by Lucy S.
Ashley Beamon ran through the trees, hair and skirts flying, braids and bootlaces coming undone as she tripped over a tree root. Breathing hard, Ashley stopped, leaned against a tree, and caught her breath. She risked everything running out in the middle of the night to escape Thomas, her husband.
Like a horse sold to slaughter, Beamon married his daughter to the aged Thomas Baker for a paltry sum of six pigs and a bonnet of beeswax. Ashley felt the full measure of her fourteen years when Thomas tried to touch her, and when she shied away, called her a witch and worse, said she had the frenzy and threatened to send her to Bedlam in the morning, where she’d be chained to the wall with the lunatics and left to die in her own madness. Once Thomas had fallen asleep, she’d crept out the door, quiet as a field mouse. Ashley knew her folly in leaving a home and security but dared not stay another moment in the hands of such a man. She’d run all night and stopped a moment to rest, when a crow screeched overhead and she’d woken up in the morning light. Half frozen with cold, Ashley’s eyes opened softly, briefly wondering where she was. The reality of last night’s flight hit her like a shock of ice water, and she brushed off the leaves she’d burrowed under. Hearing voices nearby, she silently thanked the crow for waking her, and fled further into the forest.