"Isn't it beautiful!" Celia twirls us in a most unladylike fashion, and my feet catch in my walking gown. I stumble, snatching at my slipping shaw before it finds the ground.
Oblivious Celia resumes her gallop through the meadow dragging me by the hand. It feels like I have three feet instead of two as I stumble along. The flowers Celia exclaims over are only a yellow blur.
A slight weight slips off my head. "Celia, my bonnet!" With Celia holding tight to one hand and my shaw clasped in the other, I helplessly watch it float away.
"What are bonnets to sunshine and flowers!" Celia cries like some mad poet.
"Stop! Celia, stop!" My corset digs into my heaving ribs, refusing them the lifesaving breaths I need. These things were not made for running.
My vision blackens a little, and I wrench my hand free of my little sister's tight grasp, bracing my hands against my trembling knees. Celia pauses for only a moment before dashing on ahead without me, unwilling to wait.
By the time I can stand upright, Mother has caught up with me.
"Are you all right, dear?" She hands me my bonnet.
"Thank you..." I gasp for another breath and plop my bonnet onto my head. "Perhaps... in another... moment... or two." Senseless, irresponsible Celia! The ribbons of my bonnet cut into my chin as I secure it perhaps more tightly then is required.
My sister spins and jumps through the meadow, oblivious to all but her 'sunshine and flowers.' A gritty taste fills my mouth. Celia is not forced to follow the rules. Why is she allowed to be free while my ribs ache from pressing against their rigid confines and my ears still ring from mother's sharp rebuke from last night?
"Why do you not check her, Mother?" The words spit out of me.
Mother turns my way, her eyebrows raised. She studies me a moment, and then her gaze narrows. "Your sister's exuberance will calm in time, but your behaviour at the ball last night was unacceptable. They are not comparable."
They were in my mind.
"Celia is six," Mother continues. "Her zest for life will fade as she matures, but your zeal for attention must be checked and quickly. You do not wish to be branded a flirt."
How terrible could it be to be admired and adored? To have a flock of men about you laughing and panting after your every whim? It quite went to a girl's head. Surely, something that felt so good couldn't be evil.
I clinch my teeth against the disrespectful words I want to say, knowing they will do more harm than good.
"The Bible says to flee any semblance of evil." Mother shoots me a pointed look. One which says she read my mind. Why do mothers have to be so observant? "You must remember your place with Christ when you enter a ball room. You are more than your father's daughter. You are a daughter of the King of kings."
Her words find their mark swift and sure. I flinch, weakening for a moment, then I square my shoulders. "It was harmless, Mother. Nothing happened. I wouldn't have let it." Nothing had been given away that could not be taken back, just laughs, winks, and coy glances. It had all been harmless.
"That is not the point, dear Penelope," Mother says. "You gave off the appearance of one willing to do more. Willing to compromise herself. You must act as if God is with you all the time, because He is."
All the steam leaves me, and my shoulders slump. "I'm sorry, Mother. It seems I forever run ahead and forget to take Christ with me."
Mother's gaze turns calculating, as if sorting through things in her mind. I cannot hold the weight of her disspointment and watch Celia instead. My sister has bent down to examine something on the ground. Perhaps a flower?
"That might be your problem, my dear," Mother says, her voice now soft, mixing with the heavy scent of the flowers. It's the gentle entreaty in her tone that breaks through my walls and makes me listen.
"You are not to take Christ with you in life. You are to follow Him."
Images clatter in my mind, none of them fitting together into a clear picture. I twist my head and furrow my brow at Mother.
"To take Christ with you, Penelope, shall have you running ahead like your little sister. She either drags us along or leaves us behind. But to follow Christ? Why that shall have you waiting on Him before you even take a step. Like your father's good pointer. That dog walks by your father's side and watches him. He will not take a step your father does not wish him to."
Mother's words distilled the jumbled pieces in my mind. I had been running ahead of God like Celia. Trying to drag Him along or else leaving Him behind. But to follow God would make Him indispensable to every step I took.
Things the vicar says come to mind. Verses all proclaiming the same thing. To follow. Mother is right. Jesus does not stand behind begging, "Take me with you." No, the Master calls us to follow Him.
Then said Jesus... If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 KJV
Image free to use without permission from Ri_Ya