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Shadowed by the Moon
I walked down the down the hall, my vision obscured by the black veil that hung in my face. My head covered by a black hood, by hands by black gloves. Not one inch of my pale white skin was showing. But this was how it always was. I checked for the fourth time that I was completely covered, the repercussions of showing anything would be dreadful.
Slowly, and deliberately, so as to seem meek, I opened the dining room door. My father sat at the end of the long table. It was meant to seat more people, but it was just us there tonight. If there had been anyone else I would have been in my room.
I curtsied in front of him, my head bent down. I kept my head bent as his eyes, skimmed over me, his lips turning down.
“Ghastly demon child” he snapped, I flinched slightly, but was almost relieved. They were just words, and they could be much worse. “I have no patience with you tonight, eat your dinner in your room.”
I nodded, making sure even my breathing was quiet. No noise, my father hated my voice, but hated when I disrespected him by not answering. He was a hard man to please, luckily I stopped trying years ago. Now it was all about being invisible.
I scurried over to the extra plate of food, and took it with me out the door. Without stopping I ran up the stone staircase to the second floor, the living quarters of the mansion. Then to the back of the long hallway, until I came to an old door that led up to the once servants quarters, but was now my room. The staircase was crooked and steep but I was used to it.
My room was small with minimal furnishings. A bed, and a beat up vanity, with one long window on one of the walls. And they were only there because my father feared my mother. I looked out the window, the full moon streaming into the room. It was beautiful. I hated it and loved it at the same time.
I looked out over the forest, cloaked in the luminescent white. I wanted to touch it so badly. When was the last time, the last time I’d been outside? I couldn’t even remember. It wouldn’t be so bad, would it? I mean no one would see me. It was too dark. And no one would be in those woods anyway.
But how? How do I get out of this room? I managed to open the rusty window, and looked down. Ivy hung down the walls. Right, I remembered these. I thought about running away, but was too afraid. I wasn’t afraid now. I swung my leg over the wall, my foot found purchase in one of the vines. Slowly, I started to climb down. My heart pounded loudly in my ears. I was really outside. But of course I had to come back later, I had nowhere to go.
For now I’d just wander, drink in the night, the one place I really did belong. It was wonderful, being in the shadows. But I was still covered completely with cloth, not an inch of skin showing. I wished I could have let the moonlight caress my bare skin.
But no, if someone came by, I would be seen. And seen as a frightening beast.
A movement in the shadows caught my eye. My eyes, so sensitive to darkness, honed in on the shadow. It was shaped like a person, a person who was slowly creeping towards me. I ran. I could not be seen, no one knew I was even alive, let alone the fact that the Earl, James Billington, actually possessed a child. An illegitimate child. Me.
Faster, the person, was chasing me. Why? Was he with my father? I sent up a silent prayer to my mother, to let me not be discovered. Would she listen? I heard panting from close behind me. How could he be catching up? This was my element, the darkness, and yet…NO! Faster, faster, faster. I chanted to myself. Suddenly I was slammed into a tree, by something strong, like steel and strangely warm. An arm pressed against my throat threateningly. I gasped, and stared at the owner of the arm. Brilliant yellow eyes glared back at me, they had almost a feral look to them. The man, for he was a man, that they belonged to was extremely handsome, with hard planes of his face and soft lips. His dark brown hair was long, down to his shoulders, and hung in his face. He was tall, and muscular, thick cords of it lined his arms.
“Who are you?” he hissed, I shuddered. His eyes seemed to burn, as if trying to pry into my very soul. I opened my mouth, and shut it, but he probably couldn’t even tell under the veil. What was I supposed to tell him? Who I really was? My name? But I could not find my voice, I never could anyway, but the arm pressed against my jugular was making it difficult to breath.
“What are you doing in my forest?” he snarled, truly snarled, as if he was an animal. I quaked, frightened to my core, I wanted to ask him what made him think it was his forest but my voice was no where to be found. Even if I did speak he would probably immediately see me for the abomination that I was and snap my neck. Wouldn’t father be happy?
“You will tell me who you are!” his arm pressed harder, breathing became quite difficult.
“Aster” I breathed, it was only my name. Not even my last name. What harm could it do? Immediately the arm dropped away. I sank to the ground clutching my throat dragging much needed air into my lungs. I looked up at the man, his yellow eyes were wide, so wide it almost seemed to take over his face. He could tell, from that one little word he could tell I was a monster.
He knelt in front of me, careful, and completely stunned. I was suddenly very glad I had my veil, if he had seen my face…well surely I would be hung.
“What?” his voice was barely a whisper. I didn’t answer, I hated speaking, hearing my voice. I didn’t want him to hear more of it. “Please,” he begged. I stared at him. What was wrong? No one had ever acted like this before, of course there was only maybe one or two maids who ever had heard me speak, and no more than a few words, but I still knew this wasn’t the proper reaction. But looking into those shining yellow eyes I found my lips moving,
“My name is Aster.” Suddenly he started to convulse, as if someone was shaking him violently. His hands tightened on his head, and he took a deep breath, still again. He looked up at me, his eyes penetrating again, curious, and what I could only read as awe. But that couldn’t be.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, then said, “And what are you doing here?” He looked at me intently. I wondered if he really could read my face even under the impenetrable veil. But no, he could have been able to.
I shook my head. I was not going to speak again. I didn’t want to see that awe turn to disgust. Would he think me a witch? Or maybe a demon, like my father did.
“You won’t tell me?” he asked, his voice soft, maybe he was still in shock, I shook my head, “Fine then,” his voice curt, “Were you following me?”
Following him? He was the one chasing me. But I realized how that must have looked. I strange girl dressed all in black in the forest at night, just where he happened to be. I shook my head again, I could answer yes or no questions, couldn’t I?
“All right I’ll believe you. But only because you’re quite obviously not a fighter, or the usual type of hired person he likes to send.” He looked at me even more curiously. I really had no idea what he was talking about.
“Why do you where this veil?” he asked, reaching out to touch the cloth in front of my face. I leapt back, he couldn’t touch me. No, not that. Speaking a few words was one thing, but touching…I shuddered. No one did that.
He stood taking a step towards me, my muscles tensed, ready to run again.
“Alright, no touching the veil.” His voice was soft again. I had to leave, this was getting too comfortable, being near this man. I took another step back. Would he chase me again? “Don’t go” he whispered. And strangely my feet stayed planted. He truly had a lovely voice, deep and warm. This was wrong, I shouldn’t have even been in the forest. I took another step back. “I promise I won’t touch you again.” He almost sounded desperate, why? He should be seeing me for the inhuman creature I was. I truly was a witch, I must have bespelled him with my voice.
I took a few more steps back, my muscles tensed, ready to take flight. “Please,” his voice was so soft, “At least come back tomorrow.” And I bolted. It would do no good to have told him I wouldn’t be coming back, he might have come after me. And if I lied and said I was going to come, well, no I would not lie. But would it be a lie? Would I escape to see him tomorrow? No, I shouldn’t, I wouldn’t.
I climbed back into my room, it felt so claustrophobic, so much like a cell. I swiftly laid in my bed, my head whirring with the evenings happenings. It really meant nothing, for I’d never see him again. But even though I felt convinced on this point my mind didn’t seem to let me sleep until late into the night.