Four Years Later
Natalie’s dark green eyes shot open at the pounding of her bedroom door.
The unpleasant sound of her uncle’s voice followed the pounding, “Wake up Natalie! It’s time for work!” Sitting up and rubbing her eyes drowsily, she yawned and walked to the small circular window of her attic room, staring out to the darkness of early morning. The many stars of Septia’s sky met her drowsy eyes as they twinkled and danced in the sky.
Another hard day of enduring work was ahead of her.
Natalie walked to the trunk that her uncle had given to her and opened it with a loud creak to choose her clothes for the day. After slipping on the brown-colored shirt and matching pants, she quickly made her bed and walked down the noisy attic steps. Groaning to the small, wooden breakfast table, she ate a few pieces of bread and spoke with her uncle. “Today,” he began, “you must sweep the stalls, feed the horses, clean their hooves, brush and groom them, re-fill the hay stacks, and wash the barn doors. The doors have been really stiff lately, so I want to grease their hinges too. After you’ve finished your work, come in for dinner and go to bed, yah’ hear?”
Natalie despised when her uncle recited her schedule for the entire day. It made it seem as if he wasn’t going to see her until nightfall, which was usually true. Every day, she generally had the same work to do, and she hated when her uncle had to remind her of it every day. She sighed deeply as she dreaded the day ahead. “I said ‘did yah’ hear?'” her uncle repeated with a stern tone in his voice. “Well?!” he stared at her with an angry face as he awaited her reply.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Spicker,” she answered plainly. She rolled her eyes as she rose from the table and left through the front door. Her boots crunched down the gravel path to the barn that awaited her as she stared at the stars above her and thought of her parents. She bore back her tears as happy thoughts of them wandered through her mind. Why did they have to leave her to live this life? Wasn’t she meant for something more? She knew that there was more in store for her than being a rancher. She had always felt that she was to do great things in her life, but here she was to never succeed. Her dreams had died with her parents, and so had her soul. Grunting, Natalie pulled open the large wooden doors. Her uncle was right. The barn doors were unusually hard to open today.
Natalie completed her chores as she did every single day while thinking of her future ahead. She thought of the escape plan that had been brewing in her mind for many months now. She planned to escape from her uncle’s ranch and to return to Anzama, a few miles away. There, she would find an employer that could possibly give her a place to stay along with some change in her pocket as she worked. Once she was old enough, she could then leave and start her own life. It was a secure plan, she thought, and tonight was the time to go through with it. She had endured through four years of her uncle’s cruel labor and she could not bear anymore of it.
Tonight was the night.
After she had finished all of her daily work, night had already fallen. Natalie returned to the house while rubbing her right shoulder. It ached from overworking, yet she would have to use it again tomorrow. She entered the house and sat at the table for dinner. Her uncle greeted her with a stiff question. “Have you finished all of your work for today?”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Spicker,” she recited. Her stomach ached from not eating all day. Reaching for some food with her cracked hands, she winced in pain from her sore shoulder.
“You sweep the stalls?” he asked her.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Spicker,” she answered, annoyed of his usual routine.
“Feed and groom the horses and clean their hooves?”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Spicker.”
“And the barn doors. Did you wash them? Grease the hinges? Those doors aren’t stiff now, are they? They’d better not be.” he stated with a gruff voice.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Spicker. I’ve done all that you’ve asked of me,” Natalie replied. She thought of how good it would be to finally rest at night without having to answer to her uncle. To confirm that she had made the right choice to run away from her uncle’s ranch, she wanted to ask him a question. The question lingered at the end of her tongue, but she feared asking it for it may upset him, resulting in more work for the next day. She had nothing to lose, however, because she did not plan on being here tomorrow. Raising her courage, she grabbed her shoulder and asked, “Sir, Mr. Spicker, my shoulder is truly sore from today’s work and I’ve worked very hard all day. I haven’t ridden my horse for so long and she longs for a run. Could I please rest tomorrow?” She stared into his ugly face with her large, inquisitive eyes, testing him of his kindness.
