It was a golden mid-summer afternoon, and Barnama went about his routine of chopping firewood for the next week. He was listening intently to the sound of his ax slicing through the wood, until the sound of crunching grass interrupted his wood-and-stone symphony. He looked up to see a beautiful young girl in a green dress walking toward him. She had long wavy blonde hair that she let down to her waist. Just like Eeva.
The widower’s heart skipped a beat. He made eye contact with her, and he felt his chest tighten up when he realized that it was his estranged daughter, and she even had his wife’s face; it was full of concern and anticipation.
“It can’t be,” he thought. Panic swept through his body as he tried to figure out what to do. She was getting closer, and he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. She stopped a little ways away from the hut and stood there for a minute, her hands folded neatly in front of her.
“Father?” she said at last. “It’s me…Aurora.” Barnama couldn’t get any words to come out, not while he was looking at her. He drew in a deep breath stared at the ground.
“Of course,” he said. “What else should I say? That I couldn’t bear to see her all these years because the pain was too great? That I can’t look at her and not see Eeva?” These thoughts swirled around his head until he remembered she was still standing in front of him. “I assume that you wish to speak with me? About recent events?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then come inside, and we’ll talk.” He put down his ax and walked to the hut’s doorway. Aurora followed him, and he gestured for her to go inside first. His heart was pounding. “I don’t know how long I can handle her being here. Just tell her about Wolsey and send her off. You will never see her again.” He followed her inside, and gestured for her to sit in front of the small fire pit that had gone out hours ago. The girl sat daintily on the ground to get as little dirt on her skirt as possible. He, on the other hand, sat cross-legged opposite her, with his hands resting on his knees.
“I understand that you have chosen my husband,” said Aurora after a pause.
“Yes, I hope you find Wolsey to your liking. Do you know him? We are very fortunate for him to have chosen you.”
“No, but I met him on my way over here, and I wasn’t able to say much to him. I came here because I wanted to see what made you choose him. What won you over?” Barnama sighed and stared at the fire pit for a moment.
“Wolsey was a very persuasive man, and that shows me that he is dedicated to you, and he will provide you with a good home. You will be lucky enough to move up in status, and you will have enough comfort to last you a lifetime, in a new estate.” He glanced up at his daughter as he spoke. Her face looked glum, and frightened. “Are you happy?” He instantly regretted that question. Aurora’s eye filled with tears, and she hugged her arms around herself and let her head hang low.
“No, father, I’m not,” she said. “I know that I am lucky to have a man like Wolsey offer his hand to me, and I am most thankful that you saved a dowry for me after all.” Barnama winced when he heard that. “But the man isn’t right for me at all. He isn’t genuine, and I don’t trust him.” She sniffled and took a deep breath and composed herself. “I would have been thrilled to have Wolsey as a husband, because I thought love didn’t exist. But, until recently, I discovered that it does. I found a man who loves me the way I am, despite everything about me. He’s the only one who loves me. Do you love me too? Didn’t you love Mother?” She looked up at the widower, and he had retracted into himself. He got up and began pacing back and forth between the walls of his hut, breathing heavily.
“Love is a dangerous thing,” he said between breaths. “It only leads to pain and suffering!” his voice rose as he got more and more worked up. “If you love someone, they are taken away from you, and you can never control who or what takes them away! I cannot love anymore, not since the day you were born, and you never should. I never want to hear talk like this again! You will marry Wolsey, and move away from here. That is my final order!” He stopped pacing at looked down at her, his breathing slowing down. Aurora stood up and looked him in the eye.
“I love you father,” she turned and left the hut.
Christopher was sitting against a barrel on the edge of the alley, so he could look out to the hut. He saw Aurora walk out, and he stood up to greet her. Her face was fixed in an odd expression of painful dignity.
“It didn’t go well,” he thought. He knew better than to go out into the clearing to meet her, for fear of Barnama seeing him. He waited patiently for her to enter the alleyway, where she let her facade fade away to painful tears. They both sat on the ground against the alley wall while Aurora sobbed into Christopher’s chest.
“It’s hopeless,” she said. “He’s a complete monster! He doesn’t believe in love, and I know that he blames me for my mother’s death. Marrying Wolsey will just get rid of me!”
“There’s always hope, and there’s always a way out.” said Christopher. “You just have to change your thinking, and sometimes take a risk.” Aurora sniffed and looked up at him.
“What do you propose we do then? What risk can we take?”
“I had a feeling that this wouldn’t go well, or at least that your father wouldn’t allow you to marry me. So I’ve been thinking of a plan. The only other option is to run away from this estate to marry, and my mother and siblings need to get away from my alcoholic father. So why not put the two together? I can get Eric to end my contract early, and send me to work at any estate that I choose. I will go on my merry way, but stop at a designated spot in the forest and wait for you to escape that night and come find me. Then, we will journey to my mother’s estate and smuggle her and my siblings out of their house. Then we will all journey to a new estate, where we can start a new life together!”
“You’re crazy!” said Aurora. “And do you know how dangerous the forest is at night?”
“I may be crazy, but sometimes it’s the only solution. And we can practice meeting by making a route to get to our meeting spot. I came across a little clearing the day I followed your hunting party, and I think it would be the perfect spot. I’ll mark a path for you to follow with my pocket knife, just like the day we had our first kiss.” Aurora smiled. “Give me a few days to make the markings, and I’ll tell you when we should have our first meeting.” Aurora sighed.
“You are crazy, but you’re right. This may be the only way for everyone, you, me, and your family, to truly be happy.” She kissed him on the cheek.
They remained in the alley a little while longer, until Aurora had fully regained her composure. They got up and decided not to be seen in public anymore, to avoid suspicion. Christopher would send her letters on what to do next, and he would address them as if Eric was simply doing business. Aurora left the alley first, to avoid being seen with Christopher, then Christopher left a few minutes later.
Aurora made it back to her dormitory and fell face-first into her bed. She rolled over onto her back and stared at the ceiling.
“I pray this goes well,” she whispered. “And no lives are lost.”