With the lights out, it's less dangerous
Once Mr. Richards shut the door, it all became quiet again. Annabelle had completely forgotten what she had planned to say to John, and he didn't remind her. So they just stood there, John and Annabelle, with the silence stretched out between them. She tried to pretend that he wasn't there, and he couldn't help but admire her.
They stood there, and the only things they could hear was the wind, the crickets, and their own heartbeats. Annabelle wondered why John had acted like he had, when Mr. Richards had spoken. Why had he protected her? Why hadn't he said that she was there, with him? Did he know who it was that wanted to speak to her? There were so many questions that she wanted the answers to, but still, she couldn't ask him. He was so quiet and cold, so serious... He was beautiful, that she could tell without even looking at him. But she knew that she couldn't let herself feel anything for him.
"Love is wonderful, but treacherous. Love and hate are so close, that if you feel one, you have to feel the other, too. Don't give up, Annabelle. I'm certain that you will find your happy ending as long as you don't give up. Great things happen to great people; never forget that."
With those words, her father had kissed her goodbye on the forehead and gone north, to fight the yankees, to defend their home and freedom. No matter how hard she tried, that was all she remembered of her father. All the other memories were so far away; she knew they were somewhere within her, but she couldn't find them. It was so blurry, so distant, and that was why she held those words so close, for if they were to disappear she wouldn't have anything left of her father, except for the picture on her bedside table.
I'm not giving up, she repeated silently in her mind. I will not give up. Then she took a deep breath and turned around, without thinking twice, and started walking. John looked at her, but he didn't follow.
He stood there on the meadow, and saw her walk away. At first, he thought that she would go back into the house, to the party. But when he saw how she went the opposite direction, towards the woods, he became confused and immediately decided he should go after her, even though he wasn’t allowed. He had promised her not to, and she would hate him if he didn't do as she said. But it would be stupid to let the girl go by herself into the woods - he knew that, too.
Even though these thoughts echoed in John’s head, he couldn't follow her. He had fought so hard to give her the impression that he didn't care for her, and if he went after her now it would all have been in vain. With anxious thoughts that told him to do the opposite, he sat down on the wooden bench and watched the stars that hadn't yet appeared on the black sky, as he pushed aside everything that told him to do anything else.
It was merely the anger and the uncertainty that made Annabelle keep going. Without those two factors, she would have collapsed against a dark tree long ago. But her feet brought her further and further into the black, dense forest, thanks to the black thoughts in her mind. She knew even before she had begun to walk that her mother would be furious. The forest was a dark and dangerous place for girls like Annabelle; no one could know where the monsters were hiding.
After a while, when small, glittering stars appeared one by one on the ebony colored heaven, Annabelle regained her sanity and cursed herself for her stupidity. One must be crazy to decide to take a walk in the woods at night, dark and cold as it was. Oh, how she was angry with herself! Had she really thought that John would follow her? Talk to her, touch her, or even worse: kiss her? Her feelings for him were gone! They couldn't back, not when she had fought so hard for them to disappear in the first place.
“John is a stupid man who doesn't know how to treat ladies,” she said angrily. “He's not worthy of me.” She smiled to herself as she started walking in the opposite direction. She immediately felt empowered by her words, and if her feelings for John somehow hadn't gone away before, they were certainly gone by now. “I will never speak to him again. He is-,” Annabelle was interrupted when she suddenly stumbled into the darkness. With her eyes closed, she awaited the fall, but nothing happened. She didn't fall to the damp, muddy ground; she was caught up by the darkness. “What in-” she whispered. The fear choked her slowly, made her swallow her words.
“Miss Annabelle, I presume?” Someone whispered into her ear from behind, and she could feel the hot smile on his lips. She felt her heart begin to glow when she realized who it was.
“Leave me alone, John!” She screamed and spun around so that she faced him. “You are the worst!” Without thought, she raised her right hand and slapped him briskly across the cheek. His head went to the side, and she saw how his jaw tightened as he focused his gaze on a magnificent oak a bit further into the forest. He looked angry, yet restrained. She could feel the heat radiating from her hand, but it was nothing against the anger she felt. Her dark gaze searched for his, and when he slowly turned back his head, they both looked at each other.
“You deserved it,” she said after a while, with a little tremble in her voice, as she couldn't stand his judgmental gaze any longer. She breathed heavily, when she turned around and walked away from him. She didn'tt bother to look back. He could stay there and be ashamed, she didn't care. He deserved the slap, and even though Annabelle was shocked at what she had done, she didn't regret for a second.
It was almost as if the trees' dancing shadows made it look like a smile was playing on her lips.