I didn't tell Thomas and Elvira about my nightmare. Part of the reason was because I didn't want them to feel bad. The other part was because the idea of Silas seeing me in just my slip was incredibly embarrassing.

Life was becoming a little more interesting. Mr. Pink was well again so every day I went to the schoolhouse so he could show me what my duties would be. The teachers all met with me to promise they would follow my ruling and to show they do respect me. That made me feel better.

My birthday was approaching and Thomas was making a huge deal out of it. I knew he was trying to make up for the disaster that was the month we were at the estate. Everyone in the city had been given invitations. Well, almost everyone. There were two men who were forbidden to come.

"Okay, missy," Bryant said.

He had called for me and I stood in the foyer. My jaw dropped.

"We're having it here," Lauren explained, gesturing at the birthday decorations.

"And, while we're having it here, you are going to dance with a young man of our choosing," Bryant finished.

I groaned. "Don't you remember what Thomas told you?"

"Of course I do," he said. "Don't worry, though. This young man is... respectable."

I narrowed my eyes. "Who is it?"

"We're going to give you your birthday present early," Lauren said and nodded at a maid.

I nearly fainted. It was a gorgeous green dress. It had silver thread in elaborate designs up the bodice and down the skirts. There was a slit in the front that showed silver fabric under the green. Thankfully, it had long sleeves. A pair of green heels came with it.

"Oh, it's gorgeous!" I said and hugged them both.

"We thought you could wear it to your birthday party," Bryant said.

I rolled my eyes. "Well, duh!"

Someone knocked on the door and a little boy came in.

"Trenton Peach requests your presence, Miss Buckley," he said and I nodded.

"I'll take this over to your house," Lauren said.

I hugged them again and Bryant put my cloak on for me. I waved and walked down the streets. The ice was gone but had been replaced with snow. It was colder and I pulled my cloak closer to me.

When I walked in, Trenton beamed at me. Silas was on his knees, polishing a man's shoes.

"It's good to see you, Miss Buckley," Trenton said.

"Likewise," I returned. "Will you be at my birthday celebration in two days?"

"Of course! We both will!" he added and nodded at Silas who was accepting some coins from the man.

The man tipped his hat at me and I nodded back.

"Your boots are ready," Silas said and motioned for me to sit on the chair the man had just left.

He was avoiding my eyes as they got the boots out. I gasped, my hands flying to my mouth.

They were just as gorgeous as the dress. He had used a dark green leather. It was stitched with gold and had leaf designs.

"I hope the leaves are okay," Silas said as I took my old boots off. "They seemed appropriate."

"Of course they are!" I said and he smiled, putting them on for me.

They fit like a glove and I lifted my skirts, walking around in them a little.

"I made them tighter on the calves," he explained as I took them back off. "They are more for fashion, you see. If you'd like riding boots I can make some for you."

"These are perfect," I said and smiled at Trenton. "I think you can trust him with other boot orders now."

Trenton blinked. "What?"

Silas cleared his throat.

"He said you needed him to make these to practice," I reminded him.

Trenton's eyes sparkled as he put the boots into a box then passed them to Silas.

"Oh yes," he said. "How could I have forgotten? Well, we shall see you at your birthday, Miss Buckley."

I smiled. "How much?" I asked Silas.

"Consider them a birthday gift," he said and I beamed.

"Thank you! They truly are beautiful."

He just nodded and went into the back. My smile slowly faded. No joke? No teasing?

"Is he all right, Mr. Peach?" I whispered and he smiled gently.

"He's just fine, Miss Buckley. Stay warm."

"You, too."


The morning of my birthday, Thomas woke me at the butt crack of dawn again.

"No," I groaned into my pillow. "It's my birthday. I'm sleeping in!"

He chuckled. "Nope. You're getting up, getting dressed in that gorgeous dress, and going to the estate."

I glanced outside. "Tommy, the sun isn't even up all the way!" I whined. I threw my pillow at him. "Go away!"

"Don't make me get the water," he threatened.

I glared at him through sleepy eyes.

"You wouldn't."

