CLOSING NOTE: BEST OF 2016:
National best-selling writer Christina F. York and her husband J. Steven York (also a best-selling novelist) live on the scenic Central Oregon Coast. In addition to her romance, YA, and SF/F work, York is also a best-selling mystery writer as both Christy Evans and Christy Fifield. Evans wrote the popular Lady Plumber Mystery series, and Fifield writes the Haunted Gift Shop series. Christy is launching a new Spy Girls series soon with Tsunami Ridge Publishing Christina/Christy can be found at ChristyMystery.com and YorkWriters.com. She also hangs out on Facebook both in her mystery group, Christy Mystery, and under her name Christina York.
LOVES ME KNOT
by Christina F. York
Franklin Phillips couldn’t remember a time in his nearly seventy years when he didn’t love Emily Gordon. She was wealthy, beautiful, and smart. Well, mostly smart—except for her abysmal taste in men.
In that, she was incredibly, blindly stupid.
Despite his devotion, she had barely spoken to Franklin in more than fifty years.
It all started with the roses.
No, scratch that. It ended with the roses. It started the first time Franklin laid eyes on her.
First grade. Mrs. Miles class. The smell of chalk dust tickled Franklin’s nose when he walked in at the end of a line of boys, all arranged by height. Rows of desks lined the room, their hinged wood tops scarred from their ongoing battles with six-year-olds.
He hung his stiff cotton jacket with the elbow patches on a hook, and put his shiny metal lunch box on the shelf above, as Mrs. Miles told them to do, then turned around to find the desk with his name on it.
That was when he saw Emily Gordon for the first time. Sitting primly in the desk next to his, her hands folded on the desktop, tidy dark braids hanging down her back. She smiled at him as he slid into his seat, her dark eyes shining with a hidden mischief that was at odds with her proper exterior.
From that twinkle, and that smile, he was a goner. Although, being a six-year-old boy, he didn’t know why.
They were friends from the first; playing together after school, and helping each other with homework. Franklin was a natural athlete, and he taught Emily to swim that first summer, cheering her on from the side of her family’s Olympic-size pool. Her smile, the first time she managed an entire lap of the pool, was a reward worth more than his entire robot collection. Well, except for that one Gundai with the cool sword.
Emily had a sword, too. At least, her family did. He saw it one day when he was playing at her house.
It was very old. Older than anything he had ever seen, except in the museum on their second-grade field trip. It was in a big glass case in the room Emily called the library; a dark-paneled room with soft leather chairs that creaked when you sat in them.
Franklin stared at the glass case, squinting at the scratches along the short blade. Emily came up beside him, pointing to a card inside the case. “My dad says this belonged to some guy named Alex.” She shrugged. “It’s really old.”
Franklin didn’t want to admit that he couldn’t read the elegant cursive script on the card, so he just nodded his head. Besides, the sword was kind of small, and beat up looking, not like the Gundai’s shiny plastic sword. He matched Emily’s shrug, and the two of them ran off to the garden to play hide-and-seek, the sword forgotten.
The gardens were a magical place for small children to play. The carefully trimmed hedges and the twisting paths provided hiding places, while the air was filled with the scent of flowers in every season.
Spring, Emily told him, was her favorite season, when the roses started blooming. She loved the roses, from the miniatures in pale hues of yellow and pink, to the extravagant blood-red blossoms of the hybrids, to the rich perfume of the climbing roses that covered the small pergola in the middle of the garden. The pergola was her favorite place to hide, and Franklin always checked there first when he was “it.”
The pergola was where he kissed her the first time; before things went bad. So maybe it started with the roses, too.
They were thirteen, a little old for hide-and-seek; unwilling to relinquish the closeness of their childhood friendship, yet finding a new awareness of each other, and an attraction that was exciting, and frightening and oh, so wonderful, all at the same time.
It was dusk in early summer. A time when the air still held the warmth of the day, but a promise of a cool evening to come. The sun had set, and the shadows ran together into a soft, gray blanket that was more dream than reality.
Franklin knew he would have to go home soon. His mother would expect him for dinner, and lately she had seemed less pleased at the amount of time he spent with Emily. Still, he wanted to delay his departure as long as he could.
