It called for three apple names to be used as characters or whatever you want--see if you can figure out what the apple names in this piece are.
Lord Lamborne looked up from the pile of papers on his desk. “I thought I told you to stay on it,” he said, frowning.
“I am ‘staying on it’, as you so aptly put it. I’ve been on her trail since last Wednesday. The russet beauty is elusive.”
Lord Lamborne pushed his leather chair back and stood. He was several inches taller than I was, and that coupled with the frown of displeasure on his handsome face made me cringe. I knew what this man was capable of and I didn’t want to be the recipient of his wrath. Before I could back away he’d grabbed my arm.
“No more excuses Reinette. If you haven’t found her by Monday you will be punished.”
“Yes, my lord,” I said, making the mistake of meeting his dark eyes. What I saw there chilled me to the bone.
“Get out of my sight.” He let me go and I backed away until I felt the door behind me. Turning, I fled through it.
My full name was Vonzuccalimaglios Reinette but since no one could pronounce it I was simply known as Reinette. My grandmother, despite protestations from the entire family, had bestowed this moniker upon me. “It suits him,” she’d said looking down on my wizened baby face. Why she thought this I never found out since she died before I reached one year of age.
I had worked for Lord Lamborne for over six months now and wished I’d never applied for the job. I’d expected to be his secretary since he did a lot of writing and needed someone to organize his papers. Unfortunately this was not to be. Instead he expected me to find people, women mostly, who had gone against him in some way. This latest russet beauty, as we referred to her since her hair was a flaming red color, had been his lover before she disappeared. Her full name was Maeve McDuff. I had enjoyed several pleasant conversations with this lovely lady and understood completely why she did what she did. Lord Lamborne was a cruel man who when angered lashed out with riding whips or fists. I’d seen the bruises on Maeve’s face and neck.
I headed to the stable to tack up my horse. I knew where Maeve was but I was caught in a moral dilemma. Should I let her remain and incur the lord’s wrath or should I bring her back and watch her suffer? It was a hard decision since I was reluctant to undergo the physical punishment that came with displeasing his lordship.
As I rode I listened carefully for bandits. This forest was a hard place with hard men about and although I was a good shot, I carried no gun. I did have a dagger on my belt but this would not protect me from the roving thieves who thought nothing of killing.
It was several hours before I came to the small village. This was her home, a poor place where villagers scrabbled to survive. Disease was rampant and many of the villagers had succumbed to one or more afflictions. Because of this, thieves gave this place a wide berth.
I found Maeve hanging out sheets from a hastily erected line. She wore a scarf to keep her wild hair back, her face red from exertion.
“Hello, Maeve,” I said, dismounting. I let my horse forage and approached the woman carefully since she’d been known to throw heavy objects when displeased.
“What are you doing here, Reinette?”
“I bet you can guess.”
“I’m not going back to that bastard. I’m needed here.”
I was well aware of her healing skills that caused her to be called a witch. “If I don’t bring you back he’ll have my hide.”
“Better yours than mine.”
When she reached up to wipe the sweat from her forehead her scarf fell, letting loose her red tangle. I sucked in my breath realizing how utterly beautiful she was. No wonder the lord wanted her back. My breath quickened as her green eyes met mine. I was not as handsome as the lord but women enjoyed my company often enough.
“I understand your dilemma, Reinette, but if you have any feeling for me you will leave this place.”
“If I don’t return with you he’ll find someone else and that person may not be as kind as I am.”
“I don’t care. I have duties here and until that day I’ll continue to do them.”
“Could you entertain the idea of my company?” I asked before I could stop myself. Her beauty was unparalleled and not only that, she was kind and gentle, a woman I would gladly spend the rest of my life with.
A look of surprise moved across her features. “I…I’ve never thought of you in that way.” She seemed to assess me after that, her glance moving across my face and physique. “You’re not bad to look at,” she admitted. “But what are your other attributes?”
“I can cook, I’m handy with tools, and I can dance. And traveling with me is a delight because I refuse to go without my creature comforts. In other words I spend a lot of time setting up camp and finding the best herbs to go with my freshly caught rabbit.”
Maeve laughed, a tinkling sound that made my heart skip a beat. Would she? Could she…?
She bent to pick up another sheet, throwing it over the line. When she turned back her eyes were bright. “If I come with you then both of us can escape his punishments.”
“That’s correct, but what about your duties here?”
“I’ll come back when I’m needed, but where will we go?”
“I know a safe place.”
Maeve picked up her long skirts and mounted the horse. I pulled myself up behind her feeling the warmth of her body leaning into mine. A thrill of happiness went through me as we rode toward the distant mountains.