My name is Rosilia Knight, and this story takes place in the days leading up to, and on, my fifteenth birthday.
I was out riding Cloud Shimmer, my horse, when I heard a scream.
It was my eight year old sister, Sylvia, who was full of mischief.
Her screaming startled Cloud Shimmer, and she reared, unseating me in the process.
“Oof!” I exclaimed as I hit the ground.
Sylvia ran over to me as I sat up. “You were riding like a man!” she gasped.
I got up an snagged Cloud Shimmer’s reins as she pranced nervously. “I can’t help it,” I told Sylvia. “Riding side saddle is such a bother! It’s much easier to ride like a man.”
But Sylvia wasn’t done trying to make me feel bad. “But you know it’s wrong!” she continued. “I’m telling Mother.,” she said.
I swung up into the saddle to continue my ride. “No! You wouldn’t!”
“Oh yes I would!” she replied.
“If you do, I’ll tell William that you’re sweet on him!” I said. I was running out of options. Mother couldn’t know!
Horror flashed across Sylvia’s face, and then she fled.
I gently nudged Cloud Shimmer with my heels and continued on my ride, thinking that I had won.
* * *
Sylvia knocked three times on the door to our mother, Anastasia’s, bedroom.
“Come in,” called a voice from inside.
Sylvia found Mother on her balcony, looking at a scrapbook.
She was staring lovingly down at a picture of a man. And that man was my father. And he was dead.
Mother quickly closed the scrapbook as Sylvia came in.
“Mother!” Sylvia exclaimed. “Rosilia was riding her horse like a man!”
Mother shook her head. “That girl. She’s so much like Henry; always doing what her heart says is right, and not listening to what I’ve taught her,” Mother said with a sigh.
“Mustn’t we punish her?” Sylvia asked. “You can’t let her go on with this!”
Mother laughed. “Sometimes it is hard to remember you are only eight — you like being in charge, don’t you, Sylvia?”
Sylvia nodded. “Yes, indeed. Rosilia acts younger than me! I know that proper ladies ride sidesaddle,” Sylvia said. “Speaking of proper ladies . . . couldn’t we make Rosilia take lessons for a punishment? It doesn’t exactly sound like one, but she does hate what they would have her learn!”
Mother considered this for a moment. “That is a very good idea. I think we shall do that. Lessons for Rosilia it is!”
Sylvia walked, at a lady-like pace, to where I had paused to give Cloud Shimmer a break from our ride.
“Oh, Rosilia,” Sylvia chirped as she came up next to me. I saw that she wore a smug smile on her pretty little face.
“What is it this time?” I asked.
“This time,” Sylvia said. “you get off that horse and walk home!”
“Uhh, no.” My little sister wasn’t going to boss me around!
“And that’s an order!” Sylvia continued, looking me straight in the eye. “Mother’s order.”
I couldn’t disobey Mother, so I dismounted grudgingly.
Sylvia snatched the reins from my hand and marched me home.
After Sylvia had turned Cloud Shimmer into the pasture, I wandered into the courtyard. Selene, one of the maids, was pulling weeds.
“Rosilia!” Selene waved. Selene didn’t call me “Miss” or anything like that. We were friends, and I’d told her just to call me Rosilia, so she did.
I sat down next to her. “Hello, Selene! Can I help you pull weeds?”
Selene shook her head. “Usually, I would say yes; help yourself — but your mother wants to talk with you. She’s at her balcony.”
I stood up. “Thank you for telling me. Oh, and by the way, do you happen to know what she wants to talk to me about?”
I went into the house and up to my mother’s room. Sure enough, she was on her balcony. I walked toward her slowly.
“Rosilia. Sylvia told me that you were riding your horse like a man. Is that true?”
I bit my lip. “Yes, ma’am.”
Mother sighed. “I am very disappointed in you.”
More than anything, I hated being a failure!
“You will not be able to ride your horse for two weeks — that is your punishment,” Mother said. “Do you understand?”
“But then I won’t be able to exercise her!” I exclaimed. “What will happen to Cloud Shimmer?”
“You will both pay from your mistake,” Mother said coolly. “Do you understand?”
I looked away and mumbled, “Yes.”
I ran down the road, looking for someone special. Someone I needed to talk to right now.
And then I saw her, walking on the road a little ways ahead of me. Eve Parker, my best friend.
“Eve!” I called.
She turned around. “Rosilia!”
I fell into step beside her. “I’ve got a problem,” I told her. “Sylvia saw me riding the way men ride, told Mother, and now I can’t ride my horse for two weeks! And now I can’t exercise her, either . . .”
Eve reached over and gave my arm a squeeze. “I’ll exercise your horse if you want, Rose,” she offered kindly.
I smiled. “Thank you, I’d like that.”
“Oh!” Eve exclaimed. “So you’re coming to the dance, too?”
