The Legend Of Wychwood Manor – Episode 24

Characters from the serial dancing

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Lil heard steps running after her and redoubled her efforts in spite of the crippling stitch in her side.

“Lil, wait!” It was Elias’s voice. She felt annoyance bubble up inside her.

Why was he following her when she’d told him to leave her alone?

“You forgot your boots. Let me give them to you. You’ll ruin your shoes.”

She looked back over her shoulder and saw that what he said was true.

What a ridiculous figure he made, holding her boots aloft in his hand as he ran. It was somehow reassuring.

This man was not going to hurt her.

She slowed and stopped, waiting for him to catch up. Elias gave the boots to her and discreetly turned away as she put them on.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Can I walk back with you?” he asked. “I won’t touch you.

“I want to make sure you get home safe.”

Lil nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

They walked in silence for perhaps a mile before Elias spoke again. His voice was soft, almost hesitant.

“What happened to you, Lil? There has to be some reason for how you were tonight.”

Lil wanted to tell him, but wasn’t sure she could.

She didn’t even like to think about it, let alone talk about it, but if anyone deserved the truth, Elias did.

She took a deep breath and started to talk, her head turned away so she wouldn’t have to see Elias’s expression change.

Her voice was quiet. Elias had to lean close to hear.

“I once knew a man, a cruel, clever man with the looks of an angel.

“You have to remember I was very young so I knew nothing about men and their ways and so he was able to mould me and manipulate me, and then when I got sent to prison for what he made me do, he abandoned me.

“Of course he did, a gentleman like him. I grew to hate him and when I got out, I did something bad, Elias.”

She burst out crying.

“A terrible thing, only nobody knew it.

“I was so frightened of myself after what I’d done that I wanted to die and I tried to starve myself until Miss Belle came along and saved me.

“I told her what had happened. Didn’t seem fair that she shouldn’t know what manner of wretch she had in her house.

“Only she didn’t see it like that.

“She said I was like a creature in pain turning on the captor that had kept tormenting it, and after a while I came to hope God saw me that way, too.”

Only then did she dare to look at Elias. The look of disgust she’d feared to see was not there. His eyes were soft. Tender, even.

“I’m sure he does, Lil, and, as for me, I pity you with all my heart.”

She’d have preferred the hatred, she thought, or at least anger.

Pity was not what she wanted – not from him.

To be continued…

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