DISCLAIMER: The beast is based on the Netflix series The haunting of Bly Manor. It contains spoilers.
Dani’s hands trembled as she gave the shopkeeper his money. The man just smiled at her and nodded encouraging. It made the flutters in her stomach even worse. Her breath got caught high in her chest and her throat went dry. She was ready, she wanted to do this, but still her heart was racing like crazy. Why?
She knew why. It wasn’t Jamie’s reaction she feared, if anything that was what she wanted to see most. That dawning, the way she would swallow, the intense stare she would receive without a doubt, that was something she longed for. She could already feel their bodies collide, melt together in a tight embrace, because if anything this is what they needed. After everything that happened, they deserved it. Which was why. Dani hadn’t known what she had bargained off when she invited the beast of the jungle into her life. She hadn’t known what was at stake when she saved the little girl from her ill fate. If she did… it wouldn’t have mattered. She would have still saved Flora in spite of her own future being taken from her. She just didn’t know what was worse. Knowing that she could be called by the lady of the lake to return home at any given time, or not knowing when. All things come to an end, she was very well aware of that. But to have that hanging above their heads and not knowing when the time would be there, it was torture.
Dani had struggled for so long. She was afraid to give her full self to Jamie. Not because she feared what the gardener would do, quite the opposite actually. She knew. She knew that Jamie would give all of herself to her too. And Dani just couldn’t.
When Viola took her place next to Dani’s own soul, she had nearly swallowed her whole. Her presence had longed for acknowledgement for so long, that the burning desire destroyed nearly everything on its path. But the lady of the lake found that the world she re-entered was a different one than the one she had left. The places she once knew where long gone, the people she cared for forgotten, much like her own memories. But one thing had changed, a shift ever so small. The gesture of kindness, as simple as a helping hand, slowly made her anger succumb to it. It was in the au pairs warmth that her hatred faltered for the first time. It was in the way that the gardener looked at Dani and saw her too, yet never flinched away. And Viola, who could not even remember her own name, understood. She was noticed, she was not alone. She would never be left behind ever again. Dani was her new chest, but her days no longer existed out of waking, walking, sleeping. She now gazed at the world that was offered to them both, and became quiet. She became calm.
Dani had always felt the spectator there, lurking at her. Sometimes it choked her, at other times she welcomed it. She dreaded the moment that the call would come, but every day she kept the beast astride, made her feel so much more alive. Colors became more vibrant, smells more exquisite, the air that much purer and Jamie’s kisses… wow. Just wow. At those days, her heart would sing and everything in the world was perfect. They helped her through the bad days, where Viola clasped her long fingers around her throat. When light became dark and everything felt heavy. When the water seemed just that much deeper. Days on which she could see the lady of the lake staring back at her from her own reflection. On those days Dani’s soul was pressed to the background and she would go numb. She felt a visitor in her own body and just couldn’t connect to life around her. It was Jamie who kept her grounded, who looked into her eyes for so long until she found her again. That spark, thrown as a lifeline towards her, brought her back every single time. Jolted her straight back into her body, into charge.
It happened a lot in the beginning. The weeks after she had strut into that lake to pry little Fiona out of those dead cold hands, Dani woke up thrashing and screaming. All the lives that Viola had taken over all those years, they were all shown to her in those nights. Necks snapped, hearts paralyzed and then there was nothing but water. That dark, heavy liquid. All around her, like tar. She’d try to push through but the water just slipped right back, no matter how much she moved. Her lungs would burn in her chest, her throat hoarse from the screams that barely even reached her ears. Until they did and everything around her fell away like confetti. She would always find Jamie’s arms around her, being pulled tightly into her embrace. Her breath warm against her ear as she whispered soothing words, assuring her she was still alive. The gardener sat with her until Dani could breathe again, and then kissed away the salted tears on her cheeks. Her fingers always caressing her face ever so gentle and the look in her face ever so loving. It never became too much for her. Never a burden. Even as the years past and they decided to plan a little further then one day at a time, Jamie would jolt awake if she heard even the smallest nightly whimper. Dani’s heart glowed, she made it glow. And the harder it glowed, the less Viola showed herself. The nightly bouts had become less intense and further apart until one day Dani found herself no longer thinking about the beast in the jungle. She was completely happy, filled with love and contentment. That was the moment when she knew. She knew that she wanted to give all of her to Jamie, because Jamie had been giving all of her for so long now. Sure, the gardener pretended not to care. To be fine with taking every day as it came. But Dani knew. She knew deep inside that she had longed for more than just that.
