Maiden of the Lake
Wind blew softly over water sparkling in the sunlight while the trees danced in the town of Birchwood, England. Around the lake was an enormous wall surrounding the property of a very wealthy family that lived on the Cliffside of Chew Valley Lake which had been in their family for 15 years. Before they moved to the property they gave birth to a healthy and beautiful baby girl.
“Say hello to your daughter Henry” Elizabeth stated to her crying husband. Henry leaned down to his wife kissed both her and his daughter on the forehead and asked what they should name her. After a long thought process they decided to name her Leona Jane Williams after her grandmother who passed the house to them before Leona was born. They raised her without spoiling her to keep her heart kind and selfless. They were always allowing her freedom to roam the grounds of their land but always to stay inside the wall. She asked her parents the night of her 18th birthday
“When can I go outside the wall?” Henry smiled but shook his head.
“Sweetheart you have everything you need and want here. Why do you need to go outside the wall? There are many people in this town that would take advantage of you I want to keep you safe.”
Leona sighed “but father I have no one to talk to I have no real friends except the housekeepers and all they ever talk about is how they clean and cook, I just want a friend.”
Elizabeth looked at her daughter with a grieving face “I understand Leona, but believe me it’s better for you to remain here, the people in this town can be unkind to those above them.” above them? Leona thought “I do not think myself above them mother if you do it’s no wonder they would hate us. they are still people like you and I, why would they be unkind if I spoke with them like normal people.” Henry sighed frustrated
“Listen young lady you are staying within the wall and that’s that, leave it be and having an attitude about it will just diminish your chances of even going outside be happy you get that much leeway” Leona trembled her bottom lip and ran upstairs to her bedroom.
“Well done Henry now you’ve upset her” Elizabeth stated and walked over to henry putting her hand on his shoulder. Henry sighed loudly “I’m sorry dear but she has to understand her place in this household it’s my rules and if she wishes to keep the lifestyle she has she will abide by those rules.” Elizabeth frowned “yes she does but forcing them on her is not the right way to go about it I’m going to try to talk to her maybe she will understand love more
Elizabeth came upon Leona’s mahogany bedroom door and knocked.
“Sweetheart its mom can I come in?” asking lightly trying not to sound too angry, Leona responded and opened the door for her mother. Walking in Elizabeth gestured Leona to sit at the dresser and let her brush her long raven hair. Sighing Leona slumped over to the chair and handed her mother the brush,
“What’s wrong with me mother? Did I do something wrong for father to hate me so? All I meant was that I’m lonely the friends I have don’t care for me they only pretend to care because I have money.” A single tear ran down Leona's pale cheek. Elizabeth wiped the tear away with her dress, and began brushing Leona’s long black hair. “There is nothing wrong with you honey. I understand what you’re going through that’s when I married your father of course I was much older then but you understand what I mean.” Setting down the brush Elizabeth turned her teary daughters face to look at her.
“Thank you mother I needed this I'm tired I'm going to go to bed now ok.” Leona stood from her chair slid into her silk nightdress and into bed. “Goodnight mother pleasant dreams.” Elizabeth turned off the light and left the room. Leona waited till her mother’s footsteps could no longer be heard then she slowly crept out of bed and out her window, she had been doing this since she was 12 every night she would swim in the lake. Moonlight shimmered on the water as she descended the Cliffside being careful not to slip. The rocky cliff made it difficult to climb with bear feet, but she felt she had to go to the lake to swim and calm down. Leona made a small jump at the bottom of the cliff to the shore landing a few feet from the water’s edge.
My mother doesn’t understand neither does my father I don’t want to be here anymore I want to go outside the wall Leona thought to herself I’m supposed to be a lady with poise and modesty but swimming in this lake makes me feel free although my parents would kill me if they found out as a child her parents told her stories about the lake that long ago women would flock to this lake to swim in the night and not be seen by men that would chase them but Leona knew it was just an old wives tale. Leona loved the books about mermaids more because she loved the water so much. Gliding across the cool wet sand she kicked the water as it hit her feet, the moon looks so pretty and the cool water feels nice Leona thought to herself as she slid off her night dress. Her bare skin glistened in the moonlight as she drifted into the water allowing it up to her shoulders, then turning onto her back floating letting the water calm her. She let her body float for a while then dove deep down to the bottom of the lake, with her eyes open she could see all the life even at the bottom. Many fish swam past her as she floated to the bottom looking at the shells and rocks below her.
