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When asked about the Hendrix family, anyone in the town of Valens would make a remark about their grand life or their riches. The main subject of conversation would be young Lucy Hendrix, who had lived her whole life surrounded by wealth and security. When she was not even able to walk, her father inherited the Hendrix family estate in the small town. The estate was originally owned by her great grandparents, and was then passed down to their children, and finally Lucy’s father. The house was hand crafted and designed specifically for the Hendrix family, and was unlike any building in the area. The mansion on the property might as well be a castle. Lucy still remembers the first impression the place had on her. The towers and turrets loomed over the surrounding trees, dwarfing them and her in size. The huge iron front doors matched the cold, harsh stone of the walls. She remembers dipping her toes in the icy water of the river that snakes it way along the edge of the property. At first, everything was new, everything was cold. But slowly, her parents actually made the castle a home. Elaborate candleholders sat on every possible surface and the fireplaces were always tended to and blazing with life. On every holiday the family went to bed with full bellies from the evening feast, and with smiles on their faces from being together. Everything became golden and warm.
Throughout those first few years Lucy loved her home and her family, but she was never allowed to get out much. The tutor would come and teach her lessons instead of Lucy attending school, and the town center was too far away for her to walk by herself. Lucy dreaded the days with the tutor, simply because they were a waste of her time. The old, ragged lady would limo through the door and set up her station at the dining table. She would bring textbooks and novels, all of which Lucy had already read. The lessons were clearly dumbed down and everything the lady taught, Lucy had already taught herself. The days were even worse when her mother would sit and observe the lessons from the corner of the room. Under that watchful eye, Lucy would pretend to be engrossed in material and play along with the tutors useless lectures. Day in and day out, this was her life. When Lucy was thirteen, her parents discovered they were to have another child. She was excited to have a friend, and could not wait until her sibling was born. However, the reality of having a younger brother was very different. To Lucy’s dismay, the new child meant that Lucy was no longer the center of attention, and in fact she barely received any attention at all. Everything was now about Jonathan, the little precious golden child of the Hendrix Mansion. The family still had the grand feasts, but the discussion was now about the baby’s day, and Lucy’s interjections and beginnings of stories were ignored. The fireplaces were still kept burning, but the books about princesses and heros that used to scatter the floor were replaced with baby blankets and rattles. The only sign that Lucy was even living there was her room. She would sit there, surrounded now by books of love and family, and read for hours. The characters felt like friends to her, and the fairy tale worlds were a place to escape too.
At sixteen, Lucy finished reading all the books in the house. The majority, she had actually read twice. The tutor stopped coming because according to her mother, Lucy now needed to focus more on running the home than some “silly stories.” This was when she realized she was all alone. The castle with the grand ceilings and seemingly endless corridors that once was her own fairytale became a prison. All Lucy wanted to do was go into town and try and meet people, but every time she did as much as hint at the idea, her parents shut her down. So, one day Lucy made her decision. She was just going to leave and walk to town when the time was right.
* * *
That day came quite unexpectedly. Lucy woke up and got herself ready without anything abnormal. She first had to put her white linen under layers on. These were always pressed and clean, thanks to the family maid. Then Lucy laced up her kirtle, which that day was a cream color and had a jeweled neckline. Over the kirtle she put on a scarlet overgrown with a bodice that dipped down far enough to see the jewels of the kirtle. Ran her hairbrush through her short blonde hair, knowing her mother would pester her about the fact that there are no pins or jewels in it. Finally, Lucy slipped her feet into her black ankle boots and tied the laces. Only then did she go downstairs for breakfast, punctual as always. However, only her mother showed up, and she showed up almost a half hour late. Apparently her father was outside giving Jonathan a bath in the river.
“You always say the river is too cold for me to bathe in,” Lucy mumbled. The unfairness of it all was upsetting, especially when it starts this early in the day.
“Yes dear, but it is the start of summer now and the waters have warmed considerably,” her mother said politely. Just like always. Whenever Lucy pointed out anything about Jonathan's privileges, her mother gave a sickly-sweet reply that has an air of finality to it. Her mother clearly wants the discussion ended. Lucy was not having any of that.
