“Father, it cannot be,” Eleanor cried, half-running to keep up with her father’s long strides.
“Yes, it can be, Eleanor. Even our most trusted friends can be enemies.” He replied angrily.
“No...” Eleanor trailed off, as they entered another room. Near a door at the opposite end stood a young man, dressed in riding apparel; a very troubled expression marked his handsome face.
He looked up quickly as they entered,
“Edward,” Eleanor’s father began, “I have treated you as a son. I have let you love my daughter. Will you now do this thing? Will you not give back the ring?”
“I did not take it.” Edward replied,
“I will call the constable.”
“No, Father, please,” Eleanor pleaded. “Let him go, you have no proof.”
“How can I just let him go? Proof or no proof, it must be true.”
“Please, father, for my sake.”
Eleanor’s father looked from Edward back to Eleanor.
“Aye,” he said finally, “I will not press charges, but you must leave my house at once. You are not welcome back here until you return what you have taken.”
“I will leave,” Edward said quietly, “All I ask for is a private word with Eleanor.”
Eleanor’s father hesitated, then nodded, “Be quick about it.” He said, “I trust my daughter enough to let her do it. Be it known to you, however, that I will be right outside the door.” With that, he walked out, shutting the door behind him.
“Edward,” Eleanor whispered, “Tell me the truth. Did you do it? Did you take the ring?”
“No, Eleanor,” Edward replied, “And I shall prove it to you, if you wish.”
“By recovering the ring and bringing it back to you.” Edward took her hand, “Will you wait for me, Eleanor?”
“Yes,” Eleanor replied, “If it takes you a lifetime I shall wait.”
“Then farewell,” Edward paused, and looked into her eyes,
“Until we meet again.” Eleanor said softly.
“Until we meet again,” Edward repeated,
Then, he turned. The door clicked shut behind him. Tears welled up in her eyes. With Edward went her hopes and dreams of the future; all of these behind that closed door.
Two years later . . .
“My Lady, there is a man here to see you,” The maid bobbed a curtsey.
“Did he give a name?” Eleanor asked, setting down her embroidery,
“No, Miss, but he said that he knows you.”
“Send him in,” Eleanor replied. The footsteps of the maid retreated into the hall. Only a few moments later, her sharp ears caught another sound of footsteps. The confident tread caught her attention as something that she had heard before.
“Edward!” The name escaped her lips in barely more than a whisper. She stood quickly, her hands tightening into fists, her eyes burned with a mixture of pain and hatred. Her heart had changed. But then, so had he; a year ago she had seen him. He had changed. He was no longer the one she had promised to wait for.
She turned her back to the door as it opened, the hinges squeaked as the door slowly closed.
“Edward,” her voice was stiff and cold.
“Eleanor,” the voice was just as it had been. Warm, kind, perhaps even loving. She fought back tears.
“That is Lady Eleanor to you.” She felt a pang of regret as she said this. Turning slightly, she met his eyes. The dying light of the fire and the few candles that lit the room were sufficient to see his face. The same brown eyes, black hair, broad shoulder, and strong arms. “You are not supposed to be here.”
“You are right; but, since you insist on skipping formalities, I will get right to the point of my visit,” Edward strode forward and stopped next to her. She saw traces of dust on his clothing, indicating a long ride. His face was weary. “I believe that his belongs to you.” He pulled something from the pouch at his side. Grasping her delicate hand in his own, he dropped in something cool and heavy.
“What?” Eleanor looked up, shock registering on her face.
“Your father said that I could never come back here until I returned the ring. Well, since I never stole it in the first place, but I found it. I wanted to come back, Eleanor, and I still love you as much as I did then.”
“Edward,” she turned to him, her hand still clutched around the golden ring. “I do not wish to see you anymore. Two years ago I pleaded with Father, and he spared your life for me. I pleaded because I loved you, Edward. But then, you were how I always remembered you. When I saw you that time a year ago, you were different. You are not the same man I loved.”
“It is because I am not the same man.” Edward looked deeply into her eyes, “Christ Jesus changed me, Eleanor; He wants to do the same for you,” he lifted his hand and gently placed it on her shoulder, “All you have to do is believe.”
Then, he turned, his retreating footsteps echoing on the stone walls, floor, and ceiling. Would she ever see him again?