He smirked. "Try me."

"Ugh. Fine. Get out."

He laughed and Elvira came in with my dress, helping me get it on.

"I'm tired, Elly," I complained as she pulled me out. "Make him let me go back to- Oh my God!"

Thomas scooped me off my feet and put me over his shoulder.

"Thomas Buckley!" I screeched. "You put me down this instant!"

Elvira, grinning, opened the door and we all shivered at the cold morning air.

"Nope," he said.

"Put me down!" I shouted, pounding on his back.

"Hush. You'll wake the neighbors," Elvira said and I glared at her.

"You're going to let him carry me in such a humiliating position!?"

"I have been given orders to not interfere," she said innocently.

"Since when has that stopped you?" I snapped but she just kissed my cheek.

I huffed and hung dramatically, letting my limbs swing with each step. Thomas just laughed more. When we got to the estate, he put me back down on my feet and I shoved him. Bryant and Lauren were both awake and she passed me some tea.

"You look gorgeous," she complimented.

"Thanks," I said. "I have two awesome people that bought it for me from London."

"They have good taste," Bryant said and we all laughed.

"Why am I up so early?"

"Because your brother is a maniac," Bryant rolled his eyes. "Seriously, though, there's a storm in the forecast so we had to move the party to the morning."

I narrowed my eyes at Thomas. "You see? Would that have been so hard to say?"

He shrugged. "If I had then I wouldn't get to embarrass you."

I stuck my tongue out at him just as the other party guests arrived. Morgan practically tackled me and I laughed, hugging her tightly.

"I've missed you," she whispered in my ear.

"I've missed you, too," I whispered back.

"I'm sorry my brother was a jerk," she said, shaking her head. "I don't know what got into him."

"Well, I just want to put that behind me," I said. "It's my birthday and I want to enjoy every second of it." I looked at Thomas. "Is the-?"

"The cake is chocolate," he interrupted and I giggled.

Silas McGregor was one of the last guests but, when he saw me, he laughed.

"So, I had an interesting sight when I woke up this morning," he said and I glared at Thomas.

"I told you not to shout," Thomas said innocently.

I rolled my eyes as music began. Silas cleared his throat and I waited. Then Bryant came over and pushed Silas gently. I groaned.

"So you're the lucky young man," I said and he scoffed.

"Yeah but I can't dance," he said.

I stared. "You can't?"

"Nope. I never got the chance to learn."

"Well, you're about to be the principal," Thomas said, pushing us to wear other people were dancing. "This is your first chance to teach someone something."

I sighed but took Silas's right hand and put it on my back. I took his left hand with my right. He looked nervously at my feet.

"I am going to step on your toes and break them in those tiny shoes," he groaned and I giggled.

"You'll do just fine, Mr. McGregor."

"My feet are twice your size," he pointed out.

I laughed. "Just move with the music."

He looked doubtful but followed my instructions. The more he danced, the easier he caught on.

"Looks like my mother was right," he mumbled as he spun me.

"Where is she?" I asked and he sighed.

"She and my father are...."

"I'm very sorry," I said quickly. "Mine are, as well."

"Really?" he asked, sounding shocked.

"I guess Thomas didn't tell you everything," I murmured.

"About that," he said quietly. "He said how upset you were. I hope you don't think I'm going to tell everyone."

I tilted my head. "Have you and my brother been in contact often?"

He shrugged. "Sometimes I have to go to the forge for special orders."

"Huh," I said thoughtfully.

He sighed. "Now I get to make a fool out of myself," he mumbled and I arched a brow. "You look very beautiful, Miss Buckley."

For some reason, I blushed at his words.

"Oh. Thank you. H-How is that making a fool out of yourself, though?"

He wrinkled his nose. "Because now I'm going to ask you if you'll...." He groaned. "Good Lord." I repressed a smirk. "Well, I happen to know you don't enjoy large parties and I haven't been to the clearing in a while. So, if you want to sneak out then I know the perfect place."

I bit my lip and looked at Thomas. He was distracted so I quickly grabbed Silas's hand and we slipped out the front door.

The End

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