Bella desperately tried to catch her breath, finally coming to a stop in the woods. The piece of bread she’d stolen from the local market was clutched tightly to her breast. She couldn’t help herself. She was starved. If she didn’t have food soon she knew that she wouldn’t last the night. Bella hated stealing. Hated how it made her feel. Hated how it felt like everyone was watching her. Judging her.
But she had no choice. She pulled the long baguette to her lips and took a large bite, the soft, grainy texture filled her mouth. She let a heavy breath out through her nose, immediately feeling a slight relief. Hunger was something that she’d been familiar with her entire life but that never made it any easier to deal with. As she swallowed she could feel the bread gently settling in her stomach, soothing the pain and quiet rumble. She looked over her shoulder as she took another bite, half afraid that the shop keep was going to find her and drag her to city guard. Label her a thief. She dropped her shoulders in relief as she was met with nothing but the sounds of the forest.
That was until she heard voices. Distant, but drawing near. She immediately crouched, clutching what was left of her powdered treasure back to her chest. Someone was coming. She swallowed her fear — and her mouth full of bread — and carefully stepped towards a large rose bush, peeking through the branches. Two men were approaching what looked like a garden. Panic struck her as she finally realized where she was. She was just outside the kingdom!
“Lord Silas, please…You know how important this ball is to your Father. He’d be devastated if you weren’t in attendance.” Silas sighed, crossing his arms and taking a seat on a cast iron bench.
“I’ll think about it, Augusto. Since Amelia passed these parties just seem so…pointless. Please just…leave me be. I need to be alone…” Bella watched carefully through the branches and flowers. Augusto bowed softly, turning on a heel and retreating towards the giant castle in the distance. Silas sighed harshly, pressing his fingers to his temple and squeezing his eyes shut. Bella looked down at her feet, somehow feeling more guilty for spying on this man than stealing the bread. Yet still, she found herself peeking through the branches once more.
“Amelia, darling…you gave me strength. You gave me hope. You showed me beauty in things that I couldn’t see before…and now you’re gone.” Bella followed Silas’ glance to a tombstone. She rose her hand to her mouth, feeling her eyes tear up. “When you left this world…you took a piece of me with you, dear…Rest in peace, my darling…” Bella felt her breath catch in her throat and she stepped backwards, pinning her long brown skirt under her foot and snapping a twig as she regained her balance. She watched in slow motion as her bread tumbled to the forest floor. Both hands covered her mouth and panic filled her chest.
She only hoped that she couldn’t be seen…through the rose bush.