by Melinda Williams
“I’d stop, if I were you.”
Edgar turned slowly. His eyes were open only halfway, and he looked as if he were unable to open them any more. I’m sure he hadn’t slept at all, which might be why he seemed to have more wrinkles than the last time I’d seen him. I could see the change even in the moonlight.
“You,” he whispered.
“Give her to me,” I said. I could hardly stand the sight of his hands touching her.
Edgar’s eyes watered and his lip trembled. “This is all I have left.”
I shook my head and laughed. “You never had anything.”
If you want to know the truth, I wouldn’t talk to Olivia’s dad. I wouldn’t necessarily go running to her lover (or can I still call him that?), either. He won’t tell you the truth about me. Only I can do that. The truth can be boiled down to these three things:
I love Olivia Manning.
She is mine.
She will always be mine.
When I met Olivia, she was wearing a short summer dress with buttons along the front. I began working for the Manning family that summer. I’d just moved to England. I knew no one, save for the aunt I lived with. She had convinced her friends to hire me, the young foreigner. It was my first day, and I was meeting the horses I was to take care of. As I stood and brushed Jay (my favorite horse, though I didn’t know it yet), Olivia ran by me. Her bare feet pounded against the soft grass. She was about to trample the flowers I’d just planted.
She noticed me and stopped. Her brown hair was down and messy, the length of it almost reaching her elbows when her arms were to her sides.
“Oh, hello,” she said. “You must be the gardener. Mum and dad are having you take care of the horses too?” Olivia smiled, and time stopped. I don’t mean that in an exaggerated sense, because I know time stopped for her too. When she held out her hand, I took it. There we stood, stillness around us, for an eternity. I already knew how soft her body was; her hands were an indication of delicacy and warmth. I learned her smell, a perfume-like sweat with a hint of lillies. Her smile was for me, directed at me, and because of me. I made her smile so many times.
I was the one who let go of her hand. I had to, though it seemed she didn’t want to stop the contact of our skin. She looked down at her now empty hand and held it with the other, staring at the palm.
“Yes, gardens and horses both. And you,” I said, “must be Olivia.” Olivia’s father had already spoken of her. He thought we would get along. She didn’t look eighteen. Olivia held herself like a woman, not a teenager.
Olivia smiled and nodded. She tucked her hair behind her ear. The wind blew her dress, and without meaning to I saw more of her tan thighs. I straightened my hat and patted Jay.
“Jay’s my favorite. I’ll ride him someday, but right now Edgar doesn’t want me to. He insists he’s not tame enough.”
“You’ll meet him, I’m sure. He’s always here. He stayed in town for college. To be with me. I assume we’ll marry soon enough.”
My smile faded, and I turned to the horse.
“I think Jay’s my favorite too,” I said.
I took a step toward Edgar. “I wonder… what her father would say.”
“Why can’t you just let me be?” Edgar sounded desperate. “For once?”
“Let you be? Why would I?” I looked down at what he held in his hands. Lovely, even then.
Edgar noticed and took a step away from me. He always, always did the wrong thing. He never learned. “She was afraid of you, you know. I’m surprised you weren’t the cause.”
I had to laugh at poor, naive little Edgar. “She wasn’t afraid of me. She trusted me. Even now, I’m sure she’d want me to make sure she stayed where she belongs.”
“Why are you out here?”
“I’ve hardly left.” I pointed to the hill where I’d slept each night. I felt more at peace that way. “I have to take care of her.”
“Let me do this,” Edgar said through clenched teeth.
“But you can’t.”
A bead of persperation rolled down the side of his head.
“I know where you’re going. I’m sure her father would love to know.”
“I would. We both know how much he already despises you. It’ll be easy to convince him.” I took three large steps toward him, daring him with my eyes to back away again.
I’d spent far too much time around Edgar and Olivia. Always, it was that way.
Edgar and Olivia.
Edgar and Olivia.
