She stared out the window at the pasture and the countless white sheep dotting the hillside. They belonged to her father. The sheep were his prized possessions and people in the town knew his herd was the finest. Tierza felt very much like one of his possessions too and it made her angry.
She was keenly aware of the attention she drew in the marketplace. From the time she was little, her brilliant green eyes, raven colored hair and dark complexion had drawn stares. She’d heard the terms, exotic, beautiful, and striking since she was small. Lately it seemed to be the men who were looking her way and it made her uncomfortable.
Last night at dinner her father was speaking to her mother about the transaction. At first Tierza thought it was about sheep, but then she realized they were talking about her. Her mother was not enthusiastic about the conversation but her father seemed anxious that the transaction was a fair one.
That night she tried to fall asleep but the conversation plagued her. Ever since she was a little girl she had been friends with Latham, who was the bread maker’s son. A widow, the bread maker sought council from Tierza’s father during the raising of her four sons. Of the four it was Latham who was the kindest and the most fun.
The widow had sent her sons away four years ago to help build a temple for the king. It was hard work but unlike the slaves who were forced to labor, her sons were paid wages as overseers on the project. Last month three of the boys returned. There was much celebrating in the town and a feast was held in the village to honor them and hear their tales of the west.
The boys had grown into men in the four years they were gone. Latham returned bronze and muscular from his time in the sun and working at a man’s job. His brother had stayed in the west as he had become betrothed to the King’s daughter. Jared was the next oldest, then Latham and finally Ben.
Tierza and Latham had spent their days in the fields tending to sheep and catching up. She could feel his gaze falling on her and lingering when she wasn’t looking. His gaze made her feel electrified and warm inside. Several times she felt herself blushing and she hoped he hadn’t noticed. They were slowly falling in love and for Tierza it was magical.
Her life had seemed happy until the conversation about her marriage. The custom of her people was for the boys to marry in order of their age. Jared was a nice boy but way too quiet and serious. While Tierza had known him all her life, she couldn’t remember him saying more than a sentence or two to her. Now she was supposed to become his wife? How could she marry Jared when she was in love with his brother?
Warm wet tears trickled down her cheeks. The date had been set and dowry arranged. Land had been parceled and preparations made. Her heart ached and her mother knew why. Two nights before the wedding, Tierza was sitting by her window gazing at the moon and the black shadows of the sheep in the field. She heard muffled sounds of breathing and then she saw him. Latham was sneaking toward her window.
She held her breath. She felt lightning course through her body and her heart began to race. How could this love be wrong? How could she live the rest of her life denying it? How could she become someone else’s possession while another possessed her heart?
Latham crept toward her, a smile playing on his lips. Off in the distance a donkey neighed and he stopped cautiously. After a quick glance he resumed his quest toward her.
She smiled as his frame filled her window. He took her hand in his and said, “Come away with me. My intentions are honorable. You can stay in the West with friends of mine until Jared marries, at which time I will send for you and we can be married. I love my brother, Tierza, but I can’t let him marry the woman who owns my heart.” His eyes were moist and his plea was passionate; they both trembled at the thought.
Tierza heard her father snoring as Latham gently lifted her out the window.
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