Using a picture prompt, by Amanda Clark, this fun group is making me stretch my creative fingers each week. Here is piece for week #2. Hmm … I may have to take this one further than 1900 words …
A World Apart
It was the wee hours of the morning and the fog outside was thick and dense. That’s in my favor, thought Jessie. She let the heavy velvet drape fall against the window and listened for any sounds. The castle was quiet. It’s now or never. She took off her nightgown and pulled the freshly laundered prom dress she arrived in out of the armoire. Lifting the hem, she slipped it over her long hair and wondered how the heck she was going to run in the tight fitting thing.
She looked around for anything to cut with, but knew he had all sharp items removed from her room. She gathered the hem into two fists and pulled hard. The thin material gave way and she ripped off a good twelve inches from the bottom of the gown. She tied the extra piece of material around her waist for a belt. Next, she picked up the dark blue stilettos and tugged on each until the spiked heel came off. That would be much easier to run in.
Now, to get past the servants in the castle and grab the water canteen she saw hanging by the great room door. She’d fill it from the water fountain in the gardens and pray all the animals didn’t stir. She would gather a good size rock to throw to distract the gatekeeper, slip through the heavy door and take off into the forest. Yeah. That’s the plan. Easy, peasy. She took a deep breath and tiptoed into the darkness of the hall.
The two suns were descending in the sky when Jessie stopped running. Breathing hard and gulping air, she leaned against a tree and held her side with both hands as if digging into the pain, the side stitch would go away. She lifted the water canteen and drank the last of the water. She had ripped both side seams of the gown up to her thigh long ago, and stood in tattered mint green silk viewing her surroundings. Not able to discern if she was getting close, she took off again.
She had not gone far when the dress caught on wild shrubbery. Again. Untangling it, she jerked the silk from the thorny bush. She cursed the prom dress for the hundredth time, remembering the day she bought it. She cursed Tanner for asking her out. She cursed her own stupidity for going with him against her better judgement. She cursed not taking a few minutes after the prom to change into comfy yoga pants before flying out the front door in a rage. She cursed leaving the front door wide open. She cursed Tilley, her cat, running out of the house after her into the night and not stopping until three streets over in the middle of a dark alley. And last but not least, she cursed whoever put that stupid portal beside the dumpster in that alley!
What a terrible place for a portal!
She wondered how much of a head start she had. Hopefully, she had at least a six hour lead. And hopefully — Mary? Mazy? Whatever the new lady’s maid name was he had assigned to her— was fooled into believing the pillows under the blankets were her actual sleeping form. That would’ve allowed extra time before the alerts rang throughout the castle. Jessie smiled at the mental picture when he was told she was gone. She took comfort in his initial surprise, picturing his face screwed up into the ugliest of snarls.
She thought about the day she had arrived. Had it really been only a week ago? It felt like a month …
She had been walking aimlessly for two days after falling through the portal and was so very tired and thirsty. So, naturally, when she came upon a water fountain near a stone wall surrounding a castle, she ran to it and plunged in. She stood wading up to her waist in the middle of it drinking her fill and looking all of three years old, when he waltzed in on his horse. She knew the picture she presented was pretty bad, but he looked at her as if he was seeing a ghost. He got down, his mouth still agape, sloshed to her in the water and wrapped her in his black cloak. He asked if she was okay.
Then things got weird. He hugged her and acted like they’d known each other all their lives. He told her how much he loved her, how he had never given up looking for her, and how it had been two long years. What was the name he called her? Dora? Darla? No, Daria. That was it. Daria. Then he did the unthinkable. He kissed her! Hard. He, got down on one knee and freaking proposed right then and there!
She’d spent the rest of the time butting heads with him, trying to convince him she had no idea who he was, had never even laid eyes on him before, and was going to find her way back home from — wherever the hell she was — if it killed her!
He was not a happy camper. But then, neither was she.
And honestly, she thought, who kisses and proposes marriage to someone they literally just meet?
“Who does that?” Jessie said aloud in frustration, scaring a squirrel into scampering up a tree.
The adoring kindnesses dwindled, though, as the week advanced. She shivered, remembering how the mushy love she initially felt from him, turn into evil anger. It was in his eyes, in his mannerism, rage lurking beneath the surface under the guise of “spurned love.” Fire shot up from his lower eyelids before he quickly turned away. It was fleeting, but she saw it. She didn’t care what bargain he tried to strike with her; promising a new wardrobe; a stableful of horses; gems and jewels beyond her wildest dreams. He. Just. Did. Not. Get. It. He didn’t believe one word she tried to tell him and had basically held her prisoner since.