I can see the moon from down here it looks so pretty from under the water she forgot how long she could hold her breath and quickly returned to the surface for air. She backed stroked up and down the lake for hours letting everything melt away with the current. So many fish so much life underwater I wish I could be free like them climbing up onto a rock in the middle of the lake she hummed at the moon as water dripped down her perfect figure. As she hummed she heard something in the bushes on the far side of the shore, sure that someone was watching her Leona swam back to shore and threw on her nightgown hoping she would make it in time before whoever was sneaking around figured out who she was. Scaling the cliff as fast as she could, she made it back into her room jumped back into bed. It was only a few hours till sunrise and Leona just couldn’t sleep knowing someone could have seen her so she just stayed awake till the sun came up and went about her morning routine.
Soon after the daylight came in through Leona’s window her mother came through the door “Sweetheart you’re already up. Why were you up so early?” Elizabeth waltz over to make Leona’s bed, the silk sheets were barley wrinkled like Leona never slept on them. Leona hugged and kissed her mother then explained she couldn’t sleep and decided to take a bath early. Her mother gave a confused look to her daughter but shrugged it off “you seemed to have read my mind I was coming up here to wake you and tell you to bathe for your party this afternoon.” Elizabeth finished making Leona’s bed and turned to see Leona shocked my mother is throwing me a party “um what is the party for I just had a birthday” her mother sat her down telling her she got found her a wonderful gentleman who asked her hand in marriage and was throwing a party to help celebrate. “I figured because you said you were lonely and wanted more out of life I would find you someone to share it with and you would have plenty to be happy about isn’t it wonderful he is a real gentlemen you’ll love him and he thinks very highly of you from your portraits.”
Leona went quiet for a long time, Elizabeth waited with a smile but after a while it faded “well aren’t you happy dear?” Leona stared forward and smiled lightly nodding her head. Elizabeth smiled again and left to talk to Henry about the party, as Leona got dressed she wanted to scream into her pillow I can’t believe my mother is just handing me over to some strange man I wish she would take what I say a little lighter a marriage is huge. Leona walked downstairs to talk some sense into her mother, but when she saw her father glaring at her she held her tongue. “Mother I'm very excited to meet him this afternoon but what can I wear I have no extravagant dresses for this party.” Elizabeth took her daughters hand and said she would take her out to buy something suitable for a party. Henry pulled Leona aside for a moment while Elizabeth got the carriage ready “your mother worked very hard to do this for you I don’t want to hear you screwing this up for her you understand?” he wanted to make sure she understood that she was getting married to this mystery man whether she liked it or not. How can he expect me to marry someone I don't know but she didn't dare say that to her father "perfectly father" Leona responded then hurried out the door to her mother waiting in the carriage.
They rode into town her mother looking above all the other people, even when they got off the carriage as if she were better than everyone else. Why does she do that we are no different than the people here other than the fact we have money that doesn’t mean we are better just means we have a decent life. I feel really bad about everyone else and how they have to live I just wish I could help them, but I don’t know how.
Elizabeth walked inside one of the dress shops telling Leona to stay in the carriage for a moment and that she’d be right back. While Leona sat there waiting for her mother a women walked by her wearing rags and no shoes, for some reason Leona couldn’t take her eyes off the poor women. Watching the women walk across the street with a large bag Leona almost began to cry, she got out of her carriage and walked over to the women “excuse me ma’am would you like some help with that bag, it looks a little heavy.” The women turned in shock to see Leona a beautiful young women wearing a bright blue summer dress with flowers on it who spoke to her “I beg your pardon are you making fun of me child I don’t believe I need help from the likes of you.” The women shrugged off Leona’s help and scurried away out of sight. Leona walked after her calling out "wait!" the woman stopped for a moment as Leona caught up to her. Leona slide her gold bracelet off and discreetly handed it to the woman "please take this I didn't mean to appear rude" the woman slowly took the bracelet from Leona surprised "thank you" the woman managed to say and hurried off.
Soon after the woman disappeared a man came out of the shadows and spoke to her “that was a very sweet thing you did for her miss” the man wore a black button down shirt and tan pants, his jet black hair brushed against his face as he shifted his eyes to Leona’s striking appearance. As he walked over to her he lit a cancer stick and inhaled violently “so love what would your name be?” he asked smirking at her. Leona became annoyed but answered anyway “My name is Leona Jane Williams and who would you be sir?” he beamed and got very close to her examining the creases, impressions, and the profile of her face “cute” he stood upright and stated his name to be Leon.
