October 12, 1896
The sound of hoof beats and the smell of dirt filled the air. I nudged Jasper with my knee, signaling him to run faster up the hill. Anna’s Poseidon kept pace only a heartbeat behind and I was not about to lose to a pampered rich girl. I hung my head low next to Jasper’s neck, my hair whipped my back in the wind. It was freedom.
At the top of the hill I brought Jasper to a stop and we turned to face from whence we had came. Anna brought Poseidon up next to us, she looked winded as though it had been her running up the hill and not her horse. I could have teased her, but the reality of defeat was acknowledged in her eyes, there was no need to gloat. Instead I focused my gaze on the view.
Beneath us we could see the whole school and beyond it, Providence. The grass fields were turning yellow as they do in the autumn but the soft, white clouds and stark blue sky belied a feeling of summer. Is it coincidence that these early days of autumn often serve to remind us of the finest parts of the summer so recently past? Or is it illusion meant to reassure us that every ending offers a new beginning as well?
“It’s beautiful.” Anna said.
“I know.” I replied.
Anna gave me a sharp look. I returned it with a smile and after a moment she smiled too.
“Who is he?” Anna asked.
I blinked surprised at the question and completely unaware of whom she might be referring to.
“The young man I saw you with last week. He walked you to Primrose Hall not once but twice.” She clarified.
“Oh.” I said.
The realization of whom she was referring became clear but the answer she sought was not in my possession.
“I am afraid I don’t know who he is.” I said.
“If you would rather not say, I suppose it is really none of my business.” Anna replied.
She sounded hurt by my apparent lack of trust.
“No, Anna, I truly do not know his name. He has never seen fit to reveal it to me.”
“How interesting. I wonder what he has to hide.” Anna said.
“I have asked myself the very same question. He portrays himself as a gentleman but he often fails horribly at it.”
Anna laughed, nearly startling both our horses.
“Truer words have never been spoken of the gentleman, they all fail at it.” She said.
I smiled and nodded.
“He professes to have my best interests at heart, yet he knows little more than my name from which to base his judgments.”
“A fool in love. I must confess, I am jealous. He is quite handsome and even from afar it is obvious he only has eyes for you.” She said.
“Somehow I doubt his intentions are as simple as they seem. He is hiding more than his name from me.”
“Men are always so simple. They hide things from us because they either think we will not notice or will not understand. Foolish on their part in either case, but not unusual or surprising in theirs.”
“Perhaps you are right, but I will remain cautious.”
“What happened to you?” Anna asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve never met anyone like you Sarah. You seem torn between being a brute and the woman you are. There must be a reason.”
I probably should have been insulted. Maybe I should have rode away and pretended she had never said a word, but friends are hard to come by and Anna seemed to genuinely care.
“My story is a long one and not very interesting, but the lessons I’ve learned are simple enough. It’s a man’s world and we women will always be ruled by it. The qualities that make a good woman are the same qualities that keep us firmly in the grasps of men. The only way things will ever change is when we have the courage to behave as men and somehow still be women.”
“And that’s you?” She asked.
I looked out over the school below. Something was amiss. Jasper trembled ever so slightly and I knew then, he felt it as well. I looked back at my friend and felt all the happiness of summer drain from my face.
“No, there is not much woman left in me, but maybe it could be you someday.” I replied.
She looked at me curiously. Maybe she saw me as I am for the first time on that hill. Whatever it was, there was no time to explore it.
“Someone’s coming, Head back to the Manor, fast as you can.” I said.
“What are talking about?” She asked.
The sound of hoof on dirt answered for me. Confusion was replaced by worry on her face.
“What about you?” She asked.
“Don’t worry about me, just go.” I said.
Anna nudged Poseidon forward and they began a quick descent back toward the school. Behind me a dust cloud rose over the edge of the hill. There were at least three of them from the noise. Jasper and I could have ran but I think we are both through with running.