. I started to lose my balance and grabbed for the closest thing I could. Unfortunately for Robby, it happened to be his leg. Down he tumbled to the ground, and I followed after him. This was one of those times when it was really nice to be made of plastic. We both reached the ground unharmed and with a huge case of the giggles.

Then, Robby stopped laughing and was just...looking at me. I was beginning to get suspicious. He was acting so differently today. Yet, just when I was beginning to feel uncomfortable, he sat up, and the spell was broken, so to speak. I sat up too.

"Ready to try the tree?" he asked breathlessly. A teasing grin lit up his face. "Of course, if you pull us down from there, I can't guarantee we'll land without injury."

I socked his shoulder, and he laughed and stood to his feet. "This way," he said simply, heading to another end of the yard.

Soon we came to a large cherry tree with beautiful green leaves and lots of great branches for climbing. We started by climbing the partial stump towards the bottom of the tree.

"It's like a little mini stage," I said.

"Care to sing?" Robby asked playfully.

I rolled my eyes. Robby knew very well that singing was not my forte. "Yeah, right," I responded. "Why don't you go ahead?"

He shook his head and the subject dropped. I thought about it. I'd never heard Robby sing. For all I knew, he was every bit as tone deaf as I was.

Climbing wasn't hard at all, although I was glad I was wearing my shortest dress...and I can't guarantee that I was very ladylike. :} Thankfully, Robby was above me and not below me. Before long, we'd made it to his favorite branches. There were perfect spots for us to sit.

The breeze picked up again as we took our seats. It rustled through the leaves and caressed our faces. I felt the best I'd felt in weeks. Out here, it was easy to forget about Ben and my embarrassment, or the fact that Rapunzel had little time for me.

"Thank you, Robby," I said sincerely. "This was just what I needed."

He smiled and gave a little nod. "I thought it might help." He looked out over the yard. "This is where I come when I need time to myself. It's hard to get it in the house."

I couldn't agree more. "I could have used this weeks ago....although I might have just stayed up here and never come back."

We were quiet for a while, just soaking everything in.

Then I broke the silence. "I feel honored that you shared this place with me. I promise I won't overuse it. You'll never get your alone time if I'm always here."

Robby seemed to find it difficult to swallow. "You can come here anytime you want to." It looked like he was trying to say more, but nothing came. Finally, he looked away from me.

I put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?" I asked softly.

He looked back at me again, a small smile on his lips. "Yes," he managed. "I've...well, I've been wanting to show you this place for a long time."

"Why didn't you?" I asked.

"I don't know, you were busy. And it seemed like you weren't really as interested in our friendship anymore once..."

"Once Ben and I got to know each other," I finished for him guiltily. "Wow, Robby. I had no idea you felt that way. I'm sorry." I took his hand. "I want you to know that you're one of my best friends, and no matter what happens, that will never change."

Was it my imagination, or had he winced at the word "friends"?

"Thank you," he said quietly. He seemed to shake himself. "I think it's about time for more climbing!" he announced suddenly. And before I could even respond, he jumped up and started climbing higher.

I stood up and attempted to climb higher myself. "Be careful, Robby!" I called up to him.

Robby laughed. "I'm fine, Belle." As if to prove it, he leaned back from the branch, threw back his head and bellowed, "Oh, what a beautiful morning...oh, what a beautiful day..." from "Oklahoma".

I nearly fell off of my branch. Under any other circumstances, I would have pointed out that it was the afternoon, not the morning. But I couldn't say a word. Because Robby could have been cast in the movie. His voice was amazing! I almost melted right there at the beautiful tenor notes pouring from his throat. He'd never said a word about his singing voice before!

He stopped mid-song.

"Don't stop!" I begged him. "Why didn't you tell me you could sing?"

Robby shrugged in an embarrassed sort of way. "You never asked."

"But it came up in conversation, remember? You told us when you first came that you weren't really into singing and dancing!"

"Well, it's not my life or anything," Robby said slowly.

I tried everything to get him to sing again, but nothing I did could persuade him. I gave up for the present, but you can be sure I intended to hear that voice again.

We climbed back down the tree, and Robby led me over to a little porch that Beast'sbelle's husband and other family members had built. We sat on the edge and dangled our legs.

"It's just about time to go back in," Robby warned.

"I know," I admitted. I sighed in contentment. "Thank you so much for today."

He smiled. "No problem. I'm glad it helped."

"It did," I assured him.

"Shall we head in?" he asked, getting to his feet.

I nodded. "I suppose." I got up and followed him. Then I got a look at his breeches and sleeves and laughed. "Ooh, Beast'sbelle is not going to be thrilled about that!"

"What?" Robby asked.

"You have white marks from the lion statue on your breeches, and dirt from the tree on your sleeves. So much for Beast'sbelle's mint condition Robby doll!" I chuckled.

Robby tried to see behind him with little success. I laughed again.

"Come on," I told him, taking him by the arm. "Maybe we can clean them up before she notices."

