Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash
“I must go!”
Lily giggled out when Master McKenzie’s hands grabbed her sides again. His hand played with her hair and her smile beamed back at him. He looked so alive and she never wanted to see him in any other mood. She’d caught herself the Prince of her very own fairytale.
Her man to she would one day run the Highlands with and be the Master of the Manor. They’d be together in the snow-covered manor with their children running about their feet and the servants serving high tea. Lily had it all planned and couldn’t imagine her life any other way.
“Dinner tonight with your parents feels like a lifetime away. Let us stay here in the barn and,” Master McKenzie never finished his sentence.
He captured her lips underneath his again. The excitement he fed her filled her. She didn’t want it to end. Couldn’t bear it to end and she held onto him for dear life as his cold hands graced her cheek. He held her face for a moment and his eyes held so much hope, but a dark cloud hovered over them.
“Are you sure you can convince Daddy to allow me to marry you?”
She asked the question to which neither one had been able to bring themselves to speak. Her eyes watered with the idea of their dreams being ripped away from them over something either of the two of them understood.
Lady Lily knew her mother had mentioned they weren’t a good match. She didn’t know how they weren’t. After all her mother’s marriage wasn’t exactly well-matched yet she married her father. The two of them were happy most of the time.
“I will fight him until my dying breath to be with you and if what we all fear is coming then we shall be together soon,” again Alistair spoke in riddles.
Lady Lily struggled to stop herself from calling him by his first name. Alistair wore the same fearful look her father wore last night when he returned from the RAF base. His body shivered when he came in and Mr Taylor saw to him. She just thought it had been from the cold, however now Master McKenzie shivered the same way. His eyes staring almost straight through her.
“What do you mean Master McKenzie, what is coming that is so bad?”
Lady Lily asked now she saw that his eyes had grown darker and he turned away from her. He never missed a moment to hold onto her and to just touch her. His actions scared her and made her heart quicken. She allowed her hand to reach out and lay softy on his arm.
“There are dark times ahead my love, but your pretty head can’t be allowed to worry about such things.” He answered shakily.
Turning her around he kissed her passionately again and held her pressed against his long torso. He held her close like he might never see her again. Her back pressed up against the wooden ladder leading to the loft. Their secret meeting place and they both knew their teachers would cane them for such actions. These sort of meetings were forbidden. They needed more than just meetings in drawing rooms over cups of tea.
“Is it as bad as everyone fears it to be?” Lady Lily asked in a whisper and instead of answering, Alistair kissed her again.
He took her into the clutches of his arms, his lips pressed down on hers. Only this time she could tell he did it to end the conversation and not out of his own need to just be with her. She saw his darker thoughts were getting the best of him and he couldn’t deny their lives were about to change.
“Lady Lily, Lady Lily,” came Lady Lily’s lady’s maids voice.
Alistair reluctantly pulled away from her now. Lady Lily saw her reflection in his eyes, her own eyes pleaded with him to hold her a little longer. She saw the rosy colour in her cheeks and her lips were the colours of roses in bloom. She looked at him like her hero and Lady Lily believed he would fight for her.
After everything, they feared they would face. He would fight for her and he would be there for her. She knew when the dust finally settled Alistair would be holding her and they would be happy. Such a young, innocent dream.
“I’m here, “ she responded leaving Alistair’s arms.
It tore her apart to leave and she found her words sticking in her throat as she went. She held onto his hands when she said her final few words. Her voice was so full of happiness, yet she couldn’t bear to leave him. Each moment with him was like an undiscovered paradise.
She watched his chest swell with his own happiness. Lady Lily wanted to hear him calling her name when he came home. To feel his hand on her stomach while she carried his child. For his only thoughts to be of her. To enter the balls on his arm and for the world to see them together. The pair who rose above perfect matches. For him to love to her under the stars and in the firelight of their room.
To be his only one.
“I have to go, I’ll see you at dinner.”
“I’ll count every single moment until I see your beautiful green eyes again.”
He answered and kissed her hand. She giggled before running out of the barn and into the winters air. The frost nipped at her skin like starving wolves. She kept running until she came into the path of her lady’s maid, Ginger. All the while thoughts of Master McKenzie made each steps she took harder to take for she lived with her own fears of never seeing him again.
“Lady Lily, there you are. Mr Taylor said he saw you head out for a walk and thought you might need your coat. The Lady of the Highlands is looking for you, she insists on talking to you right away.” Ginger said with an urgency in her voice, it made her glance back towards the barn.
She knew Alistair would be mounting his horse and heading back to his own manor. It made her want to turn around and run back to him. She couldn’t, she must live as before, until they could be married.
Lady Lily picked up her feet on her way back to the main house with Ginger doing her best to keep up. Her plum body seemed to get weighted down in the snow, her hands seemed to always be jetting in and out of the selves of her coat. She had always thought of her lady’s maid as a strange woman, to whom Lady Lily noted grew stranger by the year.