“Well can I take a bath later today in the river? “ Lucy said, “I could even do it at the peak of the day so it is the warmest.” She didn’t even really care about the bath that much, she just wanted to win.
“Now Lucy, you are not a child anymore. The river is no place for you.”
“Lucy, no. I have given you my answer and it is the best for you. Young women should not be in the river and my daughter will certainly not be seen splashing around like some animal,” her mother scolded.
“Mother if Jonathan can do it so should I!” Lucy yelled. The room went quiet for a moment, and it was as if time stopped moving.
“Your room Lucy. Go to your room,” her mother said in a voice as cold as ice. Lucy had never talked back to her mother like that and as she fumbled up the stairs to her room, her mind was reeling.
What did I just do what did I just do what did I just do? How could I do that?
As Lucy walked into her room, out the window she could see her mother running out to her father. Even at the distance she was at, Lucy could see that her shoulders were tense and her mouth was pulled into a strict line. She was angry and now she was going to make Lucy’s father just as angry. In that split second, she made her mind up. Lucy quickly grabbed a small messenger bag and piled a book and some money into it. She ran out of her room and down to the stairs. As soon as she reached the landing Lucy heaved open the iron front doors and hastily grabbed a spring coat on the way out. The instant her shoes hit the cobblestone steps Lucy was running, running away from her parents and running away from that house. Down the drive she went, not focusing on anything except escaping. She didn’t hear the doors slam behind her, she didn’t hear her mother screaming her name, she didn’t hear her father threaten “if you leave don’t bother coming back!”
Lucy had never ran so far in her life. The long road that was just their driveway seemed to never end, and the road that their driveway was adjacent to was even longer. She persevered though, and slowly the trees thinned out and cottages started popping up. Soon enough Lucy caught up to the main road and found herself walking in a crowd of townspeople all heading to the center. Horse drawn carriages trotted by while cattle grazed fields behind the farmhouses. The thrum of the town was like the chaos of a big city to Lucy and the energy was addictive. When she reached the shops and market she soaked in all the sights and sounds. To her left a man was selling bright red apples in his small cart while a old woman was handing out handmade shawls, light enough for spring and with the colors to match. The pinks, yellows, greens, and reds tumbled out of her hands and into those of eager customers. Children came dashing up the road from behind and were weaving through the crowd, playing their game. One little boy tried to hide from the others by tucking right behind Lucy, and she couldn't help but giggle. Further down the road, a man on the corner caught her eye. He was dressed in ripped breeches and his linen undershirt was stained and old. Instead of sitting on the bare ground he was on his doublet, except it was in near shreds from what Lucy imagined was overuse. Next to him in the dirt was a brimless black cap that had one small coin inside. What struck Lucy most though was the sad look on his face and the weight on his shoulders. Feeling bad for the man, she walked over and opened up her messenger bag and scooped out a handful of coins. Gently, she approached the hat and dropped the coins inside. The man looked up at her and gave her a sad smile, one filled with grief but also gratitude. Lucy gave the man a slight nod and a smile of her own. Feeling content with her actions, Lucy turned and continued wandering. Up on the right was a candy shop. Lucy stopped and marveled at the deep blue sweets and golden toffee that lined the shop walls. Workers dressed in bright blue outerwear milled about and grabbed the candy from the top shelves for the little kids. Children filled the store to the point where they were spilling out the door, each with a treat in their hand and twinkle in their eye. Lucy considered joining the crowd and spending a coin on a small treat when she was suddenly knocked off balance and greeted by a girl sprawled out at her feet. The girl’s overgown was a light brown and not very well made. The bottom was frayed and stains littered the garment. The girl had her hood pulled up, so Lucy could not yet see her face, but strands of chocolate brown waves peaked out at the sides. A basket and small loaf of bread lay a few paces away, apparently dropped in the collision. When Lucy walked over to get it for her, the girl quickly stood up and stopped her.
“You really don't need to pick that up for me! I am so so sorry I was in a hurry and didn't see you standing there. I hope I did not cause you any harm!”
