"Girl, get back to work!" Mrs. Coleman scolded, hitting me on the back with her ruler. Why she had a ruler in her kitchen, I had no idea. But it cut into my skin and left it wet and bloody. But I had become used to the pain, and it didn't bother me much anymore. Working here was not my idea. But it was better than being out on the streets… mostly. I had a roof over my head and food in my stomach. The majority of the time.
I took the broom and brushed the dust and crumbs into the dust pan. My back was stinging and my head felt droopy from staying up late last night and meeting with Toby. I knew I really shouldn't, but I was attracted to him like a moth to the light. Actually, I was in love with him.
His blue eyes were entrancing, his dusty brown hair was so soft, and his body so lean and warm. How could anybody NOT be attracted to him? It's just that he came from a really higher up family and I was only a servant girl.
A servant girl that was madly in love.
I finished cleaning up and moved on to the bathroom where I was to run a bath for Mrs. Coleman. She like her was steaming hot and filled with pink, lavender smelling bubbles. I had to do a spell to get it that way.
My knowledge of spells was limited. I learned most of them from Toby and Nenette, the other maid.
The spells from Nenette are spells to help around the house, such as the pink bubbles one. There is also one to clean the chimney, prepare feasts, remember chores, and to clean several things at once. They really help out.
Now, Toby, he knows entertaining spells. He showed me how to make fireworks, fast forward time, play with someone's hair to annoy them when you're standing feet away, and how to disguise yourself. Some days he spent just showing me how to do fun things like that.
"You're way too serious, love. You just need to calm down and have fun every once in a while." I must have had a strange look on my face because he laughed and led me to a flowery field where I had one of the best nights of my life. Fireworks, butterflies, warm snow, candy, laughter, and kisses were all involved.
We couldn't be seen in public together. It was wrong. He saved me and I owed him my life. But he checked up on me once a few months after and-
"Jacinda! Back to work! You need to stop daydreaming, or I will throw you out of my house! Do I make myself clear?" Mrs. Coleman had snuck up on me again. Her beady black eyes bore into my gray ones.
"Good. Now, go and fetch me some tea."
"Yes, Milady." As I left the bathroom to let Nenette undress her, I heard her mutter something about never doing favors again. I hid a smile as I quietly walked down the hall. I came to the grand staircase and looked down. There stood Sir Tobias Renwarner. He was dressed in his military uniform. His face looked… scared.
He looked up and saw me, the blood on my back from the whipping, and the dirt on my face from the cleaning. I could see it in his eyes, he wanted to come up and hold me, and I him. But he couldn't.
"Good day, Milord. May I help you with something?" I asked politely, slowly walking down the stairs.
"Yes, is Lady Coleman here?" His focus was on the blood on my back. I saw his hands clench and his face showed nothing. We had learned to do that. Show no emotion towards each other when we had to play our roles.
"She is currently unavailable, but you may leave a message."
"Alright." He tore his eyes off of my back to look around. "I want to say meet me at the meadow at eight o' clock. And we will talk then." He turned his attention back to me. I nodded and gave a slight smile. He meant for me, not her.
I walked him to the door, slightly disturbed. Something was wrong. I opened the double entry and let him out.
I was worried, because he didn't smile back.
That night I changed into my jeans and old gray t-shirt. I slipped into my shoes and snuck out of the house. Mrs. Coleman always went to bed at seven thirty so I was in the clear.
It was a colder night and I shivered. I would need to save up for a jacket. I made my way through the woods to our spot and waited. I was a little early.
I hadn't taken my hair back down from its strict bun, so I pulled out the bobby pins and shook it out. That felt WAY better. I walked around, my head looking up at the sky.
Stars lined the treetops and then went on forever. There was a whole universe out there. It was beautiful, majestic, and powerful. I couldn't help but lift up my arms up and spin around. It felt like the lights were twirling around me.
Then I imagined I was in a beautiful, silk, white dress and I was dancing around and around with Toby. His smile brightened the whole night and his arms were strong and tight encircling me.
Then I snapped back to reality. That could never happen. No matter how much I wanted it to. I dropped my arms and my smile went away. Why did I see him even though I knew we could never be together? In the end it would only cause me heartache.
I deliberated that until I heard a rustling in the trees behind me. Out appeared Toby. His face was stern, so I didn't even consider smiling. He walked over to me and stopped several feet away. He was still in uniform, his brass shining. He wore his snow white gloves and he looked very professional.
Before I was able to say hello, he said, "I'm leaving tomorrow." I stared at him. He stared at me.
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know. But I enlisted in the army, and I have to go." I felt a warm tear snake down my cheek. His hard eyes softened and he swiped it away. "I'll miss you every day, love." I nodded my head.
He took a step closer and touched his forehead to mine.
"Love is painful," I whispered.
"I know. But I swear once I get back, I'm marrying you, Jaycee. We'll make heaven a place on earth, you and me. I love you."
I closed my eyes and sighed. "You know we can't do that."
"I don't care what others say. If we have to run away, we will."
