Life Without Life

Chapter 1:


It is the year of our Lord, thirteen hundred and thirty-eight. For many years, Emily-Elizabeth, her two brothers, and her sister have lived on their Lord's estate in Nottinghamshire, Britain. Their parents, gone from this forsaken, heartless world, died some time ago. Their father, a peasant who toiled on the land, was forced to fight for the baron against an opposing Lord. There he died in the heat of battle. Their mother, God rest her soul, was murdered by thieves who were pillaging the village. Emily was thirteen at the time.

For her, there was no time to think about growing up: at eight, she was taught how to keep house and at twenty she was to be married and tend to her own home. Now, at sixteen, she is as mature as she can be. The life she had so longed for has dissipated. She is now an abandoned peasant girl forced to tend to a home, a field of crops, her two brothers, and her sister. It is impossible to even consider a life of her own.

"Kathleen! Kathleen Marie, come here!" Emily-Elizabeth calls as she frantically searches the grounds for her lost sister. "Thomas John, have you seen Kathleen today? She was here a moment ago."

"Nay, I have not. I thought John Michael was watching her today."

"Nay, John is working in the fields. The Baron wants the harvest to be finished before the winter months. Will you go find her and bring her here?"

As Thomas John leaves to go search for his absent sister, Emily-Elizabeth finds herself meandering about the house. It is an unusual house, actually. The floor is earth and the only light is either shed by a miniature window on one wall or a tiny fire in the heart of the room. It is one immense room and in one niche stands a bed frame covered with hay stolen from the stables. The bed is only large enough to fit two people, so Emily-Elizabeth had decided that the youngest should sleep there; she and John Michael, the second oldest, slept on the dirt floor. Lying in an adjacent corner, is an average-sized chest. In it their mother kept some memorabilia. After her mother died, she never dared to open it. It just stood there, staring back at her, expressionless.

She snatches up a rug that is lying on the floor and carries it outside. As she is beating the rug with a broom, a young boy appears and inhales the dust.

"Could you please stop thrashing out that rug? It is making me. . . a-choo!"

Emily-Elizabeth turns around to see a young man standing before her. He is dressed in tatters but his broad shoulders tell her he is definitely a laborer, if not in the fields than somewhere else. He reminds me of my father, she says to herself.

"Sorry. I was not paying attention. I rarely do nowadays."

"It's quite all right. Are you by any chance Emily-Elizabeth, the farmer's daughter? I was told I might find you here."

"Indeed I am. And you are. . .?"

"Oh, my name is Timothy. I am an apprentice at the Blacksmith's shop down the road. Did you know that you are well known around here?"

"It is because I manage so much. I have been told I would have made an excellent wife."

"You are not married?!"

"You sound quite surprised, Timothy. No, I am not married."

"I am only surprised because an angelic girl like yourself should be in the arms of an admirable man."

"An admirable man such as yourself?" she questions playfully.

"Maybe. And what about your own life? Have you no time for yourself?"

"Never. Both my parents have been dead for three years. I was forced to tend to the field during the harvest and look after my younger siblings. I must take over from whence my mother and father left off."

"Do you have any time for companions?" he asks with a grin on his face.

"Nay. I do not have any companions, except if you would consider the elderly wives in the field as friends."

"Shocking! Who do you have to talk to?"

"I usually sing to myself as I am working. It's a way to get my mind off of loneliness."

"Do you suppose you might be able to find time to be friends with me?"

"I would be more than happy to find time in my busy life to be friends with you!"

"Well, I'd best be getting back to the shop. I was only supposed to be gone for a short while. I will talk to you in the future."

As Timothy walks away, Emily-Elizabeth realizes she may never see that poor boy again. She shrugs her shoulders and brings the rug back into the house. I wonder if Timothy can find a way for me to forget my past? she thinks to herself.

continue to chapter 2