“Lilly, come along, we are going to be late!” I watched behind me as my sister ran to the carriage. The coachman helped her up beside me. Finally. She sat panting as the carriage pulled away from the courtyard and I swatted her shoulder with my fan.
“What?!” Lilly exclaimed. “I couldn’t find my hat anywhere.” I rolled my eyes and looked out the window.
“Maybe if you would put things back where they are supposed to be, you wouldn’t have these troubles so often.” I scolded. We sat in silence for a time as the carriage bumped along the road. I loved looking out the window at the trees passing by and seeing the occasional deer or rabbit scurrying back into the forest. After a few minutes, Lilly broke the silence.
“Are you excited to see Ashley?” I forced myself to look back to my younger sister. Lilly was barely 18. In contrast to my raven black hair, Lilly’s hair shown like gold but, like me, her eyes were a piercing grey. She was the smallest one in our family, barely coming to my shoulder. Mother would call her her delicate flower. Trying to hide my excitement, I responded.
“I am thrilled that she is finally back from being abroad. I cannot wait to hear all about her adventures.” I raised my eyebrow and smirked as I looked back out the window. “We always did get ourselves into the most interesting adventures.”
My mind wandered back in time to two summers before. Ashley and I had taken our horses out for a ride to our favorite spot. We started to pull on the reigns, forcing our horses into a trot as we approached our favorite spot under the old oak tree by the river. I was about a hundred yards from it when suddenly a young man came running from behind the tree in nothing but his trousers. My black mare, Shade, bucked underneath me and I heard myself scream before I fell away from the saddle and then, darkness.
“Elizabeth! Elizabeth! Beth! Open your eyes, Elizabeth!” I couldn’t force my eyes to open, but I heard a moan escape my lips.
“Oh, thank god, she’s alive!” Then in a more faint voice, “What were you thinking, running out from the river like that? Who even are you?”
“Ashley?” I opened my eyes and I could feel my head pounding and the light felt blinding. I shut my eyes again and tried to sit up. My head swam.
“Oh, Beth!” I heard a boys voice grow closer.
“No, no. Don’t try and sit up. I’ll go get some help.” I heard footsteps start to fade away. Then Ashley called him back.
“Where do you think you are going? Come back here and help me get her up onto my horse.” My head still swimming, Ashley and the young man helped me stand. I looked over at my dearest friend.
“You look so pretty, Ash!” I rolled my eyes to the young man helping me walk, and then back to Ashley.
Whispering, I asked her, “Who is the handsome man keeping me from falling?” Ashley laughed and I realized what had come out of my mouth. My face turned blood red as we reached our horses.
Elizabeth what were you thinking!
His face turned the color of a ripe tomato at my words, at least I’m not the only one embarrassed. Ashley looked at him and said,
“Yes, who are you?” We stopped by the horses and he lifted me into the saddle before climbing up behind me, holding me steady.
“My name is Acker. Mr. Oliver Acker.” I felt his breathe against the back of my hair as my head pounded. Beside us, Ashley had mounted her horse as well.
“Well, Mr. Acker,” she said. “It seems you’ll be coming home with us.” She tapped her heels into her paint horse’s sides and began the journey back to Keaton Manor.
I shook my head to dim the memory from my mind as the carriage approached the Whittmore Estate. I was ready to see my friend after more than a year apart. There was much to tell her about Hertford and I’m sure she had much to tell me of her travels. So many things had changed in her absence. As the carriage came to a halt by the entrance, I grew nervous and began to think to myself,
So much has changed, will things be the same as they once were?
The driver opened the door to the carriage and helped my sister and I out one at a time. And with that, we made our way into the grande home before us ready to be reunited with our dear friend.