“I am not your property!” My fingers clenched the folds of my skirts. “I beg you to leave me be, and let me live my life the way I want to!”
These are the words I wished to speak, but my thin lips couldn’t speak such frank words. Neither could my body, do more than stand as a silhouette of the shadow cast by my father. Every inch of my body ached to run, to use the muscles I was given, and run as far away as possible.
“Brandi!” The loud boom of my fathers voice echoed off the walls of the small cottage of Rimsway.
I shut my eyes tightly, trying to force out the light of the day. My limbs shook as I rose from my bed. The old wooden boards creaked as I walked towards the door. My hand froze just above the door handle. A soft brown curl fell into my line of sight. I nimbly brushed it behind my ear and inhaled a shallow breath.
“Brandi!” I jolted upright, and watched as my knuckles turned white around the handle. I didn’t want him to call my name again, but I didn’t want to leave the safety of my room.
I heard it, before I had chance to lung back and cower behind my bed. The loud sound of my fathers ranch boots clanking against the boards. He burst in through the door. His heavy brow furrowed together, as his peppery hair shadowed his eyes. I could smell the stench of alcohol before he even exhaled.
“Girl, did you not hear me call?” His voice boomed with anger. “The priest is here.”
I knew if it weren’t a Sunday, and we didn’t have a guest, I’d be over his knee with a wooden spoon.
“Get,” He grabbed the nape of my neck and ushered me out of the room.
I dare not cry. I wouldn’t let him see he had gotten to me.
“Sorry, to keep you waiting father.” He said.
“No need to apologize.” The father waved his hand in the air dismissing it. “Now, shall we begin.”
I took my seat on the old scratchy sofa across from the priest. The curtains had been drawn but you could see the dust haze. The room hadn’t been used for a couple of years.
“I know this isn’t standard procedure father, but as you know Brandi’s mother passed away not three summers ago. She hadn’t yet found a suitor for the wee girl.” My father strode across the room over to the dusty photograph of my mother. He stroked away the film and for a moment I saw the kindness that once spilled through every corner of this household.
“No matter.” The priest shifted his gaze to me. “The girl is obviously ready to find a suitor.” His eyes dropped lower and I cringed.
“How long do you think it will take to find a suitable specimen for her?” My father had returned to my side.
“Well, she is a pretty girl.” The priest sized me up. His lips pursed as he thought it through. “It shouldn’t take long. There are plenty of eligible males within the city.”
“City?” My father asked.
“Yes, the ranchers,” he gestured to my father. “Like yourself have all been spoken for. So, the best I can do is marry her off to a city folk.”
My father stewed for a moment. He obviously didn’t like the idea of me being carried off across the city line. Most of the time ranchers preferred to keep within the fields they were born into.
I sat perfectly still, even though I could feel myself shake in my seat.
“I see.” My father scratched his beard. “I have no choice then.”
“Now that I’ve seen the girl. I shall be able to write a proper report to the city council explaining the situation.” The priest twisted the cap of his pen and jotted down a few notes on his pad of paper. “This however, will take time and perhaps cost you a little more.”
I could feel my father stiffen. “Why would it cost more?”
“Well, shipping her there, the time to wait. I’m sure they will be eager to get her.” His mouth curved into a sly grin. “On the off chance, I happen to be traveling to the northern city this evening.”
“It wouldn’t be too soon?” My father thumbed his temple. “What if you cannot find a suitor.”
“That is the beauty of our service.” The priest stood. “Every girl is successfully married off. It’s our policy.”
Both the men exited the room. Left alone, my mind began to race. I was to be sold to the northern city. I remember the tales my mother used to tell me at night about the northern people. They weren’t the kindest of folk, and they didn’t take nicely to outsiders either.
I wanted to stay here in Rimsway cottage. I didn’t want to leave my mothers resting bed. I knew though, that I didn’t have a choice. This year was the last straw. The wheat had failed to take hold and bulls my father raised didn’t reproduce this year either. The lack of food in this homestead is modest if not great. I can’t remember the last time I’d made an apple pie.
I watched the tiny specks of dust settle onto the furniture. My life was meaningless. I could be swept away without a second thought.
Foot steps emerged at the doorway. My father stood his full six feet as he entered. “Brandi,” His voice was softer than of late but I knew why. “Pack a light suitcase.” He paused a moment as if he wanted to say more but just turned and left the room.
Warm hot tears filled my eyes as I passed through the halls for the last time. My footsteps were heavy and slow. I had the urge to turn around and run back into my room and barricade the door.
The warm august air rushed through the front foyer. The breeze caught my hair and tugged it loosely from the knot. I’d miss the smell of the garden beds I’d worked hard on during the spring and summer. Most of the blooms had shrivelled down to nothing more than a brown stump.
The priest stood by his carriage, writing more on his notepad. I shivered, even though the autumn breeze is still warm.
“Brandi,” Father spoke from behind me.
I turned and sniffled back a few tears. He held out his hand to me. A small wooden box with intricate designs, painted blue to match a robins egg, sat in his palm.
“Your mother would have wanted you to have this.” His voice strained as he spoke. “Be carful on your journey.”