Title: Beauty and the Beast
Genre(s): drama, romance
Word Count: 3,439
Summary: Known as a monster, Yesung never ventures out of the mansion left to her by her late parents. Ryeowook discovers the truth behind the rumors.
a/n: The last of my rewritten fairytales series for now.Sleeping Beauty
It was the last job that Ryeowook had ever expected to have. But it was necessary. With her father's ailing health and a dwindling bank account, she had to do something. Her mother had passed away when she'd been only a baby and her father's poor condition kept him from working. So in order to pay the medical bills that were quickly piling up, Ryeowook knew that she had to get a job.
First, she'd inquired at the town's bakery, thinking that her hobby of making pastries could pay off. But they were only hiring part-time and the money was far less than she needed. So she'd asked around the entire town, but nothing surfaced. That is, until she heard about the job cleaning the Kim's massive house on the outskirts of town.
Mr. and Mrs. Kim had been dead for four years at least, leaving their entire estate (and enough money to live comfortably without working for a lifetime) to their daughter, Yesung, who lived there currently with the family's old butler.
And while the job was full time (Ryeowook would actually have to live in the Kim residence) and it paid quite generously, she couldn't help but hesitate to take the job. The thing was...she'd heard some rather concerning gossip about Yesung. Normally, Ryeowook didn't listen to the town gossip- preferring her own company to that of the other girls her age who seemed more interested in the town's hunk than in reading or cooking or any of the other activities Ryeowook busied herself with.
But the things they whispered about Yesung- monster, witch, freak- were hard to ignore. Harder still because she had never met the other girl so she couldn't disprove any of it. Still, her father's health was more important than petty gossip, so she took the job, agreeing to arrive at the Kim mansion that Monday morning at nine am sharp with her luggage in order to move in.
Anxious didn't quite begin to cover it.
Ryeowook was greeted by the butler, Leeteuk, when she arrived at the house, surprised by both the size of the entryway and the cheery disposition of the man who lived there with just one girl of questionable character.
“You must be Ryeowook!” he gushed, smiling warmly so a deep dimple appeared in his left cheek.
Ryeowook nodded, noting the grey appearing at the man's temples and wondering how long he'd lived in the house.
“Please come in!” he urged, grabbing her small suitcase and leading her inside, “It's so nice to have a guest once again! Even if I suppose you are going to live and work here. Still! It is so nice to have you.”
Ryeowook smiled shyly, thanking him and following him as he led her to her room, which was quite massive in its own right.
“You can take today to get settled in and learn your way around the house,” he told her, “And tomorrow you can start your duties.”
“Thank you,” she paused, “But when will I be meeting Yesung-ssi?”
“Ah right!” Leeteuk clapped, “You will meet her at dinner tonight. She pays for a chef to come in each night, so I'm sure you'll enjoy the food. I'll come get you when it's time to eat. And please help yourself to anything in the kitchen in the meantime.”
With that, Leeteuk was off, leaving her in her new bedroom (roughly four times the size of her old one) with even more curiosity than she'd come with.
Ryeowook unpacked her suitcase, had a snack from the kitchen, and wandered around nearly the whole house twice by the time Leeteuk found her and told her that dinner was served.
“Will you be eating with us?” she asked.
“No no,” he laughed, “I eat in the kitchen, not the dining room.”
“Shouldn't I be eating in the kitchen then as well?”
“Yesung-ssi hasn't been around anyone near her age in quite some time,” he explained, “I think it will be good for her to get to know you.”
“Is she...okay with me eating with her?” Ryeowook asked hesitantly.
“Probably,” Leeteuk chirped.
“Wait, she doesn't even know that I'll be eating with her?” she asked, panicked.
“Well, not yet,” the butler admitted, “But I'm sure you two will get along famously. Ah! We've arrived at the dining room.”
Opening the door, Leeteuk led Ryeowook inside where she saw the table covered with a meal big enough for four people at least. But the most interesting addition to the room was the dark haired girl who sat at the head of the big table.
“Yesung-ssi, this is Ryeowook, the new maid,” Leeteuk introduced, “She'll be joining you for dinner.”
The girl, or young woman Ryeowook supposed, nodded once, looking at Ryeowook curiously. In turn, Ryeowook couldn't help but observe the other girl, noting her small, heart-shaped face, dark eyes, thick black hair, and small mouth. She was pretty, if a little intimidating with her serious expression, and looked nothing like she'd expected her to based on hearsay.
