Kidnappings And Forgiveness
The Key Master sat on his bed flexing his arm with the sling lying next to him. He had just taken it off and did some tests by himself to see if he still had to wear the sling. To his joy, he found he was not feeling any pain anymore and thus decided he could walk around without it. It had been annoying to rely on someone else’s help for mundane things like getting dressed or taking a bath. Speaking of which, he could really use the latter, a nice relaxing warm bath but the only thing he had was a basin, like the one he saw in several old cartoons, which he filled with water from the pond or well, and a washcloth, and a bottle of shower gel that was nearly empty. There was no way for him he could take a relaxing bath. Everything in this house was like it never got the memo that they had the twenty-first century. Only the furniture he got from Edna’s friends and the bean bag chair gave any indication that his place had not been abandoned a hundred years ago. The disassembled pieces of the old furniture still lay in a corner of the main room, though he had used the smaller parts as firewood when he needed fire to heat up the water. He had long decided to not use the bigger parts until it became colder and he needed to heat up the house... or until he got an ax to chop them into smaller pieces. However, he had his doubts that Edna would give him an ax. Besides, he did not want to do any hard labor work for some time. The Key Master just contemplated to look for small twigs and branches in the forest when he heard a knock on the door.
“Key Master? Can I come in?“, he heard Edna’s voice on the other side.
“Come in!“, he replied and a very tired looking Edna with Harvey in her arms entered the house. From the way she was looking, she could need a few more hours of sleep. She had dark circles under her eyes and she had a good yawn now and then.
“You look tired”, the Key Master stated plainly.
“Only slept for four hours before I was awoken by the neighbors fighting”, Edna explained, taking a seat next to the Key Master. She put her blue rag doll rabbit on her lap. “They’re still at it and I thought I could get some peace and quiet here.”
She rested her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes, apparently not bothering whether he would mind it or not. But if the Key Master was honest with himself, he did not mind at all. It was not like he had to be anywhere and he could do some flexing exercises with the arm that had been in a sling until an hour ago since Edna was leaning against his other shoulder.
The family camping trip due north had to endure a little interruption at a supermarket in a nice looking town. Lilli and her adoptive parents were in need of edible and drinkable objects, as well as some crossword puzzles for both females. Stefan was responsible for getting food and drinks and Susan was busy picking out the crossword puzzles. Lilli, meanwhile, strolled along the aisle with the sweet products, like chocolate, gummi bears, and cookies and so on in search for a package or two of cookies. There was only one other person in this aisle, aside from her. It was a young woman with short, blond hair, who seemed to like eating a little too much to care about looking like a fashion model, but not to the point of looking overweight. If Lilli were asked to pick a word to describe this young woman, her first choice would probably be ‘chubby’. Lilli paid no more heed to the woman as she scanned the shelves for her favorite cookies. She found them quite soon and reached out for them to take them when something heavy bumped into her from the side and she nearly fell down. It was only because she managed to regain her balance that she did not fall on her side.
“Sorry”, the chubby woman apologized. “I should’ve been more careful.”
“It’s alright, no harm done”, Lilli replied with a hand wave. The woman smiled apologetically at her. Lilli found her to be nice and trustworthy looking, the kind of person one could count on. If she had more time on her hands, she would seriously consider getting to know this woman. However, this was not the case and thus, she took the cookies packages and started to head out of the aisle when she heard the woman’s cell phone ringing and her answering it:
“Oh hey, Edna.”
Lilli stopped in her tracks and swiveled around. She had not heard the name in years nor had she seen the owner of the name for a long time, having lost contact with her. Still, was there a possibility that the Edna this woman was having a conversation with was her old, and only, friend from the convent school? True, Edna was not a one of a kind name – it might as well be someone who just happened to have the same name – but it was also not among the most common names. Besides, Lilli knew the village she and Edna used to live in as not very far from this town and if her friend had decided to not move too far away from her old home, the this town might be one of the possible places she could live in now. Lilli knew chances of that were really slim, even slimmer than a fashion model, but it would still be marvelous to know if this woman was actually really talking to her old friend. Unfortunately, she would not get the chance to receive the answer since her adoptive parents appeared right next to her and she knew it meant it was time to go. Therefore, Lilli followed Stefan and Susan to the cash registers, where they joined a long line.
