Tom Simpleton was the village idiot. He was a strapping young lad, strong as an ox, with dirty brown hair and deep blue eyes. Despite his deceptive strength Tom was a gentle soul and spent most of his time in nature. He would play with feral dogs and cats because the boys and girls of the village would not play with him. In fact, the other children ridiculed and ostracized him. The adults of the village perceived Tom as a nuisance and nothing more, hardly worth paying any attention to.
Tom was the only child of peasants who could not afford to give him an education. While the other children learned to read and write, Tom remained illiterate. When his parent passed away in an accident there was no body to take care of young Tom and he was left to fend for himself at the age of fourteen. He may not have had book smarts as did the other kids, but even at fourteen he was stronger than most men. A local landowner took pity on Tom and offered him a job chopping and stacking wood and maintaining the grounds of his estate.
Tom continued to live in the shack of his parents and would walk half an hour in each direction rain, or shine to and from the rich landowner’s estate. He would take the shortest route through a field of tall grasses and richweed, or horse balm as it was otherwise called. Every day regardless of the weather he would chop and stack a couple of cord. When he finished with the wood he would muck the stables and then tend to the flowerbeds and the grass. The landowner was very proud of his tract of land and preferred it when it was perfectly manicured, though he himself would never lift a manicured hand to do the work.
The landowner was not a hard man to work for. In truth he expected very little of Tom and Tom for his part worked tirelessly and the man appreciated that. Eventually the landowner began to care for Tom as he would a son. He had no son’s himself, only a daughter around Tom’s age. Not having a son of his own saddened the man because his wife was left barren after the birth of their daughter, due to complications with the delivery. It was all the doctors could do to ensure both mother and child survived.
At fourteen Isabelle was developing into a beautiful young lady and the landowner knew it wouldn’t be much longer before the suitors arrived at his door vying for her delicate hand. Isabelle had grown up opposite of Tom. She knew privilege and popularity and she had many friends. She wore the latest fashions and had even gotten a new pair of bobby socks which had taken New York by storm. Isabelle was rapidly growing into a younger version of her beautiful and socially conscious mother.
Isabelle’s mother pressed her husband to move back to the city. It was time to start introducing their daughter into society. It worried her that there was so little culture in the country. She feared her daughter would adopt the mannerisms of these bumpkins. If that were to happen they would have a difficult time finding a suitable husband for their daughter. Isabelle’s father was a stubborn man and his wife’s complaints fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his wife; he just thought she put too much stock in society.
Isabelle and Tom rarely came into contact with one another. She would see him around the grounds doing this and that, but she had only spoken to him once when he first started working for her father. She determined that he was not all there and she wondered why her father brought him on.
Each day, after her studies, Isabelle would go riding. The family had five horses, hers was a spotted filly and she loved the animal dearly, even if the horse was jittery and juddered at the slightest provocation. The horse was skittish and her father had begged her to choose another, but Isabelle would hear none of it. It was one day in May while riding in the adjoining woods that an animal scurried across the path and her horse reared, tossing her from the saddle. Isabelle struck her head on a root and was knocked unconscious.
Tom was mucking the stables that day as he always did and when he didn’t see the girl, or the horse he had a sinking sensation that he could not explain. Something inside him told him that Isabelle was in trouble. He had always had these gut feelings that turned out to be true. He never told anyone about them because they would have figured him mad. This extrasensory perception had served Tom well over the years keeping him safe and out of trouble.
Prodded on by that uneasy feeling in his stomach Tom went off in search of Isabelle. As he approached the forest at the edge of the property, he came across the horse saddled, but no rider. Tom ran into the woods along the riding trail and followed it until he came upon Isabelle. She was unconscious and lying upon the ground, dressed in tan jodhpurs, black riding boots and blazer, Her hair was loose and fell about her shoulders. Tom dropped to one knee and scooped her into his arms. He rose to his feet without effort and began to run, he ran back to the estate. He ran tirelessly and as fast as he could back the way he had come.
Tom was met before he reached the front porch of the estate by the girl’s father who was stretching his legs and getting some air, as he always did at that time of day. Surveying his property from his porch, he saw the boy running toward the house with his daughter in his arms. He ran out to meet them where upon he took the girls into his arms.
Isabelle’s father carried her into the house and up the stairs. Tom followed quietly behind. Her father laid her upon her bed. He listened to her chest and could hear a faint heartbeat. He left the room and came back with a wash basin and a cloth and proceeded to wash the drying blood from her hair and temples. All the while Tom stood silently in the corner. When the doctor arrived, Isabelle’s father placed his hand on Tom’s shoulder in a gesture of comfort. He led the boy from the room and left the girl with the doctor.
Isabelle had slipped into a coma. She lingered between life and death for seventeen days. For seventeen days Tom did not go far from her side. The first night he slept in the stables and when he arrived at the house the next morning smelling of manure Isabelle’s parents made him bathe before they would let him sit with her. The doctor had said that it would be better if someone sat with Isabelle and talked to her and her parents didn’t see any harm in letting Tom relieve them. Isabelle’s mother would fall into hysterics almost as soon as she entered the room and saw her daughter laying so near death, so in some ways Tom was a blessing.
Tom thought Isabelle looked like an angel. Her expression was one of peace, her features were so fair. His mother had told him all about angels. His mother told him there were different types of angels. She had told him there was something called a hierarchy of angels. There were little angels that did the little jobs, there were your average angels that did the average angel things and then there were the archangels, these were the angels that spoke to God. Tom thought Isabelle looked like one of those archangels as she slept.
On the eighteenth day after her fall Isabelle expired. Tom was in the room when she breathed her last breath. He saw Isabelle lying upon the bed and he saw another Isabelle. The other Isabelle was made of light and bathed in albescence. First she sat then she rose to her feet and she walked without touching the floor. She smiled upon Tom as she drew near, passed through him and then passed through the wall.
Isabelle’s father semi-adopted Tom after his daughter’s passing. Tom moved into the estate. He still did the jobs he always did, and was still given wage for them, but he did not need to pay rent and without much need of money he had accumulated a little nest egg. Isabelle’s father hired the best tutors for Tom and he learned his alphabet among other things. After her passing Isabelle watched over Tom for the rest of his days which were long and happy.
T J Therien