Origins (Page 6)
Damon watched her run, then arched an eyebrow toward me. "That is a girl who wants to be chased." With that, Damon dug his heels into the earth and ran, his powerful body hurtling down the hill toward the pond.
After a second, I ran, too. I felt the wind whip around my ears. "I’ll get you!" I yelled. It was a phrase I’d have yelled when I was eight and playing games with the girls my age, but I felt that the stakes of this game were higher than anything I’d ever played in my life.
The next morning, I awoke to breathless news from Rosalyn’s servants that her prized dog, Penny, had been attacked. Mrs. Cartwright summoned me to her daughter’s chambers, saying nothing had stopped Rosalyn from crying. I tried to comfort her, but her wracking sobs never abated.
The whole time, Mrs. Cartwright kept giving me disapproving glances, as if I should be doing a better job calming Rosalyn.
"Y have me," I’d said at one point, if only to
ou appease her. At that, Rosalyn had flung her arms around me, crying so hard into my shoulder that her tears left a wet mark on my waistcoat. I tried to be sympathetic, but I felt a stab of annoyance at the way she was carrying on. After all, I’d never carried on like that when my mother had died. Father hadn’t let me.
You have to be strong, a fighter, he’d said at the funeral. And so I was. I didn’t cry when, just a week after Mother’s death, our nanny, Cordelia, began absentmindedly humming the French lullaby Mother had always sung. Not when Father took down the portrait of Mother that had hung in the front room. Not even when Artemis, Mother’s favorite horse, had to be put down.
"Did you see the dog?" Damon asked, as we walked into town together that night to get a drink at the tavern. Now that the dinner where I was to publicly propose to Rosalyn was just days away, we were heading out for a whiskey to celebrate my impending nuptials. At least, that’s what Damon called it, elongating his accent to a flat Charlestonian drawl and wiggling his eyebrows as he said it. I tried to smile as if I thought it was a great joke, but if I began talking, I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold back my dismay about marrying Rosalyn. And there wasn’t anything wrong with her. It was just … it was just that she wasn’t Katherine.
I turned my thoughts back to Penny. "Y Its es. throat had a gash in it, but whatever the animal was didn’t go for her innards. Strange, right?" I said as I rushed to keep up with him. The army had made him stronger and faster. "It’s a strange time, brother," Damon said. "Maybe it’s the Yankees," he teased with a smirk.
As we walked down the cobblestone streets, I noticed signs affixed to most doorways: A reward of one hundred dollars was being offered to anyone who found the wild animal responsible for the attacks. I stared at the sign. Maybe I could find it, then take the money and buy a train ticket to Boston, or New Y ork, or some city where no one could find me and no one had ever heard of Rosalyn Cartwright. I smiled to myself; that would be something Damon might actually do–he never worried about consequences or other people’s feelings. I was about to point out the sign and ask what he’d do with one hundred dollars when I saw someone frantically waving at us in front of the apothecary.
"Are those the Salvatore brothers?" a voice called from up the street. I squinted across the twilight and saw Pearl, the apothecary, standing outside her shop with her daughter, Anna. Pearl and Anna were two more victims of the war. Pearl’s husband had died at the Vicksburg siege just last spring. After that, Pearl had found a home in Mystic Falls, and she ran an apothecary that was always busy. Jonathan Gilbert, in particular, was almost always there when I walked by, complaining about some ailment or purchasing some remedy or another. Town gossip was that he fancied her.
"Pearl, you remember my brother, Damon?" I called as we walked over the square to greet them.
Pearl smiled and nodded. Her face was unlined, and a game among the girls was trying to determine how old she was. She had a daughter who was only a few years younger than me, so she couldn’t be that young. "Y two certainly look
ou handsome," she said fondly. Anna was the spitting image of her mother, and when they stood side by side, the two looked as if they could be sisters.
"Anna, you look more beautiful each year. Are you old enough to be going to dances yet?" Damon asked, a twinkle in his eyes. I smiled despite myself. Of course Damon would be able to charm both a mother and a daughter.
"Almost," Anna said, her eyes sparkling in anticipation. Fifteen was the age when girls were old enough to stay through dinner and hear the band strike up a waltz.
Pearl used a wrought-iron key to lock the apothecary, then turned to face us. "Damon, can you do me a favor? Can you make sure Katherine gets on tomorrow night? She’s a lovely girl, and, well, you know how people talk about strangers. I knew her in Atlanta."
"I promise," Damon said solemnly.
I stiffened. Was Damon escorting Katherine tomorrow night? I hadn’t thought she’d come to the party, and I couldn’t imagine proposing in front of her. But what choice did I have? Tell Father that Katherine wasn’t invited? Not propose to Rosalyn?
"Have fun tonight, boys," Pearl said, breaking me out of my reverie.
"Wait!" I called, the dinner momentarily forgotten.
Pearl turned around, a quizzical expression on her face.
"It’s dark, and there have been more attacks. Would you like us to escort you ladies home?" I asked.
Pearl shook her head. "Anna and I are strong women. We’ll be fine. Besides …" She blushed and glanced around, as if afraid to be overheard. "I believe Jonathan Gilbert wants to do that for us. But I do thank you for your concern."