"Toby, I love you. But I can't stand to see you give up everything."
He took a step back. "And I can't stand to see you walk down that wicked woman's stairs with a bloody back again. Jaycee, I need you to be okay. And you're not." I took his long, perfect hand in mine.
"Toby, look at me." He refused. "Look at me." This time he did. "I'm fine. The cuts aren't too deep, and they'll heal. I know how to handle myself; I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. I will be okay."
"But I need you. I hate hiding you from everybody, I hate hiding us." A lock of brown hair fell over his eyes. I gently pushed it away and he grabbed my fingers. This time I did smile, and he smiled back before gently kissing my hand.
"We'll talk about this when you get back. PROMISE you'll come back." He had to swear. Toby was the one sacred thing I had left in my life.
"Such a stupid promise, but I will. Jaycee, keep me in your heart even while I'm away and I can keep going."
"Always, Toby." His blue eyes sparkled as they gazed into mine.
"Say my name again, please. I love the way you say it," he begged me silently. His grip on my hands got even tighter and I could feel his warmth, his love wash over me like light.
"Toby," I whispered, smiling, "Toby, Toby, Toby, To-"
His mouth came down on mine, soft and sweet as always. He let go of my hands and I wrapped my arms around his neck, into his hair. His hands scrunched up my shirt a little bit and his fingers pressed into the bare skin of my waist.
Happiness flooded me and I lost all my worries. Toby was here, now. Maybe not tomorrow, but today I could enjoy this bittersweet moment. I pulled him closer to me, not wanting to let go.
"I love you," I said, tears running down my face, "Don't go, please. Stay here." He held me tighter.
"I don't want to go, either."
"So we can be together when I get back. So I have enough money by myself to support us, a family." I froze. He was doing this all for me?
"Shush, my love. Soon we will be able to do this anytime we want. No boundaries, no false faces during the day. Just let me hold you for tonight, and I promise that it will be the start of forever." His breath was warm on my face. Flower petals rose all around us, dancing.
"What are you doing?" He gave me a sad smile as he bowed.
"May I have this dance?" He held out his hand.
"There's no music," I laughed, my face still wet. I took his hand anyways, though. The moon shone white, out source of light, our candle at this private ball.
"Listen," he whispered in my ear as he pulled me close once again. Faintly I could hear a flute that played a beautiful, slow tune to the sound of my heartbeat.
Toby's body began to sway and move to the song, twirling me around. The stars once again surrounded me, dancing and twinkling all around.
The petals that had swirled around us formed a crown on my head and covered my body.
"What are you-?" I began to ask but shut up once I realized the white petals became a dress. My eyes burned with tears of love and longing. I would never forget our last night together.
I could feel his power through the magic he made, the light that illuminated off the white gown with the long train. I looked up to see him smiling at me.
"Beautiful. Jaycee, you look like an angel," he whispered, still dancing. The cold went away. The fear went away. The pain on my back went away.
All with one look from him.
The magic flute slowly died away and our spinning was brought to a stop. All around us the only sound was the trees.
I knew that we had to leave soon. That he had to leave soon. I looked to the ground and bit my lip, fighting back the tears. I grabbed fistfuls of the gown and I felt the crown on my head shift.
"It is almost time to go." My hands trembled slightly at the thought. When I looked up again Toby had turned away. His back was to me. So badly I wanted to reach over and grab a hold of his waist, to hug myself to him and never let go.
I opened my mouth to say something when he turned to face me again. In his hand was a little ring.
The ring itself was made of white gold and had some words inscribed on it. But the center of the ring was the most magnificent. It was a pink diamond that was carved into a delicate cherry blossom. It seemed to glow with a pinkish light and emanated affection. Around it connected to its branches were little pearls.
"My promise to you, I think that words aren't enough at this point." Toby took my right hand and slipped it on my ring finger. It fit perfectly.
"Now that is a spell that I can't teach you." I laughed and cried at the same time as he kissed the ring.
Somewhere off in the distance the bells tolled twelve. I clasped his hand, I feared of the consequences of letting go.
"I love you, more than you- or even I for that matter- can comprehend. Wait for me, and I promise I'll give you my all. If you ever feel lonely, just read the ring." He kissed my wet and salty lips one last time.
Then he was gone. I huddled into a ball on the ground, covering myself with the sweet scent of roses that wafted off of my new dress.
He will come back.
He has to come back.
Six Months Later
"Jacinda! Bring me my tea! And hurry!" Mrs. Coleman called from the sitting room. I sat up from scrubbing the wooden floors and sighed. I glanced at the ring on my finger.
Just a little longer.
I turned it around and read the words on the back.
Heaven on Earth.
That was Toby's promise to me.
"Jacinda!" her shrill voice shouted again.
"Coming, Milady!" I replied. I gathered up my skirts in my hands and stood up. I put the bucket of water in a corner and made my way towards the kitchen.
"Nenette, I need tea for her," I said to the young woman working away at the stove. She looked over and smiled at me.
