“Watch the New Path ...
Carefully Reflecting with Wisdom.
Burning Faith for a New Jump.
Wisely and Patiently Waiting.”
- The Prophet of Truth
Anne appeared by the living room door exactly as Sarah was finishing her soup, almost as if she’d been waiting in the corridor for the right moment to show up.
“Heavens’ sake, miss! What are you doing sitting on the floor like that?” she freted, but immediately stopped herself from going to her, to help her up. “I told the young master he should allow me to set a proper table for you,” she grunted and Sarah smiled at the nice woman, trying to appease her.
“It’s all right.” She held on to the armchair in order to hoist herself up. The world still spun dangerously but she was glad to feel her legs had recovered their strength. “And I thank you for the warm soup. It was delicious,” she admitted, remembering that it had been prepared especially for her, and Anne smiled slightly embarrassed, as if she wasn’t used to see her daily efforts recognized.
“You’re quite welcome! To tell you the truth I still think you should get something more substantial to eat. But the young master said it wasn’t good to fill your stomach so suddenly,” she countered, although she obviously had her doubts about that, and Sarah remembered what Alexis had told her about the nice woman.
I wonder what she sees when she looks at him. She treats him as if he were a young boy … A dangerous man like him …!
“I’m okay, for now. Thank you. However, I wouldn’t say no to a hot shower, if that’s possible,” she added. Since she’d agreed to spend the night in that house taking a shower was indispensable, or she probably wouldn’t be able to fall asleep.
“But of course. The young master told me to make sure that the bathroom in your bedroom was ready. But he also asked me to remind you that you shouldn’t wet your bandages. In any case, I believe you’ll find everything you need upstairs. Feel free to use it as you please. And should you need anything else, please let me know.”
Sarah couldn’t help feeling slightly impressed with the fact that Alexis had remembered to take her needs into account. However, in her list of priorities, there was one other thing even more important than a warm bath.
“Well, there is something I really need. If I’m to spend the night here I need a phone. I really need to let my family know I’m okay,” she added, telling herself that she wasn’t really lying, and Anne seemed to ponder her request.
“Oh, unfortunately there are no phones in this house,” she replied. “And I confess that’s something that I’ve always found strange. I know the young master has a cellphone, but I don’t know if he took it with him …”
“Hum … I also had one in my handbag …” she remembered. But her bag, together with all her other things, had be left in her car. And her car, if it hadn’t been stolen by now, was still parked in front of that shabby motel.
“Ah, but if it was in your handbag then it’s in your room. One of the young master’s friends brought all your things over yesterday morning, while you were resting. Didn’t you see it on the chair by the window?”
When she’d woken up in that strange room Sarah hadn’t payed attention to much of anything, except to look for a way out of that house. Also she didn’t want to know who that friend of his was, taking into account everything he had told her. However, the possibility of recovering her personal belongings gave her a new encouragement.
In firm footsteps, compared to the ones that had characterized her previous attempts, she made her way to the stairs and started climbing, Anne following her close behind, keeping her distance but still ready to help her, should her legs falter. Even though she did manage to climb all the stairs on her own, Sarah was gasping for air by the time she reached the top, having to stop for a moment to regain her breath.
The room that had been destined to accommodate her was pretty much the same way she had left it, with the exception of the bed, that had been made with clean sheets. And all it took was a single glance towards its inviting soft mtress to make her feel even more tired. Suddenly all she wanted was to simply lie down and sleep …
Next she noticed the chair, placed by the window, and her brown handbag. A smile of relief touched her lips as she quickly confirmed that nothing was missing.
“Is everything all right, miss?” Anne asked, standing by the door, and Sarah faced her with a renewed smile holding her red cellphone as if it were a lost treasure.
“Yes, thank you.”
Anne returned her smile and nodded in approval.
“Then I’ll leave you alone. Should you need anything else please don’t hesitate to call me.”
“Thank you,” she told her again and Anne left, closing the door behind her.
Sarah took a deep breath and placed her handbag on the floor so she could sit, quickly accessing her contacts list in search of Selena’s name. She waited anxiously for someone to pick up, but she didn’t have to wait for long, and a familiar female voice answered from the other end.
Selena’s worried tone left a smile on her lips. It felt great hearing a familiar voice after all she’d been through in the last twenty-four hours. As if those simple words were enough to assure her that the world was still the same as before; enough to tell her that she wasn’t completely insane or in the middle of some severe psychotic episode.
“Of course it’s me. Were you expecting someone else?” she replied, hiding her emotions behind a taunting tone, and Selena immediately replied in kind.
“And is that the only thing you have to say to me after leaving me hanging like that, waiting for you all night? Not even a call to let me know you couldn’t make it?” she rightfully pointed out, and Sarah took a deep breath, knowing her little sister was right and that, no matter the reasons, she’d been the one at fault.
