Wednesday, December 25, 2013

PO, FB and Thieves Part 2

Part 2- Farm Boy Mark
I walk with Mark as we lead the horses out of another random town. It’s late night; no one is awake not even the gate keeper as we pass through the gate. Father fell asleep in the saddle a couple minutes ago, but not before hurtling insults and curses at Mark. It’s father’s fault we even have to travel at night after the first week of travelling we were forced to travel at night thanks to father insulting a officer in the second town we passed through. He was forgiven of course, but to prevent that from happening again we travelled at night.

“I’m sorry” I sigh, feeling worn out by the last couple weeks of travelling.

“Don’t apologize for him. Your father is a piece of work and doesn’t know you very well or didn’t know you from the start” Mark soothes. We stop as daybreak approaches in a sheltered clearing, away from any road. I sit down feeling every part of my body screaming for sleep. Mark settles beside me with food after tying the horses up. I eat and then curl up; pulling my cloak around myself fully aware of Mark’s every movement. I finally fall asleep as the sun finally rises into the sky.

I sit and keep watch as Sara sleeps fully aware her father is watching me like a hawk watches its prey.

“What do you want” I hiss quietly trying not to wake Sara up. She moans and turns over as I get up to face Chief Smith.

“Really Smith what do you want? Haven’t you done enough to make her life a living hell. Her mother, your wife died without you there to comfort Sara and say goodbye to her” I hiss. “Exactly how did you escape imprisonment in Greenwood anyways?” I ask.

“Well the people loved my wife and knew she wouldn’t have approved of my imprisonment, no matter how much she disliked me and the treatment of our children. So they let me go on the condition I’d never go near my only son again” he laughs. Sara whimpers and turns over again in her sleep. I quickly gag Smith as I pulled Sara gently into my lap.

“She’s exactly like my sisters back home” I sigh, trying really hard not to laugh at Smith’s reaction to my comment and actions. Sara relaxes instantly and I realize how much trust she’s placed in me in the last two weeks. I place her back down before I wake her hours later.

“Sara it’s time to move” I say, shaking her shoulder a little. I get a good punch to the face as she sits up yawning.

“Oh OK” she sighs like she’s completely forgotten where we are. She blinks a few times then remembers, as she gets up throwing her father an evil look. She unties Fern and rides ahead as I remove the gag from Smith.

“What the hell are you thinking, letting Sara ride off on her own!” he yells as I untie Blue and follow her on foot. This old man must be really stupid or senile if he thinks I let Sara ride ahead on her own. Sara has a mind and will of her own that no one in their right mind can even consider controlling. David obviously just went along with it or redirected her boundless energy. I keeping hearing the insults, but I realize there more directed at Sara’s behaviour management now. I stop mid-day at a stream to refill the canteens still trying to ignore the old man. Sara comes back on Fern covered in mud and leaves.

“Don’t laugh and I mean it when I say don’t” she says trying to sound fierce, but I can tell she wants to burst out laughing herself.

“OK” I say on the verge of laughing myself. The old man rolls his eyes at us, ruining Sara’s good mood instantly. She gags him as she goes to wash up. I spot something gray in her saddle bag and realize it’s the dress she wore to that winter ball back in Meridell. I throw an evil look at the old man for completely derailing my plan to win Sara over as I chug back some water. Sara comes back wrapped up in Blue’s riding blanket causing the old man to glare at her. I realize why as she moves past me to dig in the bag for the dress and go change, teasing me with a flirty smile. I turn around as she changes knowing her father is still watching me.

“OK you can look now” she sighs as she pulls her cloak on over top of the dress.

“So how much farther to Greenwood” she asks mounting Fern.

“Another month at the latest” I sigh as she looks at me in shock and a little suspicion.

“Why do you think David went to Meridell? It was as far away as possible from the judgemental minds of his family over his choice of career” I explain as we continue on our way.

“God would you just shut up for once” I growl as my father continues ranting about another thing he disliked about me. We’ve been travelling two weeks since the stop at the stream and I’m about ready to kill my father for the non-stop bitching and Mark for not finding a short cut because I knew there was one thanks to mother finding the one in Brightvale. I sit down on a log as Mark gags father for some peace and quiet. I don’t know how Mark can put up with him because I know I can’t and most times I’m not the one father is insulting or moaning about. Father rolls his eyes as I serve up the last of our food between Mark and I. Mark starts talking about his family farm when I hear a twig snap behind me. Mark shuts up instantly as I go to pull out David’s gun from its hiding place and he pulls out the shotgun as I get up and face a hooded figure.