He knew Emily was hiding in the pergola, knew he could find her at any time. But it would end the game, and the day.
Instead, he wandered the garden paths, deliberately crunching the gravel so as to give away his location. He circled the pergola several times, occasionally pausing as though he was about to step inside and discover her.
He could imagine her waiting, surrounded by banks of fragrant climbing roses, the air heavy with their scent. She would be close to the flowers, letting the silky petals brush against her cheek, so that she would carry their fragrance for hours afterward. Sometimes, when he caught her unaware, she would have her eyes closed, as if concentrating on the rich, sweet smell.
He walked a few feet along the path, following a rose hedge toward the pool, then doubled back. He placed his sneakered feet carefully, so that he made no sound.
Twilight had deepened, and soon the garden lights, triggered by the coming dark, would switch on, and the dreamy dusk would be chased away.
He took two more stealthy steps, and he was inside the pergola. The twisted vines and thick foliage blocked the remaining light. Under the canopy of roses, it was as black as night, and he could hear Emily breathing shallowly in the dark.
His lips parted, her name forming in his mind before reaching his mouth. He knew her reaction, the muffled giggle, and sigh of surrender that would signal the end of the game.
But he didn’t want it to end that way. Not today. Today there was some kind of magic in the air that made him stop before he spoke. Instead he paused to listen, to locate Emily by the sound of her breathing, to move closer to her.
He was close enough to feel the faint warmth of the sun radiating off her bare arm. To smell the sweet peppermint of her chewing gum. And he knew, by the way she stiffened and held very still, that she knew he was there.
There was no time to think, or plan, or consider the consequences. He leaned toward the smell of peppermint, toward the sound of her soft breathing, and kissed her.
It was over almost as soon as it started. Both of them drew back in surprise. Franklin’s heart was racing so fast he thought it might break right out of his chest and run away.
“Hi,” Emily said, very softly. “You found me.”
“Yeah.” Franklin drew back, unsure of what to do next. Should he try to kiss her again? Ask her if he could? Ask if she liked it? It had seemed like an okay kiss to him, but he had to admit, he didn’t really have anything to compare it to.
But before he could decide, the garden lights flickered on, sending shadows dancing through the vines, and driving away the magical darkness that had made him bold.
“I, uh, I better go,” he said, jamming his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “Mom expects me home for dinner.”
“Okay,” Emily said, her voice soft. “See you tomorrow.”
Franklin wondered if this meant Emily was becoming his girlfriend. He had never thought about having a girlfriend, even though some of the guys at school did. He didn’t know if he wanted a girlfriend. But he liked Emily, and he had kissed her, after all.
Maybe she was his girlfriend.
Franklin never thought of Emily as his rich girlfriend, even though he knew other people sometimes did. Besides, he wasn’t exactly poor. Maybe his house wasn’t quite as big, and he didn’t have museum-old swords and paintings, or fancy rose gardens, but it was still pretty nice. His dad’s landscaping business provided what his mother called “a comfortable living.”
Comfortable enough that when Franklin turned sixteen, they bought him a car for his birthday. But the car came with a very large string attached, in the form of a summer job to pay for his insurance.
He tried to argue, but his dad wasn’t buying it.
“Last I knew, cars don’t grow on trees, and neither does insurance money.” His dad chuckled. “If they did, my clients wouldn’t want anything else in their yards.”
Franklin rolled his eyes. That was supposed to be “landscape humor,” but he didn’t think it was funny for his dad to be laughing about ruining his summer.
“But I have to train for the swim team, and I have two afternoons a week at the library with the biology study project. I don’t have time to spend in the office, helping you design projects.”
“Excuse me?” His dad sounded annoyed. “First, I need an employee, and you need the insurance money if you want to drive that car. Second, you can work mornings and keep up your afternoon activities. And, third, who said you’d be in the office?”
“Well, isn’t that what I usually do for you? Help with the designs?”
“Frank.” Dad was now using his patient voice, a sure sign of trouble. “You watch me design, and yes, you have a very good eye. You make some good suggestions. But I need someone on the crew; someone to prune and mow and plant. Which, by the way, will help build up your arms and shoulders for swimming.”
