He sits me down at my table, lit only by a few candles. When we had walked in, my father had been afraid for me and was told, by Bastian, that there was nothing to fear, only that I had been walking extra slowly down the path and that he'd found me and offered me a ride home.
Now we sit, quietly so as not to wake father, and I await my interrogation. "What were you doing there so late?" he asks first.
"I like to see the sunset, it makes the river look beautiful." I say realising how ridiculous and pathetic it sounds.
"It may be beautiful, but town at night is not a place for a young lady." Not girl, or child, but young lady? Bastian is being respectful? "Riddle me this, who was that man. He appeared to have a specific quarrel with you."
Here I go "He is John, your stable boy. He proposed some three weeks ago, but I refused him." I try to say my story as though there is no link between Bastian's proposal and John's.
"Three weeks ago?" He asks. There is no point in hiding the truth, not when Bastian has just saved me from he Lord knows what.
"The same day," I say. "As you did." He seems to flinch at the thought of it. "In fact, when you found me, he had proposed. When I refused he got angry, said things he did not mean." He doesn't meet my eyes. Instead he looks around the room. "However, I am safe thanks to you. There is no need to dwell on things past. Thank you, again for saving me." I add, I really want him to know how grateful I am. Who knows what John wanted to do to me, but one of the possibilities would have undoubtebly prevented me from marrying at all. "Are you excited for your wedding? Only a few more days of you being unmarried now. How are you feeling?" I say trying to change the subject.
"Wedding? Oh, yes, the wedding. I am fairly excited." He says.
"Unbelievable." I whisper to myself, but I realise he heard when I look up to see him encouraging to ellaborate with just the raise of his eyebrows. Then I cannot prevent myself. "How can you marry Elizabeth? You said yourself she is boring. That you dislike her is very clear."
"But you are not suited for one another. How can you marry her?"
"I said that's enough."
"You'd drive each other half to madness. How can you marry her? You deserve to be happy, so does she, so why put yourselves through this? How can you marr-"
"Because the girl I'm in love with refused me! I tore my heart out in front of her and she spat it back at me in tatters. Everytime I see Elizabeth, I just think about how much I want it to be you, Ethelreda. How much I want you by my side, till death do us part. And though I try to deny it, a throbbing is left in my heart where I had made a specific place for you. Maybe it was my own arrogance, my own stupidity that led me to believe you may actually have accepted me. All I know is that despite it all- the three weeks of us being apart, the refusal, Elizabeth- I still want, I still need you by my side throughout life. I cannot picture a time in my life that you are not knitted into the very fabric of my imagination. I love you, but you refused me, and now I have to live with the consequences. I have to get married to a girl I have no affection for, will one day have to bring up children who I will feel little attraction to either. But I have to because we do not all get the luxury of picking and choosing who we love and do not, as you do. Do you think I would have chosen to love you if I could have? You are far too outspoken, far too keen on your own opinion, an odd beauty and yet a beauty all the same and one of these traits alone would make a girl repulsive. Yet you have managed to twist and bend these traits into one goddess for whom I am besotted." He stops for a breath. "However you have apparently made your bed, but it is I who must lay in it. Nevermind what I may want, or how I may feel. You have chosen the cards, my future and I can do nothing but live the life I was given." he says. I stare at him for a few seconds, him breathless, as am I.
He does not give me a chance to reply, instead he stands and leaves.
I go to bed in an instant, refusing to acknowledge the one thought tumbling into my head.
But there is nothing to stop that one thought spilling into my mind when the candles are out and I am lying with my eyes closed. The one thought that could threaten everything I have said or felt or believed in the past. The one thought that could ruin me, yet build me also. The one thought towards me that tore Bastian to shreads. The one thought I cannot escape now.
Bastian loves me. He is marrying Elizabeth. John loves me. He attacked me tonight. Both have proposed. Both I have refused. One remained strong in their feeling. The other turned to hate and violence. Now I have cleared through my story, it is time to slot my one thought amongst the time-line of my life. The most recent chapter of my life. It fits right at the end, but possibly at the beginning of a new story. Something I cannot deny; I like Bastian.
YOU ARE READING
A Tudor Girl named Ethelreda lives as a maid in a grand house. But things do not go to plan. The master's son- a spoiled, arrogant, rude man with no regard for anyone but himself- and two mischievous children make her life extraordinarily difficult...