Her uncle suddenly glared at her with his beady eyes and overgrown eyebrows. His face twisted into more of a snarl than usual, as he replied. “Your shoulder? Your shoulder?! You ask of me to cut your day’s work because your shoulder hurts? Say, if I were to stop working because a limb was aching, do yah’ think that I would make a profit that day? Hmm? Would I?! I certainly would not! If you don’t work tomorrow, that would be an entire day wasted! An entire day would be gone from my life as if it never happened. My customers would not be very pleased either. No, you’ll work tomorrow, same as every day. You will begin work, early morning. Now, to bed!” Natalie’s uncle pointed his finger to the attic’s stairs, excusing her from her dinner. “And I do not want to hear about this ever again! You hear me?! Not once more! Now go!” Natalie had confirmed her plan. She would leave later that night, she thought as she trudged up the stairs to wait until her uncle went to sleep, himself.
Natalie abruptly opened her eyes. It was time.
She tossed her white bed sheets aside and placed her small feet onto the cold, wooden floor below. Lighting the candle that rested on the small desk beside her bed, she emitted a warm, golden glow about her quaint room. She slowly crept to her window to make sure that all was right. The sky above was littered with bright stars that lit the land below along with the bright full moon. Continuing to stare out to the dew-covered grass, she reviewed her escape plan once more.
Stepping away from the small, circular window, she quietly walked to the large chest at the foot of her bed. She kneeled down and opened the trunk revealing all of her belongings. Withdrawing a large, burlap sack, she began to fill it with clothing and a single bed sheet. Putting on a white blouse with some brown pants and a brown vest, she scanned her room to confirm that she had not forgotten anything. Slinging the sack over her shoulder and tying it with some rope that she had snatched from the stables the day before, she grabbed the candle and walked out of the room. Sneaking down the steps that led to the attic, she made sure that she didn’t place her foot on any of the creaky steps. She was carefully insuring that she didn’t wake her uncle. Before approaching the large front door, she stopped to steal some loaves of bread and a few pieces of fruit. With her hand on the door, ready to open it and escape from her current life, Natalie looked over her shoulder once more to the room which her uncle was sleeping. She could hear his gruff snoring as she softly whispered, “Goodbye, dear Uncle,” calling him Uncle for the first time in four years.
Natalie opened the door to the fresh summer night outside and carefully closed it behind her. Everything before her was so peaceful and quiet. A slight warm breeze blew gently at her long, maple brown hair. She inhaled deeply before taking her first step down the gravel path to the stables. Releasing all her stress with the exhale, she looked to the future with a bright smile. She would be free soon.
Before entering through the large, red doors of the barn, Natalie grabbed a few handfuls of hay and stuffed them into her sack, returning it to her shoulder afterwards. She was glad that her uncle made her grease the barn doors the day before as she easily opened them without a sound. The horses stood undisturbed in their stalls to the side as she walked down the continuing aisle of the barn. She yawned once more before placing the candle on the post of the stall at the back of the stables. Reaching into the sack on her back, she fed a few strands of hay to the horse held within the stall. As she patted the muzzle of the horse, she soothed it with her soft voice, “Here you go, girl.” Opening the wooden door of the stall, Natalie walked to the back wall and retrieved a bridle and saddle.
She turned to meet her mare out of her stall, prancing and trotting, happy to finally stretch her legs. The young mare flicked her black mane and tail about ready for a ride. Natalie patted the horse’s soft brown and white patched coat before strapping the saddle on her back and carefully placing the bridle within her tender mouth and around her face, letting the reins rest upon her shoulders. She stared into the mare’s dreamy, crystal-blue eyes and softly told her, “We’re leaving now, Duchess. We’re leaving to find a new life. Carry us swiftly. Swiftly…and quietly.” With her remark she looked at the diamond-shaped scar that had been left from the large gash of years before. The red of the scar stood out from the white of her forehead.
Natalie patted her horse once more, then placed her foot into the stirrup of the saddle and swung her leg over into the other stirrup. Leaving the candle to burn itself out, she clicked her tongue to tell her mare it was time to depart. Duchess galloped forward out of the barn to the dirt road before the ranch. With the barn door left open, Natalie glanced at her old life for the last time. “Goodbye…” she said once more before turning to run down the path to town.