Leona’s face flushed with embarrassment and anger she began to raise her hand to strike him across the face but her mother came running over and stopped her. “Leona! That is not how a lady behaves if you disagree with someone say it with our eyes not your hands, please to the carriage at once.” Nodding Leona walked away with Leon staring at her till she sat down “that’s right love listen to mommy don’t want you to break a nail, we’ll meet again I guarantee it.” Who does that jerk think he is calling me cute like that out in public, and ugh the way he was staring at me can’t believe him oh! He makes me sick. oh dear what will mother say Leon passively walked away smiling soon after Elizabeth told Leona to go to the carriage infuriated by her daughter’s actions “who was that? Why were you even out of the carriage? I told you to stay put while I spoke to the dress shop owner. Do you honestly believe you will be happy with William if you never listen?” Leona simply looked at the ground without saying a word while they went into another dress shop down the road. Leona stayed silent for the entire day trying on every dress her mother threw at her until she finally found the right dress for her daughter a sleeveless purple gown with a two inch train. “This one is perfect and it fits you impeccably” Elizabeth glowed with happiness at the beauty of her daughter and couldn’t wait for her to meet William.
When they got home dinner was on the table a lovely pot roast potatoes, salad and garden fresh veggies all laid out in a delightful feast. Leona smiled at the food she was starving when did my father become such a great cook? “father I didn’t know you could cook.” Henry smiled and laughed a little then turned his attention to the kitchen door where the new chef he hired was standing “I didn’t cook. I hired a new chef his name is monsieur Leon he just started today.” Eyes wide Leona gazed at Leon surprised but sat down to eat. Taking a bite of nearly everything on the table Leona still couldn’t take her eyes off Leon “mother father will you please excuse me I’ll just be a moment.”
Leona stood and looked at Leon to meet her in the kitchen; he waited a moment for her to be out of ear range then waltzed into the kitchen. Immediately Leona began to ask questions “what’s with all the questions love I'm just a normal working human being, your father was looking for a chef early this morning so I said I would take the job I didn’t know you were his daughter or how much of a pain you would be.” Glaring Leona stomped on his foot; Leon gulped down a loud yell so her parents wouldn’t hear “was that necessary?” Leon asked with a painful look on his face while Leona simply smirked and nodded. Five or so minutes passed of silence between them until Henry walked into the kitchen to talk to Leon “oh Leona sweetheart what are you doing in here? Never mind probably just giving compliments to him for the great meal right?” he stared her down to leave the kitchen. Leona nodded and shuffled her feet while walking out to the dining table. Sitting quietly Leona picked up her fork and pushed the lettuce around in her salad unsure if she was hungry anymore I feel a little better after smashing his foot further into the ground. I still don’t understand what’s going on but I don’t trust him he seems odd to me, I’ll just have to keep my eyes on him. Elizabeth gave her daughter a slap on the hand snapping her out of thought “don’t play with your food you know better than that.” She spoke in almost a monotone voice. Leona scooped a piece of lettuce into her mouth before answering “I was just thinking mother not playing” her mother sighed to herself then began to cut into her pot roast and potatoes.
After twenty minutes of silence from the kitchen both Leona and her mother had finished eating to see what was going on. Walking in Leona saw Leon serving delicate pudding into glass dishes “oh hello ladies sir Henry just went upstairs for a moment he’ll be right down, but he said you could start dessert without him its pineapple pudding I made it myself I hope you enjoy it.” After finishing his statement he glanced at Leona with a smile making her blush oh okay he may be a complete pain in the ass but he is so cute and he looked at me her heart felt it would jump out of her chest, she felt as if her body was roasting over a fire. Elizabeth noticed the pass Leon made at Leona and immediately rushed her out of the kitchen and into her bedroom “now practice your harp and then straight to bed understand?” Leona curtseyed and responded she understood perfectly turning around to practice her harp before going to bed.
The grandfather clock dinged at 11pm that nght and leona was still having trouble sleeping so she slowly got out of bed climbed out her window and walked to the cliffs edge. Peering down at the lake she already felt calmer, she walked the path down to the water