“Who are you and what do you want?” I growl pulling out my gun from behind my back. The hooded figure stares at me then turns and walks away as we get up to follow it, my father’s protests inaudible thanks to the gag.

“Wait, please wait!” I cry weaving through the trees trying to catch up as the person disappears into the tree. I realize something is burning close by as I turn and investigate letting whoever the hooded figure was get away. I stumble into camp where I find some herbs burning in a pot with smoke coming out of it as I dose the fire with water from my canteen. The camp itself is deserted with the exception of a horse.

“Red?!” I exclaim recognizing the horse as Luke’s horse, Redstar after one of the great Indian chiefs from the Americas. I pull him in to get a closer look at him as Mark finally catches up with father and the horses.

“Wait is that Red?” father whispers in shock as I nod. I dig through the saddle bag, thinking this can’t be really happening as I realize Luke hadn’t died, but run away once father had gone away like I had done.

“Mark can you go on ahead with father to the city and don’t argue with me it’ll be faster for you on horseback while I take Red to look into something” I state calmly. Mark looks as hurt and upset as I feel about this plan.

“Look I’m sorry-” I go to say, but Mark kisses me. It wasn’t at all like David’s kiss sweet and gentle. It feels like I’m playing with fire when I shouldn’t be as I kiss him back with the same energy while slipping my hand in his front shirt pocket taking the note he’s kept hidden for this whole journey.

“Bye” he laughs as he rides away leaving me with Red speechless.

“Well let’s get going then” I sigh to Red. I’m mad with myself for letting Mark kiss me and realize Mark is the total opposite of David. As I ride following a debris trail left by someone fleeing the camp I compare the two brothers and know deep down I love and like David more than I ever will if I’m with Mark.

“Wait a minute this is leading the direction Mark is heading” I say out loud. I pull the note out and realize it’s from brother.

Dear sister, I’m going away and I’m very sorry it’s when mum is getting worse, but if I don’t go now father will force me to follow in his footsteps as a police officer. I faked catching mum’s fever to put off father’s plans for me so I could run away from the life of fear we’ve been living all this time. I’m going to Greenwood, mum’s birthplace and home before she married father to either to find work as a blacksmith’s apprentice or a farm hand. So if you ever find and read this letter I hope you’ve done what I’m doing now. Running and leaving our bastard father behind for a better, happier life.

Your loving brother, Luke

That bastard is going to pay I think angrily to myself for hiding brother’s letter from me and I realize the ink is nearly three years old as I follow the trail. To my surprise it ends in Greenwood or more like Greenwood farms.

“How come Mark didn’t know about this shortcut” I growl to myself as I push Red into a gallop. I slow down as I pass the first farm. As I ride by I hear “Lady Mary?!” someone exclaim behind me.

“No the Lady Mary was my mother though” I sigh turning around facing an old man about 50-60 though he seems to be aging well.

“Lady Mary was your mother? Wait I can see it in your red hair and behaviour, so like Lady Mary to encourage her daughter to follow in her footsteps” he states to himself, mostly for himself anyways I think as I try to keep my temper in check. “You probably have her temper as well. Most of you resembles Mary, but your eyes are his” he says flatly. I sigh continuing on my way sensing Red’s impatience to keep moving. I realize Red would take me to Luke as I realize why he’s being so impatient.

“OK take me to him” I whisper into his ear. Red breaks into a run as I hold his reins loosely in my hands, confident I wouldn’t fall off. Red stops at the last and second biggest farm in the area and I realize it’s close to the city of Greenwood as Red noses the gate open. A little girl with a mess of flame red hair races out crying tears of happiness.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy Red has come back. The man who stole him must have-” she shrieks, but goes silent as I dismount.

“What is it this time Allie” Luke sighs coming out of the barn. I cover my mouth as I lean against Red for support as it all hits me that I haven’t completely lost the family I had before mother died. Luke hasn’t spotted me yet as Allie tries to point me out as I step out from behind and stand in front of Red. His back is to me as I open my mouth and call his name.

“Luke” I say and he turns around in shock nearly dropping the little girl in shock when a little boy comes running through the gate looking scared.

“Daddy Uncle Mark has brought Grandpa back and won’t say why” he explains.

“Oh who are you?” he asks as he looks me in the eyes looking scared of me. Luke pulls us all into the barn before Mark passes by with father. Luke puts Allie down and pulls me into a hug and I realize we’re both crying as Red nuzzles Luke.

