The room was the same as I had always remembered it. The same straw walls and stone carvings that had always been there brought back the most frightening memories. The fire that sat in the middle of the room still burnt and flickered as I sat around it. The memories of what I thought was going to happen still sat, deep in my stomach. My long duties that had still not been completed were easier when people I knew were around me...but they all managed to escape from the camp. I began to see my work not as a punishment as my time spent there almost allowed me to become part of the family. Everyone treated me with equal respect and no one fulfilled this task more than my master. He was one year older than me when we met though I still had to complete every given duty despite my young age. Because one part of my duty was to follow him around, meeting his every need, we bonded quickly and this made the tasks that I were to complete less depressing as time went by. As time went by, my duties were less frequent as himself and his brothers were becoming more capable of doing things for themselves. I still had another two years of my life to spend at my masters’ side in case he is in need of help.
There, I celebrated my 14th birthday with my friends that also followed duties at the camp. Although there was nothing much to do as we sat around a fire, I had earned my break from constant tasks. Silence smothered the room and everyone sat around waiting for something to happen. Just as everyone lost all their enthusiasm, Tia Oldcreek, the most bubbly and loud friend of mine skipped in through the wide open door. Balancing a large pot in her hands, she slammed the door shut with her foot. “Who’s up for food?” she asked, lifting the lid from the pot. “Yummy!” cried Lola, the youngest friend of mine, running to the door where Tia was standing. Luckily, before she landed head first in the soup, Seth, otherwise known as Yuma, a member of the tribe that we work for, grabbed her and lifted her up. His dark eyes twinkled in the dim light of the fire as he brought her back inside the hut. “I hope you girls are having a good time.” He mentioned, placing Lola by the fire. “It’s good to get out of work for a while,” I explained, “It’s rare that we get the opportunity.” “I understand,” he comforted as he left, “Happy Birthday.”
I heard a screech as I waved goodbye to Seth. Angry and frustrated, it was Lola. She cried and rolled around on the wooden floor, nearly burning herself on the fire. I grabbed her and sat her up against the wall and kneeled down to her height.
“It is my birthday Lola,” I told her, “If you want to had a tantrum, please go elsewhere!”
Still she screamed and cried, smashing the floor with her little hands.
“I want some soup!” she moaned.
I began to get very annoyed with her constant demands.
“Shut up!” I eventually shouted.
There was a short silence but Lola soon began to scream the place down once again. With frustration, I breathed deeply to avoid shouting again.
“Shall I take her outside?” I asked everyone. My reply was a silent but substantial nod from everyone. I picked up the screaming child and took her outside to give to Seth. I walked around the corner to his hut which was slightly bigger than the one that I was previously in. I banged three times on the oak door. Seth opened his door to see me being slapped by four year old Lola.
“Do you mind taking her?” I asked, “She is ruining everything!”
“Err...sure,” he replied, taking her from my arms, “She seems to act...appropriately with me.”
“That’s a big help!” I thanked as he positioned Lola safely inside his hut. He returned to the front entrance carrying a flat package wrapped in brown paper.
“I knew it was you birthday, so I picked you up a little something.” He said, handing me the package. Slowly, I unwrapped the present to find a beautifully decorated dress.
“I thought your old dress was a bit...old.” he explained.
“It’s beautiful!” I exclaimed, breathless, “You didn’t had to get me anything!”
“I thought you deserved a new one.”
I was so happy and unsure what to do so decided to give him a huge hug in thanks for the gift. It felt very strange hugging someone you work for especially when they are like family to you. As we hugged, I wondered why Seth bought me the dress because I had never seen him buy anything for anyone before. As the hugging ended, I felt strangely appreciated for what I had done and thanked Seth one last time before heading back to my friends. On the way to my hut, I felt a very weird sensation in my stomach. I almost enjoyed being alone with Seth and wanted to go back and see him again.
Back at my hut, I showed everyone my dress and they all loved it. I couldn’t wait to wear it. I sat down whilst everyone else tucked into the soup that Tia had bought along. I held the dress tightly in my arms thinking only of Seth. As I far back as I can remember, I had never been given a gift and I was glad my first was something special. I moved and ate my soup by the fire, still allowing no one to touch the dress. I ended the ‘party’ earlier to go to my sleeping hut and reflect on the day that I called ‘My birthday’. Although I still had to work for the beginning part of today, I was happy that I was excused from duties for the evening to had fun with my friends...if that’s what you call it. I changed quickly into my tattered night gown and looked at myself in the mirror. I untied my long plaits and sat on the edge of my bed. I folded the dress that Seth had bought for me and put it neatly on my side table in front of my window and then blew out my candle to go to sleep.
I awoke the next morning to find my beautiful dress had gone. I searched everywhere for it; knocking down furniture and everything that got in my way. I ran outside my door, still in my night gown to see nothing but the sun rising. I stamped my feet hard on the ground and changed back into my ragged dress. As fast as I could, I sprinted to Seth’s hut and was about to knock on his door before I remembered we were not to wake any of the tribe before seven o’clock. I took my hand away from the door and sat on chair outside Seth’s hut. I watched the orange sun rise over the trees that surrounded the camp. I could hear birds whistle in the trees; I was truly at peace. I closed my eyes and imagined I could do whatever I wanted; I was free. I imagined my family as I could remember them: all my siblings, my parents and grandparents. I was back in my home, hundreds of miles from the camp.
