I feel a bitter cold wind blow into the room, and sting my toes sticking out of the covers. Like a demon flooding through the gateways of heaven, it is not welcome here. I sit up slowly and shuffle my feet to the pane of glass. I try shoving it down, but icicles dangle all around; it won’t budge. My mother darts into the room. Why, she must have seen my “struggling.”
“Adyline, don’t be doing such foolish things! You could slam that window shut on your fingers and not even know what hit you!”
“Mother I'm fine- just shutting the window. It became frozen open overnight, but nothing I can’t handle.”
“Now don’t be ridiculous, of course you can’t handle it. Go into the washroom and clean your face, then put on some acceptable clothes. I will take you to the market when you are finished dressing.” It is no use fighting her commands, she is never going to think of me any differently.
“Yes mother.” I nod and start towards the washroom.
“And be careful!” she shouts after me.
“Of course.” I place my palm on the chilled wood walls and make my way slowly to the washroom. It's as if she thinks of me as some young child running on ice; if she were to run too fast she could fall and get hurt. Yet what she didn't think of, is that maybe not letting that girl run on ice is what brings forth the pain, and maybe that young girl is not so young and fragile, but seventeen! Not a young child, but a young adult.
The door to the washroom comes up just as it always has, fifteen and a half steps from my bedroom. I pick up a clean washcloth from the cupboard and dip it into the warm water inside the wash basin. It had been heating over a fire so it would not be so cold as the water straight from the well. The heated water pressed against my face feels good. I close my eyes and begin to dream.
I imagine a life, of a world, where a human’s flaws could be so easily overlooked and one could see the better things in one another. A place where we, women and men, could speak and act freely together. All I can do is cling onto this alternate reality until I lay to rest.
I have spoken of this dream to my few friends, and lost them because of it. They thought it absurd. In a land of Kings and Queens, of men and wives. No woman, especially one such as me, could be free.
I open my eyes to this harsh reality and lift the cloth off my face. I hear my mother still in my bedroom trying to force the frosty window down; she will be occupied for at least a little while, so this is my chance. I slip out the washroom and place my feet slowly upon the wooden floor boards so they would not creak and catch my mother’s attention. I slide around the corner and reach for my warm winter coat and my leather boots. I notice my gloves are slightly ripped as I pull them on and begin moving towards the door. I position my hand on the doorknob and open it ever so slightly. Just a crack at first, for I fear the howling winds will alert my mother of my presence elsewear. Then I press it open more, but only a foot’s length. I do not dare go any wider for my mother will hear me; then I will never be free. I squeeze through the tiny opening and my breath catches up to me as I shut the door from the other side. I walk through the snow flurries, counting my steps to the barn. I step inside and immediately feel Vixen's warm breath on my face.
“My good boy. You understand me- you are the only one.” His bridle hangs on a hook just above my head. It is very cold, and I feel horrid for forcing it inside his mouth, but it will warm up quick, and I don’t have the time to wander back inside to warm it up for him. To make up for it, I give him a treat and shove some extras in my coat pocket. I open the stall door and climb onto the slick ledge, ready to mount.
“Adyline! Get down off that ledge, it’s dangerous! And don’t you dare get on that horse!” My mother and her screams run towards me, but I don’t care. I grab the reins and climb onto Vixen’s back.
“I need to get away for a while, but I will be back in time for supper, I promise. I love you.” I press my heels against Vixen’s sides and he gallops forward, but not too abruptly; he knows me so well.
“Adyline!” The snow muffles her voice and it fades as we gallop farther and farther away. The snow blows in my face, mixing with the wind for a terrible blend. My face stings, my eyes water, and my nose goes numb, but I find myself not caring, because I am free. No judgment, and best of all, no one to tell me I can’t.
Vixen slows to a trot after few minutes of gallop. This must mean we’ve reached the woods. I pull him to a walk and we progress into the eerie forest. A clump of snow lands on Vixen’s head, I know this because he shakes it all onto me. I find myself laughing for the the first time in a long while. But I stop abruptly when I hear a noise in the woods. Not a small rabbit or fox, but a human hiding amidst the forest.
“Show yourself!” Both Vixen and I stiffen. The noise grows closer, then the shuffling stops.
"Well aren't you just darling. A great way to introduce yourself really. You’re sure to make lots of new friends like that. Has anyone ever told you how welcoming you are?"