“Why didn’t you just tell me you were running? I wouldn’t have stopped you know that right, instead of leaving me to believe for the last two years you had died along the road somewhere alone” I sob. He hugs me tighter as he explains and apologizes repeatedly for leaving me behind. “I’m sorry and I know, but I did leave a note for you” he whispers. I hug him back just happy to be here with my older brother.

“How do you know Mark?” I ask over tea as Luke serves some cookies made by Allie.

“He’s my best friend after David and he helped me keep the farm going after Allie and Sean’s mother died. Allie and Sean’s mother was alone raising the two of them in her family home when I came into their lives. Allie, little Allie’s namesake and I had one year together happily married and the kids thought and still do that I’m their blood father. She died the same death mother did with her weak constitution” he sighs quietly. He sounds really sad when he asks “How do you know Mark? His family owns the biggest farm in Greenwood and practically represents the other farmers in city council meetings.” I realize no one in the Green family informed him of my marriage to David so now I don’t know how to answer him, but something in my face gets Luke going.

“You’ve got to tell me now because you’re face looks like I killed the cat in front of you for fun” he whines.

“Wait you did kill the cat for fun while I watched, or left me to believe you did” I point out. He laughs a little bit at this as I sigh not knowing where to start. Allie saves me by racing in wailing “Daddy Sean did it again! He pinched Nel now she won’t calm down” she’s crying, but her face looks a little over exaggerated. I’m trying really hard not to laugh as Luke escorts her outside. I stare at my tea cup contemplating how much to tell Luke on how I knew Mark. Thinking about Mark gets me angry when I think about the kiss and the fact he kept the fact he knew brother was alive and well with a family to boot.

“OK problem solved so tell me how you know Mark” he laughs. I sigh and spend the next hour telling him about how I knew Mark and everything else leading up to the day Mark arrived at my doorstep or alleyway now that I think about it.

“Hhhm let me recap what you’ve told me. When you ran away from home David found you and you two hit it off ending up in your marriage to him and father ended up killing him. When Mark showed up he learned that you had married his little brother and in fact David had left you everything that was his and obviously Mark got on your bad side.” I nod as he continues.

“Mark stayed in your home and came to terms with your relationship with David all the while trying to court you? Well Mark will be Mark, but I don’t understand why he hid my letter to you. All I can come up with is maybe he was waiting for the right moment to give it to you” he sighs as we both grieve over David.

“Those few months we were together, David and I were the safest and happiest I’d felt since mother died and I hate to admit it, but Mark pulled me out of the half dead state I was in after David” I half laugh half sob. I wipe my eyes and blow my nose as Luke gets up and clears away the dishes. I get up to help him feeling a little uneasy. He hasn’t looked me in the eye the whole time I told him my story of the last several months and I’m wondering what he’s feeling about it all. I stop wiping my eyes, not bothering because I know the tears won’t stop as I dry the dishes. Luke hugs me again, but this time he says out loud

“You can stop being so damn strong to keep it together you know.” I break down into uncontrollable sobs, trembling from crying this hard. I feel two sets of small arms wrap around my legs and I look down to see Allie and Sean crying as well. I wipe my eyes feeling free and happier than I had since David met me in those woods all those months ago. I smile and sit down as brother tells me all about his wife and the adventures that everyday brought to their married lives. I notice that brother keeps bringing the Thieves Guild of Europe up. I realize that David had left journal full of suspects from this guild when Mark walks in.

“Hey Luke I can see Sara found her way here” he laughs throwing me a devilish look. I turn away from him and ask the children what they thought of Mark.

“Uncle Mark is a horrible flirt and likes to play around with silly girls” Allie says giving me a good picture of his more than one woman personality.

“And what do we do with boys like Uncle Mark Allie?” I ask the 10 year old.

“We ignore them and think about horrible fates for them when they finally get cornered” she huffs as we both go outside dragging Sean. I hear Luke burst out laughing in sheer hysterics over Allie and me.

“Uhm Auntie Sara why did Uncle Mark bring Grandpa back all he did was cause trouble” Sean asks as I quietly explain to him about David before we continue on playing.

As soon as Sara slams the door behind her and Luke finishes laughing at me I try to speak, but Luke cuts me off.

“Why did you bring my father back? All he did last time was cause grief for everyone and I know Sara said to bring him to get justice for killing David. The problem is Mark she doesn’t know any better in these kinds of matters so you shouldn’t have brought him here” Luke growls. “What are you so mad about his date for execution has been set by the lord himself” I exclaim. He relaxes only a little bit as he explains himself.

