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Three years ago, we were best of friends, sitting thigh-to-thigh, knee-to-knee, elbow-to-elbow in the courtyard, laughing under the sun as it warmed our skin. We were the sounds of laughter, dancing in the wind, the rain, singing merrily against the green underbrush. Two years ago, we were tangled fingers and limbs, hot lips pressed against blazing skin, tangled clothes, dark passionate nights, and song of the crickets chirping through the morning fog. We lay together under the trees in the meadow, elbows linked, those same thighs touching, the same knees bent together in the same crooked angle. One year ago, you left me alone to fend for myself. I lay at night alone, grasping for something that isn’t there at my side any longer. Eventually, someone else fills my bed beside me, but he isn’t the same person as you were. He doesn’t love in the same gentle way that you did. He’s the father of my children, but he’ll never be the claimer of my heart.
Lyran “FIGHT me, damn you!” the angry scream echoed out from behind me. I sighed, coming to a stop, my hands resting at my sides. I was cold, wet, and tired, and I wanted nothing more than to drop off at the nearest inn and to get some rest for the night, but it was not to be. In fact, I was farther away from any inn than my mind wanted me to be. I was not in fact resting, but being challenged by a peculiar highwayman dressed in black, looking very bat-like in the darkness, topped off by a severely, and ridiculously, pointed hat. “What will come of this?” I sighed as I drew my sword to answer the man’s challenge. I would only disarm him and be on my way. The young man danced around in his ridiculous costume, greed making his eyes gleam as he watched me turn to face him. He chuckled to himself and then lunged forward with a rather loud, “Hiya!” and a very badly-executed lunge which I didn’t even bother to parry. A step to the side sufficed in throwing him into the mud as the rain fell down around us. “So how ‘bout it,” I asked him. “Let’s see that challenge of yours. Show me what you’ve got. Stop mucking about in the mud.” He sat up with a glare, trying to shove the hat off of his face. He gave up and let it hang there in front of him and got to his feet. With a snarl, he attacked again. Blocking a widely-thrown punch with the hilt of my sword, I dropped my weapon in time to grab up his other fist that had followed the first. Putting my weight on his crossed wrists, I yanked them down near my hip and threw the lighter man neatly over my shoulder. He landed in a clump of bushes. As he untangled himself, I plucked my sword up from the mud, wiped it off as best as I could with my mud-covered clothes, and set off down the road, leading my horse beside me. The rain began to fall in earnest now, and I began to think of home – before I had to leave. Things were easy then – I was apprenticed to the blacksmith of the town and my job was steady and I learned a lot. The blacksmith had told me that I was to the point where I wouldn’t be able to learn anything else from him any longer. He told me that I could put an edge on a blade that no man could, hone a sword so sharp it would cut through anything, and weld a horseshoe onto a horse faster than any man alive. He was proud of me – and he was like a father to me. Then, there was his daughter, the pretty girl that I fell in love with. Serafina was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met, and she had the sweetest soul in the world.
Serafina EXHAUSTED, I hoisted the squalling child onto my hip and brushed back a strand of hair before she could catch it in one waving hand. “Mama!” she wailed, her blue eyes tearing up as she stared at the pony ahead of us. The pony was being led away by a stablehand as we stood there in the warm afternoon sun. “Come on, let’s go home, Twi. We’ll be back tomorrow,” I soothed my baby girl as the three-year-old began to cry. Twilight was fussy as Nathan, my five-year-old, was calm. The little boy now came skipping up to us, golden-brown ringlets bouncing about his small shoulders. His new sturdy breeches clung to his little legs as he faltered from a skip to a run, his little boots thumping the dusty yard. “Mama – Captain Rush says that I can shoot a bow as well as any grown man!” Nate panted as he crashed into my legs. Smiling down at him, I managed to free a hand to ruffle his hair. He clung to a fold on my dress and grinned his little boy smile up at me. “That’s very good, Nate. Wait until Papa hears you’ll be such a great hunter some day,” I told him. Gleefully, he let go of my skirt and with a hollering whoop, he ran down the short path ahead of us, back inside the mansion. Twi looked at me from where she was, sitting comfortably in the crook of my arm. “Mama – will I be a good hunter like Nate, too?” she asked me. She’s already forgotten about the pony. I smiled at my little girl and gave her a kiss on her button nose. The gentle summer breeze caught her hair in its gentle grasp, wrapping it around our faces in a golden mask. “You will be a beautiful lady of the court,” I assured her in a murmuring voice. “Hunters are for boys. You will be a beautiful lady and the prince will come and take you to his castle on his white horse.” Her green eyes shone with the vision of it as my heart twinged with the thought of my baby girl leaving me. Her skin was scented with the summer, her hair shone with sunlit highlights. In ten years, she would be a young woman, and she would be in the arms of her husband. Her summer scent would be made bitter by her worldly troubles. “Will I have horses and ponies to ride?” she asked me. “Everyday,” I assured her as we entered the shadow of the mansion. My smile was plastered on my face, painted on with no feeling behind it.