Edith's Highwayman

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It was dark and cold as James rode through the night. His horse was getting tired and he would have to stoop soon. His hair was plastered to his face, wet with water dripped down from the tree branches. The dark cloak draped over his shoulders was dirtied with mud and rain from his earlier scuffle with a stubborn duke. The cut on his lip was bleeding along with the scrape on his knee. James didn't care about any of these things; only riding on to the old inn on the side of the cliff. His love was waiting for him there, plaiting a love knot in her long, black, hair. James imagined her as he rode. She was beautiful. And only his. She didn't care about the thievery, only that he always came back in one piece. His brow furrowed as he thought of who else would be waiting for him by the moonlight. Her greedy, abusive father. Her jealous sister by the door. He'd hold a shotgun in his hand and watch his daughter plait a love-knot in her hair.

Nobody knew, but Peter would watch for him too. Peter, the innkeeper's employee that everyone forgot. Peter, who was so invisible that the old innkeeper didn't even think of him a suitor. His precious daughter was saved for the rich. Not for scum like dirty, stupid Peter. He didn't mind though, because the innkeeper's elder daughter loved him. She said it all the time, even during the times she flinched at his kisses. He would catch the highwayman tonight for Prudence, his love. It didn't matter if she flinched or yelled at him, or ignored him in the presence of her family. Peter would catch that evil highwayman so Prudence would touch him without being disgusted and acknowledge him and front of her father. Maybe she would even stop berating him all the time. Yes, he would catch the highwayman tonight.
James had finally arrived. There was a light on in the very back of the inn. It was Edith's room. Just as she said, she was waiting for him. He knew the old innkeeper was there also, behind her closet door biding his time. But, James wasn't a highwayman for nothing. He was fast and he was fast and annoyed that the innkeeper was always there; ruining the few nights that he ever got to see Edith. He'd steal a kiss and run before the innkeeper ever got to him.
Edith waited by her windowsill looking for James on the side of the road. He should have been there ages ago. She was starting to get worried for him. He said he'd be busy tonight, but she didn't think he would take so long. Her fingers shook as she thought of the terrible things that might have happened to her James. The love-knot that he loved to see had already been fixed twice. Finally, she heard the neigh of his favorite horse. He was safe. Her bedroom door opened and she saw a man in uniform march in.

Their uniforms were pristine. Edith could see her face in their boots and their buttons were just as shiny. The bright red cloth stood out against their clean, pale faces; nothing like James' tanned skin and messy clothes. It was a shame their teeth weren't like James': clean and white and strong. The teeth of these men looked decayed and ready to fall off of their gums. Edith tried no to notice, but one of them was looking at her in a most ungentlemanly way. He seemed to think that he looked more desirable with all of his teeth showing. He was very wrong, but Edith was in no position to say so. What irked her was the comments he and his friend kept whispering back and forth to each other as if she couldn't hear. Lascivious, disgusting comments about her body that she knew James would never tolerate. Nor would she, if she wasn't tied up. It was one thing to tie her up like some ruffian, but it was a whole other to make lewd comments in front of her. Once this ridiculous situation fixed itself, the general of these men was going to get a very strongly worded letter. But wait, a few of them were talking about James. Her James, who was on his way there. They were going to capture James! She had to warn him, but how? Edith would rather die than see James hurt.

For the first time, Prudence smiled in the presence of Peter. He was disgusting so she always had to remind herself that she needed him. But tonight, she could finally smile. Her precious little sister's perfect boyfriend was going to be arrested tonight. By next week, he'd be hanged and finally her father would pay attention to her. Nobody paid attention to her anymore now that her sister had reached marriageable age. Nobody except for porcine Peter, who stuttered more than he could speak. Peter, who's hunchback weaseled countenance had always made her flinch. She wasn't good enough for anybody but Peter. She used to be beautiful. Everyone told her so. Men from everywhere wanted her and she used to have everything she asked for. She was doted on. She used to get along with Edith. They'd do everything together: giggle at silly romance novels, plan for Prudence's wedding, everything. Her world was perfect until her fiancé left her for some pretty heiress with a larger dowry. Now, she was ruined. Nobody wanted her anymore. She was a social pariah. But, that was all going to change after tonight. Peter was going to take care of everything.

James heard a shot as he was walking toward Edith's room. Shadows moved across the back of the house toward Edith's room. What was going on? James ran to his love's window to see a bunch of red coats, her father, her sister, and a rodent-like man he'd sometimes seen around the inn. They were all mustered around Edith's small bed. James tried to get a closer look but all he could see was her hair. Was she sick? Just then, one of the red coats moved aside and James finally saw what all the commotion was. She was dead, tied up like an animal in her bed. He felt sick with grief when he saw her dead eyes gazing at the ceiling. They were beautiful eyes. The grief became something stronger as James kept staring at Edith's lifeless body. He was angry; angry enough to kill. His beautiful Edith was dead because of these selfish pigs. He refused to let them get away with murdering her. He pulled out his rifle and took aim before one of the redcoats saw him.

Later, James was found laying on the road like a dog. His hair now wet with blood was still plastered to his forehead. The dark cloak draped over his shoulders was bloodied and still caked with mud. His body was filled with shots from the red coats that murdered him. That let him lay on the road like a beggar for attempting to avenge his lover.

James' last thought was that of his beautiful love laying dead on her bed. The innkeeper, her sister, and Peter looking on with satisfaction. His beautiful love with life no longer in her eyes, killing her beautiful soul to save him: the dangerous, misfit highwayman.





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