“You can go ahead to the trailer, sweetie”, her mother permitted her. Lilli nodded and with a “see you later”, she squeezed between the line of people and shelves to the entrance area and left the supermarket. She looked left and right for any approaching car and, after seeing none, headed for the trailer. The next few seconds happened so fast, she would not be able to recall the incident. For a brief moment, she felt something, like a mosquito bite, in the back of her neck. Whatever it was, it caused her knees to go weak and vision to go blurry before she blacked out.
Two men approached the unconscious blond girl, one was overweight and bald with the exception of the shock of brown hair going around the back his head like half a wreath and the other was slim and still had all of his brown hair on his head. Both men wore the same kind of clothes, suggesting they worked at the same place.
“Who would have thought we would find this girl here?“, the overweight man commented while picking her up. “Last time we saw her, she meant a lot of trouble for us.”
“Do you think Doctor Marcel would be happy to know we found this girl too, Bladder?“, his colleague asked as they went back to their van.
“Better her than to return empty-handed, René“, Bladder replied. “We still got to find this Tina Kemmer and, most importantly, Edna.”
René nodded in agreement before getting back into the vehicle, where Babbitt was currently having trouble with the GPS. Bladder got into the back of the van and tied their sleeping guest up, so that she would be unable to move around when she woke up. Then he joined his two colleagues to the front of the car. Babbitt was close to tears since he was unable to get the GPS to work.
“Let me handle that”, Bladder said impatiently. Babbitt left the driver’s seat to make room for him and decided to take a seat in the back of the vehicle. After all, he might as well keep an eye on the prisoner before she was going to get any funny ideas when she woke up. Babbitt had never met Lilli before but he knew René and Bladder had and that she was once hypnotized by Doctor Marcel, putting several behavioral blocks in her mind. Like Edna, Lilli was the cause of a headache for the doctor and the two employees, which actually ended with the former going into jail. Based on everything Babbitt heard about this blond girl and her antics, he was glad he had not been there when the events involving her happened and that he had been participating in a mini golf tournament instead.
The hum of the engine told the small man that Bladder had started the van. Babbitt hoped he knew where to go to, he just wanted to put this all behind him. Their task of finding Edna and her friends was nothing more than a waste of time when they should be taking care of the patients. All three men in this vehicle were of this opinion but were too afraid to voice them aloud. Nobody knew what would happen if Doctor Marcel or Anes or, worse, both knew about this. It was just common knowledge that it would not be pretty.
The young woman, who was a former patient of a mental institution, made herself comfortable underneath the shade of a tree with the same reading matter she had her nose stuck in for the past several weeks, as well as with her oldest friend. She had her cell phone in her hand since she had called her housemate a minute ago to let her know she was enjoying the great outdoors... and to ask her to buy her pudding upon learning she was in the supermarket. Tina also mentioned on the phone that she was going to leave the next day to visit her parents for the following week; therefore she was doing some errands throughout the day to leave no task unfinished.
“Are you still going to invite that guy”, Harvey nodded towards the house where the Key Master was currently taking care of his personal hygiene, “over when Tina’s gone? What’s wrong with just the two of us at home?”
“Harv, I like your company but you were my only companion for over ten years, so I would like others, actual real life people, around me”, Edna explained. “And, face it, we’ve been fighting a lot lately.”
“True, but if you have to have others around, why not someone else from your circle of friends?“, Harvey questioned. “Like Bianca or Anika?”
“Bianca’s joining Sebastian and his family on their family vacation in France”, Edna started but was interrupted by Harvey:
“I thought it was in Spain where the rain stays mainly in the plain.”
“And Anika told me that she and Amy are going to spend the next three weeks in the USA”, Edna went on as though she had not been interrupted. “I’m not sure if I can trust Gabrielle enough to invite her over yet and even then, Heike would surely find her and annoy us. We don’t want that, do we?”
“Nah, I guess not”, Harvey responded. Edna took the lavender blue diary in her hands without saying another word and began reading:
May 26th, 1990
A new neighbor has moved into the house next door that had been empty for years. Our new neighbor is a single man, who looks a little older than me and Mattis. If I were to describe him, I would say he looked grumpy (I hope this isn’t his actual personality). Mattis and I are planning to visit our new neighbor tomorrow. Maybe he’s nice.”
