After everybody had left the tavern and headed home, and her Father had locked up for the night, Hazel was in the living room. She had fetched some blankets from upstairs and draped one of Richard and one over Cedric, both of them fast asleep in the armchairs. She closed the door quietly behind her. Her Father was waiting for her in the dining room. He was sat down at the table stroking his chin. He had a letter under his hand. Tom was tapping his finger on the paper. "Hazel, I have... I mean... You have a letter."
"From who?" Tom paused for a minute.
"Just read it and you'll find out." He picked the letter up and stretched his hand out to pass it to her. She didn't take it at first, but her hand soon also reached out and grabbed the letter. She moved back until still felt the cold surface of the work bench on her back then she stopped. Hazel pulled open the seal and set eyes on the very neat handwriting. The letter read,
I know you might be slightly shocked when you finish reading this letter but just read it fully and then you will understand.
Sometimes in life you will be faced with situations where you may not want to follow orders however you know in the back of your mind that you will be doing the right thing. That's why I ask of you to come to my father's house and come and have tea with me.
Our fathers have come to an agreement and I have also agreed. I am sure you know the plans and I ask of you once again come to my father's house on Thursday for tea and we will talk about it.
Harry, son of Lord Cathshone III
Hazel folded the letter slowly and slid it into her pocket. She looked down at the floor. "Why me?"
"Harry took a fancy to you and his father has been pressuring him lately to get... Hazel just think about it, you could have a better life, start a new life. With Harry."
"But I don't want a better life with him; I don't want to be stuck up there for the rest of my life."
"Hazel...! It's what your Mother would have wanted."
"Mother isn't here at the moment!"
"She'll be back soon and she'll be proud of you when she sees how well you are getting on with your life."
"Mother is not coming back! She's been away for eight months for goodness sake! If she cared for either one of us she would have already been home!" Tom jumped out of his chair, furious.
"Don't you dare speak a word against your Mother!"
By this time the brothers had been woken and had opened the door to the dining room slightly and were both listening in on the conversation. They watched as the two of them argued.
"How could you even agree to something like this? Selling to someone we hardly know!"
"He was threatening to close the tavern!" Tom looked to the ground, lowering his voice. "He said the only way he would come to terms with me was if you got married to Harry."
"But I don't want to marry him!"
"Hazel! Stop thinking of yourself all the time! Try to put yourself in my shoes! What did you want me to do?"
"Firstly don't become and drunken idiot that you are today, and then maybe start sorting your life out!" Hazel went and climbed up the ladder.
However Tom ran over to her and in his rage he pulled Hazel down and she landed on the floor. He head was aching from the fall and it wasn't going to get better. Tom stood over her. Looked at her, furious of what she had said about his wife, how she was ashamed of him and she thought he was doing everything wrong in his life. He was a large man, a man who put up a fight and he was not prepared to take any of this insult from anyone. Especially his daughter. He bent down to her and lashed her against her eye with his fist.
When she woke in the morning on the hard wooden floor of her bedroom she sat up, only to then rest against her wardrobe because all of her bone ached from the events of the previous night. It took her a while to find the strength in her body but when she stood up she looked into the mirror, to see the reflection of a broken girl only aged 18, living a life not meant for her. She saw the blood on her shirt, she slowly pulled the sleeve up to reveal her father's anger. She did not remember him cutting her wrist of where she had her Centaur but she could see clearly now of what he had done, Hazel had experienced this before. Tom did not like Hazel having the Centaur, having him to look over her and help her whenever she needed. With Hazel being the nice and generous person she was, she had bonded with her Centaur, Benedict. Tom knew their friendship was strong, that her Centaur would never disobey her.
She took the one remaining strap off her shoulder from her braces and let it drop. She pulled her shirt from her trousers and started to undo the buttons. She pulled on a new crisp shirt on and made herself presentable, making her shoulder blade hurt at the attempt o getting dressed. It was badly bruised from the fall she had had the night before on the wooden stairs. Hazel took the bobble from her hair and clawed her hand through her knotted hair. She did the best she could do and then tied it back up. When she saw the large dark area of skin that had surrounded her eye and made it to swell up, she made her way to the bathroom to rinse it. However when she was leaving the room she caught a glimpse of the folded letter in her pocket, slightly poking out. She pushed her right hand down into the pocket, hiding the letter from view.