Franklin looked at his mom, hoping for help, but he knew from her expression that she had already talked to his dad, and they had agreed that Franklin was working on the crew for the summer. No sense even talking about it.
Still, it might not be all bad.
After having Emily as his girlfriend for nearly three years, maybe it was time to take the next step. He was only sixteen, but he knew that he loved her, that he had always loved her. If he was working, maybe he could save a little money, and buy her the promise ring he’d been considering. Sure, they were young, too young some people would say, but he knew she was the only woman in the world for him.
Besides, it wasn’t like they were getting engaged or anything. It was just a promise that he would always love her.
That was a promise he could keep forever.
Franklin’s dad kept him busy every morning, and most afternoons, when he wasn’t at the library. He missed the time with Emily, though she was busy, too. Still, the guys on the crews were nice to him, and the growing balance in his bank account would more than pay for the ring he wanted.
He noticed, though, that his dad kept him off the crew that worked on the Gordons’ gardens. He didn’t think it was a coincidence. He knew every inch of that garden, he had played there with Emily for ten years or more, yet he was never on that crew.
He wanted to be on the crew. It would be great to be able to see Emily in the morning, when he got to work. Sure, he couldn’t talk to her while he was working, but he could see her.
And she would be able to see him, see the new muscles that were growing in his arms and chest and shoulders. Sometimes they would work with their shirts off, and he could imagine her watching him, seeing how strong he had become.
He wished he could get the chance to show off for her, but oh, so casually, just doing his job in the heat of the day.
A wise man once said to be careful what you wish for. But Franklin wasn’t a wise man. He was a sixteen-year-old boy, crazy in love, and wanting desperately to impress the girl he loved. He would have a very long time to regret that particular wish.
Clayton, the third man on the Gordon crew, called in sick on a Thursday morning. It wouldn’t have been a problem, they could have simply caught up the work the next week, except the Gordons were having important guests, and the gardens had to be perfect. Franklin took Clayton’s place.
He was going to work at Emily’s! His wish was coming true, and he couldn’t wait to see the look on Emily’s face when he casually took off his shirt, and flexed his muscles.
It was several hours, nearly the end if his day’s work, before he actually saw her. She came out of the house, headed toward the pool, her swimsuit covered by a filmy coat that didn’t hide her curves.
His chest tightened when he saw her. His shirt was off, and he drew in a deep breath, pulling in his already-flat stomach, and puffing up his chest.
But when she saw him, her look wasn’t admiration for his physique. She wasn’t impressed by his bulging arms, or broad shoulders. She looked almost sad to see him there.
Rattled, unable to understand the expression of hurt on Emily’s face, Franklin tried to continue his work, to show her what he could do.
But his hands and arms wouldn’t follow the directions from his brain. They seemed to want to go everywhere but where he wanted them to, swinging his clippers in the wrong direction.
His hand slipped. He saw one blade bump into the corner post of the pergola, threatening to nick the brilliant white paint, and just managed to turn the handles to avoid damaging the structure’s pristine finish.
He grabbed for the handles with his other hand, gaining an awkward grip on the second handle. He knew he looked like a total klutz, and he knew Emily was watching, but he was more concerned with not hurting anything, including himself, with the sharp blades.
He gripped the handles, meshing the blades together, hearing them slide against each other in a smooth, slick whisper.
The blades stuck for a split second, but before he could react, they moved again, their finely-honed edges slicing easily through several trailing vines of the antique roses that covered the pergola.
The severed vines dropped to the ground, leaving a gap in the curtain of roses that covered the end of the pergola. The jagged ends looked like a child’s jack-o’lantern, its jagged teeth widely spaced in its mouth.
Charlie, the crew chief, ran over. “What the hell was that?” he yelled, his face close to Franklin’s.
“I, I slipped,” said Franklin miserably.
Charlie followed Franklin’s gaze, catching sight of Emily, her face contorted with anger. He looked back at Franklin, a knowing grin on his face.
“It’s like that, is it?” He shook his head. “Seems like it’s always about some woman.