Although Vivian had not written down the name of the new neighbor, Edna nevertheless had an inkling who this might have been... and she got the urge to go to that house and wreak havoc in there. Perhaps she could secretly decorate the exterior walls of his house with some graffiti, it would certainly look better then. Edna grinned mischievously to herself when she thought of all the things she had written on about every surface with the ballpoint pen she found in Doctor Marcel’s office after she got out of her cell. She had not seen much of the asylum when she was brought back there three years after her spectacular escape but from what little she saw, they had unfortunately cleaned up the mess she left behind. But Edna would not bother to travel to this location just so she could play decorator with ketchup, mustard, her own saliva, and a pen. No, if anyone ever got the idea that the asylum could and should be beautified, they would have to do that themselves. Edna put her mother’s diary next to her and took the one that belonged to Mattis to read what he wrote that day. It was basically the same as his wife’s, although he mentioned that he heard their new neighbor was some kind of doctor. This pretty much confirmed Edna’s hunch. Doctor Marcel was the only doctor they had in the neighborhood more than twenty years ago. The others had different professions, like technician, lawyer or secretary. If she was no mistaken, one was even a firefighter. Edna just pondered to herself if they all still lived there or if they had moved away since then when she heard footsteps, signaling the Key Master’s approach.
“Hello Princess”, were his words of greetings as he sat down next to Edna. “Still reading your parents’ diaries I see.”
“Yup”, she confirmed. “I’m at the part where Doctor Marcel moved into the house next door to my family.”
“Was it before or after you were born?”
“Before, but I’m already making sure my mom was gaining quite some weight.”
“Well then, don’t let me keep you from reading.”
The young woman nodded and went back to reading, with the Key Master just sitting next to her and flexing his arm now and then. She read and read until she came to the part about her birth. That was when she decided she needed a break and some food. Edna shut Mattis’s diary after reading about a light-hearted argument he had with his wife over who newborn Edna was more similar to. Vivian compared her to a baby monkey; Edna was not sure what to make of this. Anyway, she put the diaries back into her bag and took her blue, stuffed lagomorph as she rose on her two feet.
“I’m gonna go get some lunch”, she announced. “Care to join me?”
Her offer was answered with a simple “sure” and with the Key Master getting up too. Without further ado, they made their way to town.
The three employees from the asylum and the still unconscious Lilli were on the highway, on their way to the village and its institution. They had managed to find the place of residence of this Tina Kemmer but, unfortunately, no one was home. So, instead of waiting for hours for her return, they opted to go back to the asylum and present the doctor with Lilli. At least, he would not have a reason to shout at them too much and it would be his chance to exact revenge on her for humiliating him.
The drive was quiet, except for the music playing in the radio. Bladder drove the vehicle, Babbitt kept an eye on their captive and René dozed, his snores sounded like a saw cutting down trees. Sometimes, either Babbitt or Bladder expected the loud ‘thump’ and the quaking of the earth when a tree was felled until they realized it was just their sleeping colleague.
“Are we there yet?“, Babbitt asked impatiently. “René’s starting to get on my nerves.”
“We’re almost there”, Bladder replied and, true enough, they arrived in the village only five minutes later. All that was left of their way was the main street and the serpentine street leading up the hill to the asylum. The way up to the mental institution was devoid of any vehicles most of the time; the only ones driving up and down the street were the employees and that did not happen every minute of the day. Very rarely, a friend or a family member of one of the inmates would come to visit them but it had not happened for so long that none could recall when it happened the last time. The patients were content with just being among each other, so no one thought too much about it.
They arrived at the entrance gate of the asylum and were permitted entrance a minute later by their colleague in the watchtower. Hulgor was already waiting for them at the garages.
“And? Did you find Edna or her friend?“, he asked as Bladder got out of the van.
“No, but we found someone else who Doctor Marcel would like to have for a patient”, Bladder replied.
“Oh? And who might that be?“, Hulgor inquired. His question was answered when Babbitt left the van carrying the still sleeping Lilli in his arms. The tall blue-clad man nodded in acknowledgement and told the two men and René, who had just woken up, to go see Doctor Marcel. They all heeded his suggestion and hurried inside the building and hurried upstairs to Doctor Marcel’s office.