Edgar and Olivia.
All I did was garden and spend time with Jay. The horse was just like me. We both didn’t fit in with others of our kind. We each had only one who understood us. I understood Jay. Olivia understood me. I could tell whenever she waved at me from across the grass. Whenever she included me in conversation during the family dinners I was invited to. Jay and I also had only one action that infuriated us. Jay reared up each time I whistled. I saw red whenever Edgar led Olivia past me without so much as a hello.
It was the rare occasion, like the first day I met her, that I saw Olivia alone. But when I did, she would talk to me for hours. Her smile became genuine. I hardly minded when she spoke of Edgar. After not hearing her speak at all, the words she said didn’t matter. I’d lie down under the shade and listen to her go on and on about anything.
The day she confided in me, I wanted to cradle her head in my lap. I wanted to keep her from the misery that was sure to come. I felt murder in my hands but instead used that energy to hold sweet Olivia.
She held my hand, and again time stopped. The leaf falling from the tree floated right over our heads. The bird in a nearby tree was silent. Suddenly, the air was still. Neither of us let go this time.
“I- I have to tell you something. Oh, it’s awful! I have to tell someone or I’ll explode.” She looked so young that day. Her freckles stood out in the sunlight, and her hair was braided.
“You can tell me, Olivia. You can tell me anything.” I squeezed her hand.
“Oh my god,” she said. “I don’t know if I can say it.”
“I began to feel funny. I’ve never felt this way before. I’ve been sick almost every day. I can hardly be around poor Edgar without screaming at him over some silly thing. And then—” She blushed. “I skipped a month. You know. I realized it. I realized I’m pregnant.”
Instantly, I knew what I had to do. But first, I knew Olivia’s father must know.
“Please say something!”
“Shh…” I said, wrapping my arms around her. “It’ll all be okay. It’ll all sort itself out—”
“I can’t stand it! We’re not even properly engaged! Of course, I’m sure he’ll propose now… but if my father were to know! Oh!” She cried into my shoulder.
“It’ll all sort itself out,” I said.
Later that day, I saw her father.
“Sir, I have news. You musn’t be angry with me for being the one to tell you, for I have Olivia’s best interest at heart.”
“Well, what is it, then?” I knew he liked me (I had a way with horses he admired and envied), and I heard the immediate doubt in his voice. There was no way I’d lose the faith Olivia’s father held in me.
“It’s Edgar, sir. He’s not good. He’s not like we all thought.”
He slammed his paper down on his desk. “Out with it!”
“He’s done something awful, sir. He’s… well, I’ll just go ahead and say it, then. Olivia is with child.”
Edgar grimaced at my words.
“We all remember the day he forced you off their property. After what you did.” I shook my head and looked down at her lovely face.
“Please…” More sweat rolled down Edgar’s brow. His arms must have been getting tired.
“There’s one thing that will keep me from speaking of what you’ve done tonight. I don’t think her father deserves to hear something so awful.”
Edgar didn’t say a word.
“I think you know what that is, Edgar.”
He shook his head before speaking. “No…”
“She never even loved you. You’re dilusional. It’s sad, really. Olivia and I had something real, something no one will ever understand. And now… I’ll sleep on the hill every night. She and I, we can be together.” I smiled and stroked her brow. Her cold, beautiful face.
Edgar closed his eyes and shook his head. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You never have… she was afraid… she didn’t want…”
“Shh… don’t panic, Edgar. We both know what has to happen. She needs to stay here. It’s for the best, though I doubt you’ll agree.”
Poor, poor Edgar. He would never admit to himself that Olivia was truly mine. I knew what made her laugh. She loved to hear about my mishaps with Jay. She loved, even more, to hear of my successes with her untamed and favorite horse. I knew it was her dream to ride him someday. I knew which side of her face held the dimple that showed up only in her most joyous of smiles. I knew how many colors her eyes held. Edgar thought they were merely blue. They were also yellow, purple, and brown.
