The next few days were filled to the brim with backbreaking labor, as Willow quickly learned to redefine her definition of hard work. By the time each evening came she was too exhausted to do more than fall onto her pallet and kick her boots off. That very night was no exception.
She hadn't thought of the blonde girl--Tara, she reminded herself, since their hasty meeting, and subsequent retreat on that first day. But now that Willow lay there, swamped in the stillness of the musty tack room air, she did allow images of the days past to enter her thinking space.
She could recall that Tara had been wearing a fancy looking gown of blues and creams that day in the woods, which, now that she thought about it more, caused her to figure that Tara must've belonged to the main house in some capacity, most likely as the daughter of DonAldo, as Willow had never seen a serving wench dress so expensively.
Willow had yet to see DonAldo in person, but from the bits and pieces of dialogue that she had been able to pick up from the other workers, he was not someone anyone would want to be around.
Willow thought about Ra, and wondered how he was getting along without her, and was suddenly overcome with worry. She'd never been away from him for this long and missed him terribly. She wondered if he missed her just as much.
And then, as tired as she was, Willow knew she would make the trek to Blackfoot that very night. She just had to see him with her own two eyes. She had to make sure he was alright. She would suffer tomorrow though, from lack of sleep, but she knew she had to go.
Tara ran towards the safety of the woods. She didn't know where her father was and quite frankly she didn't care. Something in her spirit told her that he wouldn't catch her this time, and Tara trusted in that voice more than she trusted in anything else.
Tara's arm hurt where it had caught on her father's ring, but she didn't notice the blood leaking from the gash, even as it soaked through the satin sleeve of the expensive gown she wore.
Her head ached but her legs were in tact and they could carry her the distance required to make it to the special place, that lay just beyond the woods.
Willow took the western route around the perimeter of the woods. She'd already tried the gate and found it locked, and the sharp points along its crest hadn't exactly beckoned her over the top. But not being one to give up easily, she decided to make the trek through the woods to see if she could find another way out--one less pointed.
It would have been impossible for her to get away during the day, what with all the work she had to do in the workers quarters, so nightfall was her only chance to make it to Ra. And even though she had nothing to show for her hard work, as she had yet to receive any money, she knew Ra would be pleased to see her none the less.
Tara stood at the edge of the protruding rock that made up her special place. A river of rushing water foamed and roared past jagged rocks fifty feet below. She could feel the cool air as it traveled over her skin to caress the delicateness of her bare legs. Her dress pressed against the upper portion of her body while she held her skirts above her thighs. Her body trembled as the feeling of freedom she so craved began to overtake her.
She'd never felt as free as she did with the wind whipping past her with nothing but sky on above her. She loved heights. She loved to feel free. She loved the hear the eagles call to each other as they soared above the cliffs. She'd always been told that Eagles were solitary animals, but Tara knew their secret language she knew why they loved the clouds.
As Willow neared the edge of the woods she could just make out the illuminated glow from the moon. It reflected against the soft paleness of skin; of bare legs. Willow moved deeper into the shadows.
She recognized Tara right away, and found herself completely mesmerized for the first time in her life as she watched the other girl standing there on the rock. She'd never seen another girl's legs unclothed before and she was drawn to the soft curve of Tara's bare thigh...
But in the next instant everything changed. Willow saw the girl's foot leave the rock and the wind blow past enough to knock her from the ledge. Willow panicked. She had a horrible image of what would happen next if she didn't do something. Without thinking, Willow made a dash for the girl.
Willow caught Tara around the waist just as she might have slipped from the rock.
"What are you doing?!"
Tara was fighting against Willow's hold, and the redhead had to set her foot sternly against the rock to keep them both on the ledge.
And even though they were precariously perched, Willow felt the need to answer the other girl‘s question. "Would it be apropos to suggest to you that I'm saving your life?" Willow's words were muffled by Tara's back and she was out of breath from the dash she'd made to clear the distance between them.
"Saving my life? Are you out of your head?!" Tara recognized her captor's voice right away, having had spent each night since their meeting reliving the embarrassment she'd felt upon having had walked in on him in the tack room that day. But Tara was more irritated at having her wind-blown meditation interrupted than she was embarrassed by the state of her undress. There would be time for embarrassment later.
Tara struggled to get free of his grasp, but his hands held her tightly about the waist and she knew any further struggle would be futile and most likely end in either or both of them plummeting from the rock to their certain death below. Tara stilled her movements.
"Well what would you call it, then?" Willow held her tighter than before, still half afraid the girl would fall.
"Assault," Tara shot back.
Willow hesitantly released her grasp on the blonde and took a step back. The blonde turned to look at her and Willow fell silent. Could it be possible that she had been mistaken about the girl's intentions? Yes, it was indeed possible. Likely even. Still, Willow couldn't help but try and defend her hasty actions. "What do you expect a man to do when he sees a damsel in distress...?" Willow, who'd never been bashful in her life, was now blushing.
"I expect him to mind his own business," Tara scowled at the boy and was pleased to see she'd made him blush.
Usually Willow wouldn't be one to argue with words such as those--having her own secrets to keep, she understood quite well ones need for privacy, but her eye caught the sight of blood on the girl's arm which counter-acted any thoughts she might have had about leaving things as they were . "You're bleeding." She said almost to herself.
