Such a strange word to describe the origin of something. The brunette kneeling at the edge of Witches’ Creek rolled the word over in her head, though it seemed to get stuck on the “t.” A bizarre word indeed to suggest an origin, though Juliet presumed that people confused “the one who holds power” with “the one who created.” A man on a throne, proverbial or literal, was not always where the power began.
Juliet listened to the rustling of the ancient trees. A leaf, the span of her two hands outstretched and her thumbs linked, drifted to the surface of the water. She watched the leaf sail away as the wind picked up, a few brave raindrops at the helm to guide the leaf’s journey.
Jeffrey had been a sailor once. He had been brave then, when he was outwitting storms and discovering new land. He had promised to take her to see the storms from atop the highest mountain on the peninsula. They would climb through the storm clouds and sit above it, like gods, he promised.
‘Rather, like witches, who command the lightning to strike and the thunder to roar,’ she countered, and he laughed. She loved to make him laugh. His blue eyes would lighten, like the eastern sky at sunrise. He would look young, younger than she could remember. Her father was pleased that Jeffrey Johnstone found her unusual witticisms worthy of laughter; most men considered them irritating, and public concern had whispered that Juliet was mentally unfit.
When Jeffrey approached her father about marriage, the town had been stunned and confused and pleased all at once. Lord Jeffrey was to marry the odd little Naidraug girl, and control of Seclusion would finally pass into his hands. He promised miraculous things: better crops, stronger building supplies, healthier babies, if only he held the power.
Juliet’s mind tripped over the word. Her husband held all of the power in Seclusion now. The sunrise in his eyes was subverted by a constant maelstrom. The promises were true, but at a cost. Seclusion, as it had been, was ruined while Jeffrey courted men with money and plans. Their little town was to become no more than a waystation, a holding pen for nameless wanderers as they travelled to the coast. Jeffrey promised that a railway would bring untold wealth to Seclusion.
Witches’ Creek seemed to boil as Juliet felt her rage start to rise. Seclusion was home. Jeffrey’s father had worked hard alongside her own father to ensure that the greedy hands of the American settlers didn’t take their land, and now Jeffrey was ready to sell it for a little bit of wealth. What would he spend it on? Nothing made in Seclusion itself. All of those goods were traded among the citizens, and not for gold. Jeffrey was smart enough to know that his filthy coin wouldn’t buy him a thing within the town, which concerned Juliet even more. It meant the railroad was only the beginning. The town her family built would slip away, and with it, their history. Their identities.
The young woman trailed the tip of her index finger in the water, wishing for an answer. Another leaf fell as the rain began to pick up. The leaf landed on top of a tiny frog, shivering in the rain. Juliet held her hand out to the creature, but he didn’t move. He seemed so secure, so content, beneath his barrier from the elements. The young lady twisted her hair between her fingers. If only her home could be so safe.