A Riverside Picnic

It was only two weeks later when Nathan met Emily for the second time, and neither of them had forgotten their time in the garden. The market smelt of freshly baked bread as Nathan passed the bakery. The sweet smell tempted him, and he allowed himself to wander into the crowded shop. Loafs lined the counter as customers chose which one they wanted. With so many people yelling their orders Nathan hardly heard Emily when she started talking to him, “Hello Mr. Granger.” The name took him by surprise, and it took him a moment to remember his false name. “Good morning Miss. Farbranch. I trust you’ve been well?”

“Yes, sir, I’ve been very well thank you. I was wondering if you and Samuel might join us for lunch, my sisters were wondering if you’d like to. They’re keen to meet you.” She smiled at him and Nathan could almost feel his heart melt at her expression. “Yes I’m sure Samuel would like to come very much, and me too for that matter. When should we meet you?”

“Anytime by the river, we’ve spent the day there and I just had to buy lunch. I’ll see you later.” Nathan couldn’t help watching her leave, he spent so long staring that the baker had to call out to him several times. When the market was behind him and there was a loaf of bread under his arm, Nathan made his way back to the Granger’s house. Servants were scurrying about the grand house, preparing for the Lord’s dinner with his friends. Evenings like these often lasted most of the night, starting off civilised and then winding down to a poker game in the library. Samuel was hiding out in the music room with his favourite book when Nathan found him. “How was your trip into town?” Samuel quizzed his friend without looking up from his page. “Very well thank you. We’ve been invited to lunch with the Farbranch sisters and I said you’d come,” he took the book from Samuel and laid it on the table, “so get ready else we won’t be meeting for lunch.”

“Alright, ands you’re in luck, it just so happens that I am free and wouldn’t mind going out.”

The river was crowded with people enjoying the summer sunshine, some were picnicking whilst others drove boats up and down. The Farbranch’s were easy to spot, Nathan could have picked out Emily from the crowd from a mile away. Her blonde hair escaped it’s bun and dangled by her cheeks as she laid out the food. All of the girls waved at them when they spotted Nathan and Samuel strolling over to them. “Hello Samuel! You must be Nathan, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Natalie Farbranch.” The girl Samuel danced with a few weeks ago introduced herself before turning to her sisters. “This is Mary, Charlotte and Emma.” They gave a shy wave at the men as they were introduced to Nathan. Natalie fell easily into conversation with Samuel, which left Nathan with the other four girls. The afternoon flew by as they talked the day away. Charlotte suggested the group walk into town and eventually her,  Mary and Emma strolled to their home. Nathan and Emily strayed behind Samuel and Natalie, watching the couple as they talked. “I always think Natalie and Samuel would make a good couple. They obviously like each other.” Emily chatted to him and he hung on her every word. “Do you think? Yes I suppose they would. They seem to get on pretty well together.”

“We should do this again. I liked it with you this afternoon. My Mother’s having a gathering next week if you want to come.”

“I’d really like that, next week it is! Although...”

“Although what?”

“Although I’d like to see you sooner. Mr. Granger, my uncle, is having people over tonight if you’d like to come. He won’t mind a few extra people and half the time they disappear after a while anyway. What do you say?”

“I’d love to come over, it sounds great. However we haven’t finished the afternoon yet and I need to post a letter before you disappear. You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”

“No I want to go. Come on, let’s go.” Nathan looked down at Emily, who was almost skipping alongside him. Something wasn’t right and Nathan stiffened slightly as he paused outside the shop. Hanging on the door was a poster for a criminal. This was normal and it could have been for anyone. Yet this wasn’t a poster for anyone. It was Nathan’s face on the torn piece of paper. “What’s wrong?” Emily had noticed her companions worry and looked at the poster. “I never understand how someone could kill another man. At least he’s not around here, the last thing this town needs is to become suspicious of its neighbours.” Nathan glanced around the square they were stood in. Suddenly every glance he got seemed like a judgment. All it would take for him to be found is one person either in need of money or that is suspicious enough to point fingers. ‘No, nobody would believe someone’s random idea. I don’t even look like my old self now. Do I? No I’m safe as long as I keep a low profile, as long as I don’t panic.’ No matter what he thought Nathan couldn’t help the rising bubble of panic as these thoughts darted round his head. Emily had disappeared into the post office, it would be the only chance he’d get. When nobody was looking, Nathan’s arm shot out from his side, his hand grabbing the wanted poster and screwing it into a ball. ‘This life’s too good for me, it’s better than the one I had.  I can’t lose it. Not now.’ The paper was safely in his pocket and he faked the smile he’d had on all day as Emily walked towards him. “Let’s go home.” Emily said quietly as she looked up at her new friend.

The End

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