“Ben, what are you doing there?“, Babbitt questioned when they all reached the topmost floor of the tower. Ben jumped about a meter in the air and quickly slid the grate shut.
“Nothing”, he replied, a little too quickly and panicky. “I just thought I heard something in there, so I was checking if there was something the matter.”
“Just make sure they’re doing their work, okay?“, Babbitt ordered, walking past Ben with his two colleagues and Lilli. They all stopped at the end of the hallway and Babbitt knocked at the door on the left hand side. A moment later, the three men and the unconscious girl gained the permission to enter the office. Bladder opened the door and they all filed into the room, with René closing the wooden barrier that could be opened and closed at will. Doctor Marcel sat behind his desk, reading a book about psychology and sipping a steaming cup of tea. Babbitt, who felt that the sleeping girl in his arms was slowly getting a little heavy, could not understand how anyone could drink hot beverages in the Summer heat.
“Well? Have you found them? Or at least one of them?“, Doctor Marcel demanded to know. It was René who stepped forward to provide an answer:
“We couldn’t find either of them but –”
A groan interrupted him. Doctor Marcel, whose gray skin complexion had taken on a particular ugly shade of red, raised his eyebrows, staring quizzically at his three employees. René and Bladder, who were blocking their employer’s view on their hostage, stepped aside to reveal an awakening Lilli. Babbitt let her down; all three men immediately took their blowpipes, which are all filled with the anesthetics darts, out of nowhere and aimed with them at her. Lilli looked around, fear and confusion written all over her face.
“Ah Lilli, so glad you could join us”, Doctor Marcel spoke up. The girl quickly turned her head towards the voice. The men watched as her eyes widened in recognition before narrowing with rage.
“Not quite the person I wanted, but she will do too”, the doctor commented, ignoring Lilli’s exclamation. “Now, bring her to a cell or the recreation room and tomorrow, I want you to find the right person.”
“Aye sir!“, his three employees replied simultaneously. Bladder put his blowpipe away and picked the girl up over his shoulder. Making sure she was unable to escape, the three men left the doctor’s office, went down the hallway past Ben, who was still standing guard at the door of Edna’s old cell, and down the stairs.
“There’s something I don’t get”, René remarked. “Why do we have to capture this Tina? I get it that Doctor Marcel wants Edna to be captured, but why the other?”
“Maybe because the doctor reckons she’s her friend?“, Bladder suggested.
“Wouldn’t it make more sense to kidnap all of Edna’s friends then?”
“Well, if you happen to have a list of all of her friends, then don’t hesitate to show us”, Babbitt sarcastically retorted. They reached the locked gate that led to the recreation room.
“I’ve given up trying and understanding the doctor a long time ago”, Bladder told René while Babbitt was busy unlocking the gate. The latter stayed behind to prevent any of the loonies from escaping, the overweight man and the thin man went to the recreation room, where Bladder unceremoniously dumped Lilli on the floor of the main area.
Ben waited until his three colleagues went down the stairs with the futilely struggling girl before he opened the grate again. The four patients worked on the anesthetics darts but stopped as soon as they noticed him looking in.
“Is the coast clear?“, Peter asked.
“Yes, but my colleagues were carrying a girl”, Ben replied in a worried voice. “She looks like she is about to enter her teen years in a few years. Blond hair, tied together in pigtails with pink ribbons. Has a pink bow on top of her head.”
“Funny, I once met a little girl who wore her hair the way you described”, the Washing Maniac remarked in an amused voice.
“Me too”, Peter said. “She should be around the same age as the girl you saw by now, Ben.”
A moment passed and Ben, the Washing Maniac, and Peter’s eyebrows furrowed when realization dawned on them. Could it be that the girl from a few years ago and the one the young guard saw only a few minutes ago were one and the same? Ben could not tell since he only started after the incident that led Doctor Marcel to be in prison for a brief period of time and the two who could confirm or deny whether they know the girl or not had been unable to see her. Tiger Head and Bruce’s eyes flickered between the three men, obviously not comprehending anything that was going on.
“Try to find out if the name of the girl you saw is Lilli”, Peter instructed. “If it is, then she and the one from a few years ago really are one and the same.”
“Will do”, Ben nodded. He was worried about the girl. She looked she could not even harm a fly and yet, Doctor Marcel had her kidnapped. What had she done to him? Did she look at him the wrong way? