The wait is finally over, after months of hard work and dedication, I am proud to announce that my debut historical romance novel Arabella is now officially available on Amazon in digital format.
The print version will be available later this month.
Grab your copy here:
UK Arabella by Louise Lake
US Arabella by Louise Lake
We have known each other for many years but it is only now that I can confess my love for you. You must forgive my past silence on this matter. Ever since the first moment I laid eyes on you as a young and selfish child, before Romeo and Juliet, I have loved you like no other. You are the reason for my existence and the only woman I will ever love. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes upon. I hope you understood my reason for leaving and that you receive this letter; I could never have left you without good reason for doing so. Every minute of every day I miss you and when my time in the military is over and done I will come back for you with the intention of making you my wife.
Yours now and forever,
Chapter One: Larson
My life had always been simple. Growing up with a mother and a father in a busy farm house, our way of life was to be up at first light to feed the hens, muck the horses, milk the cows and round up the sheep. As a child I thought it would be all I would ever know. It was hard work; everyday seemed to be the same repeated over and over again. I wasn’t popular and my family didn’t have much money to spare like all of the other children, but I just knew that one day something good would come into my life and I would find my own personal greatness and the real reason for my existence. I knew that reason would not be to follow in my father’s footsteps and grow up to be the greatest farmer that ever lived; I was more ambitious than that, even for a boy of twelve.
On a bright, hot summer’s day my reason appeared. Just across the lake stood the magnificent Hawthorne House, with acre upon acre of the finest British soil. My father always said that the soil was wasted on the rich and he liked to imagine the kind of farm he could have there. Of course we could never afford land like that.
Hawthorne House was grand and stood right in the centre; you could see the fine red and gold draped curtains hanging from the windows if you sneaked close enough. I would go and snoop around the grounds often when I had finished my duties on the farm. Ever since the last family who lived there had moved away it became easier to get a closer look. I liked to imagine myself living there when I got older. I pictured myself as a rich man with no cares in the world, dressed in the latest fashions and expensive materials. I liked to imagine what the house looked like from the inside. I imagined tall gold candle sticks, silk drapes, red velvet carpets and marble floors, gold bannisters and the finest wooden furnishings that money could buy. I saw inspiring and majestic pieces of art hanging on the walls, valued for lots of pounds and sparkling jewels in the ornaments and lamps. I pictured a huge dance hall and a banquet table with a hundred chairs to entertain guests. I imagined grand balls with a piano and the finest musicians, and ladies wearing expensive jewellery and fine dresses. I would close my eyes and lay back in the grass near the lake gazing towards the clouds picturing a beauty beyond comprehension, the beauty that when I grew up I would marry. Sometimes it felt real but then I would be pulled back to reality when I awoke from my dream.
Hawthorne House had been abandoned for a while; I never expected anyone else to move in anytime soon and I knew it was against the rules to break into other people’s homes. But no one lived there so I didn’t think it mattered. I was only twelve years old and, although my father had taught me right from wrong, I just couldn’t seem to help myself. I had to know what it felt like to be inside such a fine home. I guessed I would never have a home like this and live on the farm forever, but if I didn’t look inside then I would never know.
I could hear my mother shouting me from across the lake but that didn’t stop me as I picked up a stone from the ground and thrust it through a window round the back of the stately home. The minute the stone hit the glass I pulled myself inside. I had only just got through the window into a large servants’ kitchen when I heard the sound of horses galloping outside. I fumbled around, wondering whether to run or if I would be shot down for it. It was well known around these parts that if you trespassed on someone else’s property you would be shot down in cold blood. I instantly knew I’d made the wrong decision when I jumped back out through the window and ran as fast as I could towards the lake. At first I didn’t think anyone had seen me, but then I heard galloping and a voice behind me as a hand grabbed the back of my shirt. I tried to wriggle free but his grip became tighter.
‘Hold up, boy, what do you think you are doing on my property?’ said the man.
‘I’m sorry, sir, I swear I didn’t know anyone lived here. Please, sir, let me go.’
‘Not until your father knows what you are, boy.’
‘So you’re not going to kill me, sir?’ I asked.