“Sara mentioned that you found my letter to her and hid it from her for the month and a half you stayed with her and travelled together” he exclaims as I check my pocket for it. Shit I realize Sara must have taken it when I kissed her.

“Yeah you were caught and now I know you’re intentions towards my sister. Well she wants none of it by her reaction to you” he laughs as I feel my face light up in embarrassment.

“Well I know who to thank for the bruises she gave me” I laugh a little showing him the yellowing marks on my legs and shoulders.

“Yeah I taught her how to defend herself and to never let go of your weapon” he laughs as we both look out the window watching Sara and the children play.

“I’ve missed her and I’m glad you’re both home” Luke says as I realize that’s my cue to leave and check in with Gramps.

“Well I got to go and see how much Gramps knows about David and what happened to him” I sigh waving my goodbyes to the children as Sara gives me a rude gesture. I flinch at it knowing and not admitting how much she has me wrapped around her little finger. I let her laugh fill my head as Mimi and Jessie come rushing to the door to welcome me back.

“I’m back” I say noting Chris’s absence. Chris is the youngest out of the six of us while Malcolm and Jared are the oldest, twins, but already married running farms and families of their own. “Where’s Chris?” I ask as Jessie takes my riding coat.

“He’s out riding Moony on the track” Mimi sighs looking depressed now.

“I guess Gramps told you about David then” I sigh, heading to Gramps’ room. I open the door to his room to find father talking with Gramps about this year’s crop. I knock getting both of their attention, father jumps.

“I’m back and I’m guessing you got David’s letter” I sigh as dad leaves the room.

“Yes I did, but David wrote me several letters before he died all about his wife. Your father and I even went to the wedding although your father was sick for the whole ceremony. He never did give much on her family’s background although I have my suspicions she’s related to that friend of yours Luke” he explains, his voice rough like gravel.

“Oh? So you knew he was leaving everything that was his to her as well as his inheritance” I say trying not to lose my temper with the old man.

“Yes I knew and gave my consent to his decision” he sighs looking sad. I sigh and tell him all that has passed in the last month and half, including Smith’s execution and that Sara is here in Greenwood staying with her brother. He nods asking me to go so he could rest.

“Before you go though could you talk to Chris, he’s not taking David’s death and choices very well” I nod turning in for the day.

I saddle Fern up to go for a ride on the horse track Luke mentioned yesterday over tea, glad for a little time to me. I spot Mark arguing with a younger version of himself outside the barn as I quickly hide in one of the stalls. He looks exactly like Mark with his brown hair sticking up in all directions and his stubborn eyes shouting he would never back down from a fight.

“Why Mark? Why did Gramps agree to David’s last wishes to leave everything he owned as well as his inheritance to that stupid girl” The boy shouts. I dismount Fern in the stall figuring Mark must have seen me, or not as he continues arguing.

“Chris, Gramps agreed because he knew our brother loved his wife and didn’t want to leave her poor as well as alone” he sighs.

“She isn’t alone now is she? Her brother has been living here while she got our brother killed at the hands of their father all the while stealing his things” he shouts even louder now. I cringe hating how hurt and helpless I feel by Chris’ words. I hear footsteps as someone storms past my hiding place.

“You can come out now Sara I know you were listening” Mark sighs. I come out knowing my body language is screaming the hurt I’m feeling, but I don’t go to Mark right away. Not after hiding the truth about my brother from me for as long as he did.

“Look I’m sorry about what Chris said and that you had to hear it. Chris isn’t handling his grief over David’s death very well” he explains gently for once I may add. He tries getting closer, but I just nod not trusting my own voice not to give me away. I mount Fern heading home before I start crying in front of the one person I didn’t want to witness my weakness. I’m not a cry baby, but for some reason the Green family knew how to push the one button to get me going. I hope Luke will let me stay with him because I know I don’t want to stay with the Green’s. Not with Chris reminding me of what I already know over who killed David. Luke agrees instantly, obviously something in my face makes him say yes as I settle into the guest room. I fall asleep feeling a bit better, but Chris’ words ring in my ears and I know they’re getting to me. I wake up mid afternoon the next day to more arguing. It seems to be right outside the guest room door as I listened, eyes closed.

“Mark what did Chris say to her yesterday because she came back with the same haunted look you mentioned when you met her. It looked like David had just died in front of her again” brother shouts.

“I’m sorry she overheard Chris and I arguing over David’s and Gramps’ choice to leave his inheritance to her as David asked in his will” Mark sighs.

