Title: Someone Like You
Note: The beginning; the year is 1758
Autumn had settled over the woods, and George had finally grown into his military position. The men called him lucky and willingly followed wherever he would lead. He sat in the saddle easy and tall, moving with the horse's easy stride. He constantly shifted his head, casting his gaze through the trees. The rest of the troop was setting up camp, waiting for dusk to settle in, but restlessness had kept him moving.
There was silence here, deep in the Virginia foothills, and sometimes he found it hard to remember there was a war going on.
The first glance he caught of her, he thought she was an Indian. She moved sure-footedly through the crisp, fallen leaves characteristic of the season, her boot-falls nearly silent. Climbing down from his horse, his brow crinkling, he took a few steps off the path in her direction. He made the hasty decision to tie his borrowed horse to a nearby tree and set after her, his hand trembling over his sword hilt.
He found her at the edge of a stream, looking directly at him. The first thing he noticed was that she was dressed like a man, in cream breeches and a green shirt, with her worn leather boots crawling up her legs and toward her knees. Neither of them said a word, but after a heartbeat she turned on her heel and darted from the scene. He nearly went after her, but then he remembered the troop and his horse, and decided to return to the path.
Slowly, he pulled himself back into the saddle and turned his mount back toward camp. Despite the merriment of his fellow soldiers, he couldn't stop thinking about the girl he'd seen by the streambed.
That had been the first time he'd seen her. After that, every single time he caught a glimpse of her, he tried to go after her. Something always stopped him, hindered his pursuit of her in some way.
The last time he saw her, though he hadn't known it to be the last time, was of more consequence. Once again, he'd left his troop alone to make camp, and made his way out on foot. Before long, he came across a small orchard, and there she was again. He noticed the large dappled gelding nearby, munching on the fallen apples that littered the ground. She was sitting on the roots of an apple tree, rolling a shiny red apple between her hands. He moved closer, carefully picking his way across the ground, but still she lifted her head and stared at him. He felt pinned under that gaze.
"Are you following me," he asked her softly, stepping closer still. He heard her laugh, saw her shake her head. "I could ask the same of you," she returned. He watched her pull a knife from her boot and run the blade over the apple, skinning it effectively. She lifted the skinned fruit, and then tossed it toward the horse.
Slowly, she got to her feet, slipping the knife back into its place in her boot while standing. She moved closer to him, closing the small distance between them in a matter of strides. "It seems that I see you everywhere," he said, staring at her. She flashed him a brief smile, "And I you. It seems Virginia is much smaller than I originally thought." He allowed a small laugh to ghost past his lips.
"These woods are unsafe; there's a war going on," he said, reminding her as well as himself. But she tilted her head back and pinned him with a stare. He watched her dark hair tumbled past her shoulders and down her back, framing her face and slender neck. There was a defiant set to her rose colored lips, a stoniness to her smoky green eyes. "I could remind you of the very same," she returned.
He set his lips sternly, and tried to cow her. She met his stern look with a raised eyebrow, a quirked mouth. "You think you can bully me? Just because you're bigger…a soldier?" He didn't reply, but had to still the flinch as she reached out to him. Her fingers knotted in his shirt as her head tilted slightly to the side. She tugged him down closer to her face, and he allowed it, unsure of what else to do. "Somehow, I like that cocky attitude of yours," she whispered with a smile.
Then her lips brushed his once before coming back and sealing to his. Her lips pressed against his, her teeth rubbing against his lower lip. He opened his mouth in a minor gasp and felt her tongue steal inside his mouth. He could taste the apples she'd been eating earlier. She smelled like apples and crushed leaves, and he lost himself in the kiss. Then she pulled away. "Be careful," she told him softly then turned her back on him.
He watched her walk away, whistling sharply to the horse. Something in him writhed, wanted to make him follow her, but his feet didn't uproot from the crushed leaves. He watched her pull herself up slowly into the horse's saddle, turn the large horse, and trot away from him. And when she had disappeared from his view, he turned back the way he'd come, backtracking to the camp.
After that day, he didn't see her again. And he tried to put her out of his mind, but that didn't stop her from creeping into his thoughts and dreams. Thankfully, the war picked up and kept him mostly occupied, giving him no reprieve until Christmastime. Yet another horse had been shot out from under him, and sickness ravaged his troops. He was given a few weeks to return home and rest.
He rested his hand against the sturdy neck of the chestnut gelding; felt the muscles twitch as the horse's head bobbed with each steady step. There was fresh snow on the ground, covering the thin layer of ice that made the path slick. He glanced about, taking in the high reach of bare trees, breaking the monotony of the grey sky. An icy breeze tossed some of the fresh powder at him, the tiny flakes dotting his skin and dark coat briefly before melting.
Tense from the ongoing warfare, he kept his wits about him, constantly on alert for any change in the scenery. If he hadn't been so vigilant, he would have missed her.