‘Kill you? Why in the world would I kill you, boy?’
‘That’s how it is round here, sir.’
He looked down at me with a confused look about his face.
‘Ah I see, well be off with you, boy, and I never want to see you on my grounds again.’
‘Yes, sir, thank you, sir.’
With that he began to walk me off the grounds.
‘Where do you live, boy?’
I suspected he was curious where I had come from and wanted to know if I lived locally.
‘In town, sir,’ I lied.
I wanted to tell him my name so he would stop calling me boy but I knew that was a bad idea. If my father knew what I was up to he would whip me. Although my father was poor he had a level of respect amongst the people here and what I had done would only bring shame to our family name. I knew I shouldn’t have broken in in the first place but I just wanted to know how it felt to live somewhere like that, to be rich and enjoy the finer things in life: the things I would never have.
As we walked through the gravel we passed a magnificent gold carriage. A woman came out dressed in purple and white.
‘What is this?’ she asked.
‘Just some silly boy playing on our land, Lavinia, not to worry; I’m escorting him to the gate, he won’t be back again.’
She looked at me like I’d stolen something and even though I felt the need to defend myself I knew I shouldn’t as they were not my class of people. To them I was just some dumb boy who didn’t know any better, but if only they knew me they would know that wasn’t true.
I glanced over at the carriage again upon hearing a shuffle from inside. I looked over at the nearest window to see the face of a girl. The girl looked around my age; she had long golden blond hair that hung in curls, pale skin and the bluest eyes I had ever seen. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever encountered.
‘Arabella, get back inside,’ her mother called.
She looked over in my direction, a smile forming on her rosy red lips before she pulled back inside the carriage.
As I was escorted from the estate making my way back home, I knew I had just found my reason to grow into the man I had always dreamed of.
Chapter Two: Arabella
When Papa announced we were to move to the countryside, I felt a sudden sense of attachment to my familiar surroundings. I had grown up in the city of London in a rather large town house, although it was more like a palace if you asked me. We had a staff of twenty which included house maids, footmen, a butler and three cooks. To be ripped away from all of the high class friends I had made at the age of twelve, and being forced to live in the countryside was one of the worst things that could happen. I loved my father very much and everything that he did for our family made us love him all the more, but this was not one of those moments.
‘Papa, Papa, do we really have to go?’
‘Arabella, darling, if your father says it is a good idea, then it is a good idea,’ my mother responded, in my father’s defence.
‘But, Papa, what about my friends? I shall never see them again; I shall never attend a ball.’
‘Arabella, will you do as you are told,’ my mother shouted.
‘You will make more friends, my dear, better friends, and there will be balls in Derbyshire, you have my word,’ said my father.
My father’s word meant a lot, as he was well known around town to never go back on anything he had said. When he said something he meant it.
‘Really, Papa, better friends, I cannot image so. I cannot wait until my first ball.’
I dreamed of the way the ball room would look, complete with gold trimmings and me with my golden blond curls pinned up, wearing a beautiful blue dress.
‘You have a long time before you need to worry about balls, my dear,’ father responded.
‘I will be the most beautiful girl in all of Derbyshire.’
‘Yes, my dear, and you will break all of their hearts,’ my father laughed.
‘Arabella, will you stop this silliness at once and prepare yourself for the journey. It will be a while until we arrive in Derbyshire,’ my mother announced.
My father had made all of the necessary arrangements for our move months ago, so that we would move to the large estate in the countryside with ease. Everyone seemed to be pleased that they were leaving London behind, except for me. I had many friends in London, whom I could not imagine to be parted from. But as I was still a child, I had very little choice in the matter. Yet after my father kindly stated that I would be the most beautiful girl in all of Derbyshire, I changed my mind and decided that maybe a move to the countryside would not be so bad after all.
‘Papa, I think I shall like the countryside very much.’
Our remaining belongings were put in place for the journey, as we prepared to set off. My mother threw a shawl around my shoulders and pulled my summer hat in place, ready to leave our old life behind. My father laughed as my mother tugged my arms, pulling me outside, before sitting me in the carriage.
