Horsefeld Gardens

 

A Serial in Three Parts (E. Steele)

PART ONE

 

I. Party at Labelle Manor

(Her Fourteenth Birthday)

 

            Descending from the grand staircase of her families’ manor, Mary Anne Labelle looked like Aphrodite rising full-formed in birth from the foam of the sea. Brown and tussled hair, cut short enough to cause a fuss and scandal amongst those of the high surrounding society, sat neatly and proudly on the young girls hair.

            Those gathered for her fourteenth birthday party gasped at the lovely woman joining them. Only days ago, she’d just been a bratty little know-nothing. Now, though, after her confirmation in the church, and classes on decorum, she seemed a perfect innocent lady. This party marked the day that Mary moved from childhood into adulthood.

            Her father beamed proud blue eyes, a trait they shared. He moved over to Sir Oliver Heffernan, the Lord of Sortshire— a small valley of flowered meadows that sprung forth with life each spring, like a painter playing with all the bright colors of his palette.

            “Good Evening, Sir Heffernan.”

            “Oh, good evening, Mr. Labelle. I—have a question to ask of you… you see, I need to get married soon.”

            “Is that so?”

            “Yes—“

            “You do, have money, don’t you—could carry on the glory of our family?”

            “Exactly what I wanted to talk to you about, sir,” said Oliver with green eyes glowing like a cat sneaking through the night. “I like your daughter’s looks. She seems like she would brood well.”

            “I see—but you might have some trouble with—well, let’s say her temperament. She’s a very rebellious sort.”

 

            With a hmmph, Mary stomped away from her mother, a pale-skinned, dark haired, withered old matron with a seagull voice. The younger woman sat down at the edge of the small garden pond, after kicking a statue of cupid into the mud.

            “Stupid, stupid, stupid. Think you can control my life? Yeah right! I do what I want—you just let me go flirt with that young boy. What are you gonna do about it anyways? Huh! Lock me up? This isn’t the middle ages. We’re not Gothic…”

            Angry, the girl pounded the dirt. Dust spread up around her. The soil spread through her hair and all over her dress.  A servant came to talk her out of the fit, but only came away with a bloody nose and a black eye. He whispered into Mrs. Labelle’s ear, and she nodded.

            “Just leave her alone, I guess. I thought she might be more grown up today,” she raised her voice, “but I guess she’s just the same little kid as always.”

            A fist came down on the cupid statue, cracking it open.

 

            “I see what you mean, Mr. Labelle….”

            “I don’t know— what I should do with her.”

            “Well,” the Lord snagged a glass of wine from a servant’s tray, and began to drink. Setting the glass down, he continued, “you know that Shakespeare play—the Taming of the Shrew?”

            “Yes…”

            “I’ll take her off your hands… tame her, if you like.”

            “But you need to marry her soon?”

            “I can make it… worth your while. You know of my holdings.”

            “I think we have a deal.” Mr. Labelle offered his hand. Sir Heffernan shook, and pulled the elder man into a small hug, patting him on the back.

            “Thank you, sir.”

 

--

 

II. Forced into Falling

 

            “No!” a large pillow hit the wall. Feathers flowed from it. It stalled for seconds before it dropped to the floor. “Absolutely not!””

            “Oh, who knows, dear, you might like him.” Said her mother.

            “I won’t. I don’t. Go away.”

            “Honey—“

            “Go away, daddy.

            “Mary! Don’t you disrespect your father. He made a decision for the family… and you’re going to go along with it.”

            Fuck you.”

            “Oh, you did not just say that, Missy—you did…” a large yelp rang through the halls. Blood dripped from the elder woman’s wrist. “Ouch! You little bitch.”

            Mary took off running down the hall, pushing past her father. The thump-thump of her angry mother loomed behind her. The many rooms of the Labelle manor zipped by, and soon she found herself once again descending the staircase. To slow her pursuant she pushed over a vase—it hit the ground with a loud crack, and servants came running. She found her way outside and into the gardens just off the estate. At a little pond, where ducks gathered, she sat down and dangled her feet in the water.

 

            Ripple after ripple splashed through the water as she kicked angrily. The world didn’t seem to exist behind her, or for anything but her. So, when a hand landed on her shoulder, strong and smooth, she started in surprise. She looked up at the strong, almost Mediterranean-toned man behind her, eyes daring him to speak first. Something drew her to him. She pressed herself to his chest.

            “I—“

            “Shh,” he told her, moving his finger to her light red lips. “you seem distraught, young miss.”

            “Well, it’s just—some old Lord I didn’t even meet asked to be my, my husband. And my parents accepted. I want to make my own mind up about this sort of thing. I mean, when you love someone…”

            “I’m sure they only acted for your good.”

            “No! They acted for their own benefit! They just want the money this guy brings. He has a large house too—called Horsefeld Gardens or something…”

            “How do you know he’s as bad as you say?”

            “It’s—he can’t—I wanted to fall in love. Not be forced.”

            “I see your point,” the stranger said. “But England doesn’t work like that. Just think of it as your duty to God and Country.”

 

            She looked up at the older man, her blue eyes sparkling. Her soft hands grappled his strong neck, pulling his mouth down onto hers. Her tongue probed gently into hers, and she weakened. Then, in a moment, she felt him pull away. She looked to find him, but there was scarcely a trace.

 

Index

 

PART ONE

I. Party at Labelle Manor

(Her Fourteenth Birthday)

 

II. Forced into Falling