Written this morning, I decided to delve into fictional England, with my romantic heart spun throughout…
He happened upon her quite unexpectedly that day, which now seemed like a lifetime ago. His heart knew all along he needed someone like her, he just never knew if he’d ever find it.
As Edward rode his black stallion over the green hills of Derbyshire that early morning he paused for a moment atop the hill and looked out over his land. Towards Bolsover Castle. The early morning mist covered the green meadows. Off in the distance his Collie beckoned him home. Normally this sight should move a person to joy, but this morning he was even more aware of his aloneness. Never had it been so apparent that he had no one to share his estate with. His riches. His home. His heart.
What good is all this with no one to share it with?
A devout man, Edward prayed a prayer every man will pray at some point in his life.
Lord, send me her. You know which one.
Had anyone been around to witness this sight, they would’ve seen a robust dark featured man with heavy shoulders. Though his stature was large, his heart was deep and soft. It was as a river no person had ever dared cross a bridge to conquer. They would’ve smelled the leather from his trench and heard the horse snort impatiently. Edward jabbed the stallion’s ribs with his boots and was off down the hill, back to his home. As he rode along the tree line he saw movement, off in the distance. Hiding. As he approached what he suspected to be a gypsy or a homeless, he reached for his coin bag in his pocket, ready to protect, or to give.
But this didn’t look to be a gypsy. This looked like a woman grasping for her very life. As Edward came closer he took in every detail of this woman.
Her blue dress, though tattered, led him to believe she was of some middle-class. Her long brown hair hung loosely in curls around her face. And her face. Edward stopped there. The dirt smudges and scratches didn’t fool him. He could tell she was a beautiful woman. Her eyes gave her away. But he only caught a glimpse before she was off deeper into the trees. Running.
Edward hopped off his horse and began to run after her, shouting, “Wait, please. Are you injured? I won’t hurt you!”
The lady ran until her legs could carry her no longer. She fell beneath an ash tree where the morning light cast warm beams. As though for a moment, heaven found her, and she could no longer run.
She looked up at Edward, scared. She had clearly been shaken and trusted no one. Not even a man as handsome and kind looking as he.
Edward reached out his hand and bent a knee, “Please, I want to help. You’re hurt. I’m…. I’m Edward.”
She looked up at him. Her hands holding her up for only a moment, before her eyes rolled back and she collapsed on the ground. Exhausted. Traumatized. Helpless.
Edward slowly approached the young lady, trying not to crack the twigs and leaves that lay around her. He lifted the brown locks from her face revealing a blackened eye. As his eyes followed her features, like a navigator searching a map, he saw a mark on her neck that Edward could only guess was from a rope.
Anger stirred in his heart at who would have the audacity to do this to such a dear woman. Edward reached for her hand, then her body, and lifted the weary figure over his shoulders. The impatient black stallion became a trolley that day. And they walked home in silence.
Lord, now what?
All Edward heard was “Care for her.”
As Edward approached the entrance to Bolsover his servants caught sight of their master and came out at once.
“Sir, whatever are you carrying? Or, WHOM are you carrying?” cried out the butler, John.
“She shall stay in the bower. Please see to it that she is comfortable. I will be up in a while once she has come to,” said Edward.
“But sir, no lady has EVER stayed in the bower.”
“I am quite aware of that!” Edward retorted in such sarcastic tones for the early morning. Finding his grace, “The room is for a lady and a lady we have. Now please, care for her.”
The Butler took the lady and Edward watched him carry her through the door, and disappear. Though he had never heard her speak, knew her name, or even her history, he was already taken with her.
I need some air. Leaving his horse for the servants to retire, he walked off into the garden.
The pain is what woke her. Her neck. Her legs. Bruised and beaten. The light shining through the window confirmed for Emily she was somewhere unfamiliar. But try as she might to move, she couldn’t.
The stirring and soft groans were heard in the hall and Sophie entered. Her duty was to care for all guests, no matter who they were. It wouldn’t have been more obvious that she was a no-nonsense woman if she had a sign around her neck. Emily knew straight-away to listen to her.
“Sshh. It’s okay. I’m Sophie. You’re at Bolsover Castle under the care of Lord Edward. He found you in the forest on our land this morning. What’s your name darling?”
Feeling like this was the first person she’d seen in a long time she could trust, she spoke.
“Where does it hurt the most?”
“All over. Mostly my legs and my neck.”
“Mind if I…” as Sophie lifted the covers to inspect Emily’s legs, she gasped. Trying not to look to stunned. “My dear. What happened to you? Or should I ask, who happened to you?”
“If it’s just the same to you ma’am, I’d rather not say.”
Sophie may have been no-nonsense, but Emily immediately liked her as she looked up with hope. Behind the gruff voice and towering figure was a woman who herself had a story. Emily had a feeling she’d hear it eventually.
Clearly neither lady was going to share. John’s abrupt appearance at the door was a savior.
“Is the lady awake? Lord Edward would like an audience with her in the parlor if she is able.”
“You tell the Lord that the Good Lord Above has some work to do on Miss Emily here. She ain’t going nowhere. Now if he wants to see her, he can come here himself.” Sophie smiled at Emily. Wink.
“Yes Miss Sophie.”
“How did you learn to say no?” Emily asked. Truly wanting an answer.
“Say no? Darling, I learned early in my life that there are two kinds of ways to go about doing life. One from your heart and one from obligation. I ain’t gonna get messed up in doing things because I have to.”
“But, but you’re….you’re a servant. Isn’t that….obligation?”
“I may appear tough, but it is my pleasure to serve. And I have to make a living. Lord Edward is good to me even though I like to tell him otherwise sometimes. I ain’t got nowhere else to go. Bolsover Castle is home. So I choose to have my heart here. Where you choose to put your heart there is no longer obligation, but joy.”
Emily looked thoughtfully out the west window. Clearly processing. A salty tear escaped.
“Oh now dear, I’ve gone and made you cry?! No need. No need. Come here.” Sophie reached down to give Emily a maternal hug. That made Emily cry even more.
“Good grief Sophie what have you done?” Lord Edward sarcastically tuned in at the door.
“Oh boss, it seems our guest is awake but still weary. Go easy on her.”
“Sophie, will you please stay. In the room?” Emily clearly wasn’t ready to be alone with him.
“Sure darling. No mind. No mind.”
Edward approached the bed. Hands behind his back. He got some fresh sun on his face that day. Watching this beautiful woman laying helplessly in his house was overwhelming. He wanted to take care of her. Know her. Have her know him. Know that he wouldn’t harm her in any way.
“I’m, I’m Edward. You are in my home. What is your name?”
Emily wouldn’t, couldn’t, look him in the eye. She gazed down at her petite hands clasped in front of her.
Time stood still in that room. The dust sparkles from the bookshelf danced through the air.
Sophie noticed, and began to clean.
To be continued tomorrow….