I jerked up in my bed. My eyes darted around the dark room as the light of dawn crept between the curtains. What was that? My question was quickly answered by an agonized scream. My heart skipped a beat. I leaped out of my bed, rushed down the stairs and out of the house in nothing except a nightgown. I dashed through the dewy grass barefoot, my toes digging into the soft dirt as I approached the barn. I saw two figures, one a shirtless boy on his hands and knees. The other, a short distance away, was man in a suit and coat, holding a long nasty whip above his head.
“Stop!” I screamed as I ran up to them.
The man's arm fell to his side, and he glared at me.
“Are you the one in charge while your father's away?” the man growled.
“No.” I said, looking down at my muddy feet.
“I thought so. Who was put in charge then?” He yelled stepping towards me.
“You.” I whispered, shrinking back.
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I had never liked this man, but at that moment, I didn't just dislike him. I was afraid of him.
“Come on now say it!” His face was turning red and his veins bulged around his neck. His face was inches from mine.
“Leave her alone, Master Charles,” the boy said, getting between us and putting me behind him. My stomach twisted in a knot at the sight of my friend's back, with raw lash marks across it. “you're scaring her.”
There was a long silence in which Charles glared at the boy in fury.
“Sorry, Miss Amanda,” he said, . “You should go to the house and get dressed.”
I slowly nodded.
“How dare you talk up to me like that!” Charles said, turning to the boy and shoving him to the ground. “I wasn't finished with you!”
“Sir?” I said,
“What Amanda?” he said annoyed.
“I'm not leaving unless you stop whipping Jeremy.” I said.
“And what if I don't?”
“Th-then I'll tell my father how you treat me and the servants, and he'll make you leave.” I said, mad that this man thought he could do what he pleases while my father was gone.
“And how do I treat you?”
“Like I'm a child and I don't know anything,” I said, glaring at him. “And with no respect.”
“You're only ten, and I do give you respect!” Charles said, in his defense. “You don't respect me.”
“I'm eleven, turning twelve in a few months,” I retorted, folding my arms and turning my head to Jeremy who was getting up off the ground next to me. I had to incline my head since Jeremy was almost a head taller. He was two years older then me, making him thirteen. There were few servant children, and there weren't any near my age besides Jeremy. They were either about three years younger or three years older. My father told me it was because the children near my age all got the sick. three of them died in less then two weeks, and a little later, Jeremy and a girl got it. The girl died, but Jeremy amazingly survived. Since Jeremy was the nearest in age to me, he became my playmate, as he was until he turned twelve and started doing real work.
There was a loud sigh which pulled me away from the past, and back to Charles.
“Fine, I won't whip him.”
“Alright, and I won't tell my father.”
Charles nodded and then turned to Jeremy “Get back to your chores, boy.” he said.
“Yes, Mr. Charles,” Jeremy said, before walking to the barn and picking up his shirt.
“Amanda Anne! What in the world!” shrieked a high pitched voice. Groaning inwardly, I turned to where the voice had come from and saw my Aunt Malissa marching towards me.
“You're making a spectacle of yourself, Amanda,” she said, getting closer. “And to think your almost a lady!”
“She's just a child ma'am.” Charles said,
“No, she's not she could be going to balls in about two years, since she's the daughter of William Ellsworth.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Charles said, realizing it was best not to argue with my aunt.
“Amanda, get inside this instant before you catch your death of cold.”
“Yes, Auntie,” I said, dashing towards the house before she could say anything else.
* * * *
Later that day, I went to find Jeremy. He was a stable hand, so I went to the barn where he was grooming Charles' horse. I always felt sorry for that beautiful black horse to have such a cruel owner.
“Afternoon, Miss Amanda Anne.” Jeremy said, hiding his grin as he kept grooming. “I see you're properly dressed now.”
“Jeremiah, you know I hate it when you call me that!” I said, planting my hands on my hips. “And I don't need you talking about that too. I'm going to be in enough trouble with my aunt, when she finds me.”
“Sorry Mandy.” Jeremy said chuckling to himself.
“When you're done grooming her could we go for a walk? Maybe eat a some apple's under our tree.”
“I don't think Master Charles would—”
“Charles will be fine, Jeremy.” I said, before he could finish his sentence.
“Alright, if you insist.” He said reluctantly.
“And I do insist.”
“I'll be done shortly.”
I nodded and went down the row of stalls to where my horse's stall was. I was welcomed with a soft nicker as she stuck her head over the stall door. She was a beautiful bay mare named Rosalin, but I always called her Rose. I stroked her velvet nose while Jeremy finished up with Charles' horse.
“If you like later I can saddle her up for you. she hasn't been ridden in awhile.” Jeremy said leading Charles' horse back to her stall.
“I might do that. it's hard to ride when Aunt Malissa doesn't approve, especially since I never ride sidesaddle.”
“I know that, Mandy.”
“Let's go before Aunt Malissa send someone to search for me.”
