Chapter Seven- Back In Town

“What about you? Why am I so different?” Joeté asked, his eyes narrowed.

“Joeté, just trust me.” I took off my metal band that held my long blonde hair back. I looked at it for a moment. It looked like a crown almost, but one that was turned upside down, and had no jewels. It was engraved with swirling designs and had been my mother’s before she died. I quickly put it in my saddle bag and pulled my hair into a tight bun. I wrapped my cloak around myself and made sure none of my clothes were showing. Joeté looked at me quizzically again. I reached out and yanked his hood over his face. 

“Hey! What are you doing?” He lifted his hand to pull the hood off, but I grabbed his hand and stopped him. 

“Cover your clothes and keep your hood like that. I will explain later.” I pushed Chaga to a trot, “come on. Stay slightly behind my horse’s head and keep your head down.” Soon the town came into view. I rode straight for the main road and kept at my steady pace. Soon people started to look up at us. 

“Anne! Anne, is that you?” I heard a familiar voice and turned my head, slowing Chaga down to a stop. A young girl with midnight black hair was walking towards me, a smile lighting up her face. 

“Charlotte, how are you?” I plastered a smile on my face and looked down at her. “It’s been so long.” 

“Yes it has. Where have you been? You left so suddenly and without warning. For a time we were concerned something had happened, but Matthew told us that you were fine. Said something about a family affair.” She paused and studied my face. “Are you okay Anne? You look pale.” She put her hand on Chaga’s neck. 

“Matthew said that?” I tried not to fidget. “I don’t remember telling him anything about it. I apologize that I had to leave so suddenly, but Catie was feeling cooped up, and needed some air. The place we went to was so nice and open that we decided to stay. But now we really must be going. We have somewhere to be that we must be at before dark.” 

“Oh, but who is this? Some friend you made in this new town?” She raised her eyebrows suggestively. 

“Oh no, he is an old friend that we just happened to meet in the place we settled down in. Lucky coincidence.” I waved my hand dismissively. I pretended to look at the sun, then back down at her. “We really must be going though, his fiancé is at home waiting, so the sooner we are there, the sooner we can get back to her.” I started to walk Chaga, trying to get away before she could say something again. 

“Oh, well, it was lovely seeing you again Anne, and please, on your way back through stop by. I want you to get to know my husband. I married Andrew, the blacksmith.” She smiled proudly and stepped back. 

I pushed Chaga to a fast trot, just trying to get out of the main square before anyone else recognized me. I caught a glimpse of someone talking to a shopkeeper outside a store- they looked familiar. My heart dropped into my stomach, and I pushed Chaga even faster.

 It was Matthew. He was back, and if he recognized me, we would never get out of this town alive. We finally made it out of the town and I brought Chaga up to a fast canter. Joeté pushed ahead far enough and grabbed Chaga’s bridle, pulling both of us to a stop. He whipped off his hood. 

“Antepi! What was that about? How did that girl know you, and why did you suddenly speed up?” I pulled my hair down and it flowed over my shoulders. 

“That town.” I started breathing faster. “That town was the one that Catania and I lived in before we came back. That girl, Charlotte, was one of my good friends, but she had no idea who I actually was.” I tried to slow my breathing, but it got faster and the breaths became shorter. I felt the panic and pain swelling in my chest, threatening to overcome me. 

“No Antepi. You are stronger than this. Remember what Meisha said. Never let them see the fear.” I thought to myself. I closed my eyes and relaxed my muscles. Soon my breathing went back to normal. I opened my eyes and saw Joeté looking at me, concern clouded his eyes. 

“The man who proposed to me, the one who worked for the English, he was there. That’s who she was talking about. And I saw him. Apparently he told everyone where I was rather than just chase after me. Except he didn’t know where I was, so he made something up. I just didn’t want him to see us.”

“Wait, what just happened? It’s not like you to just suddenly start freaking out like that. You’re Antepi Antioch, you don’t get scared or nervous.” I sighed and rubbed my temples.

“It started happening after the attack. I never let anyone see, and I never told anyone. It was rare, and it only happened when I thought about the attack. Especially at night, and when I would wake up. Once we got back to Antioch, I thought that they had stopped. I didn’t have any,” I sighed and looked around, “and I was calmer than before. I guess seeing the place that I was forced to flee to from and seeing Matthew just made me think about everything that happened and I panicked. I’m not scared or nervous. My head just panics, and it makes me breathe hard and fast, like I am going to pass out. It’s not a big deal. 

“We need to go. I don’t trust Charlotte enough to not say something to Matthew and I saw his horse nearby.” I pulled Chaga around to face the road to the Capital and clicked my tongue against the roof of my mouth. She started to canter and Joeté had to push Parsh to stay with us.  I glanced over at Joeté. He had a troubled look on his face. I could tell that I was going to have to explain more to him when we got there. I sighed. It was going to be an interesting few days here. 

I saw the palace’s spires long before we were there. When I knew we were within a few minutes I shouted over to Joeté:

“Beat you to the palace.” I squeezed Chaga’s sides and she responded willingly. I let go of the reins and let her have her head. I held on to strands of her mane and laughed. She surged forward and we shot ahead of Joeté and Parsh. As the front of the castle came into view, I found the reins with my hands and pulled on them. I slowed her to a trot and looked over at Joeté. We were here.