“It's nice to meet you Ryeowook,” she said, focusing back on the food as Ryeowook took her seat.
“You too, Yesung-ssi.”
“Just Yesung is fine,” she replied, waving her hand before helping herself to some meat from the platter in front of her.
Ryeowook nodded, turning to see if Leeteuk maybe had something to start a conversation only to find that he'd already escaped to the kitchen. She sighed, resigning herself to an awkwardly silent meal.
Over the course of the next few weeks, Yesung basically ignored her. Not blatantly, as she acknowledged her when she came to dinner each night and she would nod if they ever happened to pass each other in one of the many halls, but she never spoke more than a few words or made any attempt to engage her. Which was fine, Ryeowook supposed. She was just the maid after all. Why would Yesung be interested in her presence?
Though something still bothered her- how had Yesung come to acquire such a horrendous reputation? It nagged at her, making her wonder if there was any truth to the claims. She certainly wouldn't have thought any of it to be true, but rumors had to start somewhere, right? And she knew so little about the other girl aside from the fact that she was just three years her senior. She knew that Yesung was a short girl (though still two inches or so taller than Ryeowook) and that she liked to walk around barefoot most of the time. She knew that she liked asparagus, but not broccoli. Though none of that meant much, especially after living in the same house as someone for nearly a month.
“Leeteuk...” she ventured one day when she was dusting in the same room where the butler was reading the newspaper, “Why...how did...”
Leeteuk looked up at her, waiting patiently for her to finish her sentence.
“In town...the things people say...”
Leeteuk's face changed to one of understanding, knowing what she was getting at.
“Ah, the rumors? The names they call her?”
Ryeowook nodded, “They're not...true, are they?”
“Something...happened about six years ago...” Leeteuk paused, “She's not a monster or a witch, as you've probably gathered.”
“But what happened?” Ryeowook pressed, having stopped dusting at that point.
Leeteuk sighed, “I'm not sure if it's my place to tell you. But Yesung is a good person. She might even tell you what happened herself someday.”
Ryeowook nodded, going back to dusting, though her interest was piqued. And she truly doubted that she'd ever find out what had happened if she had to wait for Yesung to tell her herself. But she let it go. Because it wasn't really her business. No matter how curious she was.
Ryeowook jumped, startled from where she was sweeping the floor. That was definitely the loudest that she'd ever heard Yesung speak.
“Ddangkoma!” she yelled again, running into the room and falling to her knees to check under the couch.
“Ddangkoma?” Ryeowook asked timidly.
“My turtle,” Yesung explained, still crawling around on the floor, “He got out of his tank somehow and I can't find him!”
“Can I...can I help you look for him?” Ryeowook asked, even as she wondered just how fast turtles could move that Yesung had lost track of it.
“Yeah, just...look under furniture,” Yesung told her distractedly.
Ryeowook propped the broom against the wall and wandered into the next room, pressing herself to the floor to look under the pair of wing back chairs. No turtle.
Ryeowook looked in the kitchen, the downstairs bathroom, and all three guest bedrooms, including her own. Still no turtle. She could hear Yesung calling for Ddangkoma downstairs so she obviously hadn't found him either.
Hesitating just a moment, Ryeowook pushed the door of Yesung's bedroom open and walked in. It wasn't much different from the guest room that she slept in, though there were more personal touches and trinkets. It looked lived in- comfortable. The bed wasn't even made which made Ryeowook's lips quirk.
Getting to her knees, Ryeowook lifted the edge of the duvet and peered under the bed only to see black beady eyes staring back at her- Ddangkoma. Reaching under the bed, she scooped up the turtle and rushed downstairs.
“Yesung! I found Ddangkoma!” she called, meeting Yesung head on when the older girl rushed out of the living room.
“Ddangkoma!” she exclaimed happily, taking the turtle from Ryeowook's hands and kissing the top of the shell, “Thank you for finding him.”
Ryeowook couldn't help but smile at the reunion of girl and turtle.
That night when Ryeowook came into the dining room for dinner, Yesung's smile at her was more genuine than she'd ever seen it.
“I wanted to thank you again for finding Ddangkoma,” she said.
