by Alice de Sampaio Kalkuhl
Chapter One: Inside Peregrine Montgomery
Families like Peregrine’s were stuck in a portrait. Somebody had painted the Montgomerys the way they were supposed to be a few years ago, too long for him to remember not
long enough to let him believe that there could be more to life. And so, every month that they spent in Aberystwyth brought more freedom than he had ever experienced. At the sea, he was allowed to be a little boy, allowed to roam free, at least in comparison to the prison that the manor in Cambridgeshire was. It was in Wales that his father had taught him how to ride a horse. Peregrine had been five years old, barely able to climb on the animal’s back but his father had insisted. ‘Peregrine,’ he had said, ‘If you want to be a true gentleman, you need to be able to hold yourself on a horseback. If you cannot control a horse, you cannot control people either and you want to get somewhere in life.’ Peregrine had nodded without thinking. He had not even listened properly. The only thing that mattered in that moment was the horse. It looked straight at him, dark eyes, a gaze as deep as the ocean behind the cottage. Looking back, Peregrine sometimes wondered why he had not been scared but in this moment, he was in awe. Even as a five-year- old, he had understood that the creature in front of him was special, not to be domineered but to be respected but then again, he had not wanted to disagree with his father. The next thing he knew, he was being lifted onto the horse, holding on to the saddle with panic of falling.
‘Don’t be afraid. It can sense your fear,’ his father had said and Peregrine had tried his best to stop his hand from shivering.
Then his father had climbed onto the horse behind him.
‘Is it better now?’ Peregrine’s father asked.
Peregrine wanted nothing less than to disappoint his father.
‘Yes.’ His voice was so low that his father could not have understood him.
‘Splendid, let us move a bit then.’ and following these words, Peregrine could feel his father’s legs tighten around the horse.
The horse however, was having none of it and pranced. Peregrine had never held onto anything so desperately. His hand cramped around the saddle until he was sure, he must have
broken a finger. Behind him, he could no longer feel his father. The horse stood still and then Peregrine could hear laughter. He opened his eyes. On the ground was his father, laughing.
‘You will be a great man, one day,’ he said.
It was the only time, Peregrine ever saw his father laugh. In fact, the first time in years that they had ever laughed together.
* * *
The house in Aberystwyth also held other wonders. It was there that he met Gwenog Lewis. She and Peregrine could not be any more different. For starters, she had a nickname.
Gwen. . .
When Peregrine had first heard someone calling her that he had been hurt, believing that his new best friend has lied to him about her name. Then there was the way she looked. The girls back home did not look as happy as her. They all had a bitterness in their smiles but when Gwen smiled the world lit up. Her eyes would sparkle, just like the waves on a sunny day and even when they were children, Peregrine wanted to do everything possible to make her smile. They had been seven years old, their whole life ahead of them. Later that day his father had scolded Peregrine for associating with what he called a peasant. Peregrine had been too young to know what a peasant was. So, he had gone to see Gwen again, nearly every day throughout the summer. It was not as if his father paid any close attention to what Peregrine did anyways.