A Life of Hope
Randall waited at the edge of the ring, his muscles tense with anticipation. The seats around were filled with bright eyes and big smiles. But, even the charm of the audience wouldn’t calm his nerves. His mind raced with questions he didn’t want to know the answers to. Where had she gone? Who was she with?
He shoved away images of Marianne dashing out of her tent last night wearing one of her most becoming outfits. Seeing her dressed so fine for someone other than himself made his heart fall to the ground in a heap of blood and pulp. He willed himself to the shadows and watched her ride off in a very fine carriage across the park. The further away from him it went, the heavier his heart became
In the ring it was time for the star of the show, but Miss Stena was n.owhere to be seen. The Ringmaster eyed Randall from the sidelines. Randall helped Julianne onto the white horse. Seconds later she trotted out into the ring showing off her amazing agility and balance. For the moment the crowd was distracted from Miss Stena’s absence.
Randall heard her voice before anyone else did. She stood at the back of the tent. Her clothes a mess of ribbons and clasps. He ran to Marianne’s side, his face flushed.
“Why’d he have to put Julianne in the ring. I’m not that late.”
“You’ve been gone all day. Where have you been?” After he said it Randall closed his mouth. His tone sounded harsher than he meant it to.
Marianne looked up at him. Her eyes were red and swollen, as if she’d been crying. “Home.”
“Yes, home with mother and father.”
The dull ache Randall had felt in his chest all day faded. “How did they-”
“Mother was in the balcony seats last night. Didn’t you see her?” Marianne turned her back to him. “Fasten me up.”
“No.” The moment Randall touched her skin butterflies burst into his stomach. His fingers shook as they hooked the clasps together. “What happened?”
Marianne walked to the closest mirror and fixed her brown hair. “Well, first he was just wonderful and dotting, just like I remembered. But then, after breakfast he was back to his old self and spent the rest of the day begging me to come back home and marry.” She touched her puffy eyes. “They just don’t understand. I’m not like them. I can’t live that life.”
Randall took her hand. “I understand.”
Marianne touched the side of his check with the back of her fingers. “You’re the only one that does.”
Randall started to declare is adoration for her, but a voice shouted their direction. Marianne was quick to obey and ran on her tiptoes to the ladder that took her to the top of the arena.
Behind him a warm muzzle nudged his shoulder. He reached up and let his shaking hand run down the horse’s warm nose and buried his face into the side her neck. Part of him was relieved. What if he had said the words and Marianne didn’t say them back? What would he do then?
A girlish voice behind him snapped him out of his thoughts. “That one will never be yours.”
Randall narrowed his eyes at Julianne. “That’s not true.”
The young girl shook her head. “You know it is.” She gazed around the tent, a slight scowl on her face. “She’s not one of us.”
Julianne placed on hand on her hip and sauntered off without a word more. Randall’s throat tightened. Was it true? Deep down he knew Marianne was much more than any of them could ever be.
Catch up on the rest of the series