Thirteen year old Lilly Ann Caine leaned forward and stared out the window, studying the canopy of the forest as the even sound of hoof beats reverberated in the carriage. The two dapple gray geldings were pulling them down the lane with a steady trot.
She was so excited about attending her first real ball! She'd attended parties before, but only those that were close to home. It was easier for her parents to enforce the strict curfew that way. Tonight though, she would make her real debut. Tonight they'd promised she could stay out as late as they did. It was a special treat to honor her thirteenth birthday.
For the occasion she'd worn a powder blue dress with an empire waistline. Her father had said it would bring out the blue of her eyes. She didn't care much about that, of course. She loved the way it felt on her, loved the way the hem reached the floor and trailed behind her when she walked. It made her feel like a princess. Even her blonde hair, piled in ringlets on top of her head, looked fit for a queen.
She leaned back and rested her head against the satin interior of the carriage and resumed talking to her parents. It was hard to sit still in the carriage, her excitement for the night nearly overwhelming her. She chattered quickly, telling them about the letter she'd received from her best friend who was in Italy with her family.
"And she said they rode gondolas all around the city," she said, imagining the adventure that her friend was having with a mild sense of envy.
"It sounds beautiful, pumpkin," her father said, reaching out and patting her hand, his grey eyes sparkling just a bit as he looked fondly at his daughter. She grinned at his over-used nickname.
Her mother smiled softly and nodded toward her posture, a gesture that was easy to interpret. Lilly sat up straighter and smoothed her skirts out. Her mother was diligent about maintaining a lady-like appearance, but it was all well intentioned. Lilly hoped she could have at least a little fun that night out of the watchful eye of her parents. Perhaps she would have a few dances on her card to occupy her time.
Lilly moved across the litter to get a better view out the window as they neared a bridge. The river was beautiful, deep and serene, and she gazed at the reflection of the setting sun on the glassy surface.
She sighed softly to herself as she studied the scenery. What a beautiful, peaceful night.
The carriage slowed for a moment and the driver snapped the whip, urging the hesitant horses over the wooden bridge.
That's odd. The horses were so steadfast and bold, she couldn't think of a time they'd ever paused at a bridge.
Lilly tried to peek out the window to see what was going on but the angle prevented her from seeing the horses. She furrowed her brow in frustration and then sat back as the horses began to move forward again.
They were halfway across the short span when it rumbled, a deep, penetrating sound that shook Lilly to her bones. Her eyes widened in shock at the noise and her heart nearly stopped beating.
The loud crack that followed could only have been the sound of the wooden beams breaking in two.
Lilly's eyes widened in shock as the carriage began to slip, the entire cab turning towards the river. Lilly reached out, frantically trying to grab anything in sight, but her hands grabbed only air. The door sprang open under her weight and Lilly slid through it, falling into the icy waters as the carriage followed.
"LILLY!" her mother's scream pierced the air and then there was only silence.