When she was ready to go to school she took one last look in the mirror and combed her fringe over the best she could have to hide her right eye. She then decided to let her hair down, it hid her eye better.
As she climbed down the ladder she saw her father was not present but Cedric was sat at the table. "Your father has gone out to the village square to buy some things." She nodded. "Should we go?" Cedric did not want to put her through any pain about talking about last night so thought it best just to get on with it.
As they left the tavern and turned down the street which led to the station, she saw Harry. The person she knew she would be married to in less time than she thought. He smiled at her; she gave him a long hard stare and didn't attempt to hide her wounds. She wanted him to see the damage that he had caused within her household.
They soon reached the Station where they bordered the train early and found a cabin with Seth and his brother already seated in. Seth knew that there was something wrong and when Hazel came and sat next to him to lay her head on his shoulder, he saw exactly what was wrong. He pulled her closer toward him and kissed her on the top of her head.
Meanwhile back in the village when Tom had arrived back in his home, he noticed that he had a visitor. Lord Cathshone was seated in the tavern. It was very peculiar of the Lord to come out of his mansion and visit the small village. Tom rubbed his hands on his clothes, placed the groceries on the closest table to him, ordered one of the staff to go unload it in the kitchen and quickly walked up to the Lord.
"Lord Cathshone how nice to see you here. What brings you here sir?"
"Can we speak somewhere more... private?"The Lord looked around at the staff cleaning the tables and working behind the bar.
"Yes of course, please follow me." Tom led him through the back door and then into the living room, firmly closing the door behind him.
Tom started the fire for the Lord and offered the armchair as a place for the Lord to sit. He walked over to Hazel's small desk in the corner by the window and pulled the chair out and sat down looking at the Lord. "I can trust that young Hazel got the letter?"
"Yes, sir. She received the letter. However sir, she... Last night didn't really go as we planned."
"I was trying to persuade her to give it a go but I soon lost my temper with her and she ended up hurt a little."
"Can't the girl see that this is a chance of a lifetime?" Lord Cathshone asked in a raised voice.
"She just wasn't in the right frame of mind, I'm sure she will come around sooner or later."
"She better." Hissed the Lord and then he stood up. "Or you will be a man without a job." He then left the room.
On the way back home on the train Seth was getting concerned. Hazel had stared out of the window since the time they had entered the cabin. "What was it about?" He got no answer. Cedric also looked across to Hazel. "You don't normally act like this, you gotta tell me what's going on." She never left her solitude.
That night it was Cedric's turn. When he entered the living room after a few drinks in the bar he saw Hazel was fast asleep in one of the armchairs. He found one of the blankets from the other night and draped it over her. He sat the other armchair, looking at Hazel's face. He knew exactly what was going on, and he had no idea of what it felt to be like in her situation.
The next morning she jumped awake. Cedric was asleep in the chair next to her, the fire had died out and there was a chill in the air. She flung the blanket on the floor and walked through to the kitchen to see her father asleep on one of the kitchen table chairs. She kicked his leg to wake him up, then she continued upstairs to get changed into some new clothes.
Once they had all had breakfast Cedric and Hazel made their way to the train station and then onto school. Richard was trying to prepare himself for his meeting with the mayor that day. He was in the living room of the small tavern trying to remember how to introduce himself, think of any questions the mayor might ask him and then prepare himself for a decent answer. He had got directions from Tom the night before, he had taken a quick look outside, and it looked quite simple to him of where to go. He still hadn't found a place of where he and his brother could live and a place to set up a small medical building.
Meanwhile Tom was in the tavern serving those who liked an early drink. He was worried about the Lord of Cathshone. He didn't want anything more than Hazel to get married to Harry. He knew that the Lord didn't have much patience and that if he wanted something doing, it would have already been done on first request, no question about it. No one disobeyed the Lord, and Hazel did not disobey her father.