“Here,” he took the clippers from Franklin, set them on the ground, and pulled a small pair of pruners from his workbelt. “Let me see what I can do. In the meantime, you go give Joe a hand with the grass trimmings.”
Franklin nodded, too dejected to speak, and shuffled across the path to where Joe was dumping debris into the garden trailer.
Emily had disappeared, but not before Franklin had seen shock and anger replace the hurt in her expression.
The pergola had been their special place, and he had damaged it. He hoped she would forgive him.
But sixteen-year-old girls are as unforgiving as sixteen-year-old boys are clumsy. He spent the next four days trying to talk to her. She wouldn’t take his calls, or come to the door when he knocked.
Finally, he followed her when she went shopping, and caught up with her in the parking lot of the coffee shop. Although he tried to explain, apologize, she refused to believe him.
“You were looking right at me,” she screamed. “Right at me! It was like you were telling me we didn’t matter, you could just cut me out of your life!”
“It wasn’t like that.” Franklin reached for her hand, the hand he had wanted to put a ring on, but she snatched it away. “You looked upset, like you had never seen me before, and you didn’t like what you saw.”
“It was just, I didn’t expect to see you.” She was crying now, tears running down her face. “I didn’t even know it was you. I thought it was one of the gardeners.”
Her words hit Franklin like a fist in his gut. She didn’t love him because he was a gardener? He was a lot more than that, and she knew it!
“Is that what this is all about?” He shouted. Anger welled in his chest, and he felt like a balloon about to burst. If he did, he would cover her with his hot anger, burn her, hurt her.
And, angry as he was, he still didn’t want to hurt her.
He clenched his fists, and stuffed them in his pockets, drawing all the anger into his hands, deflating the balloon in his chest.
“No. Yes. I don’t know.”
Emily couldn’t give him an answer, not one he could understand. And he needed to understand, needed to know why she was treating him this way.
“You don’t know?” His voice had dropped to a whisper. There was no way to make this better. If she didn’t know how she felt, then he didn’t belong here.
Emily shook her head, tears scattering from her chin onto the front of her shirt. Franklin wanted to reach out and wipe the tears away, to comfort her and stop her crying, but he couldn’t. Not now.
He turned away, back toward his car.
He stopped after a couple steps, and looked back.
She was standing by her car door, keys still in her hand, tears still dropping off her chin.
“Call me when you do know,” he said, a tinge of bitterness in his tone.
He jumped in the car and slammed the door, squealing the tires as he sped away.
Emily went away for her senior year of high school, much to Franklin’s relief. It was awkward, seeing her in the halls at schools, or sitting in the same class with her, and not speaking. With her gone, he could pretend that his life was back to normal.
He could hope that when she came home, they could make up, and start over.
But Emily didn’t come home. Instead, she chose to go to college in another state, while Franklin stayed closer to home.
He supposed he could have gone anywhere he wanted, but he wanted to be close, in case Emily decided to come home. He even added a class in romantic poetry, hoping he could learn the words he needed to win her back.
When the dinner invitation arrived, Franklin was delighted. Emily would be home, and her parents wanted him to come her first night back.
He practiced the things he would say to her, the things he would tell her. Maybe he could even get her to walk in the garden, to talk in the pergola, the place that had always been special to both of them.
But instead of a quiet reunion, Franklin found himself in a crowd of friends and family. Instead of a chance to plead his case, he barely got a chance to talk to Emily alone.
At last, she approached him, gesturing for him to follow her into the library.
The room was just as he remembered. A fire flickered in the fireplace, sending shadows dancing across the dark wood paneling.
Emily sat in one of the leather chairs. He lowered himself into a chair next to her, the leather creaking quietly as he sat.
He could smell warm leather and wood polish, and a hint of rose, as if Emily had spent the afternoon in the pergola, soaking up the scent of the roses. But it was October, and there were no roses in bloom. Still, she smelled like roses.
“It’s been a long time,” he said.
“Too long, I’m afraid,” Emily replied softly. “I should have talked to you before now.”
“I would have liked that.” He wanted to touch her, but she held herself aloof, making the distance between them feel like miles, rather than inches.
“I was just a kid.” She said it as if that explained everything.
“We both were.”
