This story is about taking action rather than just dreaming all day about what you wish would happen.
A Short Story by Manelle Oliphant
Cecily’s mother invited her to join the group of women who were waiting for the hunting party to return, begged her even, but Cecily said she needed to work on her embroidery. Which was true, except this morning she hadn’t touched her needle. Her latest project sat in her basket forgotten. Instead, she watched the road.
“How long do you think they’ll be?” she said to the little hunting dragon who sat next to her.
His ear flicked toward her when she spoke, but his gaze stayed focused on the birds outside.
“Fendrel, sometimes you remind me of a cat.” She scratched the top of his head until she heard his chest make a happy rumbling sound. “You watch those birds all day but never hunt them.” She leaned forward and scratched under his chin. Smoke burbled out of his nostrils. Her voice pitched higher. “A bird would be a tasty snack for a dragon, wouldn’t it?”
The sound of galloping horses traveled through the window. Cecily turned to the road. The hunting party came through the gates, five noble knights, their servants, and the hunting dragons. A broad man led the party riding a large white horse. Cecily’s heart beat harder. “Look, there he is.” She sighed his name, “Sir Gray. He rides so well.”
Sir Gray dismounted. A blue-scaled hunting dragon rubbed against his leg. He patted its head. Their feats as hunters made the team a legend around the keep. From the look of the group’s packhorses, the hunt had been prosperous. Even from this distance, Cecily could see the carcasses of a large boar and some small furry animals, probably rabbits.
Lord Landers and a few castle ladies came outside to greet the hunters. Cecily’s mother was among them. So was Matilda.
Matilda moved closer to Sir Gray and spoke in his ear. Sir Gray laughed and patted the hindquarters of his horse. She giggled. Cecily scowled. She was so forward. Everyone could see she’d set her sights on Sir Gray. She said something else Cecily couldn’t hear. He laughed again and offered his arm. They walked into the castle together. The others followed. A servant led the horses away.
When the courtyard was empty Cecily turned away from the window with a humph. Fendrel scrambled over her lap for a better view of the birds. Cecily smiled and said in the voice she often imagined for Fendrel, “Lady Cecily, you accused me of only dreaming about birds, but you are the same with Sir Gray.”
“I suppose you’re right, Fendrel.” She walked over to a large wooden cabinet. On top of it, a dried white rose stood in a vase. The rose was the beginning of her, thus far, unrequited love for Sir Gray. She picked it up by its dry stem and blew dust from the petals.
Sir Gray had given it to Cecily on first outing with the court. Finally old enough to be courted she was excited to be among the party. Fendrel sat perched on her horse’s saddle. Sir Gray noticed him as he passed her on the road. “You have an impressive hunter.” Cecily smiled, not knowing what to say. He seemed amused by her lack of response. The hedgerow by the road boasted some lovely white roses. He cut one from the bush and presented to her. “For a lovely girl on a lovely morning.” Cecily blushed as she took the rose. Sir Gray chuckled and rode forward. Thoughts of the moment made Cecily’s stomach flop around in a happy way. She put the dried rose away.
Beside the rose lay a braided lock of Cecily’s hair. She’d cut it off earlier that week intending for Sir Gray to have it as a token he could take hunting. She hadn’t been brave enough to give it to him. She fingered the braid and sighed as she imagined Sir Gray carrying it close to his heart on his next hunt. The door opened. Cecily dropped the braid and turned.
Cecily’s mother swept in. “The hunting party has returned. There is to be a grand luncheon. We must get you ready.”
Cecily’s insides swam, making her feel ill. This often happened when she thought of being around large groups of people. “Oh, um”¦ I saw them arrive. It was very exciting.”
Her mother pulled a few dresses from the cabinet. “You haven’t worn this blue one in a while. It looks very well on you.”
The color drained from Cecily’s face. “I don’t think I feel well.”
Her mother’s eyebrows drew together. “You said that yesterday.”
Cecily held her stomach. “My belly is swimming around, and I feel so weak.”
“You can’t expect to make something of yourself by just dreaming. Please try.”
“I don’t think I can today. Maybe tomorrow.”
The older woman slumped. She threw the blue dress onto the bed. “I will have the servants bring something up for you. Maybe by supper, you’ll feel better.”
Cecily nodded. “Yes, I probably will by then.”
Here mother looked disappointed as she left. When the door shut, Cecily’s belly stopped swimming. She touched the blue dress. She did look well in it.
She held it up and imagined herself wearing it at supper. She’d look fresh and pretty while the large lunch, and long afternoon would make the other ladies look tired. It would be a good time to get Sir Gray’s attention.
She imagined Sir Gray’s voice saying, “You look beautiful Miss Cecily.” She tried to think of some witty remarks she could say in return. “Thank you, Sir Gray.” Or “you’re too kind.” She grimaced. It was good she had all afternoon to come up with something better. She took her seat at the window.
“And your blue dress suits you,” Sir Gray’s imaginary voice said. She smiled her most winning smile. “Why thank you, Sir. I heard you had a good hunt today.” Her imaginary conversation became more involved as the sun traveled toward evening. She didn’t even notice Fendrel as he got bored of watching birds and wandered away.