The horse was massive, nearly as grey as the sky, and the shadows from the bare branches connected the thick dappling across its great hide. At his approach, the angular head lifted and stared at him. Then he saw the girl. His breath caught, frozen in his lungs as she twisted her head to look at him.
Her long hair spilled dark down her back, waving and curling across the fabric of her coat. Her skin was pale and delicate looking, her eyes dark pools above high cheekbones. The wind tossed hair into her face, making her soft pink lips quirk upward. Unable to help himself, he pulled the reins backward and stopped all forward movement.
"I feel it is a little cold for a constitutional, ma'am," he called out to her.
She turned toward him while pushing the wayward strands of hair out of her face. He noted the basket in one of her hands, the slight blue tinge to her fingertips, and the way the deep green gown accented her skin and hair. "I do believe you are correct sir," she returned, though it was so soft the words were nearly lost in the December chill.
Slowly, he dismounted and led his horse closer. He watched one of her eyebrows quirk upward as he moved closer. "Mayhap you should return home," he said softly. The breeze, which had died down, picked up again. It tugged at his long coat and froze his face. She nodded, pressing her lips firmly together, but otherwise didn't move.
"Perhaps," she finally said, but didn't move.
With a sigh, he stepped closer to her and lifted a hand to grasp her arm. Her arm was thin under his fingers, the gown's fabric soft. She tilted her head upward to stare at him, her dark hair tumbling across her shoulders. There was a quiet defiance in her eyes, which gave him pause. Her eyes, on their own, were an enchanting color, a dark smoky green. Just behind her, the massive horse snorted, sending a gust of lung-warmed air into the chill. "Will you be needing an escort home, Miss…I didn't catch your name." He gave her a slight smile, meant to disarm her. He wondered if she remembered him.
She met his smile with her own, and it sent his heart into a frenzy. "That's because you didn't ask, sir, and no I will not be needing an escort home. I will be returning to my home of my own accord, on my own time." This response made him smile even more, and he dipped his head in apology. "My deepest, most sincere apologies miss. May I enquire as to what your name might be?"
A slender hand lifted to cover her mouth, which was curved in a delicate smile. "But of course, young sir. Charlotte Garside, at your service," and she curtsied slightly, dipping her head just barely. He had to stifle his chuckle, sliding his hand down to lightly grasp her free hand. He brought her hand to his mouth, pressing his slightly chapped lips to her cold knuckles.
"A very pleasure meeting you, Miss Garside, my name is George Washington." She tugged her hand free from his grasp and held onto the handle of her basket. He stared at her for what seemed like a minor eternity, lost in those curious eyes, until she laughed softly. He blinked suddenly, coming back to the current and stared at her, an eyebrow raised in question.
She beckoned on down the path, "I do believe you were going somewhere, Mister Washington, and it's awfully rude of me to keep you." She stepped back from him, and he suddenly remembered Martha. He let out a soft groan, and covered his eyes with a cold hand briefly before spinning to mount his horse quickly.
He cast another lingering glance at her, her body looking even smaller next to the mass of the horse. She lifted blue-tinged fingers in a slight wave, "It was nice meeting you." He tipped his head in acknowledgement, then turned the horse hard and started off down the path a fast clip, putting the strange girl out of his mind.
When he finally arrived at Martha's house, she was impatient and in a tizzy. She jerked the door open the moment his boot touched the doorstep. "Where have you been, I've been so worried about you!" She grasped his coat lapels and drew him within the warmth of the house. A maid came to get his coat, and then he followed Martha into the sitting room for tea and cookies, and to do what must be done.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the small box and opened the lid, holding the box out toward Martha. "I know it's short notice and all, but would you consider marrying me?" Martha let out a squeal, grasping the ring box in her plump fingers and pulled the ring out of its velvet bed. She regarded the ring closely before slipping it on her finger and giving him a wry smile. "Why Mister Washington, but of course."
After a while, he found it safe to dismiss himself from his betrothed's company. On the ride home, he let his mind wander back over the strange girl by the path's side. His breath caught in his throat briefly, before he forced his thoughts back to Martha. He was certain he'd never seen Charlotte Garside ever again anyhow.
But the certainty he felt that he'd never see her again didn't keep her from frequenting his thoughts.
And then the New Year began, and with it came his wedding. He never kidded himself that Martha loved him, nor him her, but fully accepted that it was a marriage of convenience.
On the ninth, he dressed in his best clothes, taking care to look dashing, before saddling the chestnut gelding once more. The steady plod of the borrowed war horse lulled him into the silence of his thoughts. Unwillingly, he thought about Miss Garside. Another set of hoof beats drew him from his thoughts, and he turned in his saddle to look behind him.
The large horse moved toward him at a quick pace, and he watched the easy stride of the beast. He watched Charlotte gentle the horse's movement to match his own horse's. "You know," he started with a small smile, "I thought I'd never see you again." She laughed softly, but didn't say anything. They carried on side by side, in silence, for a little while. "So where are you going," she finally asked, tilting her head toward him.