“How have you been able to keep away from her?” asked Jeremy as we left the barn,
“Susie told her I wasn't feeling well and had decided to rest a spell in my room, while I really spent my time watching Susie and the girls rush around the kitchen.”
“Is it going to be that bad when she finds you?”
“No. It's going to be worse when Dad gets home and she reports to him every little thing I've done and makes a big deal about it.”
“When why hide?”
“So I can delay the boring lecture I'm going to get.” I said as we entered the cool woods.
“Shh.” Jeremy put up a hand and scanned the woods.
“What is it?” I whispered.
“I was told by one of the servants at the Richards' place to watch out for wolves when you're in the woods.” Jeremy whispered back.
My stomach tightened with fear.
“Do you think—”
Jeremy waved a hand at me to be silent. I thought I heard a snap of a twig, I turned my head to where I thought it came from. I waited for something to jump from one of the tree's but it never came, so I turn back to Jeremy, but he was gone!
“Jeremy?” I whispered hoarsely looking around frantically. My heart pounding furiously. “Jeremy... Jeremy!”
Each time I said his name my voice got louder and louder. In the mix of my yelling I heard a dog bark a short distance away, or what seemed to be a dog. I turned to run but I stumbled over my skirt. while struggling to get up something jumped out in front of me. I covered my face and shrieked so loud my ears hurt.
“Man, do you have to scream that loud when I'm scaring you?” said Jeremy.
I uncovered my face and glared at him.
“You thought I was serious about the wolves, didn't you?” Jeremy said, starting to laugh.
“I'll get you back, Jeremiah.”
“You have to admit it's pretty funny, you thought I was a wolf!” Jeremy extended his hand to help me up. I pushed it aside.
“You lied to me!” I said, as I got to my feet.
“Well, There are a few servants that say they saw a wolf, but I doubt it's true.”
“R-really?” I stammered looking around nervously, “Are you sure about that?”
“What if you're wrong?”
“You don't need to worry Mandy, I'll protect you.” Jeremy said, “But I'm sure there aren't any.”
“Alright.” I said calming down. When Jeremy was sure about something he'd always be right.
“You want to keep going?”
I nodded, and started walking. I walked briskly as I thought. How should I ask him? What did you–– No... Was Charles–– No...
“You have something to ask me.” Jeremy observed.
“How could you tell?”
“When ever you biting your lip like the way you were, I know you're thinking of how to ask me a question.”
“Yes I do have something you ask you.”
I bit the side of my lip to gather my thoughts.
“See, your biting your lip right now.” Jeremy said chuckling. “You want to know why Charles got so mad at me, right?”
“I didn't hear him tell me to get the horses hitched to the carriage, and he thought I was rebelling against him.”
“That's a stupid reason to do what he did. Is your back alright?”
“It was only about ten lashes, it doesn't hurt now.”
“Okay.” I said, slowing down as we came to a clearing in the woods, there in the clearing was all sort of wild flowers popping up towards the sun.
“It's beautiful how all the trees around us are still bare, but the flowers are already here as though we didn't have winter.” as Jeremy spoke there was a cold breeze reminding you it wasn't quite spring yet. I shivered as the cold crept up from under my dress and wrapped around my arms. Jeremy being the observant type took off his thin jacket and wrapped it around me.
“Thanks, Jeremy.” I said smiling at him. He was more of a gentleman then most real gentlemen.
“We should be heading back I still have some chores to do before Charles returns.”
The walk back was a silent one. As Jeremy and I emerged from the woods Charles was pulling the carriage up to the house. I wounder who he has in the back? I hope it's not some relative visiting us. I watched as Charles opened the carriage door, a man stepped out dressed in the finest suit.
“It can't be.” I said more to myself, but as to reassure me the man tipped his hat back to where it balance on the very back of his balding head, scratched it then, smoothing down the wispy hair he had, and put the hat back in place. Only one man I knew scratches his head like that.
“Dad!” I cried, running towards him.
Dad turned to my voice and grinned, I hugged his waist, he put his arm loosly me back, I didn't want to let go of him as he.
“It's nice to see you Mr. Ellsworth.” Jeremy said, just walking up.
“It's nice to see you too, Jeremiah.”
“Why don't we go inside while Charles and the boy unload the carriage.” Aunt Malissa said at the top of the steps
“How have you been, Malissa?” Dad said as he walked up the steps to our grand house.
“Daddy how long are you going to stay?” I asked as we entered though.
Aunt Malissa rushed into the dinning room calling for Susie.
“Not very long I'm afraid.”
I tried to hide my disappointed, but Dad saw it.
“I'm sorry dear.” Dad said as he entered his study.
“You'd stay longer if Mom was still alive, you don't care for me.”
I was as stunned by my words as my dad was. I'd felt that way ever seen Mom died, Dad ever stay as home long as he did before. I figured it was he didn't want to be with me, but I was to afraid to say them aloud.
“I have work to do, please leave me alone.” Dad said hoarsely.
As I closed the door behind me I thought I saw a tear roll down my dad's cheek.