Reminded her of herself
After two days of hiding in the forest, Bernadette was found by a local farmer named Charles. She was a little girl with messy red hair, starving, alone, and terrified. Her small hands were wrapped around her bow with an arrow notched to kill. She was in complete defense mood and Charles could not blame her. He sat with her for hours, sometimes in silence or one of them would talk.
The girl said little of her situation, but word of massacre had already spread. And by some miracle, this child survived.
Miracle, fate, destiny, whatever one wanted to call it.
By the time the sun was ready to set, Charles had convinced Bernadette to come home with him, to his family. His wife, Eleanor, was a healer. Bernadette had some cuts that needed to be looked at. And, he added, he had three children, one being a daughter close to her age.
Bernadette agreed and when they reached the house, Eleanor was first mad at Charles for being gone so long but her tune changed when she saw Bernadette. She went right to work on healing Bernadette’s physical scars.
Charles’s children, Julia, Richard and John, watched in fascination at their mother’s healing skills. But the one person who was utterly spellbound was Bernadette herself.
She stayed with them while she healed up. Confided to bedrest, she perfect her letters and numbers, skills that her parents prided on.
Charles and Eleanor wanted Bernadette to stay, to become a full member of their family and it wasn’t much of a doubt in Bernadette’s mind. Of course she wanted to stay and have a family. She had grown close to all of them.
Bernadette started to work on the land with the family but she always carried a knife with her and jumped at every sound. It wasn’t that she was fearful, she just not wish to be caught off guard and always felt the need to protect herself.
For the next few years, Bernadette led a normal existence, as long as she kept her nightmares in check. That fateful day sometimes played out in her mind after the sun set. She quickly grew up, hardly ever speaking of her past. She had a future to look forward to.
Quickly she learned she did not have a knack for farming; however she discovered her talent for healing. She watched as Eleanor took care of patients, the plants she used and the tools she needed to heal people. This opened up a whole new world to her and she accepted it with open arms. This is how she could repay the world for letting her survive the massacre, she could save other people.
It made her smile and feel happy. She had a tendency to want to keep her head down and not attract attention. But this career path was slowly making her change. Well, that and her friendships with Julia and Marian. The three girls would usually be found outside of Marian’s home. Marian would be showing Julia a new stich she learned while Bernadette would be cutting up herbs for Eleanor. Both Julia and Marian knew they were expected to be proper young ladies and learn skills that would be beneficial to a happy family and home life. But Bernadette did not have those thoughts on her mind and did not ever expect to. She was setting out on a career and did not plan on needing someone.
Julia was very interested in Bernadette. How could one so young overcome such tragedy? But the answer to that question was simple: Bernadette did not dwell on the past, though it regularly haunted her nightmares.
Charles and Eleanor were quick to address their concerns that Bernadette might one day seek revenge. But luckily the girl never felt a need for it. She knew the past wasn’t going to change, that she couldn’t bring anyone back. So she kept all her feelings to herself.
Having a career path in mind actually saved Bernadette from boring sewing lessons and other lessons that made her want to fall asleep. She wanted to know interesting things, like all the different types of plants, what would save a person and what could kill them. She wanted to know it all.
But there was always the only issue that came up often. The dagger that never left Bernadette’s belt. It was like Charles and Eleanor were trying to turn her in to a proper lady.
“Proper young ladies don’t carry weapons.” They told her.
Proper young ladies don’t lose their families in horrible events and have to fight to stay alive, but here I am. She never actually said that, but went through her mind daily. She was beginning to develop a sense of humor, dry and witty, but it was something.
They gave it, she could carry the dagger but the bow and quiver had to stay at home. Fine, she could compromise. Maybe if she started hunting, she could carry that too.
It was late afternoon; Bernadette was taking her time gathering herbs. She felt more at peace in the forest rather than the house. Maybe it was something about the openness.
She had just finished cutting a good amount of tree bark when she heard a rustle of leaves behind her. Her mind went immediately into panic mode and the blade turned outwards. She wished to the high heavens she had her bow with her.
Out of the clearing came a large wolf. Giant actually, to the twelve year old, it was giant. Not only was the size unnerving to her. but the eyes terrified her. one was blood red while the other was a black as the night.
Bernadette’s only logical thought was to run, but of course it would chase her. she doubted she would out run it on foot. It just stood staring at her and Bernadette stared back.
She took a step to the right, the wolf followed. She took a step to the left, again it followed. Her fear slowly began to subside and she pulled a small piece of meat from her bag. It was supposed to be her snack, but there were more important things.
