Chapter 1: Sub Rosa
As they stood there, taking in the brisk morning air, bystanders could not help but side-gaze the gawky father-daughter pair. The rugged looking man appeared older than he really was, sporting thick graying facial hair. His loose suede jacket lazily dangled in the cool March breeze like a soundless wind chime. He stared down at a little girl, who was much more interested in examining the claret roses pinned to a small dangerous bushel. Crowds skittered by them. Perhaps they feared the gypsy family would ask them for change. After drawing a quick breath, the man picked up the child.
"The flowers sure are pretty this time of year. Aren't they, Taylor?" He smiled unevenly at her.
"Roses! Right, daddy?" She looked back at them and then at him.
"Red roses like that are good at keeping secrets. The Romans used to say sub rosa." The girl, amused at first, became suddenly disinterested at the history lesson. His weary arctic blue eyes locked on her amber brown garnets. Taylor wondered why they were in such a big city, not that she minded. He pulled her into a tight embrace, and continued walking up the sidewalk. A soft tickling whisper brushed her right ear. "I want you to understand, that I can't stay in England anymore."
His voice was hoarse and rather shaky. The syllables faded in and out, as if he were fighting his internal demons. Her father swallowed with difficulty, but he did not break his pace. With a sigh, he stroked her auburn hair. "And I can't leave you alone without someone to watch you." Taylor, once again confused by his vagueness, watched the sidewalk pass. She closed her eyes, lulled by the rhythm of her carrier's footsteps.
"And my new boss," He paused, knowing she was not really listening. "He wouldn't think it ideal if you were with me." His body shifted to the right, and he gently walked up a stone stoop. They entered a brown bricked, Tudor styled building, with enormous window panes. The walls outside were covered in a thick crawling ivy. Taylor smirked as her imagination flickered with images of evil ivy tentacles trying to ensnare her. All she would need was a stick to fend off such a marvelous adversary.
Photographs lined the walls of the dark hallway; Cheery children danced in rings and played with small animals. Her father had promised that he would get her a puppy to play with. He often left her at home by herself, which got lonely. She could not remember having a mother, and she never got a puppy. The children in the pictures did not look lonely.
"You are going to stay here until you get a new home. But, once I am done with everything I have to do, I promise I'll come back for you." They were standing in a brightly lit office, when he finally placed her down on the ground. A few tears glistened in his eyes. He was lying. Her father would not be coming back.
Taylor shook her head frantically, a heavy realization tugging at her heart. He was leaving for good this time. A silver necklace with a black opal fell into her hand. "This was your grandmother's pendent. Keep it safe for me."
A plump woman with thick brown curls and cokebottle glasses gingerly took Taylor's hand. She smelled strongly of Brussels sprouts and cough syrup.
"No, no, no, no!" Taylor cried. "Don't leave, daddy!" Her father stood up and turned away quickly. The air in the room was frigid. "Please don't leave, I'll listen! Sub rosa! See?! I can listen. Please take me with you!" The woman pulled her through a side door, into a grassy yard. Taylor broke free and stumbled to the fence. Searching the street, she pressed her face to the bars. The necklace became tangled in her little fingers. Holding onto the fence, the girl fell to her knees and began to cry.
An elm draped shade across the orphanage's small yard. Reading the only book she could get her hands on, Kidnapped by Robert L. Stevenson, Taylor nested at the base of the elegant tree. Conveniently, it had been planted next to the wrought-iron fence, which she kept her eye on for five years. Her eyes danced across the pages, soaking in the eighteenth century Scottish highlands.
While her long wavy hair was pinned neatly to her head by faux gardenia flower clips, her eyes remained brilliantly wild and aggressive. She sat by the orphanage fence waiting for her father to return, though he never made an appearance. No written letters, no phone calls. But Taylor refused to stop making excuses for his delay. Mindlessly, she sucked on the black opal pendant.
A worn cobalt flying disc glided toward her and landed at her feet. A sense of urgency bubbled inside of her chest. Do I throw it back? Should I bother? All she could do was look down at it. Freckled Daniel Babio skidded over and grabbed the disc triumphantly. The children in the yard normally ignored Taylor's existence. Daniel refused to be that generous.
"Whatcha doin'?" He put the disc under his armpit.
Is he blind, stupid, or a genuine arse? She wondered.
"Reading one of your books again. Why don't you act like a normal kid? Sometimes you can be so posh." He mocked her high-class air. A genuine arse.
She glared up at him from the roots. If only she could crawl underneath the tree to get away. Daniel, never liked her, and she never found out his reasoning. The two constantly hated on each other, which made dinner and play uncomfortable for prospective parents. By speaking, Taylor invited Daniel into the chorus of bickering. Creativity flourished, however, as both found new ways to punish their opponent.
"Sod off… before I bloody make you." She snapped. The timid voice had grown stronger out of irritation. He laughed, he always laughed, even when things were not funny. Obligingly, he walked away flaunting his toy as if it were a priceless trophy. Taylor shrugged and turned her attention back to reading her book.
"Alan," cried I, "what makes ye so good to me? What makes ye care for such a thankless fellow?"
"'Deed, and I don't, know" said Alan. "For just precisely what I thought I liked about ye, was that ye never quarrelled: - and now I like ye better!"
Taylor laughed vocally at Stevenson's irony, but was suddenly interrupted by the sound of footsteps stopping near the fence. Hopes of her father's warm smile were dashed by the presence of a modest young boy. A lad with a pile of books in his hands, stopped to watch Taylor laugh. She blushed at the attention and pulled herself up against the tree.
Commotion rose from the other half of the yard. It was a mistake for Taylor to turn and look—WHACK! The blue disc, flying at high-speed, hit Taylor on the bridge of her nose. Pain flashed in the backs of her eyes, as the smell of copper filled her nostrils. She held her face, checking for a nosebleed. A speck of blood was all Daniel Babio could draw out of her. In her sudden anger, she jumped to her feet. In her mind, she transformed into Apollo, who tossed the discus which cut off Hyacinth's beautiful head. Unfortunately, she did not cut off Daniel's head. Her throw slanted ethereally in the air, causing it to soar up and land atop the roof. With a huff, Taylor rubbed her nose, but faltered when she noticed there was still a boy on the other side of the fence.
He smiled and in a comforting voice asked, "All right?"
Taken aback, Taylor fumbled and stammered over her words. She was rarely ever acknowledged, especially by the outside world.
Hair loosened from her flower clip. She grinned back at him and regained her composure. "I'm fine." The mysterious boy sat down on pathway, as if he was invited into a lengthy conversation.
"I see you reading here every time I walk by from the library." Taylor cocked her head. Am I really that noticeable?
"Who are you, anyways?" She asked, trying not to sound rude. His smile broadened as he stuck his hand through the iron bars.
"Remus. Remus Lupin." Taylor wondered about her new acquaintance. She had never met a Remus before. Sure Daniels, Toms, Johns, and Jacks were all relatively common. But Remus was unique. What an odd name. Sounds Latin. She took his hand as not to be rude, giving her name as well. Remus had a strong handshake.
The conversation seemed promising, but was instantly interrupted by Daniel's harpy voice and the nurse's subsequent shriek. A towering antagonist, dressed in white, appeared in front of her. Taylor's eyes flicked to Remus, who stood up cautiously. She waved farewell.
"Cheers." He nodded. Taylor was ushered inside, as Marie Antoinette, to be place on trial for high crimes against the state. Treason. What guillotine awaited her in the nurse's office?