Chapter 1Mature

December 1842

   I felt the harsh snow fall around me; its bitterly cold temperature burning my face as it flew into it. I tried to pull my wool head scarf closer around my face, although it did not give much relief. The coarse and scratching gray material was now white from the onslaught. I clambered my way through the walls that rose before me, using my numb hands to create an escape. I finally made it to the small cottage we lived in, willing to enter from the cold, but the people inside were just as cold in their hearts. I knew that my father would be back from the big town. He had gone to try and find work, and often brought presents home for my sisters, who he preferred to me. I didn’t have the blonde hair and blue eyes that they all shared; I was the peculiar one with a love for artistic things and nature, whilst the only beauty they appreciated was money.

  When I entered, a gust of wind blew some snow inside, and I was instantly reprimanded for it by shouts and glares from my sisters. Only my younger sister, Rebekah, stood up to help me take off my cloak and scarf, and help me clean the snow on the floor.

  “Papa wants to speak with you.” She whispered hurriedly as we worked.

  “Is it bad?” I asked calmly. She shook her head, but the terror in her eyes told a different answer. I sighed to myself. My father had spoken of marrying me off to some poor farmer for a long time, even before I had turned sixteen in the October. I guessed that now was the time. I straightened my boring dress then knocked on the door to my Father’s study and bedroom. I heard him order me to enter, so I did.

  “Ah, Charlotte.” His face was strained, and sweat was running down it even though it was quite cold. “Put this on. Don’t ask questions, we are going to the Town.”

  “But I was just there...” I stammered.

  “You stupid girl! Not that ridiculous village, now get dressed!” He thrusted a sack towards me, and I rushed from the room. Inside were three dresses and cloak, all were far more beautiful than anything I had ever owned. The dress I chose to wear was a wine colour and in a soft fabric that I couldn’t identify. With it was an ebony cloak that was very warm. I figured that the clothes would be my dowry to the man I was to marry. Was he old or young? Fat, thin, ugly, fair? Was he kind? I hoped most of all that he was kind.

  My father sat me at the back of his wagon. I wasn’t very sheltered from the snow, but I put out a hand to wave to Rebekah who stood outside, wrapped up, to see me off. I could see her face was red from crying and cold. We set off. I held my arms around me, trying to keep warm. We did not stop all afternoon, and it was soon evening. I cannot say how long it took, but I fell asleep more than once, and woke up to an icy face full of snow. I imagined the best and worst scenarios that I would find when the long and strenuous journey ended.

  The wagon slowed, then stopped. I turned around to see where we were, and my Father was opening the gate to a huge castle. I gasped at the dark building that looked absolutely terrifying. Maybe I was to be a maid there? The wagon was soon moving again. A man came out and took the wagon and horse while my father led me inside. There were no lights inside so it was hard to see. There was a grand staircase, and I thought I saw movement at the top, so squinted. A voice boomed down from the top of them, making both my father and I jump.

  “Is this the girl?” It asked. I was quivering slightly. My father gripped my arm roughly and pushed me in the direction of the stairs.

  “Yes, sir. Charlotte, her name is. She will be sorely missed.” I couldn’t help snorting with disbelief at his words.

  “Let me take a closer look.” The voice said. I waited as he slowly came downstairs. The door opened and the light of the moon showed more and more of him. I gasped when he was finally at the bottom and I could see his face, or lack thereof.  He wore a black mask that covered most of his face, and only God knew what was under that mask. I had never seen anyone so mysterious or terrifying. The door slammed shut as my Father made his escape. I ran to it, but the servant had locked it.

  “Papa?” I cried out to him, hoping that he’d take pity on his daughter. “Papa, don’t leave me here! Please, I’ll do anything!” My voice got higher and louder as I spoke through my tears. “Papa! Take me home! Papa!” But my heartless father left, and I fell to my knees in horror and pain, sobbing to myself. The man just stood there as I cried and cried. The servant came towards me with his hands stretched out in comfort.

  “Don’t touch her.” He said sternly. I quickly glanced up at him, and couldn’t help but stare. I thought that he must be disgusting under that mask to have to wear it. All I saw standing there was a monster. “Take her to the room that was prepared for her.” He turned to me. I was no longer sobbing, but tears still made their rivers down my cheeks. “You are to live here now. Forget about your family. My servants will attend to you and give you your instructions.” He started to walk up the stairs but I called out.

  “Wait!” He turned to me, slowly and menacingly. “What is your name? What do I call you?” He sighed.

  “My name is Christopher Vondergarten, and we shall see what you are to call me when we speak tomorrow.” After he said this, he left swiftly.

  The Servant came up to me and held out his hand for me to get up.

  “My name is Simon. I work for the Master; I hope that we can be friends during your stay here.” He smiled, and I could tell that he was a gentle and trustworthy man. I took his hand. He then lighted a candle and showed me up the stairs. The castle was huge, and we went through many corridors to the room that was to be mine. When we reached it, Simon said “Here it is. My wife, Emma, will wake you up and help you tomorrow. There are clothes in the drawers and wardrobe. I don’t know how many will fit, but I’m sure Emma can make you some. She’s very good. Good night.” And he left me alone. I lit all of the candles in the room and explored it. The walls were a beautiful lilac colour, as was the bed covers. It was elaborate and it felt strange to be in such a room. All of the furniture was dark wood. I looked around; I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. There were some beautiful dresses, and quite a few fit me. I found a nightgown, and extinguished all but one of the candles. I put it by the bed, and started crying again at my unhappy circumstances until I fell asleep.

The End

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