I am baffled, astounded truly! The nerve of this man to speak to me in this manner. Offended I was, but also curiously drawn to him.
"So, do you speak?"
"Yes I speak." I almost spat as I said the words. "Do you have a name?" I have never spoken like that. In such an unladylike way. It felt good.
"Ahh, she does speak."
"I said I did." I am getting impatient now, because all I want to know is his name.
"I can sense your frustration darling, so I will do much better than just give you my name. I shall tell you my name, and one thing about me. So we might learn a bit about one another. My name is Bryan Tremmet and I am a wanted criminal by nearly all of England. Now, tell me yours.”
He has just told me that he is a wanted criminal! But I don’t feel scared, I am even more intrigued.
"Well you’re quite upfront aren't you?"
"There is no other way to be darling."
He has a point. “Well, my name is Adyline Somers, not darling. So will you please, for the sake of my sanity, stop calling me that?!”
“No, I’m sorry I cannot. It is not in my nature you see.”
I give out a loud huff, feeling rather annoyed. So I sit here on Vixen pondering if I should tell him my secret. Shall I tell him, or shall I not? That is the question. Well it seems only fair since he has told me his. I take in the cold air and it stings my lungs, “I am blind.”
I don’t recall ever saying that aloud. It feels bittersweet. Like the town doctor’s medicine for burns, it stings at first but slowly relieves the pain.
"Blind you say? Well good for you!"
"Good for me? You don’t have the faintest idea how hard my life is with eyes that cannot work! Do you even realize how good youhave it? Or how ignorant you sound?!" His indelicacy to my situation is astonishing.
"Lucky darling, no I wouldn't say I'm lucky. Able to see with my own two eyes, yes. But lucky... not quite. And as for ignorant, maybe a little. But look at yourself! Being blind could be the best thing that ever happened to you! You could do the impossible darling, have the chance to prove everyone wrong. Just look at you now, riding atop a horse!"
"You have no idea what you are talking about, or how it feels to be blind." I can simply not believe how much this man, Bryan, has offended me in the past five minutes.
"Maybe not, but I would feel extremely honored if I did."
"Can you hear alright darling? Or are you becoming deaf too?" It takes all my strength not to run him over with my horse.
"How could I possibly be considered honored, orlucky?! I feel miserable nearly every day for living in this life the Gods gave me. I have no friends, no family who appreciates me. Only Vixen,” I look down at him, trying not to let my eyes water up with tears.
"Oh now darling don’t cry, just think about all the things you dohave. You may not have working eyes, but what about those fine legs of yours. Think about the poor souls that cannot walk! Don’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself, get up and do something!”
He irritates me yes, but as a tear drips down my face I realize that he is not just ignorant and pestering, but also right. I wipe tears from my ice cold face, “What am doing talking to a complete stranger about my life? A criminal even!”
“Ahh well you see darling, that is why we need to talk more.” He walks a few feet to the right, the snow crunching under his feet. “We, two strangers, shall learn everything about one another- no pressure.”
I consider his offer, and after what seems like a rather long while, find it not the worst idea. I ask, “So what will you tell me first?”
“Well darling, I come from a long line of royal dukes, and for the first seventeen years of my life, it was perfect. Life could not have been any better. Well, when I was about the age of eighteen, my father, a drunken mess, lost his faith to my mother. She was so depressed that she took her own life, up to the Gods.”
I hear the sadness in his breath. “I’m so terribly sorry, you know my father too left me when I was young.”
“Have you no manners? Don’t interrupt. You shall get your turn.”
“Yes of course,” I apologize though his randy stance.
“Well my father, never made right his wrong. He reported to the castle that she had been depressed for a number of years and that he had tried his hardest to aid her in this dilemma. He said her suicide was a horrible, horrible tragedy, which it was, but he had spoke this for all the wrong reasons. And the worst part was, that he stayed with his mistress and they married in less than a month. I was furious at my father and threatened to leave. Only it was not a threat, I was true to my words. The night I left, my father saw my escape and tried to stop me. We got into an argument and he pulled at me to stay. We started a struggle and I pushed him off. If he were not so drunk than he wouldn’t have stumbled back so far and he wouldn’t have fallen and hit his head on the corner of that stone table. I tried to help him, but as soon as I heard the guards running towards me, I had to run. They would have had me in arrest in less than a second if would not have fled. A young, rich, ignorantboy with more motive than anyone to kill the duke. And so, I have been running ever since. And now, you may speak.”