‘Now wait there and stop this nonsense,’ my mother said before taking one last look back at the house. As the carriage made its way through London, a few of my greatest friends stood by the road ready to bid me farewell. Their waves faded into the distance as we left London.
I saw many sights on my arrival into Derbyshire, but more than anything the place seemed to be filled with animals enclosed in fences and stone walls. My mother explained that they were farms run by the people that I should never talk to, as they weren’t of our class.
The scenery was very different from our old home in the city. Cities are full of buildings but the country was just full of grass and trees. I didn’t understand how I was to love such a place, but I trusted Papa knew best. People always described my father as an honest man, so I knew he would always be right, and he was my father after all.
When the carriage began to turn onto our new grounds, the horses jerked, as if they could sense a danger of some kind. It wasn’t long before my father jumped out of the carriage and ran around the back of the house. As we waited for Papa to return, my mother told me that this would be our new home.
‘But it is so big,’ I responded in excitement.
‘That it is, Arabella, it is called Hawthorne House.’
‘Will Alexander be coming to live with us?’ I asked my mother.
‘Yes just as soon as his time at school is over.’
Alexander was my older brother. Papa had sent him away to school for a few years, with the hope that he might learn something new and come back more refined, as Papa had put it. Alexander was an adventurer; he loved to play in the dirt and disobey Papa. Papa called him a disobedient child before he was sent away. I missed my brother greatly, but the housemaids did not miss his filthy garments.
On sight of my father, my mother got out of the carriage. I could hear them talking outside. I decided to peak my head out of the carriage window but I did not go unnoticed, as I saw him. A boy just standing there staring back at me. He was covered in dirt from head to toe. I smiled as I could only imagine what he had been up to. My mother shouted at me for being nosy. The boy turned back and looked again as my father escorted him from our land. And in that moment I knew I was going to like it here.
Chapter Three: Larson
When I returned home, I was met with a hand to my head.
‘Where do you think you’ve been?’ my mother yelled, as I almost lost my balance.
‘If your father knew you had been out all this time,’ she continued as I dodged her hand again, her fingertips grazing my skin.
‘I’m sorry, Ma, today I saw an angel, her name is Arabella and she is the most beautiful girl in all the lands,’ I announced.
‘Sounds like someone’s been playing in fantasy land for too long today,’ my mother laughed.
My father burst through the door with a worried look on his face.
‘Lewis where have you been, son’? My father asked.
‘Just out and about, Sir.’
‘Oh is that right?’
‘He’s been in fantasy land again,’ said my mother.
‘Guess again, he’s been to Hawthorne House over the lake again, haven’t you son?’
‘How did you know, Sir?’ I asked.
‘Never you mind how I know, I have eyes and ears everywhere son, and don’t you forget that.’
‘I’m sorry, Sir.’
‘How many times do I have to tell you not to go there, they’d lock you up, or even worse if you were caught,’ my mother said biting her lip in anger.
‘As a matter of fact, love, he was caught, by the new owner too, isn’t that right, son?’
I gulped hard wondering how my father could have known.
‘It won’t happen again, Sir, I promise,’ I responded, although I didn’t know if I could keep that promise.’
‘Damn right it won’t happen again, now get some supper and off to bed with you, we have work to do on the farm in the morning.’
‘Alright, Sir,’ I said before fetching myself a bowl of stew.
The next day after working on the farm I ventured down to the lake. The moment I got there I saw her, sitting across the lake, in a pastel pink dress, with her beautiful golden blond ringlets. I wanted to cross the lake and talk to her. She glanced over in my direction and although no words were exchanged at that moment in time, I knew Arabella was the girl I would marry.
Days and weeks passed by without seeing her again. She was locked away like a princess in a palace. I knew that eventually our paths would cross again but I never expected the way they did. Sometimes I would go into town to run errands for my father when he was behind with work on the farm. I had been to town many times to collect money owed to my father for the purchase of veg, meat and grains from our farm and I had never had any problems; until I bumped into Radley Moores and his followers.
Radley was a rich snob and his friends only followed him because his father was the wealthiest man in all of Derbyshire. He was well known for taunting the less fortunate and in this case, on that day, that was me.