Richard left the tavern at twenty minutes past one, plenty of time to reach the mayor's house for his meeting at half one. The walk across the square and over the bridge was quite nerve racking was Richard. Whilst he walked, with his briefcase in his hand he could feel the eyes gaze upon him. He hadn't been in the village for even a week, but he could tell it was quite rare for the mayor to have a visitor.
As he crossed into the small forest which led to the secret home of the mayor, nerves were now playing a large part of Richard's emotion. He could feel his body trying to resist. He hadn't been to an interview before, not for a job. When he had left his education life, and received the degree he wanted he set out for the world of work as fast as he could, with his brother. They had been to two villages before this, the first one they had found it burn down. Nothing left, just ash of where a nice community had once been. The snakes had been there, he could tell. He decided from the results they found there and the sudden solitude they found around them, they chose to travel after that, overseas, far away from where there was any danger of the snakes revolting. He loved his brother dearly and who not stay in a place where that love could be destroyed by someone else.
They next town they came to which had a job free for a doctor, denied him at first sight. They were a wolf town, and would not accept anyone else as a doctor. Richard and Cedric were forced to move further away. With them having two different symbols they were forbidden in any faction village or town.
The job interview in this small village was a godsend to Richard. This was a village which was owned by no certain faction, it was largely populated by centaurs, which was good because Cedric was a centaur, but the Lord and the Mayor of this village did not request any certain faction from someone who wanted a job in their village.
Lord Cathshone the third had made few changes to the village he owned when he became the Lord. He believed that if someone had a talent or any qualifications, if they had any use in this village then they could be used. The Lord wanted this village to grow; it was already a large village not in size but in population. He had plans to expand the village; it was on the verge of becoming a town. It had a town hall, it had a brilliant police station, a biased press, and the Lord wondered what more it needed to become a town. He was a man of high spirits but would never take no for an answer.
As Richard wondered along the windy path towards the manor his heart was racing. He took his time and looked up, around him and admired the trees arching over him. It was a pleasant place to live, too pleasant for his liking. He was the mayor of the village yes, but whilst the village was cramped into small houses, attached to one another, built in rows, aligned all over the village. Whilst the mayor of the village sat up in his house and did nothing all day. Richard didn't even want to think of what the Lord's manor looked like.
As he was walking towards another sharp turning, this time to his left he wondered how much longer it would take to arrive of the mayor's house. He soon found out when he turned the last corner of his journey. The stood, half covered in ivy was the Lord's manor. Many had had the custom of spending part of their life here, but at the moment it was Mayor Tretton. Richard came to a halt in his walking when his eyes gazed upon the marvellous house. He let out a smug grin and then continued to the entrance.
The house seemed to be surrounded by the tress of the forest, well hidden from public view. Richard climbed the few steps and then knocked hard on the front door. Someone came to the door, a waiter dressed in a very smart three piece suit. "Yes sir?"
"Hello, I am Richard Adderly, I am here for an interview with Mayor Tretton." He took his credentials out of his bag and showed them to the waiter. However the waiter didn't take one glance at the piece of paper. He was a man of class, looked over five Mayors at his time working at the Mayor's manor. He was a loyal servant, hired by the Lord himself.
"Right this way, sir." Richard stepped inside whilst removing his hat and gloves.
He had just stepped into the main hall area. The floor was solid marble and above him was a magnificent chandelier. As his admired the beautiful decorations, he noticed a balcony that ran all the way around the hall. You could look over the balcony, straight down into the hall. Richard saw the staircase to his far right but his eyes were fixed on something else, something most important. Where a young elegant woman stood, looking down to Richard.
She was beautiful, dressed in a stunning emerald green dress she did not expect Richard to be the person stood in her door way, nonetheless he looked quite charming through her eyes and she smiled at his entrance. When she saw him look up at her she rushed along the balcony and into her room where she let out a sigh of relief. She got embarrassed easily, and she knew if her father had caught her, he would not stand for any of that. She would have never seen the mysterious man again.