The stroll to the little jewelry shop had been nice and pleasant. Dani was greeted by some of her schoolkids on her way and the sun let the world bask in a golden hue of light. It was a perfect day. It wasn’t until she stood in the little shop, when mr. Joltene greeted her ever so friendly, that she froze. The old gentleman, who had known her for a few years now, asked her if she needed new earrings, or a necklace perhaps but Dani couldn’t reply. A moment of weakness in which she was immediately pushed aside.
“A ring, please sir.”
Mr. Joltene’s smile widened at the request. All he saw was the local schoolteacher, who he now knew was finally going to ask the owner of the flower shop to marry her. He did not hear a difference in her voice, or see a difference in her posture. He just saw Dani. But Dani was not there. She sad in the corner of her body, as she watched. For the first time she heard Viola speak and she just knew that the lady of the lake was so much strong then she ever anticipated. Yet, she did not use her power to call Dani home. She used it to help her built one. So Dani sat back and watched. Viola gazed at the rings that mr. Joltene put in front of her, but no matter how big the stone was or how fancy the metal, none of them were good enough. She let her eyes roam of the shiny objects in the displays when finally one of them drew her attention. A golden one, with a small band that ended into two hands holding a crowned heart.
“Claddagh,” Viola whispered.
“You are familiar with it?
The lady of the lake had just smiled and vanished, leaving Dani back in charge.
“Not really,” she stammered as mr. Joltene had took it out of the case.
“It will tell you if the person wearing it is single or taken. It’s Irish.” At that Dani smiled.
“That will do just perfectly.”
Her hands trembled as she gave the shopkeeper his money. All of this had happened in the heat of the moment. How the hell was she going to ask Jamie? She needed to buy fancy clothes, take her to dinner and sink on one knee. No, no. That would not be right. Perhaps she could take Jamie back home for a vacation and ask there. No, that would not be right. Her mind was going a hundred miles an hour as she left the shop. She roamed the streets trying to think of the perfect way, until Viola suddenly and very violently jerked her body to the left. When the shock subsided and Dani’s heart slowed down, she realized why the lady of the lake had done so. A single potted plant, with its leaves drooped down, was screaming for help.
Jamie was trying to cook some dinner, when Dani came in. The smells were anything but appealing, but she didn’t say a word. She held the plant in front of her chest and walked towards her lover who stood there muttering.
“How much years in this kitchen? My cooking is still shite.”
Dani smiled softly and waited for Jamie to turn around. She glanced over her shoulder, saw the drooping plant and finally left the stove for what it was. She turned around with a soft sigh, eying her.
“What happened there then?”
“I found it on the street. Wanted to save it.”
Jamie flashed her a big smile, that filled the room with her love. She walked towards her and in her husky voice asked Dani to give it to her. She nearly dropped it as she placed it on the kitchen island. Suddenly it all became too much, she couldn’t stand her waiting, watching. She needed to do something. Her heart was beating so fast, her body trembling with adrenaline. And Jamie was standing so close, the pot already in her hands.
“You want me to keep stirring?” It was the most ridiculous question, but she needed to act normal. Just normal. She needed to breathe. Why could she not breathe?
“Yeah, see if you can salvage it. Now, what’s going on here?”
Jamie gently touched the leaves and wrapped her hand around the plant. Carefully she lifted it up from the pot and saw that the roots were all dried out and ripped apart. She was in the middle of explain this to Dani, when she turned the plant around. The gold flicker immediately drew her attention. Jamie grabbed it and stared at the Claddagh ring for a second before she turned around.
“Dani, why is there a ring…” the au pair stood right behind her, her face serious, here stare enough to pin the gardener at the spot.
“Here’s the thing,” Dani interrupted hastily before she would lose all nerve. “You are my best friend and I love my life. And I don’t know how much time we have left.”
Jamie’s face was strung from tension, her mouth slightly open, a serious frown knitting her brows towards each other. Her breathing fastened as she gazed at Dani, who just kept looking at her. Calm.
“But however much it is, I want to spend it with you.” Dani’s face lit up even so slightly as she continued. “And I know we can’t technically get married, but I also don’t really care. We can wear the rings and we’ll know. Okay?”
Jamie nodded speechless as she felt the tears well up in her eyes.
“And that’s enough for me, if that’s enough for you?” Dani closed her speech anxiously and shook as she looked at the gardener. Jamie was overtaken with joy, love, happiness. The emotions washed over her face as she nodded once more.
“I recon that’s enough for me, yes.” She replied as a sob of relief left her mouth.
Dani’s moved closer as her heart poured over from love. As Jamie took her face in her hands and kissed her, she felt all traces of Viola disappear. Just for this one moment, the beast in the jungle was tamed.