She had to admit, though, the look on his face was priceless when she murmured she’d rather have an iPhone X with unlimited data and texting. Jessie began laughing uncontrollably at his bewilderment. The look was a mixture of a bitter taste stuck in his mouth and looking as if she had grown two heads.
She wavered in her path, unable to stop giggling again. She stumbled over a tree root and lay there gasping for breath between hiccups of hysterical laughter. Finally, she gave over to just laying on the ground, arms spread wide, exhausted and panting. Conjuring Lord Draeven in her mind filled her with renewed purpose.
I’d rather die a painful and horrible death than marry that rich forty-something lovesick old fart with flaming eyeballs.
But still, she laid there on the cool forest floor, unable to get up. It felt nice. Soft moss and scattered wildflowers cushioned her. The light from the receding suns twinkled between the leaves overhead. She laid there until her breathing returned to normal.
Then, she shot up from the ground. He would waste no time looking for her, of that she was sure. That thought refueled her efforts, so she got up and forced her legs to pump in motion again.
The full moon barely lit her way in the thick forest. It turned the kaleidoscope of spring colors Jessie knew were there, into an eery monochromatic gray in the midnight hours. Exhaustion gave way to walking wearily as the moon got higher.
Surely, I’m getting close to the portal by now, she thought. But dare I risk using my powers yet? I’ve hidden them well so far, but it will take the rest of my energy just to even try and if the portal is nearby, my powers might not work anyway, just like they didn’t when I first got here. Man, that was freaky when it happened. I was never so relieved when they started working again, albeit weakly, the day I was alone at the castle bathhouse and heated the tepid water to steamy hot.
Well, there was only one way to find out.
The silence of the forest was deafening. Except for her own heartbeat pounding loudly in her ears, not a single insect chirped, not a silvery leaf waved. She just had to rest for a bit. Spying a huge tree in the distance, she headed toward it.
As she approached, she saw there were notches and nubby branches low on the trunk. Good. It was climbable. She gathered the front flap of silk from the ruined prom dress into one hand and the back flap of hanging material into the other hand, then tied them together between her legs. Her tired muscles shook uncontrollably as she climbed up.
She settled herself into the center cradle of the tree making herself as small as possible by hugging knees to her chest and tucking her head. She closed her eyes and concentrated on drawing energy from inside the tree, down to the earth, to the roots, and on deeper to the water source. There was a low rumble. The large tree began to shake beneath her. A crack sounded as new growth, a sapling, emerged and crawled up Jessie’s side, wrapping around her. It would camouflage her for the night.
She breathed a huge sigh of relief. She was weak, but her powers were able to conceal her body well enough. She had to be close to the portal and yet her powers worked. That presented one of two possibilities: either her powers merely took a while to catch up with her and she was completely fine, OR, the portal’s power took precedence over all surrounding energy, including her powers — like when she arrived — and that meant she was not anywhere near the portal yet. She was too tired to think about it anymore. She had to rest. Her eyes fluttered shut. Just … for a little while.
A scream pierced the dark silence. Jessie jerked awake and her eyes popped open. It took a moment to reorient herself to where she was. A blackbird, a crow or raven, was flying above the tree. She barely made out it’s form in the twilight, It circled several times and then it landed. On her hair! Pecking and fluttering at the curled ends.
“Shoo, go away!” She batted at it with a hand.
The raven cawed and flew out of sight to the ground below. A moment later she heard a human voice.
Un. Real. She couldn’t believe it. This is not happening.
Jessie slowly and grudgingly stood from the crouched position and unentangled herself from the tree growth.
Lord Draeven just shape-shifted. How did I not know he had powers? So, the fire in his eyes was real. Boy am I glad I decided to keep my powers hidden from him. I’ll need that advantage.
“Draeven.” Jessie’s greeting was said through gritted teeth and dripped with contempt.
She balled up two fists at her side and counted a full sixty seconds before climbing down the tree. She turned around and pierce his eyes with her stare before rolling them in utter disgust.
Lord Draeven held out his hand to her, his mouth curled up slightly in triumph, while his eyes took in her dirty and skimpy attire.
Refusing his hand, she untied the knot of material between her legs and let the dirty silk fall into place. She held her head high and walked past him with a defiant nose in the air toward the direction of the castle. She bit her lip to stop it from trembling and willed her eyes not to flood.
At least my thoughts remain mine. You think shapeshifting and fiery eyeballs are awesome? You haven’t seen anything yet. You think you want a teenage bride from another dimension, oh Great Dark Ancient One?
So be it.
The end … or is it? 😉
By Ronda K. Reed