“Lila,” called a voice, waking me from my dream, “Why are you out here?”
I soon realised that the voice was coming from Seth looking out of his window.
“They have stolen it!” I gasped.
“Stolen what?” he asked.
“The dress!” I shouted, “The dress!”
“The dress I bought you?” he questioned.
“Yes!” I gasped, “That one!”
A tear rolled down my cheek and Seth put his head in his hands not knowing what to do.
“Come in,” he puffed, directing me with his hand.
I walked through the door and saw him sitting on the couch around a table. His sisters, Ana and Lois came through from the pantry with a jug of orange juice.
“Yuma, why is Ira’s slave girl here?” asked Ana.
“Err...” thought Seth, embarrassed to tell his sisters about the dress, “She has to...”
“She has to what Yuma?” urged Lois.
“She has to help me with the shrine,” he lied, “For tonight’s worship.”
“Oh of course!” said Ana, “Ira always said she was very good with design.”
“Thank you Mistress.” I blushed.
The two girls left the hut and Seth allowed me to sit down beside him on the sofa. He could see that I was upset and that I really did like the dress so he held my hands. When I said that when I woke up it had just gone, he grew frustrated and tightened his grip on my hands.
“Ouch, Seth!” I complained.
“Its Yuma to you...slave girl.” He growled.
I was unsure of why Seth was acting so strangely all of a sudden so I quickly sprung to my feet and crept out of the hut. Just as my first foot was out of the door, I felt Seth pull me back in. I span around to get back inside the hut and the next thing I knew my lips were pressed against his. He was kissing me. It felt so weird, yet so natural. He held my hand and I grasped his back and we continued to kiss. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, we were disturbed by my master, Ira, coming inside Seth’s hut. Quickly we ended the kiss and unlocked hands in time.
“Brother, have you seen--” began Ira, “Oh there you are Lila, I was looking for you everywhere.” He panted, grabbing me by the hand and guiding me out of the hut.
I looked over my shoulder to see Seth, smirking. I giggled.
“If you find something funny Lila, then you can tell me what it is.” Threatened my master. I immediately stopped laughing.
He dragged me out into the open grassland and asked me to clean his horse before he went hunting with his brothers. Lucky was a very well behaved horse so I had no worries of getting hurt whilst cleaning him. I guided Lucky to his stable as I went to fetch a bucket of and a brush. I dragged the bucket over to the hose by the bathrooms to fill it with water. I could clearly see Seth’s hut from where I sat. He was staring out of the window into nothingness. I was so mesmerised looking at his twinkling eyes and flawless skin that I didn’t see Levi coming up behind me.
“Boo!” he shouted at the top of his voice.
I screamed in shock throwing the ice cold water all over myself.
He laughed, helping me up from the ground. Levi was Seth’s cousin and had always been a very close friend to me. Though sometimes annoying, he felt like the closest thing I had to family.
“I am sorry about that!” he apologized, “You better change, the chief wants to see you.”
“W—what?” I asked, “Why does the chief want to see me?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“Well since you came to collect me--” I hinted.
“Look, all I know is he won’t want to see you like that!” he commented looking at me up and down.
“Well I don’t have anything to change into, so this will have to do!”
He walked me over to the chief’s hut. The chief of their tribe was Seth’s father and I was nervous about why he wanted to see me. I walked in through the huge door, dripping wet.
“Nice to see you!” boomed the chief as Levi left the room, “Take a seat.”
I sat down in the huge chair in front of his desk. His hut looked more like a business office than his ‘throne’ room.
“Many of my family working here,” he began, “Have recently noticed your intelligence.”
“Thank you sir.”
“I thought that you could maybe go further with it.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I have organised a place for you at a school, about 20 miles out. It will be right in the centre of the city and I am sure you’ll really enjoy it.”
“But what about my work here!” I murmured, thinking more of Seth than anything else.
“Don’t worry about it!” he said, “You will come back every holiday and you can stay at a close friend of mine’s whilst you are there!”
“ Can you give me some time to think?” I pleaded.
“I think I will make the decision whether you go or not, not you.”
I left the room silently with a sad look on my face. Levi was still waiting outside.
“So...” he asked, “What was it about then?”
“I am leaving!” I whimpered, releasing a tear from my eye.
“What?” he questioned, “Why?”
“I have to go!--”
“To school...in the city!”
Both myself and Levi were devastated. He hugged me tight, towering over me. Then, we heard footsteps approaching. I tried to release myself from Levi’s grip but it was too tight.
“What is going on?” the approaching voice asked.
It was Seth.
“Surely your father has told you!” commented Levi.
“Told me what?” questioned Seth, “What is going on?”
“She’s moving to the city.” He explained.
“I am going to school!” I whimpered.
“Wh—what?” growled Seth, “Who said this?”
I pointed to his father’s hut.
“My dad?” he asked.