To her surprise, the wolf came right up to her, sniffed her hand and gently took the piece of meat. It quickly ate it and nuzzled up to her leg.
Bernadette never had odd things happen to her, so this was a first. Was she supposed to pet it? Treat it like a common dog? She took a chance and gently patted the head. The wolf made no threatening noises.
Then there was another sound and this time a young man entered the clearing. He looked to only be a few years older than Bernadette. He saw her with wolf who was acting like a puppy. A confused look crossed his face. “Luna doesn’t take well to strangers.”
“Luna? The wolf has a name?” Bernadette was now the one confused.
“Of course, everyone needs a name. I’m Derek, what’s your name?”
Bernadette paused, she never gave out personal information out so easily. But there was something about Derek that reminded her of herself. “Bernadette.”
“Bernadette, what are you doing in the forest alone with a knife?” Derek was curious, she saw the same thing in Bernadette.
“I’m gathering herbs for my adopted mother, she’s a healer. And one day she is going to teach me everything she knows so that I can become a healer one day too.” Bernadette actually let a hint of joy and hope into her voice.
“Your adopted mother?” Derek asked. Luna had curled up in a ball on the ground, she was bored of the conversation.
“Yes, I was orphaned a few years ago. My village was attacked….” She started to explain but Derek stopped her.
“No need to say anymore, I heard the stories. You made out alive. That’s why you had the knife out and ready to go. Do you know how to actually use?”
Bernadette looked down at the blade, it was simple, nothing like the one she escaped her house with. “Not really. I just do whatever I can.”
“I know how to use a weapon. I can show you, if you want?” Derek was a sensitive soul who had seen a bit of himself in Bernadette the moment he walked into the clearing. Now, after she said a few things about her life, he understood why.
But that is did not explain why Luna took an instant liking to her. Maybe, one day he would find out.
Bernadette nodded, she wanted to be able to defend herself. She had some skill with bow; maybe she should able to use her dagger just as well. Anything to avoid being a proper young lady.
“Meet me here tomorrow, mid-day.” Derek told her then patted his leg; Luna stood up and followed him.
“Wil Luna being coming with you?” Bernadette had become attached to the wolf even though they just met.
“Of course, where I go, she goes and the other way around. We are a family.”
Bernadette didn’t tell anyone about her lesson for the following day. She wanted to keep it, and Derek and Luna, a secret.
She met Derek in the same clearing; Luna was rolling around in the leaves. For a wolf, she acted like a dog most of the time.
“You’re back. Luna and I had a bet going on whether you would come back…” Derek began to say but was stopped when Luna head butted him in the leg, sending him to the ground.
“And you lost the bet?” Bernadette bit back a laugh.
Derek smiled up at her. “Remind me to never bet against a wolf or underestimate you.” He pulled himself to his feet. “Alright, let’s get started.” He handed her his dagger.
The lesson went on for hours; Bernadette was very quick learner, maybe because she saw the importance of weaponry. Derek was considering moving on to hand to hand combat. But decided to keep that for another day.
They were sitting on a log, just being quiet. Bernadette was examining the dagger, it was old and well used.
“It was my father’s.” Derek answered her silent question. She turned to look at him. Derek rarely spoke of his past. “It was just the two of us, my mother died when I was about two. I don’t really remember her. My father taught me everything, how to hunt, how to fish, how to protect myself, how to survive. Good thing he did, he died of some illness that no local healer could cure. I was eight, that was six years ago.”
Bernadette quickly did the math in her head. Derek was fourteen years old, two years older than herself.
He continued his story. “I met Luna in the forest about a week later, her paw was stuck in a trap. I set her free and she hasn’t left my side since. When you safe someone’s life, they are eternally indebted to you.”
Bernadette understood why she was so drawn to him, they both experienced loss and death early on. Her hand covered his and he squeezed back.
Her secret wasn’t supposed to come out into the open so soon. But Charles and Eleanor found out about Bernadette’s lessons and her friends.
They weren’t sure what to say. She was hanging around an orphan boy who they knew nothing about. She was taking weapon lessons from him. It had danger written all over it.
But they couldn’t deny that she looked happy and confident. She also stood her ground when they suggested she stop seeing Derek.
They had been friends for five months, nothing ever happened between them, they had an understanding about life, one that Charles and Eleanor didn’t. She really enjoyed the lessons and they were things everyone should know. Defending one’s self was very important.
So Charles and Eleanor caved but they wanted to meet Derek. They wanted to meet the young man who had so quickly become another brother to Bernadette.