Richard laughed to himself and looked down at the floor in embarrassment. He was not the type of men to go chasing after women, especially not those whom were of such higher class than himself. "Sir?" Richard had not realised that the waiter had asked him previously to follow him so he could be taken to the Mayor's study. Richard suddenly jumped to his feet and walked briskly to follow the waiter, remembering on his way just exactly where he was.
As Richard sat on a small wooden chair outside the Mayor's study he assumed that the Mayor was in there busy at work and he was very surprised to then see a man of high ranking nature walk toward Richard and walk into the study. It was in fact the Mayor himself, he was dressed in some old trousers with dirt all over them and an un-tucked shirt which also had mud splashed all over it. Once in the study he gave Richard a very warm hand shake and then continued to sit behind his desk. Richard hung his hat on the stand stood next to the door and opened his briefcase to get the needed credentials out.
The interview went quite smooth, but near the end Richard still hadn't gotten over the fact that this grey haired man, covered in mud was the Mayor. Mayor Tretton had been out in the garden before Richard had arrived. The Mayor and his son had been mending the fountain in their back garden. They hadn't been together, for what James, his son, had thought a life time. James was now a large lad who was still studying his flowers and medicines, so on. But he enjoyed a good mechanical job now and then.
At the end of the interview the Mayor gave Richard a very strong handshake, thanked him for his time and then told him he would receive a letter that would inform him of the Mayor's decision. The letter would just be delivered at the tavern because Richard hadn't found a suitable place to live yet, it they were in fact staying. The hope that Richard had thought that the Mayor could have given him some help in where to find a good enough house was far behind him. With all the questions asked between the two of them in that interview, it didn't appear once.
Richard took his hat from the stand and walked out of the door. He gave a great sigh once his was out of the claustrophobic room and rubbed his head. He hoped for the life of himself that he had successfully got that job, he was in need of some money, his supply had been running out and Tom's prices were quite high for living in the tavern.
He made his way down the staircase and saw the waiter stood by the door, ready to open it for Richard's leave. He placed his hat on and smiled at the waiter as his soft, white, delicate glove pushed down on the handle and released the door from its stance. However before Richard could step out of the manor a voice beckoned him back. "I believe I could be speaking to our new doctor in town, is that right?" Richard turned to his left and saw the small pretty young woman he had spotted on the balcony walk towards him, she was just finishing pulled her green velvet glove on. He smiled and turned to look outside the door. "Yes miss, well..." He turned back to her to look her in the eye, the polite method. "Nothing is decided yet miss, but I hope the Mayor will pick me to be the next doctor in town."
"Please call me Florence, and I hope so too, Dr. ...?"
"Adderly. Mr Richard Adderly, miss."
"Well, Dr. Adderly, I hope you're pretty darn good." They exchanged a small smile. "Alas, it seems our conversation is over, I have an appointment to go to." She looked outside to where the automobile was waiting for her. Richard made a motion with his arm to let Florence leave the house first. As he stepped out into the fresh air, he put his hat on firmly and then followed Florence down the stairs.
When Florence had made her way to the car she turned around to Richard. "Until we meet again, Dr. Adderly." He smiled and rushed the last few steps to open the automobile's door for Florence to get in. She smiled and then she set off down the road with the chauffeur driving at full speed. Richard gave one last smile to Florence, even though she was not present, then he made his way back to the tavern.
It had been a productive day for Hazel, with her black eye still attracting a lot of attention at school and around town she was made to tell Seth what was really going on. She told him when it was just herself, Seth and Cedric in a carriage on the way back to their small village. Seth had exploded at the news and had rushed out of the carriage. Hazel had tears down her cheeks but would not look anywhere else other than out the window. Cedric knew what was going to happen since the night when Hazel found out. He though it was best not to say anything at the moment, he hardly knew Hazel, he knew nothing of what she had been through and he knew nothing of how he could make things better.
When Hazel and Cedric left the station, still without any sign of Seth, they walked up the street back to the tavern. Hazel was asking Cedric about his brother, about his education and his job becoming a doctor. She had forgotten until now that he had had his interview early this afternoon. She then got onto talking about Cedric, and asking him if he minded moving around so much. Travelling place to place Hazel thought it must have bothered him, and it did.
