We drove hard through the night, never stopping.
My heart pounded all the while as I cradled my little sleeping Anne. I held her injured hand, the stiff, frozen fingers curled tightly around mine as if they were made of stone.
I did not have much time with her and each second that ticked by softened my resolve.
How could I do this?
The carriage rumbled to a stop. I could hear the crunch of boots as he hopped down and strode around to the side. His black hat shadowed along the fogged window glass was the only visible part of him until he opened the door and stepped inside, rocking the carriage as it shifted with his weight.
A chill entered with him.
The sun was creeping up over the horizon. A train whistle caused Anne to startle and wake. She smiled up at me. I made a face at her and she giggled back before snuggling up against my chest.
“We have arrived.” He stared at me grimly. “Are you ready?”
He nodded solemnly. “Remember it is the only way to keep her. You wanted me to remind you of this when the time came…”
“So I did.”
“They will be looking for a woman with a child, a baby girl…”
“They will not be looking for me…”
I had not told him the whole truth, though. I was leaving from here to go to Edinburgh to the arms of another man, the man who haunted me even still after all of these years and miles. Why was I drawn to him? What made him special? Had we known each other somehow in another life?
The Reverend held out his arms in order to take Anne.
“She will be well cared for until we can meet again.”
Leaning over to him, I gave him a peck on a scarred cheek. He reached over and pulled me in closer, kissing me full on the mouth, deeply. My stomach turned.
I pulled away quickly and smiled at him, whispering, “I love you.” I must maintain the illusion. I still needed him.
He smiled back, his eyes full of hope.
I had not fully planned the lies I would tell to get her back while severing my ties with the Reverend but I knew he was the only person I could trust right now with her well being. I would think of something when the time came.
Resisting the urge to tell him yet again how to properly care for her, I gave her one last kiss on the velvety cheek and whispered softly into her ear of my love for her, how I would see her again soon…
His arms opened again, ready to receive Anne. I handed my daughter to him reluctantly and stepped out of the carriage with my small valise in hand.
I could hear her muffled screams and sobs behind me as I moved away. They pierced my heart. I knew I left some part of my humanity behind that day as I kept walking to the train station, leaving my daughter behind.
Somehow I knew it would all be worth it. It must.