The fear rushed out of me, a sensation almost like a bucket of ice water on an already frigid day. Something inside spoke to me, in a old raspy whisper.
"Go toward the dog, quickly."
A thought came to mind. Dog? How was I suppose to know if it was a dog?
I didn't have time to answer.
A large black and silver dog jumped fiercely from the bushes, teeth barred. I was not so much feared as surprised. It had been correct. Should I then go toward it as the voice had instructed.
I didn't have time to answer, the dog lurched, jumping high into the air, sailing straight at Fordon. He leapt to the side, but the fallen creature would not quit.
It scrambled to its feet once more, and moved in again. Fordon turned toward me, his eyes screaming. Run they said.
And so I did.
As much as I hate to say it, running through those woods was invigorating. The voice buzzed on a moment more,
"No," it hissed, "the wrong way! You're going the wrong way!"
It then died out, and I was left only with the sound of melting snow slushing from underneath my feet. I reached the dirt road and continued running, all the way back to the inn.
Once there, I slung down over my knees, breathing harder than I knew that I could. You can only imagine my surprise when Fordon appeared, before I could even catch my breath.
I laughed. He did not. I bit my lip. He tightened his until their visibility was scarce.
I could tell he was angry, but knew in my heart that it was more out of concern and fear than actual fury. He finally exhaled, after what seemed like hours of solidified silence.
He took my shoulders, gently yet with a firm grasp. In a slowed tone he asked,
"Are you all right?"
I smiled and nodded. He released me and began pacing in a small circle rubbing the back of his head. The silence ate away at my insides until I could bear it no more.
"The power was certainly strong, was it not?"
His face hardened again, and I let my shoulder's slump. I had not known that by accompanying me he would be frightened to this point.
A thought must have flashed through his head for his eyes widened, and he looked at me fearfully.
"Jetta, did anything unusual happen to you while we were there?"
I smiled mischievously, enjoying the concern that he spent no time trying to conceal.
"Well," I began, "I'm not sure what you would call stra…"
He came at me and grabbed me harshly by the shoulders, a fire in his eyes that I had never noticed.
"Answer me!" he shouted as he shook me violently.
Twas no secret that I was a mite strong for a young "lady." I was of a tall stock and spent much of my day warding off my abusive siblings as well as working for what little food I could scrap.
I could not budge.
Tell him! I thought. Make him let go! The words burbled from my mouth before I had time to so much as think.
"Voices," I said in a loud drone, "There was a voice."
His grip loosened, and with it, my fear as well. My pride and self-assurance returned and I turned, on heel, and walked briskly away.
As always, he would not cease.
"Jetta," he whined, "Jetta, I didn't mean it."
I would not stop if he had paid me my well deserved share of explanations. Yet again, he caught up with me. I did not slow.
"What did they say to you."
I answered in a monotonous tone, without looking at him and without stopping.
"They told me to run, just as you did."
Being as I was, I felt no remorse what-so-ever about leaving out the most key parts. He had no right to them, no right at all. I hadn't even had the proper time to ponder them myself.
He breathed a sigh of relief and met my pace. This time it was he who laughed,
"At least we've gotten that over with."
A spark lit dimly in my head and I turned to face him.
"Why Fordon, whatever do you mean by that?"
He placed his hand cockily on my shoulder, and I looked at it with detest. Smiling at me he said,
"Well, now that we've been to the witch's cabin we can forget all about it," he continued walking, gesturing with him arms, "It's all over."
He smiled at me and I squinted my eyes, just as I was about to enter my house, I mentioned,
"Actually, I plan on going back."
I then shut the door in his face, praying that he would not go into another fury fit and storm in. To my surprise, he didn't.
I heaved a sigh of relief and pushed past Adelaide and William into the back room. I detested facing Fordon's temperament. Not that I could blame him, having a nasty one myself.
Sam waited, wide-eyed on the floor. His smile warmed my aggravated heart as usual. He paused a moment, then asked,
"Must we walk today Jetta?" He slowly pulled himself to his feet and stumbled to the window where he pulled back the curtain, frowning.