As they approached the square just in from of the tavern they both saw a small circle of people gathering. Mostly school children who had just came from the train station like themselves. They got closer to see what the commotion was all about. Then Hazel caught a glance of Seth's head. She started running towards them, Cedric following behind her. She had to push through a crowd of people just to reach the front line of the area where Seth was there fighting her betrothed (or soon to be), Harry. Hazel was stunned for a minute but she knew she had to act. She couldn't just stand there watch the two of them sort out their differences by beating the hell out of one another. She saw Harry had a nose bleed that had gotten blood over his shirt. Seth had a bust lip but could see the strength in his eyes. Cedric soon came to stand next to Hazel, he didn't even need asking if he would join Hazel to try and break up this excitement. Hazel made the first move, she ran in the middle of the fight. She was facing Seth and could see he was going for a punch for Harry's hip now replaced with Hazel's. She wasn't quick enough to stop his fist before it hit her but Cedric soon hooked his arms around Seth's arms and pulled them behind his back. Hazel turned to the crowd and shouted, "What the hell are you all standing around her for? The shows over, alright!" She then turned her attention back to Seth; he was fidgeting in Cedric's lock he had made. But suddenly one of Seth's arms got free and his elbow powered up and hit Cedric in the chin. Sending his head flying back and then one push from Seth sent him to the ground. Hazel didn't stand for that, whilst Seth's head was still turned looking down at Cedric she got her fist and punched him in the side of the face. She then punched him twice in the stomach and once on the back. He fell to the ground with a thump and she could tell that she had done enough, although he deserved much more.
She looked down at him, she knew he wouldn't be getting up any time soon. She made her hand into a fist and then swung it in his direction. Before she could make contact with him though someone's hand stopped her. "I think he has had enough damage done to him today, don't you?" Hazel turned her head to look into Richard's eyes. She forced herself to realise what she was just about to do and let her hand drop to her side. "Come on, let's get them all inside." Richard bent down to Seth and flung him over his should and took him into the tavern. Hazel went over to Cedric who was trying to get his head together. He had suffered a nasty blow to the head. Hazel helped him up and walked him back to the tavern. She knew Harry would still be standing there helplessly in the middle of the square. She didn't want to talk to him, but as the approached the tavern door she turned back and saw him staring at her. She mouthed,
"Go home, Harry." He turned around and slowly started the long trek up to his father's house, with his wrecked jacket in his hand, and his bloody knuckles as evidence that not only did her face get beaten up but he also took part in beating someone else up.
The tavern kitchen had turned into a medical centre. Seth was slumped on a chair, aching with his injuries. Richard was sat opposite him, tending to his wounds. When Hazel brought Cedric in she made him jump up onto the kitchen table and sit there while she inspected him. She firstly made him raise his chin to see what damage Seth had done to it. She couldn't see anything major but it was certainly going to have some bruising. She then climbed onto the table and sat in the middle, behind Cedric. She stretched her legs out across the table, next to Cedric's. She then pushed his head forward, for which he gave out a groan. She searched through his thick hair to find the part that had suffered the fall onto the stone ground the most. A small bump had already started to appear. She didn't think she could do anything to help it, just keep an eye on it and wait until it heals and returns to normal size. "It's a good job you have so much thick hair, you can hardly see the bump on your head." Richard and Cedric both laughed. Hazel smoothed his hair down and then asked, "It doesn't hurt much does it?"
"Throbbing at the moment." Hazel lightly kissed the back of his head and rubbed it lightly.
"Anyway, you." Richard said. "Your eye looks like it is swelling up again, go get some ice for it."
"Well I'm going to get some ice for this one; I will try and not forget." Hazel answered; she smiled at Richard, telling him she would dare put a freezing pack of ice on her eye again, not after the pain she had to suffer last time.