‘Lewis Larson, what do you have there?’
Radley referred to the pouch of coins in my hand. I grasped my hand tight so that none of the coins would fall out before I ran. I ran as fast as my feet would carry me, as Radley and his followers chased after me. They chased me through field after field. I came to a halt when I tripped over the stub of a tree. Radley and his followers had me surrounded.
They began snatching at me, trying to free the pouch of coins from my hands. Radley eventually managed to pull the pouch from my fingers.
‘That belongs to my father!’ I shouted.
‘Your father doesn’t deserve this; he deserves to be poor, just like you will be when you grow up.’
I leapt off the ground knocking Radley off his feet, face down in the dirt. His followers grabbed my legs, dragging me into a pile of cow dung, before kicking me and laughing hysterically. But they were soon stopped in their tracks by the sight of a beautiful pristine girl: Arabella. Arabella stood staring at the other boys, holding her hand out to me to help me up.
‘My, you smell bad,’ she said smiling.
I couldn’t help but smile back at her. I took her hand as she helped me up off the ground. Radley sneered at the sight of us, as if he didn’t approve, before introducing himself to Arabella.
‘Lady Lybeck, I am Radley Moores, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I believe our fathers are friends. I should very much like to be yours.’
‘It may be your pleasure but it is not mine. I don’t care who your father is. Besides I already have a friend, thank you.’
Arabella turned to me before asking, ‘what is your name?’
‘Lewis, my name is Lewis Larson.’
‘Lewis Larson is my friend, you see,’ she taunted before leading the way back home.
I followed her every step of the way, until she turned around and burst out laughing.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘You really should get a bath Lewis,’ she smiled.
I smiled back in agreement. Something about this girl drew me to her like a moth to light. Her smile illuminated her face and I had to know if I would see her again.
‘Will we meet again?’ I asked.
‘Of course we will silly, if we are to be friends I should like to see you tomorrow, the next day and the day after, until we have known each other many days.’
‘Thank you,’ I said.
‘For what?’ she asked.
‘For stopping and helping me.’
‘It was nothing, in any case, I despise Radley Moores, from what I have heard he is nothing but a rich bully. Now you had better go home and clean yourself up, I will see you tomorrow,’ she said before skipping off home.
‘Until tomorrow and every day after,’ I whispered beneath my breath.
After that day we became inseparable. We saw each other every day for two years and my life of poverty was blessed with the richest gift I could ever receive. Everything was perfect for a while as our friendship grew into a deep bond. That was until a trail of unfortunate events occurred that would change everything.
Chapter Four: Arabella
‘Alexander, Alexander you’re home, how I have missed you!’
‘I have missed you too, Arabella, life was not the same without my dear little sister.’
‘I’m only two years younger, and I’m not that little anymore.’
‘No I see you are growing into quite a Lady.’
‘I cannot wait until I am old enough to go to my first ball,’ I squeaked in excitement.
‘Neither can mother, it is when you will be introduced to society after all,’ Alexander laughed.
I had missed Alexander’s laugh. He was always a happy soul. Even when we were very young, he was always the happier of us both. My father always wanted a son, even though Alexander was not quite up to his high standards.
‘Society, you make it all sound so important, I just want to dance and look beautiful in a dress of my choosing.’
‘And so you shall, one day Arabella you will go to all of the balls you wish.’
It was wonderful to have my big brother back at home, even if it was a different home. He had not changed. I wondered if that was why father had agreed on his return home sooner than expected. Yet I did not care, I had always loved my brother for the true adventurer that he was.
A few days after Alexander’s return, I introduced him to my friend Lewis Larson, or just Larson, as he had made a habit of calling himself. Larson and Alexander were instant friends, as I knew they would be before they met. Alexander was nothing like Papa, he did not judge Larson on being the son of a farmer, nor did I. I knew we would be friends all of our lives, even when we find ourselves married with our own children.
A few months later, Mama insisted on taking me into town to be fitted for a new dress and to pick out a second gown of my choosing. I could not wait to see all of the ladies dresses, even though I was not old enough to fit into one. I eagerly waited for the day that I would pick out the prettiest blue dress that I dreamed of wearing to my first ball.