"So it seems..." Tara turned her face away from Will's prying eyes, noticing her own blood for the first time since she'd fled the main house that night. Tara felt a tear escape down her cheek. She wouldn't tell this boy about her father and the things he did to her. She was too ashamed. She hoped Will didn't ask any questions.
Willow didn‘t miss the tear that wet the other girl‘s cheek and it made her heart squeeze in her chest. Crying had never really bothered Willow much throughout her life, as she'd never done much of her own, but this girl‘s tears seemed to bring out a side of Willow she previously never even thought about existing. A fearsome side that gave her cause to worry. "Do you want to tell me what happened? Or shall I conjure up an imaginary dragon to slay?" Willow tried for a tentative smile but the other girl remained stoic.
Willow tore a piece of her own shirt from hem of the garment, and dipped it into the bit of water that had collected on the stone nearest them. Then with her finger, she pushed up to form a point under the cloth. After tearing a space in the sleeve of Tara's gown, Willow dabbed lightly at the blooded area to cleanse the wound. The blonde flinched at her touch and Willow pulled back, but quickly resumed her task when the girl made no further retreat.
Tara took that moment of silence between them to look at Will in more detail. She thought he had fine features and the most exquisite green eyes she'd ever seen. There was a softness in his touch that Tara had never known from a man and it took the breath from her lungs, but only partially.
"I wasn't going to jump," Tara spoke quietly. She was ashamed that Will had caught her the way he had. She really hadn't intended to harm herself. She'd simply wanted to feel the wind from the cliff whip against her body. She'd done that since she was a child--stood at the cliff to feel the wind. It grounded her in a way nothing else could. But Will wouldn't understand this. For all he knew she'd been trying to jump to her death.
"Didn't look that way from where I stood." Willow stated simply, though she could tell the girl was telling the truth.
Willow continued on her way, after assuring herself that the other girl was in no harm. They parted company much in the same way they had after their first encounter--each going their separate way without so much as another word between them, though this time Willow did look back once to get another glimpse of the girl.
Tara was just out of sight when Willow heard the noise of a horse clomping through the vegetation. She could hear the steady clamor of its hooves against the dried leaves on the ground. She could tell its full bodied weight was headed directly toward her.
Willow didn't know who the man on the horse was, but she could already tell she didn't care for him. She stared up at him where he sat towering above her as if it was the only way he knew to make himself look bigger, more formidable. She thought maybe he might have been over compensating for something...perhaps a small manhood.
"Where exactly do you think you're going?"
The man looked down at her with contempt. The moonlight illuminated the crest he wore on the arm of his riding jacket. She recognized it to be the MacLean crest right away because it was stamped on most everything in the workers quarters. She decided this horrible man must be DonAldo MacLean
Willow said nothing, simply staring the man down as his glare attempted to penetrate the exterior of her. Any plans she had made to see Ra that night fell away. She got the distinct impression that she would be going no where that night.
"Apparently you are not clear on how this works. You are under the legal age for employment. We paid a large sum to your guardian to acquire you."
Willow was confused, how did this man even know who she was when she‘d never seen him before in her life? And more importantly how did he know about Ra?
"It is the only reason you are here. You are indentured to me until your 21st year. I own you."
Willow spoke for the first time. "No one told me...Ra...he didn't say anything." Willow was near panic. She'd rushed into something and had made a dreadful mistake. Suddenly thoughts of money fell from her mind and all she wanted to do was go home. If she followed the river north where she'd manhandled the girl she was sure she could make it home within a few hours.
DonAldo shrugged his shoulders and kicked the side of his horse. "You will not leave these grounds unless I instruct you to do so. Do I make myself clear?"
Willow glared at him. And DonAldo glared back. But his eyes softened momentarily when next he spoke.
"You haven't by chance happened upon my daughter while out on this evening's adventure, have you? She seems to have gotten away from me."
Willow knew he was talking about Tara. She felt a shiver pass through her body and could sense an unease in the pit of her stomach. She remembered the blood on the girl's arm and squared her chin. What she really wanted to say was "go to hell." but she knew she wouldn't.
He made a move as if satisfied that Willow hadn't seen his daughter, but spoke again, almost as an afterthought.
"I trust whatever happened between you and your guardian was in your best interests."
Willow stared at him unblinking wishing he would go away, even though it was clear he wasn‘t finished..
"And if you were to run away...well, I'd be forced to repossess the money I paid for you. One way or the other."
Willow gulped. She knew he was threatening her, but there was nothing she could do about it. She realized that if she tried to do anything he would kill Ra, and she couldn't let that happen. She didn't fully understand what had happened with Ra but she did know that he would have only done what he thought best. And it answered a lot of questions she'd had about his behavior the day she left.
As DonAldo rode off toward the main estate Willow fumed after him. Her calmness suddenly replaced with anger, denial, and the desperate need to connect with Ra. What DonAldo had said couldn't have been true. Ra would never indenture her and abandon her. She had to find a way to get to him
Willow vowed she would have no more to do with DonAldo or any of his kin for as long as she was a prisoner there.