Promise

By LuValene All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Romance

Like a Bird

Lily woke early, as she always did, and opened the window of the small room. The rising sun poured in through the old wooden frame, lighting the rough wooden floor. Her step sister groaned, still under the covers. Lily sighed. What a lazy girl her stepsister was.

Moving away from the window, Lily hummed to herself as she pulled from the wooden chest the pretty white apron her mother had given her. It was stitched all around with perfect little flowers of blue and purple. In the corners orange and red thread wove in and out to make star-shaped flowers dotted with black. Her mother had said they were lilies, though Lily had never seen her namesake. She tied the apron neatly around her waist, over her fading blue skirt.

Muriel had sat up in the bed they shared, and was making some most unpleasant smacking noises. Her flat brown hair was matted around her sleeping cap, her once-white nightgown stained on the front, brownish-red like old blood from the time she had eaten cherries in bed.

“You should give me that apron,” she muttered.

“No, you mayn’t have this. Perhaps your mother will buy you a nicer one from the market.” Lilly closed her chest, much smaller and older than the one belonging to Muriel.

“I don’ want any old apron, I want that one.” Muriel pointed at Lilly, her face in a pout, her brown eyes glaring.

“There are much nicer aprons in the village. I’ve seen them at the market.” Lilly left the room to the kitchen.

As always, a cauldron sat on the fire, bubbling, waiting for the next herbs that were strung all around the ceiling. Charms sat in piles on the mantle and the table, and the 7-league boots sat by the door, next to a leaning broom. Her stepmother was a witch, and good at it.

Lilly took a piece of bread and a bit of cheese from the basket on the cluttered table and quickly left the house. She did not want to spend today with her stepfamily. She hummed as she walked down the old dirt road that wound through the wood, eating the bread and cheese. Her old brown leather boots were as dusty as the road, but they always were that way.

Cresting a hill, a view of the village spread beneath her, a cluster of bright buildings with a few cobblestone streets running between them. They prided themselves on being on one of the main roads, from one end of the country to the other. Though they were small, they often had rich visitors passing through, so many of the goods in the town were quite fancy, in hopes to catch a wealthy man’s eye.

But she was not headed to the village, but instead turned off the main path and down a trail that led to a farm house. A barn stood off to the side, a wooden fence around it. The noises and smells of pigs reached Lilly, but she tried her best to ignore them. The pigs weren’t what she was here for. She went around the barn to the little shack that leaned behind it. She knocked on the door and stepped back. Roland opened the door, and smiled at her, she smiled back as she threw her arms around him.

“Hey, Lilly,” He sighed into her hair. “I didn’t think you were coming today.” She released him from the hug and found his hand.

“It’s your day off, of courseI came.” She gave him a playful nudge. He closed the door and they started back down the path to the village. They laughed and talked of little things, and she admired his strong hands, his light hair that often fell into his bright blue eyes.

“As soon as I finish the work at the pig farm, I will have enough money to build a house.” He stopped, looked into her eyes. “We can get married, Lilly. I know we’ve talked about it, but is that what you want?”

“Yes, yes, I do.” She hesitated. “But I don’t think I’m ready to leave my stepmothers’ house.” Her gaze dropped to the ground. Why did she feel like this? She really loved Roland.

“Not ready? Lilly, they treat you badly. I’ve wanted to-” he searched for the words, “-beat them up after you told me some of the things you put up with.” He put a hand on her shoulder. She raised her eyes back to his. “And I know you have not told me everything.”

They continued on in silence, only the crunch of their boots on the path accompanied them. After a time Roland changed the subject, and the uneasiness between them evaporated.

They walked along the road to the village, looking in through the windows of the stores, stopping for a warm bun at noon. They traveled back along the path through the forest, to their special spot.

It was a clearing on the crest of a hill, overlooking the village toward the west, a perfect spot to watch the sunset. They found it together by accident, long ago, when Roland had first come to town. Lily smiled at the memory and leaned her head on Roland’s shoulder. They were sitting on a fallen log, the hill falling steeply a few feet in front of them, the tops of the trees down below spreading out in front of them like grass. The sun was setting, brilliant orange-red as it painted the land strange hues, the trailing pink and purple clouds seeming out of place. Roland’s hands were around hers, and her head was nestled comfortably, but they had to talk. She lifted her head off his shoulder.

“I know I should want to leave, I hate them, they are terrible, but I can never actually think that I can or actually do it… I don’t know, it’s like something tells me I shouldn’t, I won’t ever leave the house…” She sighed, pulling her hands away to rub her face.

They sat in silence for a moment, her face in her hands, sensing Roland’s concerned gaze on her.

Fabric rustled as Roland drew something out of his pocket. “This is for you,” he said, pulling her wrist from her face and placing the object in her hand.

It was a wooden charm on a leather cord, a little bird with outstretched wings, carved smoothly from dark wood. She ran her fingers over it, feeling the smooth, hard softness of it in the fading light.

He continued, “I was going to give it to you later, when we were engaged, maybe. But I want you to have it now. As a promise.” Lily looked up at him, her hands stilling. “I want you to promise me that one day, you will leave with me. You will leave that house and not look back. That you will be free as a bird.”

“Yes, Roland, yes, I will.” She threw her arms around him and he hugged her back. “It’s beautiful,” She whispered, pulling back. He smiled and they sat in silence, holding hands and watching as the sun stained the sky with its last dying light as it fell below the horizon.

“Lilly,” he breathed into her hair, “will you sing that song?”

“Roland you know I-”

“Please?”

She sighed and nudged him playfully.


“O little bird in the tree

Please won’t you tell to me

Where is my lad?

I am not mad,

He said that he would be here.


Where is my lad?

Where does he roam?

He should be here to take me home,

With lilies in his arm and a branch upon his brow,

He’ll place me upon his horse so prou’

Please oh please won’t you tell to me

My darling, where is he?


Your little lad is where he said,

He only stops to rest his head,

He’ll be back, o yes he will,

Said the bird with a little trill.


O promised he

He’d fancy none but me

I’ve waited o so long,

To sing to him my song.


O little bird in the tree

Please won’t you tell to me

Where is my lad?

I am not mad,

He said that he would be here.


Where is my lad?

Where does he roam?

He should be here to take me home,

With lilies in his arm and a branch upon his brow,

He’ll place me upon his horse so prou’

Please oh please won’t you tell me

My darling where is he?


He rides back across the hill

Just as you said he will

Faster, faster he rides,

To take you as his bride.


O promised he

He’d fancy none but me

I’ve waited o so long,

To sing to him my song.


The last note of the tune had barely escaped her lips when he drew her into a kiss. After a long moment, he sat back, still holding her.

“I’ll never forget you,” He swore, looking deep into her eyes.
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