Daniela was still unbearably happy when she woke up the next morning. She rolled over in bed, staring intently at the ring on her finger. She still couldn’t quite believe this was all happening. She was getting married.
Hanna watched her daughter perform all her daily chores; feeding the chickens and horses, cleaning the kitchen and hanging the washed clothes out to dry. And she did it all without a complaint. This was completely new to Mistress Gilbert who was used to her daughter complaining about having to work when she could be off doing something interesting.
But Daniela was too wrapped up in her own happiness to complain about working. The time alone allowed her to think about Felix and their life together. Every time she thought of becoming Mistress Thomas, wife of a blacksmith, her heart leapt with joy and shivers were sent running down her spine.
By the time her father came home for his midday meal, Daniela had completed all her chores and was sitting on the rope swing her father had constructed and had been hanging from the tree outside their house for as long as she could remember. She gazed dreamily out over the fence that separated their house from the stables to the right and the fields opposite. Neil Gilbert looked at his daughter and decided not to disturb her, walking straight into the house without saying a word.
Daniela leant back on the rope swing with her eyes closed, letting the sun warm her face and her long plait hang away from her back.
“Do you know how many times I’ve told you you’ll fall off if you keep doing that?”
The familiar voice made Daniela turn open her eyes and turn around. “I believe you have something to tell me,” the woman dressed in green standing behind Daniela said, a big grin on her face.
“How did you know?” Daniela exclaimed, getting up off the rope swing and throwing her arms around her sister.
“Mother knocked on my door when she passed my house earlier. I’m so happy for you, I know this is what you’ve always wanted.”
“I’m so glad you think so Juliette. Mother seems a little bit skeptical about the whole thing.”
“It’s only because she’s worried about you. You’re her daughter; she only wants the best for you. She was just the same when she found out that George had proposed to me.”
“Really? But George is completely devoted to you.”
“I suppose it’s her natural instinct. She wants to make sure you’re making the right decision. Are you sure you’re making the right choice? You are still young.”
“I know I’m young but I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone but Felix. I know it’s the right decision.”
“Then I’m really happy for you,” Juliette said, pulling her younger sister into a big hug. “I just came to see you and say congratulations so I should probably get on.”
“Please stay for a while,” Daniela pleaded. “We hardly see you anymore and I miss you. Mother will be making lunch soon so you could stay for that.”
“Unfortunately George will be coming home soon to be fed too and if I don’t have something ready then he won’t be happy. That’s what being a wife is all about. You’ve got to make sure your husband has everything he needs, he gets fed and you are there for him whenever he needs you.”
“That doesn’t seem fair. Why should I have to wait on Felix’s every beck and call? Surely he can sort himself out.”
“Unless you haven’t learnt yet, men are lost without us,” Juliette joked, winking at her younger sister. “I promise I’ll visit again soon.”
“I’ll hold you to your word,” Daniela said giving her sister another hug. “You’re starting to feel like a stranger.”
“I’ll invite you and Felix to dinner sometime. It’s time I got to know him better as he is going to be my brother-in-law. I’ll have to make sure he’s good enough for my little sister.”
“He is. You don’t have to worry about that.”
“Good. I’ll see you soon.”
Daniela walked her sister to the gate and waved for as long as she could until Juliette had disappeared from view.
The afternoon passed in the lazy way that warm summer afternoons do. Having been dismissed by her mother from doing any extra chores, Daniela wandered around the empty fields in the sunshine before heading down into town when the sun was half way through its descent towards the horizon. She wandered around the houses, watching people she knew go about their business before the end of the day. She sat on the edge of the well in the village square, watching people pass by. She found it very therapeutic. And she was hoping to catch a glimpse of Felix.
But as the sun began to dip beyond the horizon Daniela stood up and began to head for home. But the ominous sound of wild horse hooves made her stop and turn around.
"Urgent message from the King!” The cry echoed around the quiet village, calling everyone from their houses and heading towards the commotion. Within moments, a horse and rider appeared in the village square, dozens of people following in their wake.
There were mutterings spreading across the square like wild fire. What could the King possibly want?
“What is your business here?” The village spokesperson, John Taylor, the butcher asked.
“I bring urgent news from the palace and an order from the King,” the messenger replied. “As of last night,” he announced, addressing everyone present, “Varall is at war against Kerya.”
Murmurs of outrage and fear spread around the crowd. Daniela looked around, trying to work out what this meant.
“The King has requested that one able-bodied man from every family join the army to fight for our noble cause. An army officer will visit you within the week to collect any brave young men who wish to join up.”
Everyone was talking now, the square erupting into a cacophony of noise. But Daniela heard none of it. She was paralysed with fear and felt like she was about to collapse. She now knew what was at stake; her future with Felix.