The Wind in the Willows

Submitted into Contest #248 in response to: Write a story titled 'The Wind in the Willows'.... view prompt


Drama Fiction Romance

Growing up on a secluded, nonworking plantation in Virginia, I didn’t have many playmates growing up. My only friend was a black boy by the name of Virgil who used to sneak over to the algae covered alcove off the lake that bordered the back half of our property by way of a path through the forest that led to their family’s shanty. On the banks of that alcove rested an old willow tree whose branches nearly scraped the ground. We met there every mid-morning. The willow tree formed a dome, which reminded me of a house. I would bring with me my tea set and porcelain dolls most mornings. Virgil would humor me and play the role of father to my mother, behaving tenderly to the dolls that were our children, a manner in which I had never seen a man act towards a child before. It was something I longed for in my own relationship with my own father. I guess it was then that I first saw something special in Virgil.


The tree served as a place of solitude, a place away from mother and father where I could be myself, wild and free. A place where I could meet with my forbidden friend and let our imaginations run wild, entertaining us for hours on end. Virgil was a trusted companion and true friend. With Virgil there was no pomp and circumstance, there was just genuine acceptance, no reprimand for conduct not befitting a lady. I could hike up my skirt and chase frogs in the mud. I could speak my mind brashly, even out of turn. I didn’t have to pretend to be amused by the droll hyperbole of young suitors. Instead, I laughed insatiably at Virgil’s stories and his teasing. Virgil was even confident enough to laugh at his own expense when I teased him back.


Virgil grew to be a strong young man, broad in build. He would row us out to the lake to splash and swim. We would chase each other through the open fields. He would catch me, toss me up, and twirl me around. I began to feel safe with Virgil around. As a child there was always a fear of being caught, but age made us bolder, and I felt he was strong enough to protect us from anything that might come our way. I felt most secure when he would put his arm around me so I could lean on his chest while I read to him in the shade of our willow tree.


The time came when my parents insisted that I choose a gentleman caller to court. They hosted frequent banquets and barbeques so young men had the opportunity to present themselves. I, of course, had to present myself as respectful and sophisticated, a fashionable woman of the times who must resist scratching at her overly tight bodice. I endured evenings in the company of inflated egos and acts of machismo, pretending to be impressed with their tales of masculinity. Occasionally Virgil, who took work as a steward when my father needed extra help with those events, would catch my eye from some shadowy corner, mocking my suitors. I struggled to contain my laughter, but managed to do so with elegance, remaining in character. That is until I couldn’t. I burst out in laughter as Virgil was mocking Fredderick Thomas as Mr. Thomas was illustrating how we defeated another man in a bar brawl. Mr. Thomas was a man with an alpha complex, fragile ego, and short temper. He did not take kindly to my laughter. Nor did he appreciate the source of my amusement. Mr. Thomas and his friends began to surround Virgil. I grabbed Virgil by the hand, and we ran. I didn’t know where else to go but our tree where he could take the path home to safety. There I pushed him against the trunk of the tree and kissed him with all the passion in my soul for the first time. The wind blew and the leaves rustled a harmonious song. Virgil looked me deep in the eyes and said, “Listen Charolette, the wind in the willows plays a song just for us.”


“Run Virgil. Take the path and run home. Lock your doors and stay inside. Surely this will all blow over by dawn.” He kissed me as the sound of an angry crowd drew closer. Then he ran for the path.


A group of men, including my father, came, demanding to know Virgil's whereabouts. I refused to tell them. One of the men was shining a lantern along the tree line. He found the path that Virgil used to sneak over. He called everyone else, telling them that he must have gone that way. I pleaded with my father to stop the madness,

that Virgil did nothing wrong.


“He insulted Mr. Thomas’s honor. That’s all the wrong we need to lynch the boy,” my father told me as he pushed me aside and joined the rest of the mob.


The path led straight to Virgil’s home. There the mob screamed and cursed, banging on his door and windows, demanding he come out. When he never came out, they broke the windows and threw in torches. The little shanty went up in flames like it was made of paper. I dropped to my knees and cried out to God with all the despair in my heart. When I opened my eyes, I saw Virgil and his family fleeing out the back into the woods. The mob was satisfied that they got their justice and headed back to the barbecue. Father grabbed me by the arm and pulled me along. My heart felt relieved that no one died, that Virgil was safe, but I didn’t want to go with him. I wanted nothing to do with that brood of vipers. I wanted to be with Virgil where I belonged. I longed to run to him, to feel his embrace, and the taste of his kiss.


My mother and her servants kept close watch over me after that, primping and priming me for courtship. It was on rare occasions that I was able to get away and sneak down to the willow tree, hoping Virgil would be there waiting, but all I ever saw was a carving in the tree of a heart that I knew was from him.

Time passed and I wound up betrothed to a banker by the name of Edward Copeland. He treats me decently enough, although I find life a bit stale. When visiting my parents we walk the grounds, always visiting the old willow tree. When the breeze picks up and the leaves play their song, I close my eye and I can hear Virgil say as if he was standing next to me, “Listen Charolette, the wind in the willows plays a song just for us.”

April 27, 2024 19:27

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19:46 May 09, 2024

I like the way you tell this story.


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Kristi Gott
00:14 May 01, 2024

So skillfully told. The author's voice gives this an immersive feeling and the reader shares the experiences along with the characters. Powerful and high impact. Beautiful imagery and poetic creativity.


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Alexis Araneta
18:12 Apr 28, 2024

Ah, forbidden love ! Such a classic theme. You know my unapologetic romantic heart loved every bit of this. Such smooth storytelling. The descriptions were so poetic too. Stunning work, Ty !


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Mary Bendickson
23:12 Apr 27, 2024

Fascinating story. Shame they couldn't be a couple.


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Trudy Jas
23:00 Apr 27, 2024

What a wonderful story. No, correction. An awful history, except for the friendship between V+C. However you told it with passion, color and true to the times. ps. Re-read your first sentence.


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