The Most Secret of Roses


England-February, 1537

            She ran, ran faster than she ever had in her life.  Tears poured down her face, blinding her sight.  Yet she did not stop, would not stop, until she reached the spot, their spot.  She came to the old willow tree, bare until spring, and fell upon the ground before it, gasping for air as she sobbed.  Slowly, she reached her hand to the base of the trunk, feeling, for her eyes were blinded by tears, for the carving she knew would give her some comfort.  She found the largest root and slid her hand along its side until she came to the irregular dip in the bark.  Wiping her eyes she glanced down at it, tracing with a trembling hand the letters engraved upon the tree. "S.R.+ W.R, 1536".   Another sob racked her body as she placed a hand on her abdomen, feeling the last bit she had left of him.  She remembered the very day it had been carved, how carefree she had been then, and how nieve she had been to think that happiness could last forever.

**         "William, slow down! I cannot run as fast as you!" she yelled.  The man a few meters ahead turned round to her; eyes aglow.  She was beautiful.  Her brown hair seemed to have a halo around It as the sun shone through the tree branches and early falling leaves of November fell about her, some landing in the hood of her cloak.

 "You cannot? Lady Sarah, it seems this is the first time I've ever to hear of your ability not to do anything! I'm shocked to say the least." He jested.

"Well now honestly, Sir William, can you blame a poor girl for wanting to run through the woods with her love rather than by herself? And anyways, I simply said it to make you slow down, it was just a statement, the truth is I could probably run faster than you.  To think your embarrassment when a simple Lady outruns a knight of the king!" she teased back.

"Did you just call me your love?" He asked, not hearing the rest of her response to him.

Her face froze.  "Is, is that alright William?"

"Alright? Dear Sarah it fills my heart with joy, for I love you more than I think safely possible."

She smiled, and then threw herself upon him, wrapping her arms around his neck.  In his arms, however, the gravity and truth of their situation hit her.  There was no way for them to be together.  Her heart plummeted in her chest, and tears began to prick at her eyes. 

"Darling Sarah what's wrong?" William asked.

"William, what about Anne? What about your betrothal? Your wedding is but only three months away!"

His arms froze their movements of rubbing her back. He turned to face her, his green eyes serious.

"Sarah my love, no matter what happens, it is you that I will love for ever, not Anne, never Anne, nor any other.  I can only hope that maybe in our next lives, our happiness can be eternal, and not hidden and brief. Come here," he said.

They walked to a near by tree, a willow, still green despite the impending fall.  William pulled the knife from his ankle, and turned, from his kneeling position on the ground, back to his beloved.

"Whenever you feel lost or sad, just remember this tree.  And on this tree, remember the biggest root, for upon that largest of roots will be your comfort, darling Sarah." With the knife he carved her initials with ease, and then he carved his own.  Finally, he added the date, 1536.  He looked to Sarah's face, and beckoned her to kneel next to him.  When she complied, he took her hand and gently holding her fingers, traced the letters carved upon the tree.  When he had finished, Sarah turned in his arms and gently touched his face.

 "I love you Sir William Reynesford, forever." She whispered.

"And I love you, Lady Sarah Rochford, for forever and eternity." He kissed her softly, trying to memorize her face, as he knew this moment would be one of their last together. **

She leant against the tree, her sobbing beginning to ebb, yet not the heartbreak.  He was gone, forever.  There would be no more coded letters, no more stolen kisses, no more William.  As she thought this, a bitter and burning anger grew in her stomach, all directed at her sister, who had destroyed everything.

**         It was a month later.  She had been returning from the woods, happy, for she had just met with William.  They had gone to the tree again, to see their initials together; both choosing to forget that they would be torn apart in just a few months.

She entered her home, only to be greeted by a servant, telling her of her family's wishes to meet with her immediately.  Curious, Sarah went directly to them, not at all fearful of their intended words.  She entered the room, to see her mother trying to comfort her sister who was sobbing.  The second Anne noticed Sarah's entrance, she stood and shouted, "How could you? How could you do this to me?  Think of the shame, think of the disgrace."

Confused, and slightly fearful her secret was being revealed, Sarah turned to her mother for reassurance, only to be greeted instead by icy cold eyes. 

"Mother, Father, what is this, what have I done to anger you so?" Sarah questioned, thinking ignorance was the best route to take in this conversation. 

Her mother did not speak, but held up a book.  Sarah's eyes grew wide, for the book was not Plato, nor a Bible, but the one book that could ruin her, the book that held her secret, her diary.

After a long silence, marred only by Anne's tears, Sarah's mother spoke.

"Your father and I feel it would be best if you left London.  We will be sending you to your uncle's house in the country.  This way, you will be away from Sir William, and away from your sister.  I am disappointed in you, Sarah.  I thought we had instilled in you the qualities that make up a Lady of your birth.  I daresay we failed, as you have been running off to the woods everyday not to study the trees, as you said, but to rendezvous with a man, which in it self would be highly disgraceful.  Yet you managed to make it more so, for the man was your sister's betrothed.  You will be leaving tomorrow.  We will tell people you have fallen ill and need some country air.  You will not return until after the wedding."

Tears burned at Sarah's eyes as she stared into her mother's face.  Turning to her father, she knew, would make this situation far worse than it already was.  'Tomorrow?' she thought.  'How is this happening? William, I must find William.' Taking a deep breath, Sarah nodded, and then turned to leave the room, dashing up the stairs to her own room. 