I nodded. Seth grabbed my arm and dragged me towards his hut.
“What are you doing?” called Levi from the distance.
Once inside Seth’s cabin, he told me not to go to school and to refuse his father’s offer.
“But he said he was to make that decision.” I complained.
“Well then we’ll run away...together.” he declared.
“Seth, you only kissed me, you don’t have to come with me!”
“But you can’t!” I insisted.
“Then I will just educate myself in the city with you!”
“I will go on my own!”
“I can’t let you go like that!”
“Why?” I questioned.
“Because you’re beautiful. I can’t bear one day without seeing you!”
I looked at myself. My skin was covered in cuts, splinters and bruises, my hair was drooping down to my waist in two long plaits and my dress was...wet.
“I am not beautiful Seth!” I told him, “Look at me!”
He looked at my hair, my skin and clothes and his eyes swelled up with tears.
“Just think how beautiful you could become.”
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was so scared about going to the city and being amongst different people. All I could remember is being in the camp and nothing else. I thought about running away with Seth but I knew it wouldn’t work out. Plus, Seth had a life as chief ahead of him; something very few people get and I didn’t want to be the person to ruin that for him. I hoped and prayed that I would be allowed to stay here and live amongst the people I knew and not go to school. Surely if I was clever, I didn’t need further education. I eventually managed to squeeze a few hours of sleep in before starting work for what could possibly be the final time. Ira woke me up and helped me groom Lucky, knowing I wouldn’t be here for much longer. I would miss everyone in the tribe very much, but no one as much as Ira. We had been through so much together; I had been his private maid for eight years and I knew him better than I knew myself. Though he tried to make conversation through the work, I refused to talk much. I felt so sick inside. I was expecting the worst. As the sun began to set over the grassland, Seth came to visit us grooming the horse.
“How’s things?” he asked, shyly.
“Haven’t you got things to be doing young man?” questioned Ira.
“No, not really,” he said, kicking the dirt on the floor around, “Just come to see if Lila was okay.”
“I’m fine.” I snapped quickly with a crackly throat.
I continued to brush the horse’s mane while Seth stood there looking. Both me and my master fell into silence as he continued to watch us.
“Seth, I am sure your father will probably want to see Lila later on and she will want to look nice, so could you go and get her something nice to wear?” asked Ira, for my sake.
“Of course, I’ve got nothing better to do!” he murmured, trailing off into the distance.
I attached a saddle to Lucky’s back for my master and I helped him onto the horse.
“If you do go whilst I am out hunting Lila, then you know I will miss you don’t you?” he comforted before I had fully equipped him for hunting. I felt my throat harden and I gulped.
“Yes, of course, master.” I thanked, bowing.
I kept my head down as I felt my eyes swell up.
“Let me see my special little woman then before I go!” he smiled.
This made my eyes swell up even more. I lifted my head.
“Am I really special to you?” I asked.
He saw me crying and jumped back off his horse.
“You know that you mean the world to me,” He told me.
“Really?” I asked.
“I have never exactly had the courage to say this to you but I were allowed then I would ask for you to marry me.”
“What?” I asked, astonished.
“I know, it sounds pretty stupid,” he admitted, “But you promise not to tell anyone, right?”
“Of course master!” I promised.
“Speaking of master,” ended Ira, “There’s Yuma, and he’s got you some clothes, goodbye Lila.”
I turned around to see Seth in all his beauty carrying a pile of clothes. He squinted his chocolate brown eyes in the light of the sun and smiled at me from across the field. After being told you are loved so much to the point of marriage from someone and then adjusting to Seth was quite hard so I decided to take a stroll down to the fence he was standing by.
“Any time this year!” he called.
I hurried down a bit, taking the clothes from his arms.
“My father wants to see you, ASAP, take care.”
“Thank you Yuma.”
“Its Seth...please!”he insisted.
I quickly relocated to my hut and changed into the clothes I had been given. I could tell that this would be the last time I stood in this room so I decided to pack a few things of mine in a special ballet case my mother had bought me at a young age. I packed photo’s of the people I lived with, my family and most importantly, my friends. I tied my hair up neatly in one long plait to go with my skirt and tights that I had been given. I slipped my cardigan over my shirt and left my room for the chiefs office. Outside my doorway was Tia.
“You forgot to say goodbye to me!” she reminded me.
“I will miss you Tia, so lively and happy!” I told her.
“I will miss you deeply as well, may your journey be safe.”
I eventually got to the chiefs cabin and he told me I was leaving right away. He gave me a trunk which had all of my school supplies in.
“Thank you sir.” I bowed.
“I hope we will see you again soon.” He bellowed.
I left the door and was immediately greeted by Levi, towering over.
“Why Levi, this could be really good for me.” I told him.
“Yes, for you maybe, but not for the rest of us.”
“I am sorry!” I sighed, “Can I ask you one last favour?”
“I guess...” he shrugged.
“Tell Seth that he means the world to me.”
“What?” he questioned, “Why?”
“It doesn’t matter, just tell him.”
I was guided into the big black car that sat in on the path in front of the grasslands. This was the last time I’d see this land in a very long time.
| Email this Novel
| Add to reading list