Rielle watched the silver clock on the mantle-piece tick one-two, one-two, and bit her lip, fighting back the swarming boredom. Even during the night, she longed to be outside observing the ever-changing nature of…well, nature.
Listening to her father's Bible reading, Rielle fidgeted impatiently and stared out the window into the glossy sky beyond; I Corinthians seemed to go on for another eternity.
Rielle's mother adjusted her skirt and then quickly replaced her hands back into her lap. She gazed at her husband with quiet awe and solemn respect. After a second, she glanced over a Rielle, who froze under her mother's glare. Only when Mr. Facaute finished his sermon could Rielle finally, truly relax.
"You know, I've been noticing God's power in nature lately," she pointed out.
"Brielle. Your studies will also lead to an observance of God’s love. You shouldn't choose to be led astray outside with Mr. Sanders.”
Rielle's cheeks burned and she turned away.
"Don't blame him, mother. The world is a beautiful place."
“You’re rather taken with it all.”
Rielle ignored her. It had only been meant humorously, but Rielle wasn’t in the mood. It had been a long day, but she longed to spend more of her remaining time alone with Felix. Her mother shot her a side-long glance, but said nothing more.
Mr. Facaute sighed and closed his Bible with a snap.
“It’s getting late and I won’t have my favourite women at odds. Brielle, time for bed.”
“I’ve had a word with Mr. Sanders. We’ve decided that, starting from tomorrow, your studies should contain an extra course of curricular maths. You’ll need your sleep in order to refresh that airy brain.”
“What?!” Rielle knew that it wasn’t likely to be true.
“Please don’t argue. Just go up, Rielle…”
Rielle sighed, nodding without feeling, and got up out of the goose-feather-filled sofa. She headed deep into the mansion towards her bedroom silently; no words needed to be said, although many hung in the air between Rielle and her parents…
The sweet-pitched calls of the early-morning birds, especially the native spotted cuckoo, woke Rielle. She pushed her hand-sown quilt away and wondered over to the round, wooden window, from where she could see out into the pale, yet warm, dawn, so soft and welcoming.
Glancing at the hand-sized wooden clock beside the window, Rielle noticed that her parents would not yet be awake. Now was her chance for freedom.
She grabbed her ash-coloured cloak from the woven birch chair that lay beside her bed, and tiptoed out.
Rielle’s bedroom lay in the very heart of the mansion (as was the custom for rich families and their ideas of protection) and therefore close to her parents’. She had no knowledge of the position of Felix’s quarters, but she had often wondered if she should suggest that he invite her back for luncheon, or a quiet cup of tea… That is, if he liked tea. Rielle herself didn't, but she was prepared to put up with, and do, anything to be closer to him.
She tiptoed to the front door and lifted the old latch, opening the door easily and quietly, although it normally squeaked from age-worn bones.
Prancing through the grounds, Rielle revelled in the smells of the new dawn and the way that the rising sun bathed the house and the gardens and the surrounding mysterious forest in a soft tangerine haze, sparkles reflecting off every little drop of dew.
She giggled, then clapped a hand over her mouth; she couldn’t risk being caught out at this time of the morning.
Suddenly, light footsteps made Rielle jump. Instantly, she turned, but there was no-one to be seen. Confused, she turned back to be greeted by the playful bark of a small grey wolf puppy.
“Well, hullo. Who are you then?” she giggled.
The wolf pup bounced in circles around Rielle, and she, happily, followed, playing chase with his wagging tail. Finally, they collapsed in a heap together and Rielle sat stroking his coarse, yet fluffy, fur.
Suddenly, a hand pressed itself across Rielle’s mouth and strong arms gripped hers in order to pull her up. She shrieked, trying, in vain, to bite the hand that covered her, and saw two burly men holding her.
The wolf pup bounced around them, yapping and gnashing his small teeth protectively.
The man who had been covering Rielle’s mouth released his grip and scooped up the puppy in one vicious sweep.
“Can’t have this thing running off and alerting the parents," he said to his colleague.
The other one smirked at Rielle.
“Come on, heiress. You’ll be worth so much to our boss.”
Rielle struggled with all her might, but she was but a young girl against two strong grown men, Felix’s age.
As Rielle was dragged quickly away from the morning sunlight and the mansion and everything she had always known as normal, she screamed, as loudly and shrilly as she could, for the person she most wanted to see at that moment: her ‘handsome prince’…