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The Black Rose

By Shona Howie All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Drama

The Not So Distant Past

I fumble forwards, the grass is cold on my feet, the evening breeze passes through my long dark brown hair like fingers running gently through it when I feel Sebastian's hands easing me to a stop. The blindfold loosens and is taken off my face, as my eyes adjust I see Richard, barefooted, wearing black trousers, a white shirt, a waistcoat and a black tailcoat, he is holding out two lit candles that light up his brown hair and face,

“16 years Eliza, I can't believe I'm trusting you with something so dangerous”

“Oh brother dear, 18's such a responsible age I'm wondering how you're going to cope?”

“I was more worried about you” I watched him smile as he held a candle out to me

“You underestimate me brother” I reply smiling as I take the candle from him, we kept eye contact for a moment then I looked down at the flame wavering slightly in the wind and as I watched the flame turn into Sebastian holding his own miniature candle as he shut the curtains in my bedroom, I watched him come over to my bed and put the candle down beside me,

“Bright light” I saw my 6 years old self say looking up at Sebastian

“Yes my lady, tis bright indeed”

“I like it” The 6 year old was happy and loved Sebastian dearly

“Goodnight Eliza” Sebastian replied in his soft voice as he kissed me on the forehead, he blew out the candle. I was standing on the balcony watching my 7 year old self looking down into the ballroom, at the annual ball that mother and father arrange to celebrate their wedding anniversary,

“I can't wait to be 16 and learn to ballroom dance” I hear Richard whisper to me

“I know those dresses are beautiful!” I whisper back and I watched Richard give me a glance as if to say really?

“I still dream about those dresses” I say looking at myself and my brother watching the ball with their gleaming eyes,

“At least I think I do” I spin round startled to see the sun beating down on me as I call out to Richard in the maze “or I did”

“Then where are you?” As I hear the reply, I am aware that I am running after 9 year old Eliza who's unaware herself that she's leading us in the completely wrong direction from the exit but still we run on,

“Come on, I haven't got all day!” We keep running as Richard calls out and soon we reach a dead end,

“I told you so!” I call out to Eliza aged 9 watching her turn and run back past me, I turn to follow but my cry is cut short by the hooves shooting past me,

“Watch out!” Comes a cry and I turn to see father running, he runs past me and I follow him “for goodness sake Eliza!”

“I know” Eliza replies aged 11 “It just startled me a bit that's all”

“That was part of the point” Richard said looking down at me from the saddle

“Yes Richard but not that much!”

“Come on you two, Richard off give Eliza a go it is her birthday” Richard dismounts and father fronts Richard

“It's also my birthday father!”

“It's not the point and you know it's not” I watch as I get onto the horse and as Richard backs away from father

“Fire!” I whipped round scared to see Richard hit the centre and myself hitting the edge of the target “Great Richard but Eliza try a bit harder”

“I'm only 13! And it wasn't that bad a shot”

“Maby we should have a rest then” I watched father take the bow off the 13 year old only for her to take it back.

“One last try” She drew her bow and shot

“That's it you've got the hang of it now” It was father's voice but it came from behind me, I turn to see myself from earlier this evening getting the hang of ballroom dancing with father,

By George I think you have it” Mothers voice is loud and excited, which is rare, then she added “so now it's time for a better partner”

“A better partner?!” Father was disgusted but only until we turned to see Richard standing tall against the wall, he took a rose from it's container and put it into his mouth. He strode towards me, I bowed, well both Eliza's did, then Richard took the young Eliza's hand and they danced waltzing to start, 1.2.3.1.2.3.1.2.3 and twirl and twist and turn and double barrel and swing and duck and 1.2.3 and 1.2.3 and 1.2.3 and apart and in and apart and round and on and on it went with clapped from the now me, father and mother until Richard swung me down, took the rose out of his mouth and,

“Hang on” Richard said as he placed the rose into my hair “there, you don't look so ugly now sister” we all laughed and I felt the rose still sat in my hair and I smiled.

Black. I blinked. I thought I'd heard something go out, like a tiny gust of wind then it dawned on me. The candle. The candle had gone out and Richard had gone but then a noise came that startled me,

“My Lady Richmond” I jumped but it was only Sebastian “Lord Richmond has gone inside would you like to follow?”

“I think that would be wise as it is dark and getting rather chilly” Sebastian took my hand, his other he put behind his back like he was taught to do. Sebastian was not very much taller than myself, he was old and had a wrinkled face but his smile never faded. He was always polite and knew his place as our butler yet he had a connection with all of us that was like none I've found any where else. He lead me through the gardens and up the cold stone stairs leading to our home as we came to the door and Sebastian went to open it but it swung open before us and there stood mother,

“Eliza dear, Richard has gone to bed and Hazel is waiting for you if you wish to retire” Mother's face was calm and relaxed “Sebastian thank you for keeping an eye on them but it's time for you to get back to your evening duties”

“Yes Lady Richmond” Sebastian bowed and we both stepped inside but mother paused and turned again to Sebastian

“How many times, you may call me Elizabeth, come along Eliza” Sebastian hurried off and mother lead me to the stairs, as I opened the door and mother left. Hazel was standing there, her brown hair was tied back in a straight single plat, her clothes were worn yet tidy and clean.

“If you would Hazel it has been a most distressing day” Hazel scuttled behind me and started to undo my dress, as it slid off my body she untied my corset then turned away while I put on my night gown, “I have to say you are very mature Miss Woods for at 13 I was learning archery and spent hours listening to mother playing her violin, I was not the thoughtful and responsible girl that you are

I am a maid my Lady andI have my duties as I was not born into the rich society of those such as yourselfshe turned and put the candle down beside my bed, I then handed her the rose from my hair and she placed it in water in a glass jug beside the candle

Goodnight dear HazelShe gave a weak smile then blew out the candle.

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