I want to be angry at him for telling me when and when not I can speak. And yet, I can't bring myself to snap at him after the story he spoke. He has been so truthful with me, so I shall with him.
“I wasn’t always blind you know,” I stare up at the canopy of trees I know stand above my head, envisioning what they might look like. “I was just as well as any other person in my town, until one awful night when my father used me, a fragile little girl, to steal gold from the castle. He struck my face and forced me to the castle doors. I remember it so perfectly, I see it so clearly in my mind,” I take in a deep breath. “I distracted the guards with my shivering body as my father crept around the back to steal the loot. But things did not go as planned, a guard saw him and sounded the alarm. But he would not give up the gold, or take me, or run off without it. Instead he threw some sort of explosion into the hall. The guards had just brought me inside when that bright, flashing light scarred my eyes- and heart forever. My father could’ve cared less about me; he ran off with the gold and left me to die. I almost wish I had.”
“Don’t speak like that!”
“Now who’s interrupting?” He hushes instantly.
“I was rushed to the doctor, and he pronounced me blind at age seven. My father had left, the coward he is, and my mother was left to take care of me alone. People looked at us as criminals, when we had only been pawns in an evil game.”
We sit in silence, me on Vixen, him on the root of a winter tree, and it seems as if I have given my life away to a man I have only just met, but it feels not so. What I feel, is that we have known each other from the very start of our lives. There’s a tug at the edges of my heart telling me to ignore this ignorant man. Then, there’s that deeper, bigger, even stronger pull at the the center, embracing the emotion. Which path to follow? My mind is already made up.
“Well, I see that we each have each some stories to tell. You know, it seems as if we are alike in more ways than just our good looks.”
I laugh along side him, blushing, something I have never really done before. “Thank you, for this has been the highlight of my years. Though I must say, that at first, I thought you mad for wanting to share your most personal thoughts with a blind stranger atop a horse! Or for wanting me to confide in you! But I admit, I have found it strangely comforting.” I stare down, feeling my cheeks grow ever more red. Even though I can’t see his face, I can feel his eyes upon mine, and the way they feel like angels entering the gateways of a previous Hell. Lifting them up with him. He walks towards me, his touch startling, and holds my hands in his.
“The pleasure has been all mine darling.” We stare a bit longer when we are sharply interrupted by yells and shouts.
“Do you hear that?” I turn my head, and an agonizing shoot of pain stings my heart. I fall backwards into his arms and he lays my head on the icy ground.
“Can you hear me?! Open your eyes!”
“What’s happened?” My head is hazy and my heart feels as if it will beat right out of my chest.
“The men from my castle have found me; you’ve been shot! I am so sorry, this is all my fault!” He says this over, again and again. Apologizing for what cannot be fixed. No matter now, for I already realize what will soon become my fate.
“Stop, and look at me.” He immediately silences. “Just tell me one more thing before I go.”
“No! You are not leaving, I will help you!” He tries lifting my head as if to carry me away, somewhere far away. Oh how I wish that was the case.
“No, you won’t. We will say our goodbyes and then you will run, and start over somewhere wonderful. And have many children.” I smile faintly. “Tell me, what do you look like?”
He pauses before he speaks, “I have dark brown hair, a slender, short nose, and rather bushy eyebrows.” We share one last laugh. It stabs me in the chest.
“It was… extraordinary, for someone to finally understand me as you have in these past hours. Goodbye Bryan.”
“Adyline,” He can’t say the word. “You will forever be in my heart.” I can hear the attachment in his voice, but he has to leave, I will force him!
“You know, I was getting used to the name darling.”
“Very well.” He hesitates and there is a momentary silence that seems to last forever. “Goodbye darling.” He said it, the one word I was dreading. A tear escapes my eyes .
“Please, take care of Vixen.”
“I will. I promise you.” He has not only promised to take care of my Vixen, but to leave me here and run for his life. I haven’t felt this much heart-wrenching pain, not since my father betrayed me. But this sadness, could not have been for a more opposite reason… He stands and mounts Vixen; hooves pound into the ice cold dirt and fade away. I suppose I won’t be home in time for supper. That is one promise I cannot keep.