She ran down the packed dirt road as if fleeing for her life, the misty fog lashing at her cheeks now wet with tears. Her lilac colored satin frock billowed behind her beneath her knee length dark gray cape. Her boots clapped loudly, echoing in the night, sounding as if there were two sets of feet running down the lane. If only there were, she wished. If only Jacob was pursuing her through the night, coaxing her to return to him. But that was not to be. Jacob was dead.
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Emily’s morning had begun as most mornings had for the past nineteen years. The day promised to be warm and sunny. Hopes and dreams of spending an evening with Jacob made Emily’s heart flutter and her face glow like the morning sun. She spent the early part of the day in the garden, tending her roses and collecting vegetables for today’s noon meal. Jacob had moved into the cottage up the lane this past spring. He lived quietly with his father, a gentleman in the business of trade. She fell in love with him almost at once and he showered her with attention. The summer was full of long walks along the river and picnics in the meadows surrounding the village. He had invited her to his cottage this evening. He claimed to have something of grave importance to discuss with her. Emily’s stomach quivered each time she recalled his words and the warmth of his hand touching her wrist as he spoke them. She very much wanted to spend the rest of her life in his arms. Was this the night he would declare his love for her and ask for her hand in marriage?
Emily dressed carefully as the sun sank slowly behind the wooded hills. She fastened the cameo locket her mother had given her around her slender neck. She plucked a light blue shawl from the hook inside her wardrobe, and then decided against it. She would wear her gray cape since the nights were getting quite cool. She took one last look at herself in the smoky mirror, smiled at what reflected back at her and left the cottage. Her legs were trembling slightly as she strolled up the lane to Jacob’s home.
A slight breeze played a gentle melody with the shell wind chimes hanging on the trellis over the white picket gate as her hand reached for the latch to enter the yard. The flowerbeds were bare, lacking a woman’s touch, she thought to herself. She would change that next spring. Jacob was standing in the doorway. Emily had to check her emotions, to keep from rushing into his arms. On second glance, she noted to herself that there was sadness in his eyes. His smile seemed almost forced as he gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek and touched her elbow to guide her into the darkening sitting room. He led her to an armchair upholstered in dark blue and gold tapestry and asked her to sit. Emily felt this was a bit formal, but thought, perhaps, he might feel a bit awkward with them alone in the cottage. She smiled sweetly up at him as she smoothed her frock over her legs and folded her hands.
After lighting several lamps, Jacob stood in the doorway to the hall leading to the dining room and kitchen. He looked at his polished boots and slowly shook his head. When their eyes finally met, he spoke her name almost breathlessly and turned away. This was not going the way she had envisioned all day. What was this? Jacob returned and with him was a tall, slender young woman with flaming hair tossed carelessly across her shoulders. Emily looked from one to the other, her smile frozen to nearly a grimace. A thousand thoughts flickered through her head at once, making her nearly dizzy. A relative…a family friend…anything! But she knew the truth before he spoke when her eyes fell to their tightly clasped hands. No! This cannot be, she screamed silently. Jacob is mine!
Jacob broke the chilling silence when he sadly told Emily that the girl was Kathleen. His father had brought her back from Ireland on his last trip. Jacob and Kathleen had been childhood sweethearts and were to marry in December. Emily heard the words, however, they were not making any sense. There was a buzzing in her ears. It was growing in volume until she thought she would scream. She heard screaming. Where was it coming from? She felt her body moving forward of it’s own accord, as if another entity had taken possession of her movements. She felt something heavy and cool in her hand and looked down to see the fireplace poker. How did that get there? Her arm raised above her head. There was another voice screaming in harmony with hers. A shout of surprise came from Jacob’s mouth, a look of surprise and horror in his eyes. Then everything went black. The screaming had suddenly stopped and the room was silent. She had no memory of what happened when she lost control of her body and mind. There were two twisted bodies on the floor. She had never seen so much blood. There was blood on the wall, blood on the settee. Blood soaked the Persian rug. Her hand felt heavy and wet. She looked down and saw the bloody poker still in her blood-covered hand. It made a loud noise as it fell from her hand and clattered to the floor, making her jump. What have I done? Why did he hurt me so? Who is this other woman? How could I have done this? How could he have done this? Emily felt sick as she fled the cottage into the night. She noted that the wind chimes were silent as she ran dizzily through the gate. She ran as fast as her feet would carry her down the lane, cutting a path through the settling fog. How could she live with what she had done? Jacob was gone. He was gone forever more. There would be no spring wedding bells. There never would have been, she knew now.