I shouldn't have been out that late. I should have gone back to the manor and stayed put like my governess told me to. I should have been sleeping. Not awake and roaming the surrounding woods. What can I say though? I loved those woods, they were, what was the word? Intoxicating. Dangerous. Mysterious. I couldn't help myself. During the riding lessons my father insisted that I take, I would pass them, but I was forbidden, as it was stated, to enter. Of course that made my desire to approach them even stronger, and tonight, tonight my parents were away, and my governess and maids asleep. This was the perfect night to escape and see what could truly be inside them. Dangerous creatures perhaps? Evil spirits? At that thought I clutched the cross that laid against my chest, then shook the fear away. There were no such things as evil spirits. My riding boots made the leaves rustle under my feet, and every noise made my head turn in fear of being caught. That would not be good. I slowly entered the woods, the shadows flickering as the flame in my lantern danced in the far too still night air. My mind begged me to go back, my heart racing in anticipation and paranoia, but my curiosity beckoned me to go on. Not more than ten minutes had gone by when I suddenly found myself lost, and when I turned to the candle in the steel cage that I carried, my eyes widened. A stub. It had little life left. My heart jumped to my throat and I tried not to panic. Too late. I couldn't be without light. I just couldn't! The evil demons that they told us about in mass would catch me and I would burn in hell for disobeying my mother and father. "Help!" I screamed "Someone, help me, please, I beg of thee!" Tears began to fall from my eyes, streaming down my freckled face, and I tore them away. No, I would not cry! Slowly I sank to the ground, folding my knees into my arms and leaning against a giant oak tree as my eyes scanned frantically for any sign of life. I was alone, and probably dinner for any creature that dared approach. And that was when the candle finally went out. "Someone!" I began screaming again, "Help me!"
A sudden rustling noise from my right made me scream and I leapt to my feet. A large, broad figure approached me, shadowed by the moonlight and terrifying. My eyes grew wide with fear as it continued my way. An evil spirit? It had to be, for it was no wild beast. "Stay away from me!" I began to cry as I ripped the cross from my neck and held it out. "I command thee in the name of God to stop!" My voice quivered as my body shook, and as I backed up my heel caught on the hem of my nightgown, sending me tumbling back onto the ground. With yet another scream the figure loomed over me, and I curled into the fetal position, waiting for death when a familiar voice filled the air. "Lady Anne? Is it thee?" My green eyes were tightly shut, but upon hearing my name, I opened them to stare at the figure. Could a demon have the same voice of a dear friend? Of course it could! "Stay back, Demon! Thou's games shall not work on me!" I yelled, finding myself and my cross. With a burst of energy I jumped up and slammed the cross into the chest of the, what I thought it was, demon. My eyes grew wide, however, when they found the large cross painted on a cotton shirt. A chuckle escaped the demon/shirt wearer, and I looked up, just to meet the amused gaze of my fathers most trusted Knights page. "Alexander?" I breathed out, tilting my head to the side, and he laughed. "'Tis I, my lady," He laughed, and I let out a sigh of relief. Without realizing what I was doing, I wrapped my arms around him in a hug, melting against him as the tears began to flow once again. "I was so frightened, I thought thou were an evil spirit set on my damnation for disobeying my parents." Another golden laugh escaped the brunette as he petted my hair. He didn't seem to mind the closeness of the two of us. I sure didn't. "I, a demon? Of all the page boys here on thy fathers manor, thou thought a demon possessed I to trick thee into hell?" With this I pulled away, turning my head down and thanking the lord that the darkness hid my red face. Although it didn't seem to hide it too well as his large and cool hand lifted it. "What is wrong, my lady? Thou's face is burning," His smooth voice was filled with concern and I stuttered to find an answer that would prove less awkward than the truth. "I- Thou-" The words still refused to fall from my lips as I took in his beautiful face. Long brown hair, deep and concerning eyes, tall and shapely, every young girls dream. "um… How did thou find me?" I asked him, flipping the subject and backing away a bit more. His gave me a caring smile before he spoke. "I watched thou leave the manor, and followed thee through the thicket." My eyes grew wide. "Thou followed me?" "aye, but I lost thee for a few moments, I was terrified of what could have happened to thee, until I heard thous screams." He stepped toward me as he spoke, truth in his eyes. "Why?" I couldn't help but ask as my heart went aflutter. "Because I am my fathers only child-" "No." He cut me off as he spoke, stepping forward again. I matched his step, taking my own behind me. "Because I do not believe I could survive if thou perished." My heart caught in my throat. "What art thou saying?" I asked breathlessly, taking another step backwards and ending up against another large oak tree. "I do not know, but I do not seem to be able to stay away from thou for very long. Since the day I saw