an excerpt from The Rose and the Beast
Francesca Lia Block

But the woman came to her then. The woman with hair of red like roses, hair of white like snowfall. She was young and old. She was blind and could see everything. She spoke softly, in whispers, but her voice carried across the mountain ranges like sleeping giants, the cities lit like fairies and the oceans - undulating mermaids. She laughed at her sorrow and wept pearls at weddings. Her fingers were branches and her eyes were little blue planets. She said, You cannot hide forever, though you may try. I've seen you in the kitchen, in the garden. I've seen the things you have sewn - curtains of dawn, twilight blankets and dresses for the sisters like a garden of stars. I have heard the stories you tell. You are the one who transforms, who creates. You can go out into the world and show others. They will feel less alone because of you, they will feel understood, unburdened by you, awakened by you, freed of guilt and shame and sorrow.

But to share with them you must wear shoes you must go out you must not hide you must dance and it will be harder you must face jealousy and sometimes rage and desire and love which can hurt most of all because of what can then be taken away. So make that astral dress to fit your own body this time. And here are glass shoes made from your words, the stories you have told like a blower with her torch forming the thinnest, most translucent sheets of light out of what was once sand. But be careful, sand is already broken but glass breaks. The shoes are for dancing and not running away.

So she washed off the dust and ash and flour and mud and went to the dance where sure enough everyone whirled around her, entranced by the stories in which they recognized themselves, but in the stories they were also more than themselves as it always felt at the end fufilled not meaningless and empty like life can sometimes feel. She knew they all loved her with her stories because they became her and she became them.

He came to her across the marble floor, past the tall windows glowing like candles, the balconies overlooking the reflecting pools full of swans, the stone statues of goddesses and beds of heady roses - had she made all of this, like a story? He had dense curls and soft full lips and bright eyes like a woodland beast and a body of lithe muscle and mostly she could see that he was gentle, he was gentle like a boy though he could lift her in his hands. He held her and she felt his strong heart beating like the sound of all the stories she could ever hope to tell.