Meanwhile back at home Larson and Alexander had agreed to meet without me. Boys will be mischievous after all. I was fine with it, as I knew I would be gone all day and upon my return I would bore them both with gossip and tales from the dressmakers shop.
As soon as we arrived at the dressmakers, Mama began to pick out a selection of different fabrics for me.
‘Mama, you said I could choose my own fabric, I choose this one,’ I smiled handing over an elegant pale blue material.
‘Can you save it for me, until I’m of age?’ I eagerly asked the Dressmaker.
She nodded in response, as her husband shook his head from the other side of the room.
My mother, with a shocked expression upon her face, blushed in awkward silence, before nodding her head in agreement.
‘And then I shall have it made in an adult size for the evening of my first ball, this exact material’ I exclaimed.
It was the first time I had ever spoken against my mother, but I knew it had to be done at some point or another, or I would forever be her slave. There were so many different blends of fabric and colours to choose from, yet I knew I had made the perfect choice. The dress my mother had already paid for on her last visit was made from a material they called Amber Flush. It was not a colour I would willingly choose for myself, but seeing as my mother had agreed on my choice for my first future ball, I would not complain about her choice for me.
When we finally left the shop, I felt the strangest sensation deep within the pit of my stomach that something just wasn’t quite right. I could not wait to return home to prove myself wrong.
‘All is well,’ I told myself, although my heart knew different.
Chapter Five: Larson
Arabella had gone off to the dressmakers with her mother, whilst Alexander and I had decided to meet for a swim down at the lake.
We splashed most of the day away, imagining we were sea creatures of some kind and we talked about Alexander’s experiences at school.
‘It was alright I guess, but it could get rather dull at times, although the other boys were not bad.’
‘I wish I could have an education like that,’ I responded, jealous of how different our lives were.
‘Maybe you will one day,’ Alexander replied.
I could tell that he was only trying to be kind, yet a part of me still longed to have a life like his.
‘What the likes of me, a common farm boy?’
We both laughed as we splashed some more.
‘There is nothing wrong with being a farmer’s son,’ Alexander added.
‘But it is better to be the son of a gentleman of great fortune,’ I joked before falling silent, unsure how Alexander would react.
‘I tell you what, I have an idea. If you beat me up that tree, I will give you half of my inheritance so that you can go anywhere you like.’
I laughed awkwardly, believing that he was not serious.
‘By that time I’ll be an old man with no means for the money, but you’re on,’ I said playing Alexander’s game.
We pulled our dry clothes over our soaking wet under garments, before racing towards a large oak tree that stood adjacent to the lake. Alexander was faster than I had expected. I wondered if I would ever catch up to him but I out ran him eventually. We climbed from either side of the tree, racing in anticipation to be the winner.
‘Be careful not to fall or you will lose,’ Alexander smirked with a childish grin curling his lips.
‘I was born to climb trees, I’m a farm boy after all,’ I exclaimed smiling.
We climbed higher and higher until we reached the top. Branches snapped beneath our feet and twigs fell with a single brush of our fingers. I almost lost my balance on a few occasions but I made it. I still wasn’t as fast as Alexander as he was a champion, I was certain he had taken running classes at school, but the view overlooking the lake was more than enough compensation for losing the race. I saw life from a different perspective from high up in the tree. I could think more clearly than I ever had before and I was certain that one day I would be a great man, not a farmer but in a profession of my own choosing. A profession I would be proud of.
We sat silently overlooking the land below us, until my mother began shouting my name from across the lake.
‘Lewis, Lewis it’s time to come home, your supper is ready,’ she called.
Alexander shot me an awkward glance.
‘I’ll race you back down,’ he said in haste.
I tried to stop him, to warn him somehow that it was not safe, as parts of the tree were now missing from our clumsy climb up.
‘Be careful,’ I said with genuine worry.
But it was too late. Before I could say another word, or reach out my hand to take hold of his, Alexander fell, hitting the branches on his way down, before his body shattered as it hit the ground. I could hear the sound of his bones as they cracked against the surface.