thee, thou have been my lady. I have watched thee, but never approached, in fear thou would turn from me." With that he took a step back, looking down. "I beg thou for my boldness. But thy heart belongs to thee, shall thee want it or not." I was biting the inside of my lip as he spoke, and tears stung my eyes. It had been years since we'd known each other, he had been seven, and I had been five. Ten years we had known one another, and neither of us realized the feelings we had. The tears began to form again, and I flew to him. "Oh, Alexander, my Alexander." I buried my face into his chest. "Thou art the only one for me. I have known this since thou first arrived here at the manor. I was far too shy to tell thee, for the same reasons as thou." I looked up at him, his face filled with surprise as I cupped his cheek in my hand. "Thou art my best friend, and the only one who fills thy dreams." With that, he smiled and held me close, burying his face into my long brown hair and kissing the top of my head softly. For moments we stood transfixed like that, just enjoying being close together before I pulled away to turn to business. "Do thou know how to return to the manor?" I asked him, and he nodded. "Aye, just this way, my lady. 'Tis my duty to return thee." I smiled as he took my hand gently and began leading me away from the dreaded forest. "And as soon as we return," he began with a smile, "I shall speak to thous father, and so that we can marry," He stopped and pulled me into him. "And live a life of nothing but happiness, even during these dark times." I smiled and looked up at my dream prince. "For I love thee." He leaned down and so gently pressed his lips against mine that I could hardly feel them, but never wanted them to leave. As soon as they did, I whispered in response. "And I love thee, my young knight in shining armor." It was corny, but it was real, and as he led me to the manor, my mind and heart raced. How could this little boy, the one who'd come to the manor with a fear of being beaten to death over a stolen piece of meat, be the man that I'd fallen in love with?
As we approached, a light flickered towards us, and holding it was my governess. "Where have ye been? Thy father has called thee to thy study! Come along!" I looked to Alexander, and he nodded, releasing my hand and beginning to walk away. "Oh no ye don't! Thy master has called thee too!" A look was shared between us, confusion and worry as we followed her to my fathers quarters. In there sat, of course, my father, but also his most trusted knight and Alexander's teacher, Sir Roman Lincroft. "Where have thou been, daughter?" My father began, then shook his head with a wave of his hand. "Never mind. Down to business. Thou art sixteen years old, correct?" He asked, and I nodded in response, confusion glistening in my eyes. "And Alexander, thou art…?" "Eighteen years," Sir Lincroft stated. "Tell me, Alexander, thou father was a lord, was he not?" "Yes, sir, but he died and thy eldest brother runs the manor now." "But thou art still a Winchester?" I looked at my father, wondering what could possibly be going through his head. As Alexander nodded. "Yes, my lord." "I sent a letter to thou's brother just a few months ago, and discovered that thou were not betrothed? Am I correct?" Once again Alexander replied with a yes. "And thy daughter, Anne, thou art betrothed to a dead man." I cringed at the memory. He was the son of another wealthy lord, but he was disowned for scandal and scheming to kill his father, so therefore, the marriage was broken. "Father?" I dared speak "What art thou proposing?" I knew my father would not be harsh to me for speaking out in a room of men, I was his pride and joy 'better than any son' as he stated. "I am proposing, little one, that the two of you should marry." Alexander and I looked at each other with excitement. Was this real? "Truly, Father?" I asked, looking at him, and he nodded. "Thou brother, Aaron, Alexander, is sick with the Plague, and thou art the only surviving son of Lord Erick Winchester. 'Tis a fine idea of a marriage, uniting our lands. I was debating on what to do with Anne, until Roman here suggested it." I thought I saw the sudden wink from Sir Lincroft as he nodded in agreement. I could not keep my excitement from bubbling. "When shall the wedding be?" I asked, and my father smiled. "February. We have already started making the plans." February… that was less than four months away. I tried to hide my glee as I looked back over at Alexander. My Alexander. "Do thou agree?" Sir Lincroft asked, and we smiled politely with nods. "Of course." I did a little curtsey, and Alexander did his bow before my father dismissed us and we escaped to the halls. "Four months," I said softly as he clutched my hands. "Only four more months, and I can finally call thee my own," He began. "I can finally call thee my wife… my lady." With that he kissed my hands (as my governess was still in the room) and disappeared down the hall to his quarters. As we continued to my rooms, I played the name in my head, "Lady Anne Winchester. Lady Anne Winchester." A smile crept upon my face as I climbed into my room. "My lady," My governess began. "Why do thee have dirt all over thy gown?!" She cried angrily, approaching me to dust me off. "I was running from Evil Spirits." I smiled and she shook her head disbelievingly. "Silly girl. Thou should know by now that they do not exist!" A dreamy look spread over my face. "Of course, madam, of course…"