Nearby a bird began to chirp, refusing to remain under the heavy spell of sleep. Much of the sky still was dark, but the sun was stirring from its temporary dormancy. A gentle glow lined the horizon. Marietta could not sleep either, for thoughts of Banastre kept her awake. There was this aching, strong sensation beating hard against her chest. Her silk and chiffon nightgown rustled as she sat up on her bed. Her messy, braided chocolate-colored hair draped over her left shoulder. She placed a hand over her unsteady heart.
Marietta turned her gaze to her bedroom window overlooking her desk. All was silent, save for that little bird. Marietta stood on her bare feet, feeling the coolness of the wooden floor, and unhurriedly walked over to her desk. She cracked open the window. The air swept in-a gentle and cool breeze. The smell from an early morning shower past filled her room.
I wonder if he's awake too. Marietta continued staring at the sky as flashes of her encounters with Banastre passed her mind. For so long, now, since her arrival at Wilmington, North Carolina, Marietta's mind continually recalled the same memories. She found it most peculiar how a single person, a single man could occupy her thoughts so profoundly and so frequently. And no matter how much effort she placed on forgetting him, Marietta felt conflicted.
Marietta heavily sighed as her eyes saddened. He would not think of me. The ache in her heart grew just a little more. She placed her right hand against the cool windowpane. I'll always fall... Marietta grabbed her beige shawl that draped over her desk chair and left The Morrison's house to clear her mind with a good morning walk.
The streets were empty and the shops were closed. Despite knowing everyone would be asleep, she felt an unseen and forceful entity pull at her feet and heart, taking her in the direction of The Drunken Swan. I want to see him again.
With every step, Marietta's heart thumped harder, louder. She could not pretend nor deny that she enjoyed conversing with Banastre about various topics. Never had she felt at ease talking about what she loved, about her hobbies and dreams, and about her past. It still surprised her that the infamous Bloody Tarleton enjoyed listening to her.
Tightening her shawl around her shoulders and arms, Marietta slowly approached the stable with bated breath. The closer the stable became, the more Marietta struggled to breathe calmly. She swallowed and took a peek. The stable was emptier than usual. That is strange. Perhaps they went for a ride.
Marietta looked up at the window of Banastre's quarters. She wanted to go inside to check on him, but she remained frozen. Her heart was thumping louder now. No, no. I can't be rude. Everyone is asleep. He must still be asleep. I wish him to rest. She smiled softly. Her heart nearly jumped out of her chest when she heard a rustling sound and footsteps.
"Oh! Mr. Morrison!" If her face wasn't enough to express her surprise, her voice certainly was enough when it scared Mr. Morrison himself. She crossed her arms.
"Miss Lockhart...? Goodness, you scared me!" He chuckled. "Pray, what are you doin' up at this ungodly hour, an' here of all places?" inquired Mr. Morrison as he approached her.
"I was takin' my mornin' walk, Mr. Morrison." She smiled.
"Well, don't bide too long. It's a cool mornin', an' I don't want to see you catch a cold, Miss Lockhart. A young lady shouldn't be walkin' alone in Wilmington, especially with the British still around."
"I understand. I won't be long."
Satisfied with that answer, Mr. Morrison nodded. "Well, then! I will be headin' home now. I was makin' a careful inspection of the inn. It is quite strange, you know."
Marietta blinked. "Pray, what is strange, Mr. Morrison?"
"I've worked at this inn for many years-my sister an' I. Ever since the British took over Wilmington, the inn has seen its busiest moments. The Green Dragoons drove me as mad as a rooster in a chicken coop, sometimes, you know? But now everythin' is silent. The infantry will visit, yes, but the dragoons... It is strange to see the stable an' the inn empty."
"Empty...?" Marietta felt a pang in her heart. A sinking feeling began to take root in its stead. Feigning indifference, Marietta carefully spoke, "what do you mean?"
"Oh. I suppose you would not know. Huh. I thought my sister told you. Well, no matter. Perhaps she forgot." Richard languidly waved a hand in the air. "It happened early this mornin'. Mr. Tarleton took his men an' departed the inn. I don't know where they rode off to, but I suspect duty called. It looked urgent. I suspect that'll be the last of 'em at this place. Good news for me." Mr. Morrison laughed to himself as he recollected the many strange and annoying moments. "Well, I better head home. I don't want to worry my sister, although be certain she is still asleep. I take my leave, Miss Lockhart." He bowed.
Marietta could only curtsey in response. The strength of her voice seemed to have abandoned her. She watched Mr. Morrison disappear from sight. Marietta stood still for a while, eyes blinking as her breathing became quick but heavy. She looked up at the bedroom window. It cannot be.
Marietta swiftly turned around and walked past the stable. There was a thin and winding dirt path that led away from the inn to a small woodland area and a brook. It was a tranquil and private place many did not care to visit or pay heed to, but it was a place Marietta valued. It was her secret hiding place. Her footsteps picked up the pace as did her heart as flashes of Banastre's dashing face and warm smile kept appearing. It's a lie. I don't believe it!
Pushing aside some tree branches, Marietta, at last, reached the brook. Tripping on a small stone, Marietta fell to her knees. She hunched over and cried to her surprise. She gasped for air through her sobs. It came pouring out-all the feelings she had kept secret. I couldn't tell him. I didn't tell him! Disappointment threw itself into the mix of swirling and intense emotions, for she had intended to confess to Banastre. But now it was lost. All was lost.
More tears streamed down her wet cheeks as she felt her heart cave inwardly.
"Why did you not say a word? Why didn't you tell me?!" Marietta sobbed some more. "I was here. I was always here. For you. Is decency too much to ask for?!"
Marietta hated herself for feeling upset at Banastre, for she knew it was not his fault. She knew in her heart that the order must've come to him too suddenly just as the news came to her too suddenly.
But even as Marietta attempted to console herself, nothing could conceal nor fake how her heart truly felt at this precise moment. Her heart was sad. Banastre Tarleton was gone, never to return. Her heart was broken. The one person she enjoyed her days with; the one person who was surprisingly kind and gentle; the one person whom she was happy to speak to and laugh with disappeared. What was reality became a distant dream, and it left a gaping hole in her heart. Her mind fought to recall all the memories, but the more it tried the more her life began to feel as if pieces of it were removed. Pieces Marietta couldn't hold onto. Pieces that faded like gaps in one's memories.
"Not again," Marietta managed to squeak out through her sobs as she clutched her chest, still hunched over. She rocked herself to-and-fro as if that would calm her down. Not again. I cannot. I cannot do this! She had lost someone dear once again. And once again, it was a person who made a profound impact on her life and heart. Once again, it was someone she valued most and loved. And once again, for the final time, she loved only to bear witness to it dissolving in her hands and disappearing from her.
The weight of her heart, the sheer realization that she had lost more-a curse she was resolute on considering this as-brought her crashing down. She fell into a heap on the shoreline.
"I-I couldn't do anything about it!" The weight of helplessness crushed her broken heart. She cried her heart out in a place no one would look. Here, she could let her raw heart run free. The truths were laid bare. I miss him. And it was all she could do. It was all she was doomed to feel and carry out. Alone. I love him.