“Chris isn’t taking David’s death very well and is taking his grief out on Sara, blaming her for David’s death” Mark continues explaining. Chris’ words come to front and center of my thoughts as Luke and Mark continue arguing. Allie comes into the room through the window with a very pretty looking begonia.

“They sure are stupid” Allie whispers getting under the quilt with me. I nod hugging her as I feel the tears fall, hating how David is the one subject that gets me going when I should be trying to get on with my life. Allie hugs me back obviously feeling me tremble from crying silently. “Chris is always saying mean things without thinking first” Allie whispers giving me her flower. I nod, taking a deep breath to regain composure before I get up. As I’m brushing my hair I realize I don’t have any spare clothes. I sigh opening the window Allie came in and grab Blue for a ride bareback.

“It’s been awhile since it’s been just us” I whisper in his ear. I feel his excitement as I nudge him into a gallop. I burst into laughter as we race through a giant puddle, getting all wet, my hair falling loose from the bun I had it in. I start singing mum’s song as I ride to the track, praying for no incidents or run inns with Chris.

Bye-lo, baby
Bye-lo, baby
Bye-lo, baby
Bye-lo, baby, bye
Daddy still loves you
Daddy still loves you
Daddy still loves you
Though he’s gone to war

I sung this lullaby a couple times after mum died, but I can never sing as beautifully as she did. I reach the track after a couple more times of humming the lullaby to myself. I notice as we get closer Chris is on the track riding a beautiful white stallion. I look at Blue who is a bluish grey mustang loving Blue over the stallion as I ride down the hill. Blue breaks into a gallop as we get on the track obviously looking for a challenge. I shake my head laughing as we overpower Chris and his horse feeling a lot better. I pull Blue in before dismounting, giving him a hug.

“Thanks Blue for cheering me up” I sigh looking over at a furious looking Chris.

“What?! Just say what you feel you need to shout and scream about OK” I growl hating how much he reminded me of my grandfather on father’s side, long dead thank god in my opinion. “Fine! You are a whore like bitch who took advantage of my brother’s kindness and took all his things when he died” Chris shouts. I take a deep breath asking David for the strength not to hit this spoiled child as I say “there do you feel better now after degrading me or worse because calling me a whore only tarnishes David’s memory” I nearly shout at the end. He slaps me leaving a stinging sensation in my left cheek which meant there’d be a bruise later. Oh well I think to myself as Chris rubs his hand.

“Just so you know he didn’t marry me out of pity like you seem to think he did. He married me because he loved me for who I am and that I was and still am different than the average girl” I sigh rubbing my cheek definitely feeling the pain now.

“You also behave like a spoiled child who thinks they can get anything they want by throwing a temper tantrum” I shout turning my back on him. Chris goes to grab me from behind, but a he grabs my shoulder I flip him, breaking his leg in the process.

“Oops my bad” I say my voice full of venom as I mount Blue and head home.

I go to the track around noon to look for Chris for Mimi, who mentioned he skipped breakfast. I’m muttering and cursing to myself about Chris’ usual stupidity for making everyone worry about him. I get to the barn to find him hobbling along with Moony supporting him; cursing to himself I may add.

“What are you doing?” I ask sounding a little baffled until I get a good look at his right leg.

“Did Moony buck you off?!” I exclaim in shock looking at the neutral tempered horse.

“No that stupid girl flipped me and broke my leg” he growls.

“By stupid girl you mean Sara flipped you. Well I’m not surprised considering the way you’ve been treating her Chris, but obviously you pushed a touchy subject for her to break your leg” I scold as I help him back to the house a little surprised myself at how strong Sara is. I’m laughing to myself a little bit at how much trouble she was stirring up with her arrival in Greenwood farms.

“She just stood there and took the hurtful words I shouted at her. She even took a slap to the face all the while remaining calm” Chris sighs.

“You hit her! How low are you going to stoop with your behaviour” I exclaim feeling my last bit of patience evaporate. I’m seething with anger, but I’ll take it out on a tree or a wall. Chris remains quiet as I open the door to the house knowing if he says anything I just might take my anger out on him just like when we were younger. Mimi takes Chris into the kitchen giving me a grateful look as I go back out to see how much pain was brought to the surface from Chris’ words. I’m walking down the road trying to predetermine her mood when I spot her kneeling near a rain filled ditch.

“What are you doing?” I go to ask her, but she cuts me off.

“Shhh not so loud” she whispers inching closer to what I see now as the dead body of a dead mutt.

