"What are we going to do with you?" the headman's first wife asked, expression screwed up with distaste as she fingered June's hair. "Your mother certainly never made any arrangements when she got sick. But she never was very bright."
June scowled. They had buried her mother yesterday. She hadn't cried. She had no tears for the woman; tears were a weakness she couldn't afford. Not as a fourteen-year-old orphan in this poor village. Especially not as a pretty one.
"You need a husband."
'Be good,' her mother would have said. 'Go along with it. You'll be safe. Fed.'
The prospect of food every day was tempting. Safety was not. Safety was a cage, marriage would turn her life into a prison with days for bars. "I'm not old enough to marry."
"Exceptions can be made."
That night, instead of sleeping with the servants as she ought, she went out to relieve herself then ran. She ran through the fields into the woods, grain slapping at her arms. She ran through the woods, the night almost too black to see through, branches whipping against her face. She ran until tears found her eyes. Then she ran some more.
Dawn found her beside a road she had never seen before, dirty and penniless but free.