“My father still thinks I’m a child,” she continued. “But he’s wrong. I’m twenty years old, a grown woman. I’m old enough to know what I want.”
Franklin felt his stomach clench. He knew, before she said the words, that what she wanted wasn’t him.
“I’m going to be engaged. Tonight. That was the reason for the party.” She sighed, and looked away. “I wanted to tell you first. I don’t know why, really, but I didn’t want you to hear it from someone else.”
Franklin never remembered how he escaped from that room, from the soft clutch of the leather chair, the oppressive heat of the fire, the overwhelming odor of dying roses.
He didn’t remember anything about the rest of the night. Just the pain that settled in his heart, and stayed.
Emily was married the next summer, but he declined the invitation to the wedding. He saw her picture in the newspaper, smiling on her father’s arm, a bouquet of roses in her arms.
It wasn’t the last wedding picture he saw. Over the years, Emily married three more times. Each time, Franklin read the announcement in the papers, and silently wished her well.
Each time, it ended in disaster—physical, emotional, or financial. Sometimes, all three. She had buried the last one only a few months before, and come back to her family home to live.
Now, she was only a few streets away.
Now, though they hadn’t exchanged more than a dozen words in decades, he felt himself being pulled toward her house, the house and garden where he had fallen in love with her.
The house with the roses that had started it all. And ended it all.
Now, he wanted, needed, to talk to Emily. To put the memories to rest. And maybe, just maybe, to be friends again, before it was too late.
It was dusk. The early summer air was still warm with the day’s sun, but it held a promise of a cool evening. Franklin wore a light jacket to ward off the chill that would settle in his joints.
But was it the weather, or the welcome that worried him more?
He approached the house, pausing at the sidewalk, overcome with the memories of childhood summer evenings, playing in the soft shadows.
He walked slowly up the curving driveway, watching the front door, as though he expected Emily, the Emily with dark braids and a twinkle of mischief in her eyes, to burst out and run down the drive toward him, yelling “You’re It.”
But the door stayed steadfastly closed, and Franklin realized all the windows were dark across the front of the house.
The irony was not lost on Franklin. Was it possible she wasn’t even home?
He had avoided Emily for decades, until it became a habit. Now he was breaking that habit, inviting the pain and rejection back into his life. What if she was out shopping, or at her bridge club, or just seeing a movie? Worse, what if she was home, but she wasn’t alone?
This was insane.
Yet he didn’t stop. Something drove him forward, ignoring the warnings in his brain.
And when no one answered the door, even though he could hear the chimes echoing through the house, he didn’t leave.
He needed to see the garden.
He followed the gravel path around the house, stepping as quietly as he could. He wasn’t quite as nimble as the last time he walked this path, that last night he had seen her, but he moved quickly.
Something was wrong. Franklin sensed it as soon as he saw the garden. It was as neat and well-kept as it had always been, thanks to Phillips Landscape. His foreman saw to the Gordon estate personally.
Flowers bloomed along the path, pansies and impatiens, and marigolds in the riotous mix of colors that Emily had always loved, their display muted in the dusk. The garden lights hadn’t yet come on.
The roses were carefully pruned, the hybrids lifting enormous blossoms on graceful vines, the miniatures creating patterns of yellow and pink and lavender in their small beds.
The heat of the day lingered, drawing the scent of the roses, and mixing it with the rich musk of freshly-turned mulch and fertilizer. Franklin realized with a start that his crew had been there earlier in the day.
As he reached the center of the garden, he glanced at the pergola. It was covered, as always, with a blanket of antique roses, their sweet fragrance carried to him on the faint breeze. But it didn’t look right, somehow.
Well, he hadn’t seen in it decades. Things change. Maybe it wasn’t even the same pergola. Still, he would have known of any major changes in the garden. It would have been in the work orders that he reviewed every week.
No, something was definitely wrong.
He stopped and listened for a moment. The crunch of his footsteps in the gravel echoed in the silence. There was a faint sound, almost a whisper, coming from the pergola.
He stepped closer, the gravel crunching loudly under his shoes, then stopped again. Waiting.
He heard a deep breath, and then a soft voice.
It was her.