"The snow's all turned to slush." he continued.
I walked over to him and wrapped a blanket over his shoulders, placing my chin on his head. I thought about Fordon, wandering the streets outside, and shook my head.
"No," said I, "The airs not good today.
Ah, what a lie. My lungs still crisp from the run, the voice still hissing in my ear. Fordon or no Fordon, I vowed to myself, to return to the witch's cabin.
I lay Samuel down on the ground, and he cozied up to me for warmth. He asked in anticipation to tell me a story.
Little boy. Darling boy. My darling brother. No more than half way through the plot, I looked down to find him asleep in my lap. Gazing outside I could see that night had fallen.
My stomach growled with hunger, and I gently lifted his head, making sure not to wake him. Creeping out of the room I found myself facing Prudence, Benjamin and Drake. Benjamin smirked,
"Sneaking out are you?"
I glared through narrow eyes,
"I suppose. Doubt the lot of you left anything worth eating."
Prudence nodded nastily. I turned to go, but Drake stuck his hand out afront of me.
I spun to meet his eyes. Though they loomed perhaps three to four inches over my own, I did not back down. He could not intimidate me.
He did not flinch, yet his smile grew wider, nastier. I could feel it in the air. Something was not right.
The best defensive maneuver was to not show fear. I bluffed a brave face and pushed my way past him arm. On normal occasion, he and the others would have followed.
They did not.
I turned back and saw them standing there, eyes sinister, watching me. A chill went down my spine, and I thought it best to leave.
By this time I had forgotten about Fordon.
He, apparently, had not forgotten about me.
There was an uneasiness in the night air as I walked. I headed towards the pub, where I'd be able to sneak some food from under the drunkard's noses.
He waited for me beneath the awning. Dashing, he was, standing there, patiently waiting.
I was charmed, but not seduced.
I strolled past him and opened the inn door. His hand reached out to stop me, gently.
I turned to face him, and he presented me with a single auburn rose. Awestruck would be an illusion, awestruck could not compare with what I felt.
The flower was more beautiful than any I had ever seen. I reached for it gently, avoiding the thorns, which he had not taken time to warn me about.
Head hung low, he said in a crisp tone,
"Jetta, I must apologize for the way I behaved."
I smiled weakly,
"I understand you were worried." adding with a sly remark, "Not everyone is born to be fearless, my friend."
He did not hear the humor, his thoughts remained with the last word.
"We are friends, aren't we?" he questioned, in a very vulnerable, uncharacteristic way.
I grasped his hand, which was stunningly cold.
"Of course we are dearest."
His confidence returned. And he cleared his throat. Clasping my hands in his, he turned me to face him directly.
"Good," he started, "For I promised myself that I must wait until a friendship was cultivated before telling you this."
Twas my opportunity to be vulnerable. I pulled back, unsure of why I was doing so, but his hands held me tight.
"Jetta, you must know how I feel, or you should not waste time on me."
I shook my head, feeling tears well in my eyes. Crying. I, crying? Oh twisted day.
"Jetta, I have felt for you a feeling that cannot and should not be ignored."
I smiled, realizing that I knew the rest.
And so he poured out his love for me, the love he had felt these months past. The words fell from his lips smoothly and confidently, and I could see him returning to himself. He concluded,
"Jetta, my darling, I have come on this day to propose to you that we be married."
I fell into his arms, crying strongly.
Everything I had ever wanted, and it was all going to come true.
He pulled me out, and for a moment, I was afraid he would laugh at the cruel farce, but instead, he pulled me in closely, and kissed me.
And so we went into the inn, common as ever, save my arm linked through his. Dorjan and Zirce sat the same table in the corner, awaiting our arrival.
I noticed a difference in them this night, something behind their eyes I believe. As if they now understood my potential. I couldn't have been prouder.
By the end of the night a date had been set, almost a year from now. I could wait.
And all the while of celebrations and cheer, I had completely forgotten the insinuations of my siblings.