Natalie looked out from the small and rectangular window that sat just below the ceiling and only afforded her a view of the sky. Across there was a bigger window with three bars running down it, which she detested because, despite the bars, she could behold life outside while she remained imprisoned. Squirrels often peeked in the big window as did foxes and raccoons. It afforded her an almost unobstructed view of the world and reminded her she no longer played a part in it.
Through the small window she watched the birds fly and the clouds drift. The sun shone through in the mornings and it warmed her face. The moon’s silver rays glimmered at night and lit the darkened room. Prison to her right, freedom to her left and Natalie in the middle.
The wind rustled the leaves outside the big window that evoked her prison and Natalie did her best not look through it, but her neck turned and she looked at the green fields and the trees that surrounded her house. Tears rolled down her cheek. How long had it been since she’d climbed those trees? Sat on the grass?
“Forever,” she whispered and shut her eyes.
She dreamt of Aramis, her big beautiful horse, running through the fields, her hair trailing behind her, not a sound in the world but his hoofbeats and the howls of the wind as they sped through it. Now, Aramis was gone, as shattered as her life.
When Natalie woke up twilight surrounded her and the first stars peeked in through the small window, her freedom window. She was hungry and thirsty and hoped her father would not be long.
“Today is market day,” she said to the walls, “I hope all went well. Today we’ll have bread and beer for dinner.”
She heard noises and Natalie expected her bedroom door to open at any moment. Footsteps on the wooden floor approached. The click of the latch and the door swung open. Between her blanketed feet Natalie discerned her father’s figure appear through the threshold.
He smiled, illuminated by twilight. It was a sad smile. Natalie remembered happy days when things had been better, Aramis had been with them, and she could still ride him.
Father gazed into Natalie’s eyes and his face fell; through one eye she glimpsed the past, with the other the present, and resentment shown through both. Perhaps it would have been better if he hadn’t found her in time; better if she’d gone with her beloved Aramis.
“How was your day, Father,” Natalie smiled at him, following as he sat beside her and lit the oil lamp on the bedside table, “are there any news?”
He was old now, working beyond his years. That stormy day had intertwined their fates far more than she could have imagined, it had joined them so she would live only as long as he did. He took her hand and held it in his for a moment, then bent and kissed her forehead. She watched him pat her hand and set it beside her. He covered her with Mother’s quilt and adjusted her pillows while Natalie followed every movement with her wistful eyes.
“Mrs. Winston has a new baby, and Gerald lost a lamb when it wandered into the river and the current took it.”
“Yes,” he unwrapped a loaf of bread, “John baked this for you. Said he and Emily might drop in tomorrow if the weather allows.”
He broke off a piece and held it up to Natalie’s lips. He contemplated in silence while she chewed.
Natalie was not the only one stagnate in nostalgia. Five years ago he’d found her at the bottom of that ravine. Aramis’s frightened eyes as he breathed his last burned forever in his memory. For five years they’d lived a life in suspended animation, Natalie imprisoned in this room, held captive in a body that would never move again.