Roman Violets and Ash chapitre Chapitre 6

I carried the consequences of my past on my shoulders for years.

I’d tiptoe downstairs and to fumble with the lock on the front door for a couple minutes before curling up in bed. That was what I considered a good night, and thankfully they happened rather frequently.

Last night, however, wasn’t one of them.

My stomach was full but the conversation I had with Norma left me feeling anxious and jittery. I needed to make sure the doors were locked, that the house was secure from the inside out. It was an urge I no longer questioned, and one I’d stopped fighting years ago.

The lock on my bedroom door was wrong.

It felt too flat between my fingers, nothing like the heavy thud of the deadbolt that was on the front door of our cabin—the same kind downstairs. This one was one of those cheap locks that stuck out from the doorknob like a button. Even the click it made was wrong.

I face planted in my bed hours later, swallowed whole by exhaustion.

A soft knock sounded on my bedroom door, and instantly my eyes opened. The sliver of moonlight that had bathed my room in an eerie glow was gone, replaced by early morning rays. I stared at the dust particles hovering in the air before remembering someone was at the door.

“Sorry, you know I wouldn’t wake you if it wasn’t important.” Elijah stood in the doorway, two to-go cups in his hands. “I come bearing gifts—caffeinated gifts.”

The earthy smell of his aftershave permeated my room, bringing on a wave of unexpected nostalgia that I had to shove down. It reminded me of pine trees and cold mountain air—the only two things I liked about home.

I sighed and used my brattiest voice, “…alright, I guess you can come in.”

“With a little more practice you’ll fit in perfectly around here.” Elijah’s laugh was warm hearted and made his eyes crinkle behind the rim of his reading glasses. “The princess attitude doesn’t look bad on you.”

“Well, we do live in a castle.”

The heavier of the two cups was full of chocolate milk, which I poured into the steaming espresso. It was the only way I’d drink my coffee and started when I first began home-schooling.

There had been a time were going outside felt paralyzing, and even the two-minute trip to the grocery mart was impossible. I couldn’t stomach the bitterness of black coffee, so I improvised and used what we had—and what we had was chocolate milk.

“Sylvia and I have to leave in a few hours. She has a meeting with some of the clinic’s sponsors and asked that I tag along. It’s supposed to be quick, but you know how these things can go.” His crinkled-eyed smile was apologetic as always, even though he knew I wasn’t angry. “I’m glad you’re eager to get out of your comfort zone—but Violet if you need to slow down, please let me know. The last thing you need is to become overwhelmed, which is easy in a town like this. I’m only saying, we can’t have a repeat of what happened before…the people here, they won’t take kindly to something like that.”

It was the first time Elijah mentioned the incident that led to me dropping out of public school and removing myself from the general population of the town.

“Believe me, that will never happen again.” I reassured him, lowering my eyes to the cup in my hand as I took another drink, using the chocolatey espresso to unwind my tangled nerves.

The flash of surprise on Elijah’s face lasted only seconds before he launched into what I hoped would be a heart-warming approval.

“Between running EleaCorp and holding seats on both the school board and medical board, Sylvia’s influence here runs pretty deep. There’s going to be events that I’ll be attending with her, that her son’s will also be expected to attend. People are going to expect the same of you as they would Sylvia’s boys…only they won’t put you on a pedestal the way they do with them.”

I paused long enough for Elijah to shift his weight from left to right, “…so what you’re saying is this place is exactly like that college mafia romance novel I told you about last month where everyone in town is super rich but also way deep in crime and all this other shady stuff. They’re respectable and polite in public, but when the sun goes down they sell drugs and torture—”

“What—no, that’s not what I’m saying at all…” His eyebrows creased with worry, and he loosened the neck of his tie, “…who bought you this book?”

“Jackie.” I smiled behind the lid of my coffee cup.

“That figures.” He grumbled, unsurprised. “…everyone is rich, and polite in public—for the most part…”

“I’m just teasing you, Elijah.” I said, giggling as I let him off the hook. “I know what you’re trying to say, and I think I’d be open to it…as long as someone teaches me how not to embarrass myself. Sylvia must have a royal tutor somewhere in this mansion.”

“Not to worry, I’ll have her procure the best one in the land. Dr. Maslin’s going to be stunned at your progress.” He beamed at me, and the sight made my chest swell with pride. “…you sure you’re alright with all of this?”

“I’m positive. I’m actually looking forward to starting school Monday.” I smiled. “Now if you don’t mind, since you so rudely woke me from my sleep, I’m going to take a bubble bath in the indoor swimming pool your girlfriend gifted me.”

“We’ll be back tomorrow, just in time for you to start school on Monday. Sylvia will make sure you have everything you need, and don’t hesitate to ask her for anything.”

Only after I spent the better half of the day drifting languidly in the cooling salt-water did hunger force me to get out. Chilly air wrapped around my naked body and made goosebumps sprout along my arms. The sudden heat I felt coming off the tiled floor made me jump.

‘…the floor is heated, how strange is that?’ I laughed and placed a hand against the warm surface. ‘…this place really has everything.’

Trying to sleep on my second night in this modern fortress was even worse than the first.

Tonight the wind refused to stop it’s howling, seemingly intent on making the trees closest to the house groan and flex. With each passing minute, it’s wail began to sound almost human-like.

Before long I found myself wandering the halls, my brain on auto pilot as I padded down the stairs and through the swinging kitchen doors.

Norma wasn’t on guard duty tonight, which was encouragement enough as I raced to the pantry and pulled open the doors. My hands knew what to grab even though my mind hadn’t yet figured out what I wanted to make. All my cookbooks were upstairs, and I hadn’t thought to grab one since coming down here wasn’t exactly a conscious decision.

About halfway through measuring out various amounts of flour, sugar, and milk, I finally figured out what I was going to make. The whole pineapple sitting on the counter, perfectly ripe and nearing its last days, inspired me to make pineapple upside-down cupcakes.

I was so absorbed in my task of sifting the flour into the wet mix that I hadn’t heard Norma’s soft footsteps enter the kitchen.

“You tryin’ to run me out of a job, child?”

I gasped and with the sifter full of flour in my hand, turned in the direction of Norma’s voice. Some was flung against the wall and made little thud sounds on impact, but most exploded in a plume of white powder that clung to the dewy parts of my face.

The second mistake I made was opening my mouth to apologize before the flour began to settle. Instead, I sucked in a deep breath and proceeded to cough and hack for the next three minutes.

Norma stood silent until I finished, “…you do know that flour is imported from out of the country, right?”

“Oh, I didn’t.” I looked at the wall where half the flour had splattered and wondered how many hundreds of dollars I had just inhaled. My voice was an octave higher when I said, “…it’s—it’s not very expensive…is it?”

Chapter 6 1

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