About a week ago, I, along with lots of other young ladies, had been invited to a dance. I had known that Eve would go, and that she would probably try to get me to come, too. “Sorry, no,” I said. “Dances just aren’t my thing.” When I saw the disappointed look on Eve’s face, I added,”But I’ll walk there with you.”
“Yay!” she cried, throwing her hands up in the air. “Thank you!”
When we got to the house the dance was at, I went inside with Eve. There was only four people in the room, not including me and Eve, and it looked like we had gotten there early. Someone was setting up a table in the back, the musicians were no where in sight, and a group of girls talked as they waited for the guests to arrive. I recognized two of the girls: Abigail and Ariana, the identical twin daughters of the host.
Eve said farewell to me and then ran off to join the girls.
I had one foot out the door when I heard someone call my name.
I glanced over my shoulder and saw that it was Benjamin Woods.
But I was already out the door.
When I reached home, I saw Mother sitting on a wicker chair in the courtyard.
She smiled when she saw me. “Rosilia! Come sit down.”
I sat down on the low stone wall beside her. “What is it, Mother?”
“Well . . .” she began. “Your fifteenth birthday is only two days away. And, you know what your father used to say? I’m sure it’s just some silly thing he made up, but still . . . Well, he said that fourteen would be your year. And as you won’t be fourteen much longer, would you go *cough* adventuring tomorrow? Just to see if something happens?” Mother asked.
Did she really just ask me to go adventuring when just earlier today she had scolded me for not riding sidesaddle? I tried to look shocked at the idea, but it was hard not to look pleased. “Alright, Mother. I’ll do it for you,” I said. What I had really wanted to say was “YES SIRREEE!!!!” But I didn’t say that, just for the sake of trying to be polite for Mother.
“Thank you, Rosilia.”
The next morning, I was up before anyone else. Dressed in my “adventure outfit,” I headed out. I plodded through meadows and fields.
And scrambled across ditches.
I stumbled and slipped through rock-slides and dried up river-beds.
And then, after nearly half a day of almost non-stop journeying, I came to a forest; dark in most places, with shadows lurking here and there, and then bright stripes of sunlight that had wiggled through the dense pines. It gave the forest an eerie feel — like you were being watched. And then a faint, wispy voice murmured from somewhere in the woods, “Ro-o-o-se . . .”
* * *
“Glad to see you could make it!” Sylvia chirped to her friend, Annie, as she ran up the path.
“Do you have your disguise?” Sylvia asked. This was a vital part of her “plan.”
Annie held up an old, stained table cloth. “Will this do?”
Sylvia nodded. “We’ll make it work.”
Then she showed Annie her fiendishly clever disguise. “I’ll put it on right now. Do tell me if I look something other than myself, will you?”
Then she turned around (so she would have the element of surprise).
The brilliant, naughty little eight year-old put her disguise on and her friend considered it quite seriously.
Finally, though, she felt that if she didn’t laugh , she might explode. “You look like Ben and William Woods’ old cook lady!” she exclaimed in a fit of giggles.
Annie pulled the table-cloth over her head and stuck a funny pair of eye-glasses onto her face. “We both look like funny old women now!” she crowed in delight.
“Are those boot’s you’re wearing?” Annie asked curiously, once their gales of laughter had died down.
“Indeed they are,” Sylvia replied, lifting the edge of her dress so that her friend could have a good look at the beige, knee-high boots. “They’re an old pair of Rosilia’s riding boots that she’s long since grown out of.”
Annie gazed down at her own shiny-black T-strap shoes. “I don’t suppose my shoes will help me pass as an old, poor lady?”
“We’ll work around that,” Sylvia replied matter-of-factly.
And then she took Annie’s hand and together they ran in the direction that Rosilia had gone earlier that day.
* * *
Branches rustled and pine needles cracked. I spun around and around, eyes searching every shadow and tree branch. But I saw nothing; nothing other than the creepy forest. Branches swayed by some unseen force. “Hello?” I called timidly.
And then a person stepped out into the clearing.
Except it wasn’t a normal person.
He was almost . . . see-through.
The person stood in front me and our eyes locked. He looked vaguely familiar.
He put his hand on my cheek and whispered, “Rose.” As his hand touched my face a weird tingly feeling started spreading up my cheek.
And that’s when it hit me.
This was a ghost. My father.
“I’ve been waiting six years for you,” Father said. “You know how I used to say that fourteen would be your year?”
“You are fourteen today. Tomorrow you will be fifteen. Today was the last day possible for me to tell you . . .” His eyes fixed on my locket.
“I love you.”
I tried to hug him as a tear trickled down my cheek. But he was a ghost — I couldn’t touch him. My arm passed right through him, but I said softly, “I love you too, Father.”
“And I love Anastasia and Sylvia,” he continued. “I love you, Rosilia, my daughter.”
