Sophia looked out from behind her hair that hung like heavy curtains in front of her face, made all the more impenetrable by the soaking rain. But despite this she was aware of her surroundings. Her hair acted more like an iron shield that a lace veil, though her beauty was certainly no less. Inside herself she recalled the events of her life thus far, for the trip was long and the carriage made certain that she felt every stone on the road.
Her father had left her while she was young enough to not remember the reasoning behind it, or the preceding circumstances, but old enough to hate him for it. Since the day he left, her mother had done nothing but housework, and had no time for Sophia or her sisters, Sophia was the eldest and, thus, gained responsibility for many of the domestic duty’s that her mother hadn’t the time to complete. However this, and a myriad of other implications of her father’s departure, is not what fueled her resentment for him. The anger and bitterness that she held in her heart, came to be when he told her that he would return. She would come to realize that from that point on, she never let another person close enough to her to love her, in the words true sense.
Jolted from her thoughts by the sudden lurching stop of the carriage, Sophia looked around, cursing herself for letting her guard down. The driver had taken ill and was nowhere to be seen, but his retches could be heard clearly. Her own stomach moved with them, but she forced the feeling down and climbed out of the carriage. Her shoes made sharp padding sounds as they struck the wet road. She approached the horse and stroked it, her hand pushing rainwater from its bristly coat. She released the beast from its cage of iron and leather, and climbed on its back. She hesitated, looked in the directions of the retching sounds, but then strengthened her resolve. This road was well travelled enough that someone would be along before the day was out. She turned to the road ahead and spurred her horse into a gallop.
The vicar was in the middle of his sermon whilst the doors opened, granting entrance to the winds that chilled the town of Emminster on this miserable day. The vicar continued over the sound of the weather, but kept an eye on the door. The young girl who stepped through was soaked head to toe, her long black hair hanging partially in front of her face, she kept her eyes to the ground and sat shivering in the pew furthest from the alter. The vicar continued his sermon, sneaking occasional glances towards the back. The woman, however, kept her eyes to the ground. She seemed more preoccupied with keeping herself warm. The vicar continued. His sermon was on deceit, a topic of great personal relevance to him. He told of his experiences and their unsavory results, but when he mentioned concealing the truth of his family name, Stoke, the woman in the last pew stiffened and looked up, he met her gaze and his heart burned. Could it be his Sophia? His face burned with a combination of love and remorse. Their gaze lingered for a time unknown to him, until he realized that the congregation was looking at him questioningly, some eyes were turning to see what captivated his attention so. He awkwardly continued, although the weight of his message was entirely lost.
At the end of it he was exhausted; he stumbled over his words, more often than not without understanding them. He was sweating all over, and his hands were trembling. He receded from the Alter and collapsed in the closest chair, he looked up to see a few curious women, who turned away when his eyes met theirs. Sophia was here, had she recognized him? He tried to regain his composure but to no avail, his hands still quivered like leaves in a strong wind. Images of his past flashed in his vision, dominating his senses. He had to confront her, he stood up and made his way through the churchgoers towards the back of the building, trying to find her in the small crowd, but to his dismay, through the masses of people he saw her slip quickly and quietly out the door. He redoubled his haste and began pushing people out of the way, he cared not for his reputation as a man of God, he had to talk to her. Out of the crowd a voice spoke “Pastor Alec.” but he ignored it entirely.
Outside was much colder than within the church, He felt out of place being so dry and comfortable in such dreary surroundings, but that would soon change. He found Sophia untying a horse without a saddle. He hesitated; he had not seen her since she was a child, but his love for her remained. With great difficulty he manipulated his mouth to make the sounds;
“Sophia?” She looked up, startled. She simply stared at him, great tempests brewed within her eyes as the true potential of the revelation rang true in her mind. “How is your mother?” he stammered.
“Fine” She replied coldly, continuing work on the horse. Another awkward minute ensued, with every second the situation grew more hostile, but Alec could think of nothing to say that would fix this.
“I- I’m sorry for leaving“he said, as though he had been relieved of a great burden, which in a sense he was. She looked up again and stared into his eyes. She now carried a very fiery persona.
“The very action of your departure has little effect on me sir, would you have left without a word I would have grown up without knowing you, something that has already come to pass. The event that you should be apologizing for is telling a young girl that you would return” Alec was speechless the words came think and fast, each one like a needle in his heart. He could not recall the event that Sophia spoke so passionately about, although he did not say for fear of upsetting her further. “I suppose you remember what you told me on the morning you left” Now Alec remembered with perfect clarity. With regret in his voice he spoke to her softly.
“Sophia, I was merely trying to spare you from the pain of my leaving” She did not react. Nothing changed about her; it was as though he had not spoken at all. Then slowly she shook her head and began mounting the horse. Now elevated, Sophia dominated the conversation, but she did so with silence. A cold deathly silence, that despite Alec’s intense desire, she did not cease. Instead she looked to the road ahead and gave the beast a slight kick, moving it to a walking pace. She did not say a word, but left Alec alone. Now soaked through He knelt slowly in the mud and watched as a raindrop ran down his hand and onto the ground, it joined a stream, which in turn became a river which flowed of into the horizon. Alec followed the path until he could no longer see it.
“Goodbye” he said.