I stared in shock, panic consuming me, before making my way down the tree as fast as I possibly could. I feared that I was too late, that he was already dead, but then he opened his eyes. He just stared at me in silence. I could see the pain within the tears that formed in his eyes.
‘I’ll get help,’ I said before running to his father’s estate.
I banged against the door with force until the butler answered followed by Alexander’s father.
‘Please Sir, you need to come quick.’
He looked me up and down, no doubt noticing the layers of dirt that had formed on me.
‘Look I do not have time for your games, boy, I told you to stay off my land and I meant it.’
‘Please Sir; it’s your son, Alexander.’
‘What do you know of my son, boy?’
‘He’s hurt Sir, please Sir, I can take you to him.’
He followed me, as did most of the household when they learned what had happened, whilst others sent for the doctor and prepared for Alexander’s return.
The doctor arrived after ten minutes of being sent for. As they lifted Alexander inside he looked frail, and I couldn’t help but blame myself for what had happened. If I had never agreed to Alexander’s stupid idea in the first place, thinking a common farm boy as I could better myself and go to school, then this would never have happened.
I waited outside on the grounds as Alexander’s father refused to let me inside. It felt like a lifetime waiting to hear any news on Alexander’s condition, until the doctor finally came out.
‘Please, sir, how is the Master?’ I asked.
‘Very grave indeed I’m afraid; the Master’s legs have been paralysed.’
I sank to my knees as the doctor left. The greatest adventurer I ever knew was an adventurer no more, and it was all my fault.
Chapter Six: Arabella
Upon our arrival home, I witnessed Larson on his knees on the ground. I wondered what he could be doing and why he would await my return home. My curiosity came to an end when he stood upright, as my father stormed out of the front door. I could see the anger in his eyes as he raised his hand toward Larson. I wondered what Larson had done to deserve this kind of treatment from my father.
My mother immediately rushed out of the carriage to find out what all of the commotion was about.
‘What is it Byron?’ my mother asked.
‘Go tend to your son and you will soon find out,’ my father replied with a terrifying look spreading across his face. ‘This boy is a good for nothing curse upon our family,’ he continued in my direction, so that I would know the comment was intended for me.
‘Papa, what has he done that is so terrible for you to treat him this way?’
I stood beside Larson in his defence, as my mother hurried inside.
‘Papa, what did he do?’ I demanded grabbing hold of his arm.
‘He pushed your brother from the tree by the lake and now he is paralysed, all because of this good for nothing parasite!’
I stood silent for a moment not knowing how to react to my father’s words, I had never seen him like this, and it scared me.
‘Now get off my land and you are never to see my daughter again, do I make myself clear?’ my father yelled at Larson.
I stood staring at Larson in disbelief. Could my best friend really have committed such a crime?
‘Is it true, did you push him?’ I asked, the guilt of betraying my best friend consuming me as I did so.
It felt wrong asking, as I already felt that I knew the answer, but I had to be sure.
‘If you think me capable of such a cruel act, then you are as bad as your father!’ he exclaimed.
His words cut deep like a knife.
‘Larson, please,’ I begged trying to get him to stay so that we could work out this misunderstanding.
‘Arabella, leave him and go inside,’ my father interrupted.
I glanced at my father, before looking back at Larson.
‘Just stay away from me, it’s for the best,’ Larson replied.
I watched him walk away, trying to hold back the tears that were beginning to form in my eyes. This had to be a big misunderstanding. I knew Larson, and I knew he was not capable of committing such an unpleasant deed on my brother.
My brother was paralysed, my father full of anger and I had just lost the best friend that I ever had.
My mother came rushing downstairs in a flood of tears, as my father did his best to console her. She would not even look at me, which led me to believe that she blamed me for being friends with Larson in the first place and introducing him to my brother.
I ran upstairs, sweeping past the housemaids, as they came in and out of my brothers room. When I entered, my brother didn’t respond at first. He lay upon the bed with his legs in a stiff position. He finally noticed me when I came closer and held his hand.
‘What happened?’ I asked, unsure if it was too early for such an explanation.
