I groan and flip myself back into Jacob’s arms. His muscly bicep wraps around me and he sighs. I put my hand against his warm bare chest and tilt my head up to kiss him. Jacob leans down to meet my lips and puts his hand in my long, light brown hair. I look out the wide-open window. It’s sunrise.
“You have to go!” I whisper in his ear. “Or Father is going to catch you!”
“One more minute,” Jacob murmurs and I smile. I run my hand over his chocolate brown hair, and he places his hand on the small of my back. I hear talking and footsteps outside the door. I shake Jacob until he is fully awake and whisper ungently again.
“You have to go! Now!”
He jumps out of bed and grabs his shirt from the ground.
“I’ll see you at the soiree tonight?” Jacob asks, one leg out of my bedroom window.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” I gush and he smiles. Jacob leans out of the window and jumps into the flowerbed below, crouching in a perfect landing. I flop back down and pretend to be asleep. A maid opens the door and lets light flow into the room.
“Good morning miss,” she says kindly and closes the window. “Your breakfast is ready downstairs.”
“Thank you, Agata.” I replied.
Agata started to gather up the pieces of my dress. She helps me with my undergarments and slides the dress over my head. The white dress had small blue and purple flowers printed on the fabric. It brushes my knee and shoulders as a fan turns on somewhere in the room. Agata leads me over to my vanity and sits me down on the stool. She curls my hair and places it up intricately under a sun hat that matches my dress. Before I leave the room, I grab a copy of my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
My dress flutters around my legs as I descend the staircase. I enter the dining room and see Mother and Father sitting at the head of the table. A plate of pancakes and bacon sits in front of my empty seat. I sit down and place my book next to my plate.
Steam rises from the bacon and heat radiates off of the pancakes. I reach for the syrup bottle and the butter. Carefully, I pour the hot syrup onto the stack of pancakes. I wait for it to cool before slicing off a square of butter and placing it on top. Picking up my fork, I dig it deep into the tower of pancakes, withdrawing a sticky, buttery mass of fluffiness. I bring the fork slowly to my mouth and bite down. I move my fork into the crisp bacon while I chew. The prongs stab the bacon through the center, leaving crispy little flecks on the plate. I raise the fork to my mouth and bite in.
I sit silently and finish my breakfast. Mother and Father don’t say a word as I stand up and leave the table. I walked out into the garden and set off towards the gazebo. The warm morning sun bounced off of the dew on the grass and flowers. I sit down in my chair and open up Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Collins has just proposed to Elizabeth, who rejects him. I read and think of Jacob. What if I were Elizabeth and he were Mr. Collins? What would I say? Would I have said yes? Or no?
I read for three hours before a servant comes out and fetches me for lunch. I request that my meal be taken out here, so I can keep reading. Another servant brings out a plate of ratatouille and a dish of salade nicoise, along with a glass of lemonade. I place down my book for a few minutes before picking it back up and resuming. Later in the afternoon, Agata brings me a miniature tarte tatin and a glass of milk. Around five o’clock, Mother came to fetch me to get ready for the soiree.
Agata has already prepared my room by the time I arrive. I bathe and pull on my dress, a light easter yellow with a white bodice and lace. Agata neatly redoes my curls and places them up with ribbons. I meet up with Mother and Father in the hall and carefully climb up into the carriage with them.
My father, or as other people called him, Baron John, came from a British line that watches over and basically rules the town. My mother, or as other people called her, Baroness Diane, came from a French line, which my life was centered around. My name is also centered around my mother and her French roots, Diana Amelie Frosch. My secret lover, Jacob, was the duke of a small manor his parents had left him. He was a year older than me, and we met almost every single night, we plan to get engaged soon.
When we arrive at the private garden where the soiree was happening, I look around for Jacob. I couldn’t see him, so I start wandering through the crowd. I search near the roses, I search near the lilacs, and before I can find him, the dinner bell rings. I sit down next to Mother and Father and look down at my plate full of coq au vin. A delicate glass of champagne sits next to my place tag.