How could Olivia be anything but mine?
Olivia came to me for small things and big. She told me when she was admitted into the all-girls’ college she had hoped to attend. She once brought me a bouquet of daisies.
“Bring them home and think of me,” she had said. I dried the flowers and still had them in a vase by my bed. (I miss seeing them very much on nights I spend at the hill.)
She and I almost spent time off her parent’s property once. It was Edgar who got in the way of that.
“I want to get out of here,” Olivia had said. She leaned on the fence post as I rode Jay around in circles.
“Let’s go, then. I’ll be done in an hour.”
Her chin rested in her hand. “What’ll we do?” She sighed.
“Plenty of things. I could show you where I take walks. We could go to a show. I have an extra bike to get us somewhere—”
“Darling!” We both heard Edgar in the distance. I kicked Jay so he’d go faster. I looked anwhere but at them when Edgar reached Olivia and they kissed.
“What are you up to, my dear?” Edgar asked her.
“I was just planning my day. I’m bored of the same old. I was thinking we’d—”
“But Olivia, I have plans for us! My parents are in town. Did you forget? It’s such an important night.” Edgar lowered his voice, but I heard him all too clearly, “Surely you wouldn’t miss it to spend time with the hired hand? She’s hardly a suitable friend, Olivia.”
Olivia said nothing, and when I looked up she was walking away with Edgar, up the grass and into the house.
It was three weeks later that Olivia confessed her secret to me.
It was only six days after her confession that I took care of everything for her.
“How is it for the best? You’re crazy.”
“Me? Crazy? I’m not the one holding a dead body, Edgar. You dug her up. That’s crazy.”
“I needed to take her where she wanted to be buried. She didn’t want any of this!” Edgar looked around after raising his voice. No one could hear us.
I tried to expain. “She belongs here. She and I need to be close. That’s the only way. Now Olivia can rest beside the hill. Under her favorite tree. I sent her to her grave to save her.”
Edgar set down Olivia’s body and vomited on the ground beside her. He wiped off his mouth and approached me. “You what?”
I couldn’t help but smile. “Oh, that’s the best part.”
“The horse. The horse trampled her… crushed her skull…”
Just as I watched from the hill as Edgar dug his love’s body up from her grave, I also watched Olivia’s last moments. Riding Jay would do just fine. It would be perfect, really. Just how I knew she would want it.
I had hinted to Olivia that Jay was ready to ride. I’d ridden him for days without any troubles. I knew her well enough to know that she would take my word for it.
“Jay loves to ride in the grove by the hill, especially.”
“Oh! And you should have seen her face!”
Olivia had been laughing and smiling as she rode Jay in circles.
Edgar was sobbing into his hands, though I couldn’t understand why. I was telling him such a happy story… His tears were unnecessary.
“What did you do?” Edgar asked me.
“I knew she couldn’t live with the shame of what you did. Have a baby? Be an unwed mother? Never. She didn’t want it. I had a perfect plan.”
“What did you do?” Edgar asked me again.
I watched as Jay violently threw Olivia’s small body to the ground. She didn’t move as I approached, yet she was breathing. I soothed her, told her I loved her, and kissed her cheek.
I’d already picked out the rock. It was just the size of a horse’s hoof.
I crept away and waited until the news of her death reached me. Olivia’s father came to my home. I was invited to the funeral. I suggested she be buried where she died. It was hard to hold back my joy. I’d done her the biggest favor.
“So, Edgar,” I said, turning away from him and walking over to Olivia’s body. I stroked her hair. “I suggest you place her back. Dawn is almost here. As the one who put your sweet love in her grave, I think the body belongs to me.”
My back was turned to Edgar on purpose. I hoped he would do it. And he did. I felt the first blow, was gone by the second. Now I could be with Olivia forever.
He buried me with her with the panic of the approaching light.
They were my bones.