It was nearly sundown, and a certain figure had yet to break the horizon where an age-worn road made acquaintance with a greying sky. To the road's left stood a straggling apple tree with branches barren of fruit; asleep, its buds of hope in blossom's birth. There too was a young girl, not over fourteen. Her eyes were bright, though the sun was not, with hope not like that which grew in the tree; a hope without faith, a hope within fret. Her back rigid against the graceful trunk, she grasped a book she had held there many nights, but did not read. Her thoughts grew to a thick and cloudy storm yet, in the same moment, were acute and centred - as a hurricane's eye sees only one point, though swirling about it, many things fly. With her eye to the East, the horizon, her father - not back from a trip whose end should be nigh - her heart grew heavy and shuddered in the wind of raging uncertainties, possibilities, and fears.
Three days before, with a smile unbetraying of his age and a twinkling star afloat in his eye, a farmer, Axl by name, had stood in his kitchen with two of his doughters. As they washed up after breaking the night's fast, a third daughter came to the door to say goodbye to her father, though she was wed and lived with her husband, before he left.
"To market," he said, "To buy and to sell, I bid ye farewell." Yes, he spoke in song and verse, for he was a farmer by trade and a poet by heart. "And, as I go, what will you have as gifts upon my return in three days, my dears?"
The man had a tall, lead body: strong, with years of farming labour, but trim.His eyes, the colour of the deep Arctic Ocean, were always aglitter with icebergs of playfgul light as the sun caught them. And his smile way always either present or waiting close by, ready to show a row of shining, crooked teeth. Though his dark hairs were greying and his skin began to crease, the man lost to liveliness and carried on him, seemingly, a mist of childish joy.
"Father," said Shaelynn, the second daughter, "I am in need of a brocade dress - white silk, with sequins that form flowers in bloom, and embroidered lace..."
At this her father took her face in his hands and replied, "My dear, you know that i love you and you know that I want for you all of the beautiful dresses that this world could supply. But you
also know, for you are as smart as you are beautiful, that I am only a farmer and must save what i can to feed us now or, perhaps, for some occasion, should one arrive."
Shaelynn, young and beautiful at age sixteen, did not partake in the rich colour of her father's hair, but rather had long twirls of golden-brown lockes. They were life soft sueded leather, bleached by the sun, and her eyes were like pale blue satin. With skin as white as the cottonflower's silk, she stood a full head below her father.
"Oh, papa, must we say it so plainly for you?" said Meghan, the eldest sister, with a smile and a laugh. The woman could be as frolicsome as her father, her jasper-brown eyes shimmering with diamond lustre. But so often did she maintain a stone-faced demeanour, it brought all the more joy when her eyes broke into smile. "Shaelynn is in need of a dress, a white dress with lace, because she is to be married!"
And so all the daughters laughed and their father smiled as he took the hands of his newly affianced daughter to dance her merrily around the small home. The youngest sister had a smile on her face
and her knees up on the back of her chair, having turned round backward to watch the dancing. Meghan, standing closely by with a broad grin, had been married only three years before and was now
raising two sons with her husband, a farmer as well.
Of a sudden, Axl dropped his daughter's hand and ceased his dance. "But wait: for a marriage, there must be two. Who, then, has asked your hand?"
"Oh, father, do not play such games!" The bride-to-be giggled, her eyes still merry. "You know well, I would marry none other than Aalwijn. Did he not ask of you my hand?" Her sweet smile faltered as her brow grew distressed and she forced a free hair behind her ear.
Axl paused. And then laughed. "Indeed he did," he answered laughingly. "But how could I know that no other man might ask my daughter's hand?" His daughter looked down bashfully, but he took her hand again and they danced for only a few minutes more before Axl repeated his question of gifts.
"A dress to you, second eldest. There are rightly few occasions which surmount this nearing: a wedding! And to you, firstborn? For what do you wish?"
"May I request a pearl necklace to wear upon the occasion of Shaelynn's marriage?" inquired Meghan in a corporate tone. With a complexion of classic white marble, and deep bronze coloured eyes and hair, pearls accented Meghan very nicely.
"Father, we can scarcely afford both a pearl necklace and a wedding dress!" the third child interjected. "Pick only for me a wild rose, for I shall then know you have though on me," she gladly asked, for her name was Roselynn. The flower was naturally a sort of signature to her, and she liked it very well. Though lesser in age, her height exceeded Shaelynn's (but did not surpass Meghan's, for she was a very tall woman), and her hair was a dark, thick forest as her father's. Of habit, it was tied back by a ribbon and fell in a willowy tail between her shoulders to keep out of her bright, oaken eyes.
Axl smiled, picked up his last bags of corn to sell, and laid them aside two large cans of milk, already on a cart and hitched behind his trusted workhorse Phillippe. Finally, as noon hour neared, he headed eastward to a nearby parish.
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