My book baby. After a year of writing, rewriting, crying, and rewriting again I hit publish and suddenly all my daydreams had become reality. Imagination is nothing but a stop to what our lives might look like. In celebration of my book finally being out here is an excerpt of the first chapter and if you want the whole book CLICK HERE
The wheels of the small, old carriage trudged through the muddy paths. The weather had been relentless since the start of the journey, clearly a sign of some sort. The gray clouds covered the sky in a thick blanket as the rain continued to fall, pitter-pattering against the window. I had barely slept or blinked the entirety of the trip. Two days jostling to and fro, wondering if it was too late to turn back while knowing that there was nothing left to turn back to.
“How could you do this?”
The last words I spoke to my father, who, despite my tears, assured me he had done what was best. He did not even hug me goodbye. I watched as he rode into the distance, waiting until he disappeared, forever. My mother’s last words had been to ‘be brave,’ I wonder if somehow she knew what fate laid ahead. Having sold the last of our land and our small cottage to pay back taxes and unpaid debts, my father claimed to have secured me a place with a wealthy and prominent family not too far from London. It was the least he could do, or so he said when springing the unfortunate news on me a fortnight ago. I smoothed my skirts as I bristled in my seat, nervous and unable to stop fidgeting within the small enclosed space. I had felt angry at the start of my travels, but the closer I got, the more fear overcame me.
My mother had passed away from influenza eight years ago when I was only sixteen years of age. The loss had shattered me. She had been my best friend, my only friend, my protector. She was everything that was beautiful and kind. Intelligent beyond words, she filled our house with stories and love. As I watched the sickness overtake her, I tried my best in those final days and moments to comfort both her and my father.
My mother had been my light, and my father had been my hero. He was a man who could do anything in my eyes. He had the strength of a warrior, yet he cared for my mother and me with such tenderness proving how much he loved us. I kept waiting for him to tell me everything would be alright, that we would soldier on as my mother would have wanted, that we still had each other, but no words of solace ever came.
We buried her under our favorite birch tree, over the hill from our home. In the pouring rain, the minister said a final prayer as I stood staring at the ground, the dirt of her grave turning to sludge. When I looked up, I realized my father had gone. I did not see him again for a month. Our land stretched practically to the neighboring village. We had a flock of animals, and we were well known in our small town of Mermouth. We were practically royalty, for a humble farming family, and the passing of my mother had sent people near and far to pay their respects. In the beginning, they had tried their best to bolster our spirits, but as my father disappeared more and more and the rumors began to spread, they looked at me with nothing more than pity.
I had done my best to keep up with the land but soon found it to be an impossible task. It was far too hard to tend to all the duties on my own, our help eventually finding greener pastures when I could no longer pay them. For a long time, I told myself my father was grieving. My mother had been the love of his life. They would regularly tell me stories of how she gave up everything to be with him. She had come from a wealthy family but had walked away from her namesake to be with the man she loved. I continued to hold onto hope, often picturing my father returning and realizing not all was lost, but his grief was far too powerful. It consumed him, and there was no trace of the man he once was.
As time went on, I grew used to being on my own, and I took comfort in still having my home even as it fell into disrepair. I cherished the memories of happier times, a place where I always felt safe. I carried on doing the best I could. I slowly sold off some of our animals and took care of the immediate area while taking any odd jobs I could find when money became scarce. Keeping busy meant there was no time to think about the precarious situation I found myself in, as notices began to pile up and tax collectors began to knock on the door. I had often thought of leaving, but I was afraid of what laid beyond the hills I called home.