“It’s Franklin. Franklin Phillips.” He wondered if she would even remember him. “From the landscape company.”
A sob came from the pergola, followed by a chuckle that flooded him with memory.
“I know who you are, Franklin!” There was a touch of amusement in her voice now, but he could still hear fear and uncertainty. “I, uh, well….”
She hesitated, and he took another step, peering through the gloom, trying to see under the pergola, but his view was blocked by a tangle of blossoms and vines.
“Franklin,” she sounded less afraid, now that she knew who it was. “I need your help.”
“What can I do?” he said, without hesitation.
“Get me out of here!” The fear was gone from her voice now, replaced by frustration. “The vines are too thick, I can’t get out!”
“What do you mean, you can’t get out?” he said, moving close to the pergola, and inspecting the vines. “Didn’t my crew trim these this afternoon?”
“Of course they did! And when I came out to sit for a while, everything was fine. But when I got ready to go in, there was a huge tangle, and I couldn’t get through.”
The pergola shook as she kicked at an upright. “I was about ready to knock the damned thing down when I heard you walk into the garden. Now, please, get me out!”
The garden lights flickered on, and Franklin got his first good look at the climbing roses. They had been trimmed—he could see the careful shaping of the plant.
But he couldn’t see a single end. The rest of the vines were knotted together in a mass of flowers and thorns, as though someone had twisted them around themselves until the ends had disappeared inside the knot.
He reached for a vine, trying to untwist the tangle, but a thorn caught his hand, piercing his finger and drawing a drop of bright red blood. Instinctively, he put his finger in his mouth, the salty taste of his own blood on his tongue.
“I’m gonna need some gloves,” he said.
“In the kitchen. The closet next to the back door. There are some gardening things in there.” The fear had returned. “Hurry!”
Franklin trotted up the walk, and opened the back door. He ignored the rush of memories, refused to think about the last time he had opened that door. He grabbed gloves from the closet, then took a moment to check out the other contents.
He might need some tools, and he quickly found a pair of clippers, lightweight ones designed for cutting flowers. He pawed through the closet, but couldn’t find anything heavier. He stuck the clippers in the pocket of his jacket and ran back to the garden, pulling on the heavy leather gloves as he went.
“I’m back,” he panted, as he reached the pergola. “Let me see what I can do.”
With his hands protected by the heavy leather gloves, Franklin was able to grab the vines. He tugged at the knots, trying to work an end free, but they stubbornly refused to move.
“Yeah.” He grunted with the effort of tugging at the knot.
“Why did you come here?”
“To the garden?” He yanked, but only succeeded in rattling the pergola. He heard leaves rattle to the ground inside. “Because no one answered the door.”
“No. Why did you come to the house? You haven’t, you know, in a very long time.”
Franklin thought about it, as he struggled with the knot of vines. Words, the words he had thought he’d find in his poetry, failed him. He just had to do it.
“I don’t know, Emily. I just had to come over.”
He reached in his pocket, taking out the clippers.
He remembered the last time he had tried to trim these roses, the day that a clumsy sixteen-year-old boy had lost his true love.
Maybe this time he could do a better job.
But the clippers couldn’t even cut through the vines. The handles twisted in his hand, and the blades slid impotently against the cruel thorns.
“Emily, this isn’t working. I can’t untangle this knot, and the clippers I found can’t cut it.” He let his arms fall to his sides.
“Then find something that will. I can’t stay in here all night!”
“Right. Then I’ll cut the rose vines, and we’ll be back where we started, all those years ago!”
“You know what. You dumped me over the roses. That first summer I worked for my dad. You dumped me because I was a gardener, and I botched up the roses.”
“Franklin, for heaven’s sake! I have no idea what you’re talking about! You think, I dumped you.” her voice put quotes around the phrase, reminding Franklin of the mischief that had twinkled in her eyes. It made him smile, in spite of their growing argument.
“My dad grounded me! I was failing math, and he made me go to summer school, and then he sent me away for senior year.” She snorted. “Dumped you! You’re the one that wouldn’t talk to me after that day!
“Now get me out of here!”
“I’ll be right back.”
