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I now have seen neither John nor Bastian for three weeks.
Bastian's wedding is coming up soon, for which we recieved an invitation only five days ago. It had caused a weird feeling to surge through me, but I dismissed it.
John, despite our timely meeting, hasn't approached me and I haven't seen him in town either. It is as though I am secluded, that life goes on around me, but is just beyond my reach. Though I try to reach out and grasp for it, I remain alone and untouched by the surrounding world.
And yet I am not sad. I am quite happy with how I am living and have come to terms with the fact I will mopst likely never marry. My father reminds me nearly everyday that I am only sixteen and that I have most of my life to look forward to. That I still have a few years to find a husband.
I do not think anybody would suit me as a husband, though. I am far too opinionated for the perfect wife and am not the classic beauty. I have not the appeal of a normal wife and if I am to be completely honest with myself, I do not think I could be happy with anyone, but someone like myself. That is why I turned down John; he is too kind, too nice, too perfect. I want someone who will tell me my faults if and when they rear their heads. Someone who will laugh at and with me, who won't be afraid to break me and who won't hold me like I'm made of glass.
However I also do not want a man who will insult me at every opportunity and only show his feelings once in a lifetime, hence the refusal towards Bastian's offer.
I am walking along the river near town. I wish to be out and about, yet not near anybody. It is sunset and I love how the sun paints the river reds, golds, oranges all that sparkle with each ripple and reflect along the bank.
I hear the odd cry out from the pub, where men are getting too ignorant of other people's preerences of silence. Nevertheless, I enjoy my late stroll and with every new star, thousands of new sparkles ignite on the surface of the flowing universe of colours that is the river.
Time passes by, the stars brighten as the day darkens, the air cools and the shouts get louder; time to head home. It is unusual for a girl to be out so late anyway, but I need to head through the town (past the pub) to get on the track to my house.
Everything is still, silent, as I walk through the place that only a few hours ago had been bustling with life and excitement and "It's a good deal, sir." and "Ribbon for the lady?". Everything, that is, except the pub.
As I near it, the stench of alcohol and sweaty men radiating from the pub makes my nose burn and stomach clench. I hear the odd shouts "Nah, he's cheating! There is no way he could have had three queens!" One yells.
"But I do have three queens!" The other retorts.
"Well then you cheated, I have two bloomin' queens mi'self." Back and forth they yell accusations.
"That can't be right! There's only four in a pack!" The 'cheat' protests.
"I know that, you clotpole! That's 'ow I know you've been cheatin'!"
"Don't call me clotpole, you maggot." Then I hear a clunk of what sounded like metal, a beaker perhaps, hitting somehing hard, like a head. Then an uproar of both laughing and protesting.
I hear other conversations too. "How's you and Martha going, Tom? You popped the question yet?" Not-Tom asks.
"Nah, not yet, but she reckons she's up the bloomin' duff, so I'd better ask soon, hey?" Tom laughs.
I round a corner, it's shadowed and quiet, quite the contrary to where I have just been. Then I hear someone yell behind me. "Oy, you! Pretty girl!" I know that voice, despite the slurrs and disfiguration of his voice, I know it. I turn slowly to see the John, messy and dishevelled. "Why if it isn't her ladyship?" he says sarcastically. "Thinks she has the right to turn down a man? I grew up in a world where women did as they were told." he walks towards me.
"John, you're drunk." I say trying not to show the fear I'm feeling.
"And you just happen to be in the right place at the right time, missy." he says before lurching towards me and grabbing my skirt. I try to push him off. Try to kick him, shove him anything to stop his mouth from touching mine, to which he slaps me across the face. I let out a cry of pain. Yet I hear another, then another and feel John being dragged off me. I hear him grunt and try to fight back, but due to his drunkness he is soon left on the kerb unconscious.
Soon enough I feel kind hands checking my face for injury and I can hear a muffle which should be words, but in the shock, my body refuses to acknowledge what it's saying. I look up to see Bastian, his lips moving in sppech, his eyes full of anxiey and caring. Then the words start to make sense. "-Ethereda, please. Are you hurt? Are you hurt? Answer me, please."
"I...I am fine. You saved me before he did...did...anything to me. For that I am grateful. Truly grateful." He scans me for injuries one more time before his eyes lock on mine.
"What are you doing here this late? I have told you! Don't walk around here at night! It's dangerous!" He is yelling, but not in anger, it seems more like fear and upset. "Come, I will take you home. Come." he takes my hand and leads me to his horse. We are riding down the road in a quick walk soon enough and then we are home, but Bastian refuses to leave until he speaks to me.

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