Birth of The Free Bird

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William was found laying on the floor in the attic by the maid, who happened to be on duty to clean the attic in the morning. His body was shivering from the cold. The attic was always damp and cold, which was why no one was using it despite its big space that could accomodate three to four single beds for the servants. The room had been turned useless, except for punishing disobedient persons who defy the Mayor. That was including his own son.

The maid came to approach the boy, feeling sorry for the poor child who had to spent his night in the attic. She touched his forehead, then his neck and his hands. His body temperature was colder than normal body temperature. She shook his body gently, trying to wake him up.

“Mr. William.” She whispered. But the boy did not respond. “William, child.” She tried again. Her voice was gentle. This time ,William’s eyes fluttered opened. He turned his head from one side to another side. His body felt numb and the back of his back felt hurt from laying on hard cold wooden floor. When he could open his eyes properly, he looked up at the face of the maid that he recognised as Millie, a woman of forty years old who had been working for his family since he was born.

Millie smiled at her little master who looked at her with his sad eyes. Poor boy. She sighed. “I will have to mop the floor, child. Do you want to move to the chair at the corner?” She asked him gently, helping him to sit up. She was unsure whether his parents would allow him to go back to his room. Although she felt sorry for the boy, she knew better not to take the risk by moving the boy to his bedroom without his parents’ consent.

“Wa…ter…” William stuttered, feeling groggy. His voice was hoarse from screaming and crying the whole night, begging his parents, especially his mother, to forgive him and let him out of the attic. He hated staying in the cold attic. It gave him a creepy feeling. Its darkness and coldness added up to his misery that he could not endure, until he gave up and curled himself on the floor. “Please.”

Millie nodded at him. Getting up immediately and rushed into the kitchen to get the poor boy water. On her way back to the attic, Mrs. Graham was walking towards the attic herself but the lady halted her stepped when she noticed Millie coming to her way.

“Has my son woken up?” She asked the maid. Her green eyes noticed the glass of water on the maid’s hand.

“Yes, Madam. He asked for a glass of water.” Millie explained.

“Right, give him the water.” She turned on her heels and walked towards the opposite direction, but not before she said to maid to move her son to his own bedroom and mumbled “Weak boy.”

The maid saw the lady disappeared in the corner of the hall that led her to her husband office.

In the office, Gilbert was writing a letter when he heard a knock on the door. He told the person to come in without lifting his head up from the paper.

“Will has woken up.” Informed Sybil as she stepped in and sat at the chair across her husband’s desk. Her eyes peered into his right hand who was busy scribbling each and every word onto the white paper.

“Have you sent him back to his room?” Asked Gilbert nonchalantly.

“I did. He’s getting weaker and weaker everyday.” Sybil muttered. She did not like the fact that her son had gone to the forest to see the girl. She even heard from the maids, who finally opened their mouth, that William had been taking foods from the kitchen before he went out. Her dislike towards her boy’s behaviour increased, realising that he had been giving foods to the girl in the forest. What a joke! She sighed.

Gilbert snorted. “I told you to watch over him but you are too busy with your own… things.” His eyes had not left the paper.

“I never thought the forest was the place he would choose as his playground.” She was slouching on her chair, thinking about his son behaviour. “I wonder if that girl was even real.”

Gilbert paused his writing. He darted his eyes to his wife for a few seconds and then resumed his writing. His letter had finally come to an end. He put the quill down and got up from his seat, walking over towards the chair next to his wife.

“I think she is real, Sybil.” He exclaimed as he sat down, crossing his legs while he rested his left arm on top of them. “William is not the only one who has seen the girl. Thomas and another few children have seen her too. So, the girl is real.”

“From what Will told us last night, I don’t believe that the girl live by herself.” She furrowed her brows. “It is impossible for the girl to be living by herself in the forest. Don’t you think so, Gilbert?”

Gilbert narrowed his eyes down. The frowning on his forehead was visible as he thought hard. He had suspected the same as his wife, that the girl was not living alone. Who would survive in the forest without him or any other villagers notice about her before? The girl would have been gone or having hundreds of attempts to enter the civilisation in the village. Anyone would have noticed her before. So, someone must have kept her safe and sound within the forest perimeter.

“What are you going to do about it, Gilbert? I’m afraid that the cunning woman was behind this. Don’t you think that it’s too suspicious?” Sybil muttered who received a glare from her husband.

“That woman was burnt twelve years ago! Don’t speak nonsense to me.” He remonstrated.

Sybil laughed at his husband, who glared at her harder. “I am aware of that, Gilbert. I am also aware that you were behind that tragic incident in that land.”

A slap was landed on her left cheek, surprising her who did not expect her husband to slap her. She went into a shock for a second. Tears in her eyes were threatening to fall down.

“You don’t have to bring it up, my dear.” He spoke sternly, displeased with his wife bitter statement. He did not like it when she brought the topic up about what happened twelve years ago, using it against him.

Twelve years ago, Gilbert had committed a crime that he would forever hide, except from his wife who always knew everything. Despite the fact that more than a hundred innocent people had died and few survivors had lost their home and family, Gilbert did not feel any remorse for what he had done. He believe it was accident and it was the woman’s fault that the villagers died. He was only meant to burn the woman with white hair but he accidentally set the the whole village on fire, burning most of them who was resting in the middle of the night.

If only the woman did not run from one house to another and try to run away, Gilbert and his men would not keep firing the arrows with burning flames onto the whole land, until he believed that the woman herself was burnt and dead, dragging another villagers — who were not be able to escape their houses — died with her. But what was done could not be undone. There was no point in dwelling on the matter.

That was why the land was deliberately abandoned. To recover the survivors from their grief.

“I don’t like hearing about it, Sybil. You should have known better.” Gilbert said to his wife who looked away from him.

He was right, she should have known better not to spit the topic to him. Then she would not get slapped by him.

Sybil rubbed her left cheek who had turned to be red. It stung and she wanted to cry but she did not. She hated showing weakness.

Gilbert pulled her hand off of her cheek and rubbed her red cheek with the back of his hand instead, soothing her. “I’m sorry.” He murmured. He leaned his head closer to her face and poured kisses all over her cheek, hoping to soothe her pain away.

Sybil melted against her husband touch. She was not able to resent him. She knew she crossed the line. But the girl in the forest had messed up her mind. She was scared for whom the girl might live with. She was scared that something bad would happen to her family. A family that she had been protecting for thirteen years.

She pulled away from her husband touch so she could look him in the eye. “Shall we tell Mr. West about the girl, Gilbert?” She asked. Her anxious eyes gazed at him.

“I have written the letter to him, Sybil. We will leave it to him for now.” He answered, getting up from his seat and walked back to the chair behind his working desk. “Samuel is the only one who can convey this matter to the head of the council.”

Samuel West was Gilbert’s mentor since he started to work for the council many years ago. The man was the one who helped Gilbert to rise and become the Mayor he was now. Gilbert had relied on Samuel more than he could rely on anybody else, believing that the man was his only ally, his friend.

Gilbert folded the letter he wrote in the morning before Sybil came. He put it in the envelope and seal it with his official seal.

“Would you like me to pass the letter to Matthew so he can deliver it?” Sybil offered as she looked at the envelope on his hand.

“That’s not necessary. He will come up here to pick it up and deliver it safely.” Gilbert put down the envelope on his desk. “Shall we see how our son is doing, instead?”

Sybil nodded and smiled at him. “We were too harsh on him last night.”

Gilbert chuckled lowly. “Well, it is time to make him feel better again. His governess will come tomorrow.” He put one arm on his wife lower back and led them out of his office, walking side by side toward their son’s bedroom.

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