Franklin ran up the walk, through the door and back into the kitchen, his mind reeling with what Emily had said. Was it true? Had he misunderstood her, turned his back on her?
He rifled through the kitchen drawers, looking for a sturdy knife. He didn’t want to, but he was going to have to cut his way through those vines, to get Emily out of the pergola.
But even the largest knife in the kitchen wasn’t enough. He managed to saw through most of one vine, though it took several minutes. He pulled on the cut, trying to break loose an end, but the vine refused to break.
A tendril of panic wound around his chest. What if he couldn’t get her out? He could go for help, but he didn’t want to leave Emily alone.
“Emily? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she answered, but she didn’t sound fine. She sounded tired, and angry.
He remembered that she didn’t like being scared. Whenever she got scared, it made her mad.
Right now, she sounded very mad.
“Let me go see if I can find something else to cut these. Can you wait for me?”
“I’ve waited more than fifty years,” she said. “I can wait a little longer.”
Then, in a tone that he knew well, she continued. “But hurry up. I’m not getting any younger!”
Franklin was smiling as he ran back into the house. He didn’t feel the fatigue that should have been dragging him down. He could do anything.
Franklin raced through the house, trying to find something, anything, that would cut through the knot.
He’d already checked the kitchen, and he passed through into the dining room. The sideboard was loaded with china and silver, but nothing useful.
In the hall, he turned toward the stairs. Maybe in the garage….
But there were no tools in the garage.
Back in the hall, he glanced around. Upstairs? Just bedrooms and bathrooms. Not likely to find anything there.
He was about to give up, when he another childhood memory tickled the back of his brain. If there was a fireplace in the library, maybe there was a small ax to chop kindling.
He stopped at the library door, and gritted his teeth. He had sworn he would never enter this door again. But Emily was counting on him. He swallowed hard, and swung the door open.
He could see the fireplace, see the heavy andirons and the log lifter. A broom and a small poker. A basket of logs, cut to fit the grate.
Something triggered another memory, and he turned to his left.
There it was.
The old sword.
Emily had said it belonged to someone named Alex. Not that it mattered much right now. All he needed was to cut the knot of rose vines, and free Emily from her rose-covered prison.
The sword still rested in its glass case, just as it had all those years ago. The card was still in the case, the spidery writing faded with the years, illegible in the dark room.
He wondered if the case had an alarm. No matter. If it did, then it would bring help.
He didn’t see a latch, and didn’t take a lot of time looking. He pulled his jacket over his face, and balled his fist inside the leather glove, then brought it down with all his strength on the top of the glass.
The sound of shattering glass was like a bomb in the quiet house.
He reached carefully though the hole, drew out the short blade, and ran from the house.
Franklin stood in front of the pergola, the sword gripped in his right hand. “Stand back,” he ordered. “I’m going to try and cut this damned thing.”
“What have you got?” she asked. He heard her move away from the entrance.
“That old sword.”
She gasped. “But, that’s—”
Franklin didn’t wait for her to finish. He brought the sword down with all his might, wincing as the blade sliced cleanly through the knot of vines. In spite of everything, he hated to hurt the roses.
The pieces of the knot fell away, vines covering the ground with a carpet of roses, and Emily was in his arms.
“Thank you,” she said, laying her head against his chest.
Franklin laughed. It felt so good to hold her.
He raised the sword into the air. “Any time. Maidens rescued, dragons slain. Sir Franklin Phillips, at your service.”
“Well,” she said, drawing back to look up at him, a smile lighting her face, and a touch of mischief once again shining in her eyes. “We had better get up to the house. The police will be here soon.”
Franklin listened, hearing sirens in the distance, drawing closer with each passing second.
“An alarm?” he asked, though the answer seemed obvious.
“For a sword that belonged to ‘Alex somebody’?”
She took his hand, and led him toward the house, as the siren screamed closer.
“I never really believed my father, but I was never sure. He claimed it belonged to Alexander the Great.”
She glanced back over her shoulder.
“Considering what it did to that knot, maybe he was right.”
Copyright © 2010 by Christina F. York.
Heart's Kiss Magazine: Issue 1: February 2017
Copyright © 2017 Arc Manor LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2017 Arc Manor