“I’ll go to the morning room right away, was there anything else from Mr Taylor?” Lady Lily asked only slowly her step for a moment to look at her red faced lady’s maid.
Even now Lady Lily thought it was shameful her lady’s maid allowed herself to get to such a size and she wondered what the cook fed her. For no one at boarding school was allowed to look as she did.
“Just that the Master and the Lady of The Highlands wants to speak to you right away.” Her words seemed pushed now, her face more pinched.
Lady Lily couldn’t bare to stay with her any longer, she took off running. Pulling her coat on as she went, her heart pounding in her ears. She had taken it from Gingers shaking hands and barely noticed her lady’s maid had a new coat. Her own lady’s maid looked frozen and her bare hands showed she hadn’t been given a chance to collect a pair of gloves.
Her shoes kicked up the snow like a wild horse as she went. She raised her hands up to her face, while she ran where she pulled the strains of blonde hair out her eyes. Lady Lily tried to tuck them behind her ears as she scolded herself for forgetting the pins to pin them in place.
She raced towards the house which loomed up ahead of her. The thin strains of blonde hair she always kept loose about her face got her a wearily look from her mother. Today she wanted her mother to be happy with her.
She stared up at her home as she approached it with joy in each springing step. Its huge stone structure glared down upon them. Its pointed roof with slate titles, looked like it took a giant palace to them. Each inch of the roof seemed to raise constantly towards the sky.
Big windows stood out of the buildings walls and the front door arched inwards. The stone steps gleamed with the fresh snow laying on them. Each step decorated with a pine trees just so you knew what season it was. The curtains were mostly drawn except the morning room, their bedrooms which Lady Lily tried to avoid as she raced in the side door. She couldn’t have her mother seeing her coming home.
Christmas loomed on us however the snow got Lady Lily’s family in the mood for winter season early. To her mother when the snow started to fall, winter was on them and the pine trees show have centre stage on the stairs leading up into the house. A strange idea Lady Lily thought and wished to see much more happier objects in their stead.
Mrs Branson stood waiting for her, she held a stern face. A disproving look as usual and as the housekeeper for Walls Manor, she knew everything. Her dark brown hair and wrinkled face were often a face Lady Lily grew up seeing. This house wouldn’t be the same without Mrs Branson in Lady Lily’s mind. There were times when Mrs Branson worked as her ladies maid.
Lady Lily did her best to make sure she kept the housekeeper sweet, she learned this from Mr Taylor the butler. Not an easy task considering how loyal the woman was to her mother.
Taking off her coat she handed it to her as she shook her head at her. Carefully Mrs Branson took pins from her pocket and pinned the strains of her hair into place. Lady Lily felt like a child again, only she knew Mrs Branson did it out of love, her mother did it out of concern for what others might think.
“Your tablet Mrs Branson,” Lady Lily panted.
She reached into her pocket of her dress to pull out the carefully wrapped treat Master McKenzie brought her. He too knew the importance of keeping Mrs Branson sweet. For it was often Mrs Branson who allowed Lady Lily to escape the house to see the Master McKenzie.
Mrs Branson always told Lady Lily what she thought. She spoke with the utmost respect, yet her words were caring. Lady Lily grew use to the lectures on how unladylike it was for her to do such things. Yet Lady Lily always saw the look of understanding in her eyes. She knew Mrs Branson loved a man once, just as much as Lady Lily loved Master McKenzie. She had proof of what his love got her.
A warning Lady Lily knew Mrs Branson tried to pass on her. Mrs Branson’s daughter worked as a house maid. The family had supported Mr and Mrs Branson through the first war. Keeping them in service and allowing them to be married in the grounds garden. A marriage which wouldn’t have happened if the Lady of The Highlands hadn’t stepped in to ensure it did.
“Thank you Lady Lily, Lady of the Highlands is in the morning room and breakfast has begun. You know what you are doing is unlady like. If this keeps up Lady Lily then I’m going to have to tell the Lady of the Highlands.” Mrs Branson reminded Lady Lily.
She just nodded her head before tilting it down and she headed up the stairs, knowing it wouldn’t be today Mrs Branson would tell her mother. Not when all the staff downstairs worried like her father about the future of all of them. The war would divide the house again as all the men would be called away.
Lady Lily shared their fears.
What she wondered as she made her way up the never ending spiralling staircase towards what could be described as the heavens. Was whether the worry Master McKenzie carried in his heart was true. Were they set on a path for war with no hope of avoiding it. For it had to be this which made him want to please her father rather than just elope.
Out onto the entrance hallway she saw the red carpet, the last week of August saw the last of the summer flowers sitting on the tables, side boards. Soon they were to be replaced with Christmas and winter flowers. For her mother liked to always be the first one to change with the seasons. Lady Lily felt surprised her mother hadn’t made the servants change the flowers already. Their colours were now starting to dull.
What Lady Lily didn’t know is these were the last fresh, pretty flowers she’d seen for such a long time.