As much as I wanted to believe, I was not foolish enough to think there was a Prince Charming who would come to my rescue, no matter how many times my mother tried to tell me so. The thought of leaving seemed preposterous. I feared if I left, my memories of my parents and of my home would surely begin to fade, and I would indeed be all alone. The thought terrified me. After months of not seeing my father, the longest stretch yet, he returned one rainy morning, startling me as he sat in the kitchen, surprisingly sober. I could not remember the last time I had seen him. His appearance had become withered, almost unrecognizable to me. Every time he returned home, my heart filled with hope, that morning even more so when his words were not slurred, and he did not smell of drink. I greeted him warmly, my affection for him never wavering until he told me that he had sold everything. I was stunned, I could hear his words about debts and taxes, but they did not make any sense; it was our home, mother was buried just over the hill. I felt the room melting away from me, the muffled sounds of his boots shuffling across the floor to catch me before I fell.
The carriage shuddered once more, stirring me from my thoughts. We would be arriving at the manor soon, and the lump in my throat grew larger and larger. Memories. I hated them. I no longer wanted to be reminded of all I had lost. For years I clung to them like a child to a doll, too afraid to relinquish my hold, but all they did was mock me. I had lived in denial for too many years. It was time to let go and move forward.
Finally, turning down a long drive, I saw the gated entrance where the manor lay beyond a small copse. Perhaps it was guilt, not wanting to leave me entirely destitute, that my father had procured me a position with the Hollinger Family. His explanation had been vague, and I did not think to ask questions, the shock of it all overwhelming me at the time. Even now, moments away from my new life, I still was somewhat denying that everything I knew was no more. The manor came into view and was far grander than I could have ever imagined. There was an overgrowth of vines, and ivy swallowing it whole, sending a shiver ran down my spine as I took it all in. The door opened, and I stumbled out ungracefully, my legs numb after the long journey. My father had paid a driver to take me, but his sour disposition meant we made few stops, his desire to complete the trip as quickly as possible.
Gathering myself, the taciturn man flung my bag into my arms and decided there was no need to stay and see that I was taken care of, the dust engulfing me as he took off. Waving my hand as I coughed, I stood there looking around at the neglected grounds before walking to see if I could find the servant entrance. The wind blew as my feet crunched the dirt and gravel, the land incredibly unkempt for such a magnificent estate. I saw no one and was annoyed the driver had not been kind enough to stay and that I had been, as always, too timid to ask. After meandering around for some time, I came upon what I thought might the servant’s door, the large knocker appearing a tad rusted and taking a bit of strength to use, but no one answered. Backing away, I shielded my eyes from the raindrops falling once more as I looked around again for any signs of life. I searched the windows above when I thought I saw a curtain move ever so slightly, but with the rain coming down in steady droves, I could not be sure, my eyes blurred by the storm. I stood under a canopy of overgrown vines, wondering if it would be inappropriate to ring the main door. Shivering, I went to walk back around when a man on a horse came riding through as if out of nowhere. The brown stallion flew back on its hind legs, startled by my appearance, causing me to fall backward into a puddle. The man quickly swung down and lifted me back up, my dress drenched and covered in dirt.
“I do apologize. I didn’t mean to frighten the poor thing,” I yelled, the storm growing worse with every passing minute.
The disheveled man looked at me quizzically, both of us shivering and soaked to the bone.
“Miss Sayers? We were not expecting you for a few more days,” he said out of breath. He ran and tied up the horse in a nearby covering before returning, “Let us get inside, shall we? Follow me.”
I did as told, freezing and eager for warmth, my teeth now chattering. Trying not to drip all over the floors, we walked through a small and tight corridor, moving past stone walls as a cold draft wrapped around me, the wind whistling in the distance. Our footsteps echoed as we went along with no other sounds to be heard. I would have thought after entering, a housekeeper would have met us, but still, there was no one. We began to climb a narrow staircase until we reached the main part of the house. There were paintings of men and women hanging about, beautiful, empty porcelain vases, and ornate carvings in the wood and ceiling. I had never seen such intricate beauty before. I was amazed by the manor’s sheer size, thinking my small cottage was barely a hut in comparison. I began to feel embarrassed at my tattered cloak and dress, only one of two that I owned. I had mended both many times over the years, making the best of what little I had. Having not anticipated being in this part of the house, I became very much aware of how I did not belong here.