“I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to worry you. But … some things came up.”
“Things that took you a whole day to solve, I gather!” Selena pushed on, sounding angry, and Sarah sighed again.
“Come on, Selena. I said I was sorry. I called you especially for that, and to know how you’ve been doing.”
“I called home, yesterday night, but no one picked up,” the girl insisted, now sounding grumpy.
“Because I spent the night at … a friend’s place. In fact, if you want to talk to me, call me on my cell.”
“Friend …? What friend?” The change in Selena’s voice made her sigh again. Now that her curiosity had been piqued, Sarah new she wouldn’t stop until she got some answers.
“You don’t know him.”
“Him?! And what do you mean I don’t know him? I know all your friends!”
“Not really. It’s just the way things are. Besides, it doesn’t take much to know all your friends. When you were in College I could count them on the fingers of one hand. I’m guessing that now it’s not all that different. Is it that John guy, that’s always sending you messages?”
“No! Jeez, Selena! Where did that come from?”
“Well, it’s past time you found yourself a guy, and he is kind of cute.” she added and Sarah felt a shiver climb up her spine.
“Stop it. John is a colleague from work, nothing more. Besides, I’m not interested in finding any guys. From here on it will be just the two of us!”
The silence that reached her from the other end was heavy, and when Selena spoke again her voice had completely lost her usual child-like tone, making Sarah think that she sounded way too old for her age.
“I don’t want you to stop living your life because of me. We only live once and no one knows when it will suddenly end. You have to live your life, Sarah, not mine.”
“Selena … enough of that nonsense. Unless you’re enjoying your stay over there and that talk is just some excuse so you won’t have to come back home with me!” she added, joking, hoping to lighten up the mood a bit, and Selena laughed lightly, although she knew that it had been a forced laughter.
“Caught me!” she admitted and took a deep breath, going back to a more serious tone. “And …? How are things going?”
“I’ve taken care of almost everything. I’m planning to go and get you next weekend.”
“Wasn’t it supposed to be tomorrow?”
“Yeah, but it’s like I’ve told you. Some things came up. But nothing to worry about,” she quickly added. “Everything will be solved soon enough and our life will go back to what it used to be.”
“You sure…? I mean… are you sure everything’s all right?” she insisted and a small suspicion lit itself in the back of Sarah’s mind.
“Of course. Why? Did anything happen? Any one told you otherwise?”
“No. Not really … But aunt Marie called yesterday and when I asked if I could talk with her Martha wouldn’t let me.”
“Wouldn’t let you?! Why? Did she tell you why?”
“No. Just that she had some matters to discuss with her and that there wasn’t enough time to pass me the phone. You tell me if this makes any sense!”
Sarah sighed heavily and tried to gather a few more details.
“And the rest? Is everything okay? Are you getting along with our cousins?”
“Yeah. They leave me alone, most of the time. Raphael granted me free access to his library and I’ve been reading a lot. Being with the others is … complicated. I keep feeling they’re looking at me kind of differently.”
“I know …” Sarah replied remembering the expressions of commiseration and sorrow she constantly received everywhere she went to take care of the matters pretending her parent’s belongings. “You have to understand that it isn’t easy for them either. They don’t know you all that well, and people normally don’t know how to react to our kind of situation …”
“I know. And I don’t mind. It’s like I’ve told you. I’ve been reading a lot.”
Sarah found herself smiling proudly. Her little sister was truthfully special and the courage she showed through those simple words was enough to replenish her own deposit of strength. Everything would be all right, she told herself, as long as she could withstand the present storm calmer times would surely follow.
“Okay then. Well, if you need anything call, okay?”
“Until when are you staying at that mysterious friend’s house?” Selena asked, back to her malicious tone, and Sarah sighed.
“I don’t know yet. And you can stop imagining whatever it is you’re imagining! Now let me talk with Martha!”
“Why? To check if she has any complaints about me?” she asked defensively and Sarah smiled at how childish she could be at times.
“Don’t be silly. I do have to ask her to look after you for another couple of days, though.”
“Hum … Fine, then. Will you call tomorrow again?”
“If you don’t, I will!” Selena threatened.
“That’s fine, too.”
“Okay then. See you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow, Selena. Sleep well.”
Sarah waited until Selena handed Martha the phone and couldn’t help smiling as she heard her sister’s running steps at a distance.
“Good evening, Martha.”
“Sarah. I’m glad you called. Your sister was really worried.”
“No I wasn’t!” she heard Selena’s small voice and couldn’t help laughing.
“I know. And I’m sorry. I had no way to contact you any sooner. How’re things going?”
“Fine. She’s been fine, taking everything into account.”
“I gather you can’t say otherwise, with her standing right there, beside you.” Sarah supposed with a light tone of condemnation and Martha laughed.