“It really wasn't a big deal,” Ryeowook assured her, unused to the amount of attention the other girl was paying her.
“Still, I really appreciate it” Yesung went on, pausing a moment as if to think, “I'm sorry we haven't really spoken much since you've gotten here...I'm not really used to being around anyone but Leeteuk.”
“It's okay,” Ryeowook told her, “But don't you get lonely?”
“Sometimes,” Yesung admitted, playing with the carrots on her plate.
“Why don't you have people over?” she asked and then immediately wanted to take back when she saw Yesung's face darken.
“Don't pretend that you haven't heard what people say about me,” she said coldly.
“I...but it's obviously not true,” she tried, “Maybe if only people could see for themselves that it's not true...”
“You have no idea what you're talking about,” Yesung snapped, standing up from the table abruptly so that her chair scraped loudly across the wood floor.
“I'm sorry, I-”
But Yesung had already stormed out, leaving her dinner mostly untouched. Ryeowook stared at her own plate, realizing that she wasn't really hungry anymore either.
The next week was worse than the first few that she'd been at the house. Yesung didn't even acknowledge her at all anymore. And most nights, she had her dinner brought up to her room so that Ryeowook was left at the massive mahogany table alone. She begged Leeteuk to eat with her on those evenings, but he insisted that he eat in the kitchen as usual. Needless to say, Ryeowook's appetite was missing for most of that week.
So she was immensely surprised to find Yesung hovering in the doorway of the living room while she was dusting the mantel.
“I'm sorry for storming off the other day,” she mumbled, looking like a child who had been reprimanded by a parent. Ryeowook wondered what Leeteuk had said to her.
“It's okay...” she replied carefully, wishing that she understood exactly what had happened that night.
“I know you don't know what happened so you obviously don't understand,” she went on, “It's not your fault.”
Ryeowook nodded, fighting the urge to ask what exactly had happened.
Yesung looked at her, as though she was expecting her to ask.
“I can...tell you, if you want,” she cleared her throat, walking haltingly to the couch and motioning for Ryeowook to join her, “When my parents were still alive, six or so years ago, I...I was in a relationship with...a girl from the town.”
Yesung paused, watching Ryeowook closely as if she expected her to spit on her in disgust or something, but Ryeowook just waited for the other girl to continue.
“We didn't tell anyone because we knew that it was likely that our relationship would be met with disapproval,” she went on, “But we were naïve- we got overly confident and we weren't careful enough. Her mother caught us kissing in her room one day and threw a fit. She kicked me out of their house and screamed at me on the street in front of everyone. She said horrible things...accused me of tricking her daughter- corrupting her like I was some sort of disease. I was never able to see her daughter again and they moved away shortly thereafter.
“But meanwhile, word had spread through the town and people were avoiding me. Adults kept their children away from me like I might infect them. And my peers taunted me and screamed obscenities at me whenever I went outside. My parents were supportive of me, but there wasn't really anything they could do. And they were too sick to pack up and move our family somewhere else.
“So I eventually just stopped going out, choosing instead to stay here like some sort of prisoner in my own home. And when my parents died...I initially planned to move away. But leaving this house, the only thing I have left of them, I just couldn't do it. So now...this is my life,” she finished, a hint of sadness in her voice though she mostly sounded resigned.
Ryeowook hardly knew what to say. That certainly hadn't been what she'd expected. And while Yesung seemed to accept her fate to some degree, she heard the tiny hitches in her voice when she told the story- hitches so small that she was sure Yesung thought she'd hidden well. She could see the sorrow underneath the other girl's practiced, emotionless face, and it made her want to cry. She might not know Yesung that well, but no one should have to suffer alone like she did.
So Ryeowook did the only thing she could think of doing: she leaned over and hugged her- obviously catching the other girl by surprise by the way she nearly seemed to jump at the sudden movement.
“I'm sorry,” she murmured against the older girl's shoulder, “I'm sorry you had to go through that. It's not right.”
Finally, she felt Yesung's arms wrap around her- returning the hug- and she couldn't help but smile. Everyone deserved happiness and if she could do anything to help Yesung, then she would.
For the next day or two, Yesung was carefully pleasant to Ryeowook, as though she was afraid the younger girl might just decide that she actually was disgusted by her after all. But of course that didn't happen, so Yesung became slowly more comfortable around her.