“Oh Sara dogs like this die all the time if they don’t have an owner” I sigh trying to be patient. She surprises me by climbing back out with a live puppy.

“The rest are dead, but I heard this one whimpering for its mother as I was walking by” she sighs using her skirt to dry off the little thing. I can see a bruise forming where Chris said he hit her. I sigh and move the bodies to dry ground and bury them. As I do this I hear whimper like growls coming from the survivor. When I finish I stand and face Sara.

“I know what you came to say Mark. Chris just needed to blame someone, listen to his grief and your whole family seemed unwilling by the slap I got. I got even though when I broke his leg although it was an accident from the start. I pity you and your family compared to my brother’s. All you care about is tradition and look what happened. David died under another lord’s jurisdiction and all your family got in return was a letter of condolence for the son your mother obviously bore with great pride. Yes I had a long chat with your mother learning that even you turned your back on his dream. He looked a lot like her. Anyways I’m going home to clean this little guy up, feed it and get away from you before I say anything more that could get me in trouble” she sighs smiling down on the pup walking away from me. I sigh and turn for home my hopes of winning her heart over dashed for today at least.

“Wow you’re the whitest and fluffiest puppy I’ve ever seen” I giggle as the puppy licks my face. Luke determined the puppy’s gender before going out so I could give her a name. I think about my visit with Mrs. Green earlier today and what I learned about their family from her as I get the milk from the cold cellar. Her last words before I left was try and get out of the family whenever I had the chance because if I didn’t it would only bring me misery as it did David while he lived here.

“You are my little Daisy, my cute little Daisy” I coo getting the milk ready. Allie comes in from outside covered in mud and she didn’t seem too happy about it.

“What’s wrong?” I ask holding Daisy gently in my one free arm.

“I fell in the mud that’s all” she sniffles, but I give her a look knowing better.

“Oh fine Sean and his friends tricked me because they didn’t like me tagging along” Allie wails.

“Aww it’s alright let’s get cleaned up and go have some fun of our own” I soothe as I lead her outside to rinse her off.

“I made you a new dress to wear so you can change when I’m done OK” I smile.

“Yay thanks Auntie Sara” Allie squeals with delight giving me her cutest smile. I pull the dress out from my closest, Daisy following at my heels. I walk right into surprise, surprise Mark.

“I thought you went home” I grumble as he smirks down at me. I pick up Allie’s dress and shake it out gently before continuing on to her room, Mark right behind me admiring my work.

“No nah uh not allowed” I smile sweetly as I shut the door in his face.

“Auntie Sara” Allie sighs sitting in the bed as I brush her hair.

“Yes Allie what is it?” I ask gently.

“Do you like Uncle Mark?” she asks the epitome of innocence. I stall mid brush stroke and continue carefully as I answer.

“Well I wouldn’t say I like Mark the way I liked Uncle David. It’s more like he’s a friend that picked me up and brought me back to my senses after I lost David. Though I can’t stand his lying and cheater ways” I sigh.

“Oh OK Auntie Sara” Allie smiles looking really satisfied with my answer. She puts on her new dress as I walk outside giggling to myself at how childish Mark could be as I saddle Blue and Nel up. Well if he wants to know how I feel he’ll have to ask me himself although I doubt he’ll like my answer. Allie races over with Daisy in tow ready to go as she asks where we’re going.

“We’re taking the shortcut to Meridell OK” I say as I help her up and mount Blue.

“I need to pick a few things up and do a couple things then we can have a race back home” I smile as I load my gun. The feeling that I’m being followed hasn’t gone away since that hooded figure disappeared a week ago. I nudge both horses into a gallop as we gallop for the gates before no one could stop us. I stop at home grabbing my dresses, my savings and the last of the leftover bullets I stashed for the gun. I let Allie look around as I feel relief at how the house had remained untouched from looting.

“You and Uncle David must have been really happy living here” Allie says aloud as I pick up his cadet/officer’s journal.

“Yes we were very happy” I sigh as I lead her back outside. I’m heading to see David with Allie holding the flowers when I spot the man from the ball leaning against the pub wall watching us. I don’t make any weird moves as he continues watching us knowing he wouldn’t move from his stance with Allie at my side. We both say our prayers and goodbyes to David when I realize that I hadn’t heard anything about what would happen to father.

“Allie has your father mentioned anything about what the lord decided for your grandfather’s punishment?” I ask as we ride out of the city. Allie doesn’t answer me immediately.