My eyes search up and down the table, straining for any glimpse of Jacob. I finally see his head full of chocolate brown hair sitting at the very end of the table. His blue eyes find my brown ones and he winks, signaling towards a walking path leading away from the gathering. I nod and eat my plate faster than I normally would have. I excuse myself from the table and stroll towards the path, wanting to get a few minutes advantage on Jacob.
I browse down an aisle of carnations and spot a small koi pond and a bench. I sit myself down and watch the tiny fish eagerly. The moonlight reflects off the surface of the water. I hear footsteps tapping down the path and rise quickly. Jacob walks into view and I leap into his arms.
“Diana,” he whispers in my ear. “I love you.”
“I love you too Jacob.” I whisper back.
My hands start combing through his hair and he wraps his arms around my waist. Jacob leads me over to the bench and places us both down. I recline back in his lap and reach up to kiss him. Our lips collide and we kiss passionately. My mind blocks out all noise besides Jacob’s breathing, except for the scream of someone yelling,
I look up and my heart fills with fear. My father stands a few feet away, his face red with anger.
“Get away from my daughter!” he shouts at Jacob, and he scrambles away from me.
“From here on forth,” Father declares. “Your rank and power have been stripped, you are now a common folk and will be escorted to await trial with the felony of personal affairs!”
“No Father!” I beg. “Please!”
Tears started to well up in the corners of my eyes and spill down my face.
“Please!” I force the words out of my mouth. “Please!”
I watch in horror as two of Father’s bodyguards run up and seize Jacob, pinning his arms behind his back. He struggles, then one guard brings out a club and hits him on the back of his neck, causing him to go limp and weak. They drag him away into the dark and the tears start to spill in ernest. Father grabs my arm and brings me back to the gathering. He talks to Mother and we reboard the carriage immediately. Another carriage follows close behind us, and I know Jacob is in there.
When we reach home, Father sends me straight up to my room.
“We will talk about this in the morning, Diana.” he says in a stern voice. “Right after we ‘deal with’ the boy.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, panic rising into my voice.
“I mean,” Father replies. “That he will be put to death.”
“Why?!” I ask again in horror.
“Because, it is illegal and punishable by death to have an affair with the Baron’s daughter. Always has been, always will be.”
Tears began to overwhelm me once again and I flopped down onto my pillows. My mind races as I struggle to come up with a way to prevent his death. I could plead to father? No, he wouldn’t give in. He’s a slave to law. He could hide in the woods? No, someone would find him. We could run away, get married, and have a family? The possibility of this plan working seemed more probable than any of the others. My heart yearned to be in Jacob’s arms while my mind clung to the strings of home.
Emotions racing, I picked up Pride and Prejudice, hoping to soothe my mind. Elizabeth has just received a letter from Mr. Darcy. One line reads, ‘You have bewitched me body and soul and I love, love, love you.’ I know Jacob would do anything to save me, and I must do the same for him. I love him to the bottom of my heart.
I stand up and start to undress, putting on the clothes of simple folk. A cloak goes around my shoulders and a hood on my head. I place money, food, medical supplies, and extra clothing in a large bag and sling it over my shoulder. I creep through the silent house and descend the stairs to the dungeon of a basement. Rats skitter everywhere with each step as I make my way farther into the rows of damp, dirty cells.
A moan echoes through the empty halls and I see Jacob sitting in a small cell. He’s covered in cuts and bruises, spreading all over his face, arms, and legs.
“Jacob?” I say quietly. My voice is more like a question than a call.
“What?” his rasps.
“I’m getting you out.” I reply.
I look around and see keys to each cell hanging on hooks. I cross the room and pick up Jacob’s keys. I run back and notice that Jacob is awake and moving around. I slide the key into the lock and open the door with a click.
“What are you doing?” he asks, clutching up arms.
