I have about 25 pages written of this story--this is the first part, please review.
The Journey There
I was, by far, the most beautiful girl in the village of Espalier. It was an affliction; a curse, no miracle at all. Jealousy led to hatred, hatred led to revenge- my calloused, overworked hands could prove that. My face remained unwashed; my thick, golden-auburn hair was lathe with the dirt and sweat of twice my share of work. They said I looked like either an angel or a ghost- my pristine white skin, comparable to that of a true noblewoman, would never darken or flaw. I had never once protested to their cruel, irrational punishments; I was a mute. A selective one, true, but I had never spoken a word all my life, and I fear that it is too late in my life to begin- whenever I try to make a noise, rarely does anything erupt from my lips, and when it does, it comes out as a low gurgle, a sound uncommon and alien to the rest of the widespread world.
On the morning of April 6, I was fast asleep, dreaming of the court in Versailles. I believe I dreamt about that nearly every night- although it can be hard to remember years later. Père awoke me with a start a whispered, “The men of the court are here! Get dressed, come quick, they are looking for a young dame to come to court!” My father was old, without a doubt; his white-gray hair and the wrinkled creases of his eyes could prove that. In that moment, though, his ancient blue eyes shone with a new kind of rigor, veritable severity mixed with just the smallest drop of fear and loss. I noticed that he wore his best clothes, nonetheless a simple peasant’s outfit- not a stain could be found on his cotton breeches, and his leather buckled shoes had been shined until they practically gleamed. It was atypical that I should be left to sleep this long, and however reluctant I was to be woken, I was more grateful to be left to sleep this long, and excited to come outside. I stepped out of my crudely-made bed of wood and woven hay, and came to the corner opposite where I had slept, to a large pail of water. I cupped my hands in it and splashed the crisp water over my dirt-caked face. I took my father’s shirt, the one that hung near the bucket as a substitute for a towel, and scrubbed my face until it burned. I looked at my hands. Despite the calluses, they would have to do. I grabbed a simple dress, and my favorite thick, woven apron. In our village, we owned no mirrors, so I subsequently looked at my reflection in the makeshift basin and sighed.
A soft breeze ran through the village, enveloped in the saccharine scent of honey and lilac. Hoof beats sounded to all corners of our village, and almost every individual in out village was looking out of their windows toward the source of the commotion. Six men in beautiful crimson uniforms adorned with gold medals rode up and down the center of our village, looking at the women, choosing one to return to Versailles with them. I hurried over, and attracted many vengeful leers from the young women already there. The women stood next to each other in a row, biting their nails without realizing it, grabbing the sides of their aprons and looking hesitantly at the ground under the noblemen’s penetrating gaze.
“We need one woman, between the ages of twelve and fifteen years. Venez rapide, line up.” I ran over as quickly as possible, and immediately caught the eye of a young gentleman, broad-shouldered and handsome, atop a chestnut steed.
“Regardez celui-ci, look at this one,” he shouted to the other in swift French. The men exchanged a few words and rode over to me. They looked at me closely, summing me together. The one in the front looked back at the other men, and the majority of them nodded. It would seem as if they had made their decision.
A slightly portly one with a scraggly beard and beady black eyes, who I aptly named “the lizard” confirmed, “Yes, this is the one. Check her teeth.”
One of the men opened up my jaw and looked in my mouth. His face was unbearably close- the man smelled of stale cheese and sweat. He shoved a pudgy finger in my mouth and pressed on each of my molars. One tooth in the near back, halfway out of my fleshy pink gums, hurt terribly when the man prodded it. My eyes swelled with pain. The man removed his finger. “Nearly perfect,” the man construed.
The first man who saw me asked slowly, “Would you want to go back to Versailles with us?”
I nodded rapidly. The man smiled, and pulled me up to mount his horse. The horse was nearly five cubits- he was goliath. Where was my père? I looked around searchingly, but I could not see him anywhere. I couldn’t leave without telling him goodbye. There was no way; but the mare was already leaving on the beaten pathway out of our village.
I had never tried so hard to speak as I did at that moment. I made a quick, small hum, but nothing else would emerge. I felt a tear roll down my cheek, but I wiped it away before the men before me could see. I looked toward my small wooden cottage, and I saw père in walking inside. My heart just about burst to see him. He wasn’t looking my way, and I couldn’t get his attention. He looked miserable, his blue eyes clouding, his hands shaking at his sides. I remembered the last summer, when he had begun having fits of apoplexy. I bowed my head and prayed for his health in my absence.
How had this all happened so fast?
I looked towards the riding in front of me on the steed, as I rode sidesaddle. He was fully grown, and his long russet hair was tied back in a ruby ribbon. His almond-shaped eyes were the rich color of Spanish chocolate; his jawbone was strong and defined. After a long silence, he said, “If you feel unsteady, just put your arm around me so you don’t fall off. By the way, my name is William Beaufort. Yours?” I smiled, and did not reply. My village was shrinking into the distance. I held up my finger to measure it. It was the length of a sewing needle. Beaufort looked at me quizzically, and frowned. “Why won’t you answer?” I tried to speak, and made the same sound that came when I called for my père. His eyes widened with worry.
“Can you speak?” he asked. I shook my head. I could not see my village anymore. He looked at the ground and mumbled a few words I did not recognize under his breath.
He did not speak to me for a while longer. He seemed to be deciding what to do. It was a wonder he did not just turn around and return me to the village. I could only hear his shallow breath and a subtle wind passing through the trees on either side of me.