Little things changed. Yesung would read in the living room during the day instead of keeping herself locked in her bedroom. At dinner, the older girl would engage her in conversation, asking about her past and her life before she took the job- empathizing with her over her ill father, having had to deal with the loss of both of her parents. Sometimes Yesung would invite Ryeowook to take a break and eat a small lunch with her in the kitchen, which she much preferred to eating quickly by herself.
Gradually, Yesung loosened up, becoming what Ryeowook imagined she'd been like before she'd been met with the harsh reality of life in their town- before she'd lost her family. And it was a joy to see. Ryeowook loved her weird jokes and the earnest way she told any story- like she was putting absolutely everything she had into making Ryeowook understand exactly what she was saying. She loved how Yesung started to dote on her- making sure she was eating enough and that she took enough breaks during the day. Ryeowook was beginning to feel like she wasn't working at all. Not because she'd started slacking off, but because she had Yesung's presence as she dusted and mopped and polished, and that alone was enough for her to forget that she was working at all.
The day that Ryeowook's father passed away, Yesung held her as she cried. For hours. Just letting her sob into her shirt as she whispered comforting words into her ear- things that had helped her get through her own painful losses.
And on the day of the funeral, Yesung left the house for the first time.
Ryeowook told her that she didn't have to- that she understood and wouldn't hold it against her for not coming. She told her that she'd be fine and that she shouldn't feel any obligation to accompany her. But Yesung insisted and Ryeowook was more grateful than she could even begin to put into words.
People stared. And they whispered. And stepped aside like Yesung was the carrier of an incurable disease (it is incurable, Yesung had tried to joke one night when they'd stayed up late talking in front of the fire). She barely reacted at all- stone faced and stoic. But each cruel hiss in their direction had Ryeowook bristling, jaw tight so that she wouldn't say anything that she would regret. She wasn't normally outspoken, but the way they treated Yesung made her want to scream.
But instead of losing her temper, she grabbed Yesung's hand- much to the older girl's surprise since they were in public- and led her to the pew in the front that was reserved for her- her father's only daughter.
And when hot tears were spilling down her cheeks as the priest spoke about her father, she was glad to be able to lean into Yesung's side and gain some strength.
“Thank you for coming with me,” Ryeowook said for the hundredth time that day when they'd arrived back at Yesung's house, feeling guilt welling up in her chest whenever she remembered the rude stares that Yesung was on the receiving end of.
“You're welcome again,” Yesung smiled, “You don't have to keep thanking me.”
“But...those people were awful!” Ryeowook exclaimed, her bridled anger finally bubbling to the surface as she threw down her winter coat in frustration, “How can they be like that? They don't even know you!”
“I was expecting it,” Yesung told her calmly. Too calmly in Ryeowook's opinion.
“But they shouldn't be able to treat someone like that! It's not right!”
“Getting angry won't solve anything,” Yesung explained, “I was angry for a long time, but I made myself miserable. If I'm miserable, then they get exactly what they want.”
“You showed me that not everyone is like that, so why waste my time hating the people that are?”
Ryeowook nodded, stepping close to the older girl to wrap her in a hug.
“You reminded me what it was like to be happy,” Yesung whispered, feeling Ryeowook's hiccuped sob against her shoulder, “It's been an emotionally draining day. How about you get into bed and I'll bring you some tea?”
“No,” Ryeowook murmured, voice muffled from where she'd buried her face in Yesung's sweater.
Yesung pulled back to look at the other girl- surprised by her outright refusal.
She opened her mouth to ask what she would rather do instead, but was silenced before she even spoke by Ryeowook's lips against her own.
“Are you sure?” she asked when Ryeowook had pulled back, looking some mix between terrified, determined, and pleased with herself, even with tear tracks still visible on her flushed cheeks, “The reaction...”
“I don't care about them,” Ryeowook shook her head, “You're more important to me than that.”
I love you, is what Yesung meant to say to her. But Ryeowook was kissing her again, so it would have to wait.
The next day, Yesung fired her from her position as maid and insisted that she sleep in her room instead of the guest room. Also upon Yesung's urging, Ryeowook took a part time job at the bakery as she'd wanted to for a long time.
Everything was as perfect as Ryeowook could have ever imagined. Except for the smell of turtles while she was trying to sleep. But she figured that she'd get used to that eventually.