“I’m getting you out,” I say. “And I’m coming with you.”
“But where are we going?” he asks as if talking to a child.
“Germany.” I reply, as if it settles everything.
“You’re not going to Germany!” Jacob whisper-shouts.
“Yes, I am.” I say. “ And you’re coming with me!”
“Diana,” he groans. I stand still and firm until he sighs. “Fine.”
I hear a rustle on the floor above and whisper loudly,
Jacob grabs my hand and runs toward the heavy metal door that lead outside. He pulls down the long lever implanted in the wall and watched as the door slowly and steadily lifted up. We sprint through the grounds and into the forest, the cool night air whipping our hair back. We make it to the shadows of the trees before shouts come from the direction of the dungeon.
“There they go!”
Me and Jacob run faster, but not fast enough. One of my father’s bodyguards catches up with us and pulls a gun out of his holster. He fires and hits a tree a few feet from were Jacob and I are sprinting.The bodyguard fires again and hits the ground a few inches from our speeding feet. On the third shot, I’m too scared to look back. I hear a painful grunt and a thud on the forest floor. I turn my head to the source of the noise and see Jacob trying to sit up, while holding his hand over a bullet wound in his shoulder.
“Come on!” I whisper frantically. “We have to keep moving!”
I help Jacob up and resume running. I can feel Jacob beginning to tire, and I look around to find some sort of shelter.
An old abandoned cottage blends in with the surrounding woods and I tug Jacob towards it. The half-rotten wooden door swings open easily and I quickly shut it before the guards see us. The fading sound of rustling leaves confirms that the guards are no longer close by.
A loud painful grunt comes from Jacob and I turn around, digging in my bag to find the medical supplies. I tug his blood-soaked shirt off and take out a bottle of antiseptic. Carefully, I squeeze a few drops down onto the wound and pick up a pair of tweezers. I slowly reach in, careful not to touch to fleshy sides and pull out the shiny little bullet.
I drop it onto the floor and it rolls away, bouncing off the rotted sideboards. Jacob groans again and I begin to wrap the wound in gauze, then in stretchy tape. He winds up his arm, wincing as he brings it around.
“Are you okay?” I ask, pleading.
“I’m fine,” Jacob responds, his voice a little hoarse. “Let’s keep moving.”
He stands up and limps towards the door, a hand hugging his shoulder. I repack the medical supplies and reluctantly follow Jacob out.
We re-enter the forest and hear nothing but birdsong. The smell of pine is strong and lingers in the air for a long time. Just before dark, we come across a small inn on the outskirts of a large town. I book us a room and ask the person behind the desk,
“How far is the German border from here?”
“If you go about ten miles east and one mile north you should reach the border,” he replies.
I nod and help Jacob’s woozy legs up the stairs and into the room. There was only one bed, and we both squeeze onto it and retire for the night. When we woke up, I gave Jacob a tiny vial of ale to help with the pain. We stroll through the tiny town and stop to buy a loaf of bread, some cheese, a small bag of carrots, and five strips of brined pork in the local market.
As we approach the opposite edge of town, our walk turns into a brisk run as we went through another piece of forest. Just as the man at the inn said, we went ten miles east and then one mile north. The sun begins to set and I worry that we will not reach Germany by nightfall. As I was about to lose all hope, three bright searchlights swept through the trees ahead, illuminating a small border headquarters. A guard dressed in a dull green uniform steps out to meet us.
“Guten tag,” he says in a heavy German accent. “Reason for crossing the border?”
“Escaping. From her father.” Jacob responds before I could open my mouth.
The guard steps over to a large iron gate and undoes the lock.
"Welcome to Germany."
We ran though and saw a village in the distance. A small lake shimmers to our left, the moonlight reflecting off of its smooth surface.
A flashback to the soiree. The koi pond. Father's face. The way Jacob went limp when they hit him.
Jacob brings me back to reality as he grabs my hand and pulls me towards out future.