‘It was my fault, my own silly foolishness.’
‘So you mean to say that Larson did not push you after all?’ I asked.
‘Of course not, Arabella, how could you ask such a question?’ he looked at me with disgust invading his eyes. ‘Lewis Larson, has been nothing but a loyal friend to our family, and if he was not there, I could very well be dead by now.’
‘I know it was just that father said…’
‘Arabella, how many times have I told you, never to listen to our father? All he cares about is money. Do you know that he will marry you off to the richest man he can find when you come of age, and that will probably be none other than Radley Moores.’
‘You are lying, that is not true, I have a choice!’ I shouted.
‘Arabella, we were not born with the freewill to make our own choices. That is what it means to be born into wealth.’
‘Then I shall run away when the time comes.’
Alexander laughed at my foolishness.
‘And I should run away with you, if I could run,’ he pointed to his legs.
I looked down towards the floor, not knowing how to respond to my brother’s tragedy.
‘I am sorry that this happened to you,’ I finally spoke.
‘I am too. It is not your fault; it was my own fault. I was the one who suggested we race up and down the tree after all. It was my own doing and now I have to learn to live with it. It will be a challenge but I am sure I can do it.’
I kissed my brother on the cheek before turning to leave the room.
‘Arabella,’ Alexander called.
‘Yes?’ I replied, ready to exit the room.
‘You must make things right with Larson, for he is the best friend you ever had.’
I nodded my head in response to my brother’s request, before retiring to my room. I wondered if Larson could ever forgive me for doubting him, but Alexander was right; somehow I had to make amends.
Chapter Seven: Larson
I could hardly believe that the entire Lybeck family were blaming me for paralysing their son. Byron Lybeck, Arabella and Alexander’s father, had always had a reputation for branding the less fortunate as criminals, but until now I had never known just how far he would go to protect his own. Maybe it was for the best that I did not see Arabella again. I was certain that soon enough my good name would be tarnished, if Byron Lybeck had anything to do with it. I already felt bad enough without being branded a criminal for the rest of my miserable life.
That was exactly how I felt without her; miserable. Yet I knew that I had to try to forget about her and all of the time we had spent together over the last couple of years. After all, she did just accuse me of pushing her brother out of that damned tree. I wished I had never met her and her family and I wished my feelings for her weren’t so strong. My father always used to say that ‘your first love is the worst’, only in my father’s case, he married his. I doubted I would ever marry Arabella; she was too good for the likes of me.
Weeks passed by without any sight of her, it was as if she had just vanished. At first I wondered if her father had sent her away somewhere, but I couldn’t know for sure. I unexpectedly made a small trio of new friends, with two brothers and a sister who lived nearby. Jacob was the eldest of the boys, Michael the youngest and their sister was called Sally.
We began to meet in the fields. They all liked acting out plays and often did so in their spare time. They had all decided to put on a small performance near the lake, with their family for the audience. They asked me to play the part of a character called Romeo. Although I had never tried acting before, I decided it would be a good opportunity for me to take my mind off Arabella. That was until she turned up during our rehearsals.
‘Hello,’ she said in a sweet voice.
‘Ah and here is our fair Juliet,’ Jacob said.
‘What,’ I almost choked.
‘I bumped into your new friends in town the other day and I mentioned that we hadn’t seen each other for a while as I had been sent to London with my mother, so your friends kindly invited me to be part of their play. Not to worry my father will not be attending,’ she joked.
She seemed happy, even though the circumstances between us weren’t and I didn’t find her amusing in the slightest.
I pulled Arabella to one side away from the others.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked her.
‘I have no idea what you mean, I just told you why I am here,’ she replied.
‘You know what I mean, we shouldn’t be seen together,’ I said.
‘But we will not be seen together, will we. Seriously, Lewis, it is all in the past and I want to be your friend again.’
‘Well I don’t want to be yours, your family has caused me nothing but trouble,’ I said angrily as my voice grew louder.
Jacob, Michael and Sally all came rushing over, staring at us in awkward silence.
‘I suppose I can be civil, for the sake of my friends,’ I agreed to keep the peace.
‘Excellent!’ she cheered in victory.