“I'm fine, you did not hurt me at all! I should be the one asking you if you are alright seeing as you are the one on the ground,” Lucy replied.
“Oh don’t worry about me I am perfectly fine. I do really do have to get going though,” the girl said as she grabbed the basket and started to turn away.
“No, wait!” Lucy called, “At least tell me your name.” The girl stopped, and slowly turned back. She finally lifted her head, and her piercing green eyes met Lucy’s deep brown.
“My name is Evelyn Till but you only need to know me as Evelyn. I would really appreciate it though if you forgot my name and forgot that I was here.”
“But why?” Lucy cried, but Evelyn was off. She was running down a sidestreet and Lucy could see her slip around a corner. Curious to know more, she started to run after her. The dirt was uneven, and Lucy was afraid she wouldn’t be fast enough to reach her. Bottles littered the street, and one got caught up in Lucy’s skirts, almost tripping her. Stumbling, she finally reached the corner the girl took. Around that corner, she could see Evelyn up ahead, trying to climb a wall at the end of the alley.
Startled by the sound of her name, Evelyn turned her head. This caused her hand to miss the ledge and she lost her balance. She tumbled from the wall and landed in a heap of girl and skirts.
“Oh my! Evelyn are you alright?”
“I’m fine. I can’t believe this, I’ve only seen you twice and I’ve already fallen twice.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t judge,” Lucy said, giggling slightly. This is first real conversation she has had with anyone other than her family.
“Oh great I feel so safe now,” replied Evelyn, laced with sarcasm. Lucy didn’t pick up on it. The former stood up and dusted herself off. She then began studying Lucy, almost as if she was running down a checklist in her head. Lucy could only imagine what she was thinking.
Girl who looks rich and therefore snobby. Check.
Girl who was way to interested in my actions. Check.
Girl who followed me down an empty alley. Check.
Girl who made me fall. Twice. Big red check.
Lucy was suddenly very self conscious about the situation, and for a split second she longed to be home, where she could escape to her room. Being on her own was scary, and she thought that if this girl can’t even like her, how can anyone else?
The two stood in silence for a few moments. At this point, it was getting dark. Lucy was uncomfortable and Evelyn was standing her ground, so she turned to walk away. Lucy only made it a few steps before Evelyn called out “Wait!”
Lucy stopped dead. She didn’t know whether to turn around or keep walking.
“At least tell me your name,” came a call from behind.
“Hendrix,” Lucy said, still facing away from Evelyn. “Lucy Hendrix.”
“Lucy where did you come from? You don’t look like you belong on these streets,” the other girl inquired.
“A manor. Its far from here and I’m not even supposed to be here, but I just had to get away. The place is no home to me.”
“Can’t be that bad if it’s a manor. I’m assuming you are never hungry. I’m assuming you’ve never had to steal just to make sure you didn’t starve. I’m assuming you have never been left out on the streets where no one cares about you,” Evelyn shot back. Her demeanor completely changed. Tears were welling up in her eyes and her voice broke on the last word.
“Evelyn! I’m all alone and I think you are too. We can stay together. Trust me, my life is not all high and mighty as you might think. And I know it is probably nothing compared to yours, but if you let me stay with you we can work through this together. Please,” Lucy all but begged. Clearly Evelyn was in need of help and so was she.
“You have no idea what my struggles are Lucy. You can not fathom what I go through on a daily basis. It’s easier to be alone than with someone who thinks they know you.”
“But Evelyn let me try and understand! You need somebody. I need somebody. Let me stay with you, please! I have no home to go to. I have no friends to help me. I have nothing and I need your help.”
“I have nothing better to offer. Go home Lucy. The streets are no place for a girl like you.” Evelyn said harshly. She turned and climbed up the wall, stopping when she reached the top.
“Evelyn please! Please stay,” Lucy cried.
“I can’t. I’m sorry,” Evelyn said. Before she jumped off, she gave a last glance at Lucy. Her green eyes were faint and tears stained the grime on her cheeks. “Goodbye Lucy.”
As Evelyn ran away, all that could be heard in the dark alley were the footsteps of the fleeing girl and the sobs of the broken one left in her wake.