To the woman who once called me a beast.

You were an adult, with grown children of your own.

I was in my early twenties, legally an adult, but still a child in so many ways.

You called me a beast – an arrow of insult dipped in venom and spite and drawn back on a bow fuelled by alcohol and misinformation. You let loose, the arrow whistling through the air toward my back.

And like the beasts that man has hunted for centuries, I was wounded by your blow.

It wasn’t the first time I had been struck by someone else’s malice or misguided hate. I had learned to retreat quickly and quietly, licking my wounds in solitude. I knew I was part animal – feral and weak within my own mind. Internal monsters tore each other apart in their never ending fight for dominance, ruining my mind in the process. I knew that once my weakness was sensed by others, that my wounds would become my death sentence.

For a long time, I carried that arrow in my back, the memory of it pulling and tearing at my flesh and reopening a wound that I was unable to treat and close.

I sought relief for my pain, a safe place to take time to heal. I sought the love that I gave freely and craved in return, but finding someone who loved me and my wounds was an impossible task. The places that had lured me in with promises of safety turned on me, twisting the arrowhead in my flesh to remind me of what I was, and that I was nothing more.
I should have known… You don’t pick the runt of the litter when you want a hunting hound.

I did not need the reminder that I was broken – I knew it already. I did not need to be told that I was difficult to handle – I woke with that knowledge crawling over my skin like fleas. I did not need my flaws placed on display for your scrutiny – I knew what each and every one of them were, with painful familiarity, like the scabs that you pick at and pick at until they are raw and infected – the ones that leave you scarred, even after they have healed.

I did not need you to tell me that I was a beast – because I knew.

I carried my title with shame – I quietened my voice, bowed my head, exposed my underbelly to make it clear that I was no threat. I became domesticated, longing for a warm place beside the fire but often being banished into the cold darkness and chained in place. I tried in vain to weather the storm in my heart, in my mind, in my soul… but I was sinking, suffocating, drowning. Hands that reached to help me let go again when my ferocity reared its head. Lips that preached love and commitment sucked the air from my lungs as their hands pushed me down again and held me under. My demons snapped their jaws, fixing their teeth and talons at my throat…

And then the beast awoke. And she was hungry.

She had been hidden in the darkness for so long that she prowled quietly at first, flexing the muscle and sinew that had been patiently coiled, ready to pounce once she saw the light. Her claws scratched and scraped the ground she walked upon, and her teeth gleamed as she bared them in a defiant snarl.

She had waited long enough. At the first glimpse of light, she attacked.

The beast that I had caged for so long burst through those bars as though they weren’t there at all. She tore at my demons, vanquishing them into the shadows and whispers they were and nothing more. The hands that had held me down while claiming to lift me up withdrew, afraid that they would be snapped off and swallowed whole by the wildness. The voices that had screamed my faults and failures for the world to know were cut off with strangled cries as the beast tore out the throats that bore their words forth.

The arrow in my back fell from my flesh and shattered into dust.

The beast curled herself around me, her hunger sated, and allowed me to admire her. She had been patient, biding her time before she showed her tenacity and her strength. Her growls rolled into quiet, contented rumbles as I stroked her fur, surprisingly soft and thick beneath my fingertips. She blinked large, glowing eyes at me slowly, flexing her claws the way a cat does when they are content by the fire on a winters evening.

Calmly, quietly, she slipped back into her lair, gratified and benign. Her rumbling purrs began to reverberate within my chest and through my veins. They carried in the air that I breathed and the beat of my heart.

And I knew – I was a beast.

I was a beast of grace and poise, of fire and passion, and resilience and love.
I was a force to be reckoned with – I had become the very storm that had threatened to drown me.

My wounds had become my battle scars, etching intricate and beautiful patterns across my skin – my laughter, now quick and easy to tumble from my throat, became a song of triumph. The lips that had trembled so often, that had whispered unkind things to my reflection in the mirror to remind the beast of her place, found another’s that whispered only kind things against them as he peppered them with kisses, tangling his fingers through my soft mane and drinking in the beauty of its wildness.

I no longer reach for hands to drag me upward from my hell, or to meet the demands of someone who believed their place was elevated above me. The hands I reach for now slip firmly and comfortably around mine as we walk side by side, equal. I am safe in the knowledge that my claws are tucked snugly beneath my skin, there if I should need them, but not necessary to display.

To the woman who called me a beast – you were right.

And oh, what a beautiful beast I am.

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