Behind the bar in the tavern she bent down and opened the small wooden door in the floor which contained the taverns supply of ice. It was cold down there and it worked very effectively. Hazel took the cloth she had got from the kitchen and dug her hand inside the ice to get some out. She then closed the trap door and walked back through the kitchen.
Tom was still serving at the bar, when Richard came in with a half broken Seth and Hazel with a hurt Cedric he didn't even want to know what had happened, the only exception was that Seth had to be out by tonight. There was no chance Tom was also harbouring Seth in his tavern tonight, the boy he most hated in this village.
Once Hazel had prepared the ice, and tied it in the cloth tightly with some string she made her way onto the table and pressed it against Cedric's bump on the of his head. He let out a harsh hiss at Hazel, which only made her laugh. "Why does this help?" Moaned Cedric.
"It reduces the size of the bump on your head." Answer Richard, with no patience with his brother.
"You wouldn't want to scare off all the pretty ladies would you?" Hazel joked. Cedric had soon had enough of the pain Hazel was putting him in with the ice so decided it was her turn. His brother had said it was good to reduce the swelling of her eye, and Cedric only wanted what was best for Hazel.
He brought his legs upon the table and turned around so his was facing Hazel. He took the ice dabber out of her hand and said, "Now it's your turn." Hazel face backed away.
"I don't need it, I'm..."
"Hazel stop fussing, your eye needs the treatment." Richard said. He was still tending to Seth. He had covered up his bust lip with a small bandage but the other stuff was mainly bruises. Richard was getting fed up with all the nonsense that was going on with Cedric and Hazel so he helped Seth to get up and offered to help him home.
Hazel was laid on the table with her hand tightly secured over her black eye. Cedric had sat on her legs so she couldn't escape his grasp; he was determined to put this ice on her eye. He griped the cloth in his mouth whilst his hands made their way unpicking each of Hazel's fingers away from her eye. Hazel was giggling and screaming whenever Cedric got near with that ice pack. When he had got her hands away from her face his laid his forearms over her upper arms. She still had a bit of movement to hit Cedric on the back, but it had no influence for Cedric to stop. It was hard for him because he only had his wrist that he could move; his other parts of his arm were being used to keep Hazel down. However he managed to drop the ice cloth onto her eye accurately so the swelled area of skin got the coolness of the ice. She let out a shriek when the stinging started. She was begging Cedric to take it off, but he couldn't help stop laughing and smiling, which made Hazel smile as well.
After a while the ice became more bearable for Hazel. It was nice and smoothing on her skin. Cedric took it off after he thought it had been enough time. He then lay down next to her on the small table. Hazel's smile soon disappeared from her face as she realised that she had her meeting with Harry tomorrow. Any other situation she thought she would have been able to talk to Harry. But when she has been summoned to his house, and she knew what was going to happen, she didn't feel like talking as much. Hazel sat up, facing the other way to Cedric. She took a deep breath and then left the room.
As she walked through the tavern and towards the doors out into the street her father called her back, "Hazel I need you serving tonight." But she carried on walking, although she knew it might not end well for her. If he got drunk she would get in trouble.
She was sat in her archway in the bell tower. People walked past down below Hazel, they always looked up at her. It was no strange sight, everyone knew Hazel was friends with Terry and he would always let her go up there without a fuss.
She must have been sat there for over three hours until some company arrived. She was relaxing her eyes at the time, but she could hear their footsteps all the way up the bell tower. As they came and sat opposite her she sighed and asked, "Have you ever had to do something that you didn't want to?"
"I think everyone in this world has. However at the moment I am not just being told to do something I don't want to do, I am being commanded how to live my life." She then opened her eyes to see the set of eyes opposite her also staring into her eyes. She turned away to the town. "I don't want to marry someone whom I barely know when I am only eighteen years old."
"No one should have to marry when they are only eighteen." There was silence after that for a long time but they soon both got to grips with each other as company and soon got talking again. They sat there outside in the moonlight still talking to one another. Hazel was hoping the longer she left it the more chance she had of escaping her father's punishments.
When bright sunlight shone in Hazel's window on Thursday morning she woke up, admiring the weather. Only then to remember how badly this day was really going to turn out.