Sally, Jacob and Michael smiled towards Arabella, as if she was some sort of goddess.
I sniggered under my breath before continuing with the rehearsal. I walked forward, trying to escape from Arabella, when I almost knocked a young girl off her feet. If it wasn’t for Arabella shouting, ‘Sophia’, I wouldn’t have seen her standing in front of me.
‘This is my new friend, Sophia,’ said Arabella looking pleased with herself.
I held my hand out and shook Sophia’s.
‘It is nice to meet you, I have heard much about you,’ Sophia said.
I didn’t know what Arabella had been saying about me to this girl but I at least hoped it wasn’t all bad. Sophia leaned over close to my ear and whispered.
‘She is sorry for what happened and does not blame you.’
I smiled back at her.
‘Sophia will be taking all the other parts in the play that we haven’t already filled,’ Jacob spoke.
We continued with the rehearsals until the sun began to go down.
When we were finished and everyone had gone their separate ways, Arabella tried to follow me home but I ran so fast that she struggled to keep up with me.
Later that night as I lay awake in my bed, I wished things could be different between Arabella and me, but I knew I was just fooling myself. A beautiful rich girl like Arabella could never love a penniless boy like me. It was unheard of for a reason and that was because it didn’t happen. I would end up with someone more like Sally, pretty and pleasant to talk to but with very little in common, living a penniless life in a rundown house somewhere.
I fell asleep with the idea that I would be alright with how my life would turn out, after all things could always be worse.
The next day I awoke bright and early to do my chores on the farm before our final rehearsals, as tonight would be the night of our grand performance, if you could call it that. We weren’t professionals; after all we were too young, we were just bored and looking for something exciting to do. Yet if any of us were any good, we could end up performing Shakespeare’s works from a real life theatre house, or at least that was the plan.
Arabella arrived at the lake first with Sophia. Sophia would play a variety of smaller roles throughout the night, whilst Jacob would play Mercutio and Benvolio, Michael would play Tybalt and Paris, and Sally would play Rosaline and the Apothecary. Our version was not the original as Shakespeare intended it, we did change a few scenes and missed out some of the less important characters, but we all approved of the end result.
Our final rehearsal came to an end and, we were all left with faces full of wide smiles and a nervous disposition, as soon some of our family members would arrive to witness the end result. I hoped that it would all go as planned and not end as a huge disaster that we would all come to regret.
My mother and father arrived first, followed by Jacob, Michael and Sally’s grandmother, mother and father. Suddenly my eyes stopped in their tracks, as a housemaid neared us, pushing Alexander in a rolling chair with wheels. I had never seen anything quite like it before, it was spectacular to see. Guilt ran through me as flashbacks of Alexander’s fall hit my eyes. He looked at me and smiled as he took his place amongst the others.
We pulled the imaginary curtains back to reveal the first act. The crowd cheered throughout every performance we made. The show seemed to be a huge success with our spectators. When we came to the final scene, where Romeo takes the poison and Juliet wakes just in time to watch him die, our audience were struck into silence. Arabella was very convincing with her love for Romeo, that I almost believed she loved me too. The tears seemed to fall into her eyes naturally, without any effort on her part, as they were left glazed with a watery glow. I pretended to die, as Romeo does, seeming to act dramatic enough when the crowd gasped with shock. Then, just before Arabella picked up my sword and thrust it into her heart, she leant forward and kissed me. We hadn’t rehearsed that part as we didn’t want to complicate matters. Arabella’s lips invaded mine, as my lips fit smoothly against hers, in an extended kiss that seemed to last forever. Lost in the moment as her lips began to part from mine, I found them again, pressing hers against mine with a tender embrace.
I was relieved no high born nobles would bear witness to our kiss. Arabella might be disgraced for life. No lady should kiss any man other than her husband, let alone the son of a farmer. As if awakening from a vivid fantasy, I suddenly realised my place and our lips parted.
Arabella gasped with her eyes still closed, as I moved away. I knew that she could feel what was between us too, although she was far too stubborn to admit it. In that moment nothing else seemed to exist, except Romeo and his Juliet.
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