“That too. But there’s really no reason to worry.”
“As she been sleeping? Or is she still crying at night?” Martha sighed deeply.
“Some times. But everything’s fine, really,” she added, obviously minding her own words, and Sarah took a deep breath.
“I can never thank you enough.”
“You have nothing to thank me for. I’m sure your mother would have done the same for my children. And Selena is such a good girl. She’s no trouble at all.”
“Thank you … And I’m really sorry, but I have to ask you to look after her for a few more days. I still have some things to take care of.”
“Oh, it’s fine. She can stay for as long as she wants. And if there’s anything Raphael or I can do to help …” she offered and Sarah couldn’t help feeling apprehensive.
“Selena told me Aunt Marie called …”
“Yes. We had a long talk.”
“So, she told you? That she requested Selena’s custody?” Sarah asked, nervously twisting the hem of the long shirt she’d borrowed, and Martha sighed.
“Yes. And just so you know, I disagreed completely. In fact we even argued because of that.”
The relief she felt left her suddenly tired.
“Thank you, Martha. I suppose that’s why you didn’t let Selena talk with her?”
“That’s what she wanted! It’s obviously out of the question.”
“I had planned to talk with Selena about that yesterday. I fear how she’ll react. Because I can’t really guarantee her that we’ll be able to stay together. My past medical history doesn’t help much. And I’m single, with no family she can be integrated into. The lawyer told me that it all depends on the judge and, of course, on the type of lawyer aunt Marie will get …”
“Really! As if all you’ve been through wasn’t enough!” she complained indignant. “Well, you can tell that mister you have two people here ready to say one or two good things about you, when the time comes.”
“Are you sure you don’t mind being called to testify to my character?”
“Of course we don’t! And do make sure you take care of all those matters! You sisters belong together! Specially now. And I’m sure Selena agrees.”
Sarah smiled, relieved by those words, and for an instant her hope was renewed.
“Thank you. I’ll call my lawyer first thing in the morning.”
“And keep in touch! Or just come over, if you have the time. It’s not like we live on the other side of the country!”
“I know, I know… I’ll see what I can do. Thank you for everything, Martha.”
“It’s fine! And now go, get some rest. Tomorrow is another day. And another day always means another battle.”
“Thank you. See you tomorrow.”
“Sleep well, Sarah.”
Sarah was left staring at the small phone for a while, even after the line had been cut. Knowing that her sister was all right and that Martha would help her with the custody process made her feel as if a heavy stone had been lifted from her chest.
With a sigh she put the phone back in her handbag. Carefully standing up to avoid another dizzy spell, she made her way to the bathroom, dreaming of a warm, relaxing shower.
The dream shattered the moment she looked at herself in the mirror. The white bandage on her neck was like a bright sign, making her remember where she was and why.
With a sigh and a grimace she took off the brown tape, wondering how grave it really was. She’d readied herself for some grotesque wound that would clearly tell the story of what she’d been through, but all she saw was a skin tear, almost completely healed. She did the same to all the other bandages covering her skin, feeling her arms and shoulders, looking for signs of pain. The ugliest wounds were the ones on her neck, right arm and left wrist. The others were almost shallow and much less violent which, on the other hand, allowed her to clearly see the teeth marks still imprinted on her skin, leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. For an instant she was back in that dark place, surrounded by bloodthirsty eyes that suddenly jumped her as if she were no more than a piece of meat thrown amongst ravenous dogs.
With trembling hands, she washed her face with cold water forcing the images back, and took a deep breath.
Sarah undressed the rest of her clothes, careful not to hurt herself, and couldn’t help wonder about her own clothes, but immediately decided she didn’t want to know. She didn’t need any more proof of the violence she’d been through. The marks all over her body were more than enough.
The hot shower felt better than she’d imagined, helping her relax her aching body, making her feel warm and comfortable again. She told herself that that water was able to wash everything away. Not only her skin, but her mind as well, her feelings, even her Soul. That water would take away all the dirty hand-prints, all the signs of those terrible monsters. She needed to free herself from those feelings and sensations, from those emotions and the memories they brought her. It was essential that she’d be able to remain rational, especially now that her world had been completely turned upside down. Above all she knew that if she allowed herself to go on piling up emotional tension she’d end up having a nervous breakdown, and then everything would be lost, and the courts would have more than enough reason to take Selena away from her.
By the time she left the bathroom she was once again completely in control of herself, although the deep tiredness weighing on her brain threatened to get the better of her at any minute. She put on a cotton t-shirt that was way too big for her, and that like all the other clothes filling the wardrobe clearly belonged to a man. She didn’t mind it, as long as it was soft against her aching, sensitive skin. And she finally snuck back into bed.
Sleep hit her like a rock the moment she laid her head on the pillow, and her last thought was a wish that at least for that night she’d be able to sleep without nightmares.