“I didn’t hear it from daddy, but Mark’s lady, Selto said that he was going to be executed for the death of Uncle David” she tears up as I go pale. It wasn’t the shock of hearing that Mark had already been claimed by another woman, but the fact that father was being put to death. I nudge both horses into a run as Allie clings to Nel for dear life as we race for the execution grounds where he was being held. I realize we’re too late as I spot them carrying his body away. I cover Allie’s eyes before she sees this as I guide the horses’ to the side as I dismount.

“Stay here Allie and don’t open your eyes till you hear me call your name OK” I explain gently as I follow the small procession to the execution graveyard. I sob uncontrollably as they bury him and I feel horrible guilt for what they did to him and how I didn’t stop this. He didn’t deserve to die like that I think to myself as I cry silent tears as I walk while Allie sleeps on Nel’s back. OK father deserved punishment for his crime, but not death I think to myself. It would’ve broken mother’s heart had she lived to know her own home had condemned the man she married to death. I sigh wiping my eyes trying to remember the safe, secure feeling the man with purple eyes made me feel. As I make my way home with Allie I over hear all sorts of things, but the one thing that popped up more often than most was Mark being engaged to Selto.

“Good for Mark then” I sigh as Daisy peeks out from my saddle bag licking my face as I try and not feel lonely. Luke comes marching out of the house looking pissed and worried as I came up with Sean right behind him.

“Why, why did you take Allie with you to get your things? I was worried out of my mind over the both of you” he says obviously trying hard not to lose his temper. I hand Nel’s reins to Sean as Luke realizes Allie is sound asleep. Sean leads Nel away as I pull out the gun and Daisy from my saddle bag.

“Your son and his friends tricked Allie and she came home covered in mud so I thought it would be nice if she and I went out just us girls. Plus nothing happened and if it did I had my gun to protect us” I exclaim realizing my emotions were getting the better of me as I take a deep breath.

“Why did Mark’s lady friend Selto tell your daughter that her grandfather had been put to death and why exactly did I have to hear it from her?” I sigh as he flinches.

“You know I’m getting really sick of being treated as a delicate flower that needs to be protected by big strong men. Father deserved punishment like pounding gravel in Yorkshire or even imprisonment in London, but not death” I sigh. Before I go inside I pinch him in the side to lighten things up. I run inside laughing as I hear him coming right behind me.

“You can’t get me” I laugh at Luke. He’s laughing as well when I bump into Mark whose visiting Luke.

“Whoa what’s going on” he exclaims. I giggle and just this once I put him between him and my brother.

“Just a good old tickle fight between siblings” I giggle. I look up and realize Mark is on Luke’s side.

“Oh no no no” I laugh as I fall to the floor with Mark tickling me to death.

“Oh please stop” I beg laughing so hard now my stomach is hurting. Luke comes up behind me and joins in leaving me with no other option, but to surrender.

“I give up” I sigh, throwing haughty look at Mark as he goes to the restroom.

“Well I’m happy for him and Selto” I say going outside to read David’s journal feeling more alone than ever as Luke wants to talk to Mark in private.

“So what’s got you in a twist now?” I laugh knowing Sara might bug me later about this conversation.

“The rumor going around that you and Selto, Allie’s sister are engaged. I hadn’t heard about it till Sara of all people mentioned it just now” he growls.

“Oh... Wait! What? Who said I was marrying Selto. I told her after I asked Gramps if I could and in the end that I couldn’t with David dead so now I’m set to inherit leadership of the farm after Gramps passes on” I exclaim fiercely feeling really bad now that Sara knows I had been seeing another women when I met her in Meridell.

“Sorry I just needed to check for Sara’s sake OK. I got Allie to check how much Sara likes you so I was worried how she’d take the rumor, but from her reaction on the surface she doesn’t care. Underneath is a different story neither you nor I can figure out” Luke sighs.

“What did Allie find out?” I ask eager to know.

“Nope sorry you’ll have to find out for yourself ONCE you’ve cleared up the rumors and not before OK” Luke laughs as I feel the disappointment on my face. I go to see Selto knowing she had spread the rumor, careful to avoid Sara. I knock on the door and Mr. Monroe answers. I obviously looked pissed as he explains himself leading me into the parlor.

“I’m very sorry Mark, Selto wouldn’t take your grandfather’s refusal as an answer so she’s been telling people since you left that you and her are to be married. Anyways I know better after my Uncle Roger came rushing here nearly two weeks ago now saying he saw Lady Mary’s daughter and that she had come home to her brother” he sighs sipping his tea.