"Of course, right away." I grabbed the tea tray and walked towards the room in which my mistress resided.
About halfway down the hall I was suddenly covered in a feeling of cold. I wrinkled my eyebrows in confusion.
I entered the room and yet I still couldn't shake this sense of 'aloneness'. I took a deep breath- or as deep as my now constricted heart could take- and set the tray on the table.
"Where were you? I had to call for you twice. Twice, Jacinda. Turn around." At this point I knew what was coming next.
The sound cracked against the silence of the room and the wood once again cut through the skin on my back.
What was that in the corner over there? I lifted my head to get a better look but it was gone.
What was this feeling. A sense of dread came over me.
Crack! I collapsed on the floor, tears running down my face.
But this wasn't for the lashes. This was something else, something deep in my soul. I glanced down at the ring and froze in place.
It wasn't glowing anymore.
A knock sounded at the door.
"Well, don't just stand there, answer it!" Shaking I got up and reluctantly walked to the door.
I opened it to find a military official holding a note. I grabbed the doorway for support after taking in his serious face.
"M-may I help you?" I asked in a voice just above a whisper.
"Yes. I am looking for a Miss Jacinda Lila. Is she here?"
"Yes, I am. What is it?" The man gave me a look that was full of sympathy. I heard Nenette come up behind me. I gripped the doorway tighter.
"I'm afraid I have some ill news. Colonel Tobias Renwarner was shot and killed in battle only moments ago. I was sent to this name and address because of his will."
My nails dug into the wood, my throat constricting. My whole body was shaking. Nenette wrapped an arm around my waist and supported me.
I reached out and took the letter.
"I thank you, sir. If you will excuse us…" she spoke for me.
All feeling drained from me. He was gone. That last kiss, those last words would be the last forever.
I noticed the door shut at the front of my mind, but I didn't really comprehend what was going on.
"Jay, are you alright. Please speak to me!" My friend was dragging me up stairs. I meant to help, but I couldn't.
I knew that she was lying me down on my bed and I was trembling like something inhuman.
A door shut and I was alone in my darkened room with no windows and only a candle.
Then it all burst.
"Toby!" I screeched, clutching my heart in pain. It hurt, it hurt so bad. He promised! He promised that we would be together forever.
Tears streamed down my face and my body racked with sobs. Every part of me stung. Every place he'd touched, every place he'd kissed.
"No! No!" I cried, my nails sinking into the skin over my chest. This couldn't be happening.
I felt like retching.
I felt like crying.
I felt like I needed him back.
I took the ring he gave me and pushed it against my heart, trying to get it to give me some comfort. There was none to be found.
I threw it against the wall and it broke into little pieces of rock.
He left me. There was nothing left to search for. He'd given up on me.
I cried myself to sleep. At some point in the night, someone put a blanket over me and kissed my forehead.
The next day I woke up with a dizzying headache. Nenette said that she'd do my work today and that I was to rest.
I felt numb. I couldn't move or think or feel in any way. She brought me up tea and bread and fed it to me slowly, stroking my hair or kissing my cheek every so often. I must have looked awful, my black curls knotted and my gray eyes bloodshot.
After she left I gained a little energy. I glanced at the letter sitting on my night side table.
He had me in his will?
I reached over and picked it up.
I, Sir Tobias Renworth, hereby leave all of my earthly possessions and fortunes to Miss Jacinda Lila should a time come when I pass. My estate is to be run by her and whoever she marries. Her children, and their children, and their children after that shall be the inheritors.
I clutched the paper in disbelief. He had left me everything? Tears began to fall again and I shut my eyes. My heart felt like it was cut open and bleeding out.
"Toby," I whispered into the air. I opened them and found him standing before me.
Toby was surrounded by a white light and wore a white dress shirt with white pants. He was watching me sadly.
I reached out a hand slowly, shaking once again. He looked me in the eyes and I saw everything he felt for me, everything he had planned.
I saw us in a house on a hill, smiling and kissing happily.
I saw me with a big belly and Toby bending down to say something then kissing it tenderly.
I saw us going to our child's wedding and us holding grandkids, still smiling and laughing.
I wanted this, I wanted this more than anything in the world.
Toby held out his palm towards me. In it lied the ring I'd broken the night before. It was whole again and instead of a pink light, it was a gold light.
He took my hand in his, his felt like a feather and barely solid. He slipped the ring on and kissed it.
"I love you, be happy," he whispered before disappearing.
"Toby! No! Wait! Don't go! I love you so much!" My heart burned and I began to cry. Again.
But I had seen him. He had never given up on me, he would love me forever.
Later that night I packed a bag. In the will was the address of his estate. I planned on making my journey there without anyone besides Nenette knowing about it. I packed the letter last and looked at my ring once again.
Something was different, besides the light of course. The words changed.
I will always love you.
I looked up at the starry sky, the same as the last time we saw each other. A warm wind blew my hair to the side along with the train of the white dress made of flowers.
As I walked down the cobblestone path, the petals of cherry blossoms followed me.