Frantically, she pulled a piece of parchment out of her desk, and inked a quill hurriedly; spilling ink all over her desk.  Her note to William was short, yet full of her desperate plea to him.  Tonight was their last, their last for forever, and heaven be damned; she was going to spend it with him. **

That night had been blissful, she remembered. 

She had loved him with every once of her soul.  And he returned it just as strongly.  It was desperate, for both knew it was their last moment together.  He had come to her window that night, climbing the trellis that hung out side it.  They had run to the stables, to the place of their first kiss when they had been upon a horse together. 

That night they clung to each other in need and in love, and afterwards, they had lain together, feeling tears were necessary, yet not managing to make them come.  They did not sleep at all, for what precious time they had left could not be wasted on dreams.  Soon enough, dreams would be all they had left of each other. 

Before dawn, they slowly returned to the house.  William helped her up the trellis and turned to face her.  Face her for the last time.  His eyes burnedEver so gently he cupped her face, tracing the outline of her eyes, her nose, her mouth; desperately trying to memorize every inch of her face. 

She lost the battle with her tears and let them fall.  William removed his hand to kiss them away.  When he was finished he pulled back slightly to look into her blue eyes, now slightly red from crying.  Quietly, he whispered, "Sarah I love you, God help me I love you."

"I love you too William," She responded.  She looked up at him, and kissed him softly one last time.  The sun was rising as he squeezed her hand one last time before climbing out her window and out of her life forever.

When he had gone, her tears fell harder.  She fell on to her bed and cried.  She cried so hard her head felt unattached to her body.  She lost track of time, for she fell asleep, and was awakened by her maid.  Pulling herself together, she caught her reflection in the mirror.  Had it not been that day and after all the events of last night, she would have screamed in horror.  But today she got an odd sense of satisfaction that her face looked hideous and swollen.  Her eyes had bags under them, the eyes themselves red.  'Good,' she thought.  Slowly, she made her way downstairs and into the waiting carriage.  Her sister and mother waited at the entrance way. 'Probably to keep up appearances.' She thought. 

"Good bye, mother.  Anne."

"Good bye darling.  Get well." Her mother said.  Sarah felt nauseous at her mother's ability to lie so well.

            "Good bye," was Anne's curt response. 

            Sarah made her way into the carriage, and with a heavy heart, the carriage pulled away from her childhood home, and most heart wrenchingly, away from William.**

            Her tears calming, Sarah remembered the month she had spent in the country side.  Her aunt and uncle had truly been kind.  They had let her keep to herself, and didn't push for information, nor did they reprimand.  In fact it had been her aunt's warm arms that had held her and comforted her, going against all expectations, social standards, and religious obligation, when Sarah had realized that she was with child. 

            Sarah had expected a harsh and bitter speech, and to be tossed out on the street; disowned.  Instead, she found the warm embrace of her mother's sister and the soothing voice of her uncle, promising to help her.  And they had.  They had gotten a letter to William, despite the dangers in doing so.  They had not expected one in return, yet a few months later, a young boy on a horse had brought them a small tattered piece of parchment with only on line written on it.  "S.R + W.R., ETERNITY."  Sarah kept the letter with her all the time, even under her pillow when she slept.

            Those same arms would be the ones to hold her when she cried yet again over the man she loved.  Not because the wedding had gone through, oh no, despite how painful that idea was to Sarah, it was not what would make her sob.  It was worse.  For even in his marriage to Anne, he would at least be there, she could see him if nothing else.  It was his death that had brought the sobs back to her body, and her aunt's arms round her once again. 

**"        Sarah?" Her aunt called.  Sarah came down from her room to find her aunt looking distressed.

            "Yes ma'am?"

            "Sarah come sit down please."

            Sarah followed, a fist clenching around her heart.

            "I'm afraid to tell you that William has passed away."

            Her heart stopped, the world stopped.  The room seemed to spin.


            "Sarah, it was consumption, you know how dangerous it is, I'm sure he tried so hard to stay with us, but he is with God now.  Your mother and sister wish you to return home for the funeral.  However, I suggested you return here afterwards."

            Sarah nodded, not able to form a coherent sentence, for her already broken heart was shattering into yet more pieces.

            The funeral had been beautiful.  As she was still early into her pregnancy, no one had noticed her condition.  She herself did, however, and rested her arm protectively around her stomach the entire service.  It was horrible to watch her sister act the part of the grieving wife.  She knew for a fact her sister had never loved William.  The tears on her sister's face had been brought on by cloves, Sarah had witnessed this herself.  That alone had made her anger boil.  Yet she refused to let her mother and sister see her cry.  She knew they expected her to, and for that reason alone would hold her tears threatening to come sprinting down her face until she could be alone.**

            'Alone.' Sarah thought.  She pulled her hand back from the tree root and placed both hands on her stomach, marveling at how the small life inside her fluttered.  She took a deep breath, and headed back to the house, but not before running her hand along their initials one last time; for she knew she would never return back here again.  Her aunt and uncle's home would become hers now.  Hers and the small child she carried.  "I love you William," she whispered to the tree; the wind picking it up as she spoke, carrying her voice to the farthest regions of heaven.