He jerked the horse's reins, stopping all movement, and she turned her horse back toward him. He slid down and began to pace, running his palm over his mouth repeatedly. She slipped out of her saddle and caught hold of him, bringing him to a stop. He stared into those curious eyes, could feel the slight heat of her hand against his chest. Unthinkingly, he placed his hand over hers.
"You know, since I met you, you've never been far from the fore of my thoughts," he told her, staring into those eyes. "I don't know who you are, where you come from, but I know you're something. If I were more superstitious, I'd call you a gypsy." She tried to pull away from him, but he tightened his hold on her hand. Something in her compelled him to spill all, like a terrible purge of words. "I'm fairly certain I've never met someone like you. And I doubt I ever will again. But I'm going to a wedding…my wedding." He saw something in her eyes twitch and twist, and once more she tried to pull away. Finally he let her slip free.
She turned back to stare at him, a grim set to her lips. She stepped closer, her hand once more spreading on his chest. He couldn't look away from her dark gaze. She smiled, her features softening. Her other hand came up to touch his neck, her thumb brushing his jaw just barely. "Well then, she's a very lucky lady and I wish you nothing but the best." And then her lips were on his. The pressure was soft, incessant, and her lips warm despite the chilly weather.
That one kiss seemed to steal the breath from his lungs. And then she was pulling away. She stepped away from him, her hands dropping from his form. "A kiss for luck from this supposed gypsy."
His face felt frozen as he watched her slowly mount her horse again, turning the large creature from in front of his borrowed war horse. He lifted his cold hand to touch his mouth, where he could still feel the slight pressure from her lips. Finally, he remounted the chestnut gelding and set off toward Martha's farm. He couldn't help but wish he'd met Lottie first; that she had been more than just a fleeting visage in the autumn graced woods.
But he went through with it, marrying Martha.
That, of course, didn't mean that Charlotte was ever far from his thoughts.
The marriage was one of conveniences, but he did his best to provide for his new family. He renovated Mount Vernon and spent the lazy summer days walking along the Potomac. It was on one of these lazy strolls that he happened upon the large horse, grazing in a field of high summer grasses. He would know that horse anywhere, and began looking for the one girl his mind couldn't let go of.
He happened upon her. She was sitting on a rock at the riverfront, her toes dangling in the mellow water. Her dress was a light blue and bunched about her thighs. "Lottie," he breathed the nickname unawares, but she heard him and glanced over her shoulder. The smile was small, sad, but there. He moved forward and sat down on the rock beside her.
"I hope you're not mad," she said softly while making patterns in the slow moving surface of the Potomac with her toes, "I followed my heart here." He wanted to reach out to her, but didn't. Instead they sat there in silence, watching the river move on slowly. Finally, he glanced her way. He watched the high rays of the sun flicker and shift along the waves in her hair, and he reached out to her.
He pushed her hair back from her face, letting his fingertips touch the smooth skin of her cheek. "Does your heart always lead you here?" She laughed, but nodded. "Does your heart always lead you away from your home," she asked. He could hear the question hidden under the misleading words, "There's no love there for me; just a mutual need." And the silence fell again.
When she cast a glance at him over her shoulder, he felt something shift. Then she gave him a wide, mischievous grin, before she placed her hand on the center of his chest and pushed. Shock sunk in hard as he toppled off the rock and into the slow moving river. When he emerged, all he could hear was the low, melodic sound of her laughter. Without a second thought, he grasped her slender leg and hauled her into the river with him. The laughter cut off with a soft squeal.
And that was how he came to be floating in the slow moving river with a girl he'd met twice, but he felt at ease with. He wanted to reach out to her, but the glint of gold on his left hand stopped him. He thought of the rumors that already spilled out of Mount Vernon's slave quarters that Martha had taken a lover, but couldn't bring himself to do the same.
Instead, he climbed out of the Potomac, and helped Charlotte to her feet. He tried not to notice the way the blue material clung to her, or the droplets that ran off her eyelashes and lips. "I don't know if I can do this Lottie," he whispered to her softly. But she smiled an easy smile. "You're not doing anything George."
They lay on the grassy riverside, letting the sun dry their clothes. She rolled over on her stomach, and he propped himself up on one arm. "You called me Lottie," she said after a while, her voice was gentle. He frowned lightly, before responding. "Is that bad? I just did it without thinking," he said softly, shaking his head. She looked at him and smiled, "No, it's perfect." Her fingers brushed his before she got to her feet and approached her horse. He watched her ride off, wondering if he'd see her again.
But it became a weekly thing, him happening upon her down by the Potomac. Sometimes they talked, but mostly they just enjoyed one another's company. And in this slow and easy manner, he knew he was beginning to fall in love.
He knew it would be just a matter of time until she became his, just as he had become hers.