by Joan W.
Authors Note: This story is written strictly for the enjoyment of the Beauty and the Beast fans, and no copyright infringement is intended.
I dedicate this story to Lynn Wright. Thank you for being my mentor, and for all of your kind patience and help. Thanks for making a dream come true.
Long before the human Mouse came to reside in the tunnels, another little transient made a warm home within one particular cozy chamber.
There were many interesting things in this chamber. Shelves of books, armoires filled with unusual things, like statues, toys, and other bric-a-brac. There was a stained glass window that softly lit the interior of the room, an old juke box, and a rather large bed covered with an antique quilt.
The mouse shared the chamber with a young human-like creature which had fur unlike her own. It had very sharp teeth that showed when it yawned or roared. It reminded her of a huge cat, although it did not smell like one. The creature was mostly benign, but sometimes it became angry, and sometimes anxious, pacing back and forth.
One night as she ran stealthily towards her corner, a large booted foot landed adroitly upon her tail. She squeaked in horror and attempted to escape. "Well, what do we have here?" the soft voice boomed.
A fur covered hand grasped and lifted her far into the air, until she was at eye level with the creature. One pair of tiny black eyes and one pair of electric blue eyes met, and instantly a bond was formed.
The blue gaze softened and the creature spoke. "Iíve frightened you. Donít worry, little one, I wonít hurt you. Where did you come from?" To her amazement the creature set her down gently upon its bed.
The mouse wanted to run away, but the creatureís kind and warm expression had captivated her.
"My name is Vincent," he said smiling down at her. "I should take you outside before any harm comes to you. My father doesnít allow pets in the tunnels, even small ones."
He reached down, held out his hand and the mouse cautiously climbed into it. She stood up on her hind legs, sniffing the air, and began to squeak in protest. Vincent laughed out loud at her comical antics.
"All right, I guess you can stay" he said. "But I wonít tell Father about you." Vincentís eyes narrowed, as he carefully pondered "I think that you should have a name. I will call you Juliet after Shakespeareís lovely Capulet."
He fed her cheese from Williamís pantry and sometimes, when he was alone with her he would read aloud. She would sit near him on the arm of his big chair, listening intently to his soft melodic voice. Juliet enjoyed both his company and his generous friendship.
As the months passed, Vincent took Juliet with him nearly everywhere. She would sit comfortably in the hood of his cloak or in his pocket, hidden from view. One day he decided to take her with him to breakfast in the dining chamber. Juliet was determined to grab a bite to eat on her own, so she ventured down Vincentís right arm onto the table. Vincent saw her but not in time. Unfortunately, Lisa Vincentís friend, saw her too. Being overly dramatic, Lisa let out a blood-curdling scream, which startled Juliet and everyone else at the table. The mouse scurried down its length, and as the occupants jumped up, food went everywhere. Dishes scattered and fell, spilling their contents all over. The man known as Father came over to see what all of the fuss was about. Vincent looked confused, just shrugged his shoulders, and attempted to calm a very overwrought Lisa.
Juliet ran directly to Vincentís chamber and vowed that from that moment on Vincent could bring her what she needed to eat. But she was not sorry that she had upset Lisa, as she didnít like the girl creature very much anyhow. Juliet sensed Lisa was not sincere with Vincent and saw her teasing him on many occasions. She would flirt with him, and he would respond in quite a smitten manner. It wasnít long however, before something happened between them and she never saw Lisa again. He was not quite the same after thatÖ.
Late one evening he lay on his bed. Juliet heard crying sounds coming from beneath the blankets. She ran to the bed and climbing with great effort ascended to where he lay buried under his covers. She squeaked loudly several times in order to get his attention. The crying stopped, and a shaggy head peered over the edge of the quilt. Vincent sniffled and said "What? OhÖJuliet itís you."
The small mouse climbed onto his chest and looked at him thoughtfully. She curled up in a ball and closed her eyes. Carefully, one long clawed finger reached out and lightly stroked her soft gray fur. In a matter of moments both of them were fast asleep. From then on, she slept on his pillow every night-- until the sickness came.
Vincent spent weeks in bed with a raging fever. During that time she would watch over him from a distance, Vincent was restless, thrashing and roaring. He frightened her then, and was not the quiet gentle creature she had come to know. He seemed to suffer endlessly through hellish nightmares. Eventually he had to be tied down by the others to quell the violence. His great heart stopped beating and a devastated Father pronounced him dead. But she knew Vincent was not lost to her, not lost to any of them, and just as surely his heart started to beat again. He regained his strength within a few weeks and Juliet was very relieved that life in the tunnels had returned to normal once more.
Living with Vincent was interesting to say the least. He was shy, but when alone, lost some of that bashfulness. He would often recite his favorite stories aloud in his chamber and sometimes act them out. And on extremely rare occasions, he would hum or sing, his voice a rich baritone and Juliet was enthralled by it.
He liked to write and wrote in his journals daily. He also had his studies and spent most of the day in class. Juliet loved to go with him, but hated to sit still. She knew Vincent was very ticklish. Hidden under his hair, Juliet would sometimes lightly brush the back of his neck during class, causing him to snicker. She liked to do this as it would confound Father. "Vincent is there something that you wish to share with the class?" Father would say his eyebrows askance. "No Father," Vincent replied, sheepishly looking downwards. A few minutes later she would do it again much to his embarrassment. Finally, he would have to excuse himself and leave the chamber. He gave her a stern lecture outside, with a warning, that if she did not behave herself she would have to leave. Juliet had perfected her contrite look, and of course he would relent and let her stay.
Vincent took her on a long excursion to the Unnamed River. For two whole weeks she had his undivided attention. He shared his meals with her and kept her warm next to the fire. She rode with him on his raft, and swam in the shallow puddles near the raging water. There on the river he had at last revealed the secret longings of his heart, his hopes and dreams, and it touched her so. It was a journey she would never forget.
The seasons came and went and Juliet was much older now. Vincent no longer took her with him as she tired easily. He told her "Rest now, my Juliet", and ruffled her fur lightly, before he left her for the day. It was winter and the tunnels were growing colder. Juliet tried her best to stay off of the drafty floors however she caught a chill and became feverish. When he returned that evening, he found her curled up on his pillow weak and listless. She had been waiting for him.
He picked her up gently and cradled her in his hand. He knew her time had come. Tears rolled down Vincentís cheeks as he gathered her close. She shut her tiny little eyes, held ever so tenderly in the palm of his great hand, and quietly breathed her last.
He buried her, wrapped in a scrap of fabric from his pillow in a small tin that he had found a long time ago.
Fourteen years laterÖ
While Catherine stood in Vincentís chamber waiting for him, she noticed an object standing in one corner of the room. She walked over to it, and bending down picked it up. It was a brick with an inscription that simply read, "My Juliet".
When he returned she asked him about it. "She was my pet mouseÖand my friend. The night she died-- I buried her there." He said sadly, pointing to the corner. "I will never forget her" and he bowed his head.
Catherine put her arms lovingly around Vincent to comfort him "Iím so sorry, my love" she whispered.
In another corner of the room, a pair of tiny black eyes watched them. Unbeknownst to Vincent, Juliet had once met her Romeo. And in a timeless family tradition, for generations now, continued to carefully watch over him.