Eliza choked on the smoke that was filling the room as she soaked the piece of cloth she’d ripped from the bedclothes. She tied it tightly around her mouth and knelt beside Robert’s motionless body. Her fingers trembled as she pulled on the ring on his hand. Eliza shuddered when the ring slipped free easily from Robert’s blood-slicked left hand.
The pounding at the door intensified as more smoke billowed out. The Brute called to his master, shouting urgently. Flames from the canopy ignited the straw on the floor. Burning feathers added to the stench as the bedding caught fire. Eliza coughed violently into her bent elbow, hopeful that the Brute couldn’t hear her over his shouts. One more crash against the door and it would break free from it’s iron hinges.
Shoving her thick black braid under Robert’s discarded cap, Eliza pushed the wooden chair under the window and climbed up onto the stone. It was a 5 foot drop to the kitchen’s clay roof below. She could see men running with buckets to the well. Servants streamed out of the kitchen with blankets to soak as everyone raced to keep the fire from spreading. In the rising panic, Eliza’s tumble onto the roof went unnoticed.
Crawling along the gable roof, Eliza made it to the stables. The farrier and his sons were busy getting the screaming horses out of their stalls. She dropped down into the wagon full of hay that was new from the fields. The landing was soft, but it was difficult maneuvering with her skirts in the way. Eliza couldn’t stop the “ooof” that escaped her as she crashed against the side of the wagon. As she did, the moon moved clear of the clouds. When Eliza stood up, she saw one of them – she thought his name was Eli – pause and stare at her.
Eliza pulled the cloth down from her mouth to whisper to him; to plead with him not to tell anyone. Before she could say anything, Eli glanced around, and raised his calloused hand. Her heart stopped as she was sure that he was about to shout to the others.
Instead, she realized that the young man was signalling her to wait while his brothers pulled horses in the opposite direction. He moved his muscular body so that the view of her was blocked from their sight. Reaching into his pocket, Eli pulled out a small cloth-wrapped bundle and placed it into Eliza’s shaking hand.
She could see the sweat stain on his tunic and his tousled blonde hair and smell the horses on his body. Eli reached out and gentle urged her away from him. He hissed,
With one last look in what must have been his blue eyes, Eliza tried to thank him as she ran down the hill toward the river.
The moon followed her as she wound her way down to the crossing, but disappeared again as she reached the black, calm waters. Behind her now, the sky flickered with red, orange and yellows. The flames seemed to be out of control.
Though she worried for some of the people back there; like Eli; Eliza was grateful for the one little knocked over candle that was giving her this chance. The fire would keep them busy for a while, but she would need to put as much time between them as she could.
A loud crash broke the silence at the river’s edge and Eliza couldn’t help the small scream that escaped her. Two dairy cows careened past her, eyes wild with fright as they fled the fire behind them. She sighed and moved away from the frightened animals.
Eliza felt her way to the boathouse at the landing. She knew that there were a few blankets there for winter crossings. Perhaps there were some other supplies there that she could use for her journey over the mountains. It was summer down here, but there was still snow up in the pass.
The door creaked as she opened it. Eliza held her breath, hoping no one was nearby. The faint light of the moon barely lit her way as she reached along the wall for the blankets. Rope dangled from the ceiling and she pulled down pieces of it. A rusty scaling knife lay on the bench beside the blankets. There was a tangle of fishing line that she thought might be useful. Eli’s bundle was a bit of cheese and bread he must have saved from supper. She wrapped the items into a blanket and tied it with the rope around her.
As she gathered her meager things, Eliza rubbed the blood from the ring she pulled from her pocket. Robert’s blood. Clenching her jaw, she pictured him lying there on the floor, flames creeping toward his thick body; blood still gushing from beneath the knife she’d pushed deep into his thigh.
The same knife he always threatened to cut her throat with. He laughed at her each time he used her; so confident in his power over her. Her stole everything from her. Her pride, her body, her innocence, and this…
She held it up to the sliver of light that came through the trees…her father’s ring…
…I have been trying to write this for almost a week! Wow! It’s been a very long time since I’ve been writing on my blog…and I used to write a lot! My goal here is to get back in to the writing habit. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed and feels like something that I’m meant to do.
This is part of a new novel that I am starting called Too Many Secrets (well…it’s called that for now…who knows what will happen as it grows!)
Thank you so much for following along here and I welcome your feedback. Share and comment! If you don’t want to comment here, you can certainly send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org