He smiled broadly. "What would I do without you?" he asked. Somehow, I got the feeling that he wasn't just referring to the situation at hand.


August 4th, 2011

I must once again apologize for waiting so long to write. Sometimes I'm so busy living life that I forget to blog about it. So, the question is now, where to begin?

Let's see. When we last left off, Ben had just taken my hand in his. *swoon* :)

I think it will be no surprise to you, dear readers, to know that I didn't sleep at all that night. I kept replaying the scene in my head. I could still feel his large, strong hand wrapping itself around mine. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I spent a considerable amount of the night planning out my wedding and then deciding on names for our future children. :}

The next morning, I was completely exhausted...and just a bit on the crabby side. I hate to admit it, but I was a little impatient with Robby when he asked if I wanted to go on a walk. Apparently, Raoul had improved so much that Ben had said he could take a walk today, as long as someone like Robby went with him.

"Not now, Robby," I groaned. "I'm so tired! All I want to do is relax and do absolutely nothing active!"

He took it in his normal quiet, patient manner. Within moments, he was heading out with Raoul (and Marguerite, of course). He had his arm linked in Raoul's, just in case there were any problems. I felt a slight twinge of guilt as I watched them go, but I didn't feel guilty enough to decide to join them.

A few minutes later, Rapunzel popped her head over the side of the dresser. "Hey, how are you feeling?"

"Lousy," I mumbled. "I didn't sleep at all."

"I know," she said in her good-natured way. "I heard you talking to yourself last night." She pulled herself up over the edge and sat down next to me. "So, what was the problem?" She grinned mischievously. "Did it have anything to do with a certain someone holding your hand?"

I blushed, but tried to be aloof. "Perhaps," I said nonchalantly.

"Come on, Belle. You can't fool me!" Rapunzel replied.

I stole a sideways glance at my friend, and then I had to laugh. "All right, all right, maybe that was part of it."

Rapunzel raised one eyebrow.

"The rest of the night I was too busy planning my wedding and picking out baby names to sleep."

My friend laughed a little too loudly. We both glanced over to the other end of the dresser. Ben wasn't there, thankfully. I had to remember to keep my voice down. It's not like we were in different parts of the house.

"It's funny you should mention baby names," Rapunzel said slowly.

I turned abruptly. "What do you mean?"

It was Rapunzel's turn to blush. "Eugene and I have been talking, and...we want to start thinking about looking for a baby."

I blinked in shock. I suppose I'd known it would only be a matter of time before this came up. It's a common occurrence among newlywed dolls. They start imagining having a family, and pretty soon it's all they can think about. I just hadn't expected it to happen so soon after the wedding.

I really feel I should insert here another clarification about fashion doll culture. We don't have children the same way you do. Please don't ask me to explain why or give any more details. Some subjects are just not appropriate for this blog, especially coming from a young, unmarried female fashion doll. Suffice it to say that when the time comes to start a family, our only option is adoption (which explains Rapunzel's comment about "looking for a baby").

Starting a family with your spouse is a much bigger decision for us than it is for you humans. You humans have children, raise them, and watch them grow. Before you know it, they are moving out and starting lives of their own.

That's not the way it happens with us.

If you want a family, you start with a baby doll. And you keep taking care of that baby doll...for the rest of your life. The baby will never grow. It stays the exact same age forever (just like all of us do). When you've gotten some experience with the baby, you and your spouse then decide whether or not you're up for another addition. The next child is normally a preschooler or so (usually the size of Barbie's sister Kelly). Then, the next step up would be either another Kelly doll (twins!) or one of those Stacy-sized dolls from the 90s. And if you're really brave, you can tackle a teenager. Most of us don't make it to that stage.

So, all this to say, becoming a parent in our world is a serious commitment...a lifetime commitment, really. You want to be really sure that you want to be a parent, because there's no turning back, plus a lifetime of diapers and bottles, once you start. That's why so many of us never become parents in the first place!

Needless to say, I was a bit concerned by Rapunzel's confession.

"So soon?" I asked her. "Don't you want to spend more time with just the two of you? I mean, once you start, that's it for two of you time."

"Oh, come on, Belle. I'm sure you'd be willing to babysit every once in a while, wouldn't you?" Rapunzel teased.

I couldn't help smiling. "Of course, but it's not the same thing." I grew serious again. "Are you really ready for a lifetime of diapers and bottles and fussing?"

Rapunzel's eyes took on a dreamy expression. "Yes," she said, grinning from ear to ear. "It's what I've dreamed about my whole life...being a wife and a mother."

"Hmm, I thought you dreamed about going and seeing the floating lanterns all your life," I said with mock seriousness.

Rapunzel shook her head at this, missing the humor. "Belle, you of all people should know that we aren't the same as the movie characters we're modeled after. We're all individuals! My dream was to be a wife and then raise a family. It's all I've thought about for as long as I can remember."

