Daniela refused to come out of her room for three days after Felix left with the army. She had seen the men marching off the morning after the officer had arrived and had broken down in the middle of the square, sobbing into her mother’s shoulder. Her family was worried about what was happening to her. They couldn’t believe the depths of despair Daniela had sunk to.
But most of it was an act and all the time she was hiding away in her room, Daniela was forming a plan. She didn’t want to leave her family, but she knew they would be fine without her and it was more important that she find Felix.
“Please come outside,” Juliette pleaded on her visit that third afternoon. “You can’t stay locked away in here forever, it’s not what Felix would want you to do.”
“Well I’m sick of doing what Felix wants,” she retorted. “Why should he make all the decisions and expect me to go along with him?”
“Then if you’re not going to do it for Felix do it for me. Do it for Mother. Neither of us can bear to see you like this.”
Daniela remained silent, turning her back on Juliette. She hated to act this way in front of her beloved sister but she knew that this was the only way to get what she really wanted. Her family would understand, she knew it.
Juliette sighed, stroking her sister’s soft dark brown hair that was falling loosely across the pillow before standing up. A few moments later Daniela heard the door shut and she knew she was alone again. She waited until her sister’s footsteps had disappeared down the hall before sitting up and pulling a small canvas bag out from under her bed. She opened it up and scanned the items that were hidden inside. Food from the last couple of days that her mother had given her, a pair of sharp scissors from the stables, matches and lots of bandages. She shut the bag again, stuffing it back under the bed, curling up and resuming her pathetic expression.
When the sun had set and her parents were fast asleep she would make her move. But until then all Daniela could do was wait.
Many hours later, when the house was silent, Daniela got up as quietly as she could, avoiding the spots on the wooden floor that creaked and taking the satchel out from under her bed, crossing to the wardrobe and taking out the men’s clothes she had hidden there. Sneaking into the kitchen she took some extra cheese and bread from the pantry in case her journey took longer than she had anticipated.
Despite the warmth of the day, the night air was cold against Daniela's skin as she ran silently through the gate and towards the stables. The two horses that were stabled there whickered slightly as they sensed the presence of a human. Daniela went to each of them and stroked their noses, just to make sure they knew it was her and not a stranger. The carthorse that her father used for ploughing and taking his produce to market was called Chubb, but it was the other horse, Oblivion, that Daniela loved most. She was the mare that was going to help Daniela complete her plan.
After soothing the horses Daniela pulled off the deep purple gown she had been wearing, unlacing her stays and pulling off her shift. She took the bandages from the satchel and with some difficulty and much to the amusement of the horses, she proceeded to bind her chest as tightly as she could. It took a few attempts to get it right but when she was satisfied she pulled on a shirt and a pair of her father’s old breeches.
The next bit was going to be the hardest part of her transformation. Going over to the bucket of water that always stood by the stable door she could see her reflection in the moonlight. She took hold of the scissors in one hand and pulled her hair back into a ponytail in the other. Daniela could feel her hands shaking with fear and nerves but she took a deep breath to steady herself.
“You have to do this,” she muttered to herself. “For Felix.”
She closed her eyes and put the scissors against her hair. One snip later and all her beautiful chocolate brown hair was gone. Daniela clutched at it in her hand, staring down at it in disbelief. There was no going back now. Once the first cut had been made she found it much easier to continue cutting until her hair was a halo around her head.
She threw her hair out into the field behind the stables, hoping a stray bird would find some use for it as part of a nest. She donned a battered leather jerkin and the transformation was complete. Daniela had gone. Now a young boy looked out from her face.
As quickly as she could Daniela saddled Oblivion, whispering to her all the time to keep her quiet and calm. She attached the saddlebags and put the remaining contents of the satchel inside before leading the horse outside. Chubb whinnied as he saw his stable partner being led away but the mare made no noise.
Daniela mounted the horse, swinging her leg over her back and resting comfortably in the saddle. She was suddenly very grateful that her father had taught her to ride like a man, much to her mother’s displeasure.
Even though it was dark she looked up at her childhood home. She had never left this house, she hadn't even travelled beyond the village, and now she was going away from everything she knew in order to find the man she loved. A lump lodged itself in her throat, threatening to make her cry.
Before she could allow herself to get sentimental she dug her heels into Oblivion’s sides, urging her on away from the house.
Daniela knew she would be back soon and she would bring Felix home with her. Of that she was absolutely certain.