And then he simply vanished. After six long years of heart-break and tears and longing, I finally got to see him one last time. I finally got to hear him say those three words that I dreamed of so often. “I love you.”
Two muffled voices arguing from behind a veil of low branches took me out of my emotional shock, at least for the time being.
I approached carefully. I parted the branches and found . . .
Two little beggar ladies, sitting side-by-side in the shade.
“O-o-o-h, hello, deary,” said one. “What brings you here?”
I stared blankly at her. “Umm . . .”
And then, “You look kind of familiar. Have I seen you before?”
They jumped and then the second one exclaimed, “Oh no, never! We’re quite new to these parts. From Boston, we are, we are . . .”
I turned around and headed back home, not giving the beggars another thought. All I was thinking of was my father.
When I arrived back home Mother was waiting for me in the courtyard.
She hugged me tightly. “I was worried, Rosilia,” she said. “I don’t know why I ever let you go . . .”
She smoothed out her skirt and asked, “Did you find anything? And are you hurt?”
“I’m fine, Mother,” I assured her.
“And did you find anything?”
I thought about what I could say. I found the ghost of my father in the forest? Yeah, that would go over well. Instead, I said, “No, not really.”
“I guess it was just something Henry made up,” she said briskly.
I dropped her gaze and mumbled, “He loves you.”
“Who?” she demanded.
Just then, Sylvia and her friend Annie skipped into the courtyard. The were clearly hiding something behind their backs.
Those old women in the forest . . . No, they were just beggars from Boston. Just beggars from Boston . . .
But for some reason or another, I didn’t quite believe that.
“Good afternoon, Mother, Rosilia!” Sylvia chirped. “Can Annie spend the night?”
“Good afternoon, girls,” Mother said. “And yes, Sylvia, Annie may spend the night.”
She turned to me. “And, Rosilia, please go to bed. You are certainly worn out from today’s adventure.”
Though it wasn’t even supper-time, I went to bed without arguing. I was that tired.
As soon as I got my room, I changed into my night gown and got into bed. Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks and onto the pillow. I had seen my father again . . .
And at that moment, I was happier than I had ever been in six years, since the day my father died.
Sylvia and Annie pattered into the room and stationed themselves on the bunk-beds. The stared at me, eyes bulging out of their heads in wonder.
When I woke up, it appeared that Sylvia and Annie had not moved the entire night. They were still staring at me in awe.
Then I got dressed in a beautiful white gown and twisted my hair into loose curls.
I was walking to the kitchen for my birthday breakfast when Mother ran into me in the halls.
“Happy fifteenth birthday, Rosilia,” Mother said.
“Thank you, Mother!”
After a moment, Mother sighed, “Really, Rosilia? Does it have to be sleeveless?”
“Well, if you don’t want me to wear it, then why was it in my closet?”
Mother bit her lip and replied, “Henry wanted you to wear it.”
“Oh.” And then somebody knocked on the front door.
“Will you get that, Rosilia?” Mother asked as she hurried away down the hall.
I opened the door to find Ben Woods. “Happy birthday, Rosilia,” he said.
“Hello, Ben. Please come inside,” I said politely.
We stood in awkward silence for a few minutes.
Finally Ben remarked, “It’s a beautiful day.”
“It is,” I agreed
I stepped outside and Ben followed me.
We strolled towards the courtyard and talked a bit.
“So, do you feel any different? You know, being a year older and all,” Ben asked.
“No, not really,” I answered. “Birthdays used to be fun, but now their just . . . eh.”
He glanced at the pasture and saw Cloud Shimmer loping around it. She had a smooth gait, almost like she was flying. “Is that your horse?”
I nodded proudly.
Then he asked me why I wasn’t riding her right now, flying away over the hills. So I told him about how I had been riding like a man — and getting away with it, too — and then that little pain Sylvia.
We were both laughing by the time we reached the courtyard and sat down.
Suddenly, he got down on a knee and took a small black box from his back-pocket.
I instantly stopped laughing when he flicked the lid up.
“Rosilia Knight, will you marry me?”
I stared into his eyes. Did that really just happen?
It took all my willpower to say that one little word.
“No?” he repeated. He looked devastated, crushed.
“I can’t marry you, Ben!” I cried. “I’m only fifteen. And I don’t want to have to cook and clean all day, when I could be riding like a man, being a rebel!”
He took my hand. “That’s why I love you. And you don’t have to marry me now. Just remember, I’ll always be waiting. You are the only person I’ll ever love.”
And then we kissed.
* * *
My grandmother used to say that there was a moral to every story, real or made-up. My father’s, I guess, is that love lives on forever. And mine . . . well, I truly don’t know. The story of Rosilia Knight has not ended yet, but I’m sure that it will end with these few words:
And they lived happily ever after.