I couldn't even imagine how this could be the extent of one's dreams for life, but I supposed everyone was different. I was determined to spend as much alone time with my husband before children...whenever I got married, that is. Instantly, Ben's face came in view. I blushed and shook myself a little, trying to get my thoughts back on track. He'd held my hand once. That didn't mean he was going to propose anytime soon. I didn't even know how he felt about me!

"So, how will you find a baby?" I asked curiously.

"We'll ask Beast'sbelle to find one for us."

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" I was skeptical. How would Beast'sbelle know what to look for? "I mean, has she ever found a baby for a fashion doll before? Will she understand how important it is for her to find just the right baby for you two?"

"I think she'll do fine," Rapunzel said calmly. "We'll be sure to explain what we're looking for. And besides, what other option do we have? We can't go looking for one by ourselves. It would be too dangerous."

"How soon are we talking?" I asked.

Rapunzel's face was glowing. "As soon as possible."

My face must have shown my disbelief, because Rapunzel leaned forward and put her hand on mine. "Please try to understand, Belle. There's nothing I want more. This is what I've wanted my whole life. I can't wait to hold a little baby in my arms, and know that he or she belongs to Eugene and me." Her eyes were teary. "I know it's going to be wonderful."

I squeezed her hand. "I'm sorry, Rapunzel. If this is what you really want, then go for it! I don't really understand it myself. It's such a huge decision...but it seems like you and Eugene have it all figured out. And of course I'll babysit for you."

Rapunzel laughed through her tears and gave me a big hug. "Thank you," she whispered. She sat back and wiped her eyes. "I should go find Eugene. We were going to try to talk to Beast'sbelle this morning. He must have gotten distracted talking to Robby...we met Robby, Marguerite and Raoul on our way here." She squeezed my hand one last time, and then disappeared over the side of the dresser once more.

It's funny, as I sat there alone, I suddenly felt a strange sense of loss. I realized that my friend was moving on to yet another stage of her life that I had never experienced. It wasn't that I was envious, exactly. I had no interest in children anytime soon. In the future, yes, but not now. I guess it was just the realization that Rapunzel would have other obligations and responsibilities soon, obligations and responsibilities that I wouldn't be a part of. She would be a wife and mother, while I would remain an unmarried doll with few cares or tasks. Rapunzel wouldn't be free to just take off and do something like she was now. I valued her friendship and the time we spent together more than anything. Now it seemed as though a dark cloud was looming on the horizon.

I was sitting there, lost in my thoughts, when a voice made me jump.

"Good morning, Belle."

I looked up to see Ben looking down at me with his usual intense gaze.

"Um...good...good morning, Ben," I stammered, jumping awkwardly to my feet.

"Is everything all right?" he asked.

"Yes, yes...everything's fine. Peachy. Never been better!" Shut up, shut up, Belle!! Why do you have to babble like an idiot whenever he's around?

"I'm relieved to hear it," he said politely. He looked around the room, and then cleared his throat awkwardly.

I realized then that he was nervous! What was going on? I decided to help him. "Did you need to...say something?"

He glanced at me again. "Well, uh, now that you mention it...yes, I did need to speak with you."

Dead silence.

I waited. Still nothing. Finally, I couldn't stand it any more. "What did you need to talk about?"

Ben cleared his throat again. "I...uh...that is...I wanted to...apologize for my behavior last night."

I felt like someone had thrown ice water in my face. "I'm sorry?" I managed.

Ben ran his hand over his head. "I...took a liberty that I shouldn't have. I hope you can forgive me."

"You mean...holding my hand?" I asked in a small voice.

He looked embarrassed. "Yes. I had no right to do so, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I can assure you, it won't happen again."

I could feel tears forming in my eyes. I had never been more humiliated in my life. I had spent the whole night building castles in the air over that silly hand-holding, and now he was trying to apologize for it! I should have know it wouldn't mean the same thing to him. There was no way that he could get over Marguerite that easily. I turned away quickly so that he wouldn't see my tears spill over.

"Thank you," I forced out, trying desperately to sound calm and unaffected. "You didn't have to apologize, though. It was...nothing." Obviously.

"You're not upset?" he asked from behind me.

"No!" I said with a little too much forced happiness. "Of course not. Why would I be?" It was everything I could do to keep from sobbing.

"Belle," he said quietly.

I froze in my spot. His hands gently grasped my arms. Slowly, he turned me around until I was facing him.

The moment I saw his face, it was all over. I immediately burst into tears. I wished I could sink into the floor and never return. I had thought that I was completely humiliated before, but this was even worse.

"Belle, please, listen to me," he said slowly. "I had no intention of hurting you...I felt my actions were too forward. I didn't think you felt anything for me."

"How could you think that?" I burst out. "I've only had eyes for you since the day Raoul was here! I've wished so much that I could comfort you over Marguerite and show you that I could love you just as much as you love her..." I stopped in utter horror. Had I really just said all that out loud?

"I...I have to go!" I blurted out, and before he could stop me, I turned and climbed over the side of the dresser.

I hit the floor and ran as fast as I could, not daring to turn around. I could never show my face to him again. Never.