“Ahh so your Uncle was the first to see her, well she is the spitting image of her mother” I laugh feeling uneasy as I spot Selto coming down the stairs out of the corner of my eye.

“Selto just the daughter I wanted to see, you may go Anne” Monroe excuses his youngest daughter welcoming his middle child politely.

“You owe Mr. Green here an apology I believe young lady” Monroe scolds.

“Do I? All I did was announce our engagement to each other” Selto says feigning innocence.

“Which isn’t true and I believe we both told you why due to Mr. Green’s inheritance of Green farm since the death of David” Monroe explains as calmly as he can.

“Then why does that hussy Sara Smith get a chance huh? Her father abandoned the Lady Mary on her death bed with not a care in the world and killed your brother, her HUSBAND” Selto growls, tears already forming. Monroe looks shocked at Selto’s behavior, but I’m not surprised in the slightest.

“Selto that’s crossing the line, Ms. Smith could only watch as her mother died of sickness. Her father has nothing to do with her chances of marrying now because he’s dead” I growl losing my patience altogether.

“Don’t take that tone with me Mark, you and I both know that doesn’t work. So basically you’re cutting me loose just because you can’t marry me well big mistake if you think I’m taking this lying down you’re wrong” she hisses.

“If I may point out Ms. Monroe, Ms. Smith is your sister in-law considering her brother married your sister so I would show a little more respect for her if I were you” I growl leaving Selto speechless as I excuse myself for another appointment.

I turn and run before Mark spots me catching me in the act of eavesdropping. Mark knew about father too and it stings to know everyone seemed to judge me for father’s choices. I’m still running when I stumble and fall when a set of arms catches me. I stand up and realize it’s the hooded figure from nearly two weeks ago now.

“Thank you and who are you?” I say as my hand edges my gun.

“Ah lass I wouldn’t do that if I were ye” the figure says as he gently takes my hand and leads me into an open space. It’s a beautiful meadow I realize as the figure pulls down his hood. I turn and look him in the eyes to realize it’s the man from Meridell.

“Why have you been following me?” I ask wary realizing he still has a hold of my hand.

“Well that’s for me to know and ye to find out” he says. He’s teasing me and I’m not happy about it. Before I can retort though he kisses me and I don’t stop him to my own horror. The kiss is like the middle ground between David’s gentle kisses and the experienced kiss of Mark. I kiss him back feeling the way I did when he stared at me and I like feeling this way. He ends it by vanishing into thin air leaving me unsatisfied and a calling card in the form of a card with a shamrock on it. I growl with frustration as I pick up David’s journal feeling dissatisfied

I sigh knowing Selto won’t give up as I head home; Gramps’ word is law amongst the many farm families and he said no. Even Selto can’t go against that or can she? This thought keeps running through my head for the rest of the day even when I spotted Sara walking down the road with a card in one hand and this look of serenity. Over dinner I kept thinking about the confrontation with Selto that I didn’t realize Gramps was talking to me till Chris poked me in the ribs.

“Oh sorry Gramps what were you saying?” I say.

“I was saying that next week we as a whole family will go and pay our respects to David. You Mark will invite Luke and Sara to join us since she is the only one who knows what the grave site looks like” Gramps explains. Oh I think to myself as I say “OK I’ll talk to Luke tomorrow then.” He nods and the rest of the night goes on in silence with me contemplating on Selto’s threat.

I’m humming to myself with Daisy in my side pouch checking if the meadow that the man from the ball in Meridell showed me earlier today was real or if it was just a dream on my part. I feel content for the first time in a long time not feeling any of the grief that has seemed to haunt my every step in Greenwood. Once I find the meadow I smile with relief as I lay down and fall asleep in the sun’s last rays of warmth. I wake up to the crescent moon and movement behind me hours later. As I go for my gun I cry out as I feel the butt of a knife hit me behind the head. Everything is going black as I realize how worried and upset brother will be when I don’t come home.

I get up the next morning feeling uneasy for the oddest of reasons. I dress and hurry over to Luke’s noticing the feeling grew worse as I got closer. I open the door to find Allie sobbing as Luke stood stunned holding a note in one hand and Sean under the other arm.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” I ask trying to keep the panic out of my voice. Luke turns his full attention towards me as Allie stops crying long enough to curse all those who hate Sara.

“Sara was taken somewhere by someone and my bet is Selto knows who and is behind it” he shouts. I flinch as he hands me Sean putting the note in his pocket obviously going away to find clues to where Sara was taken.

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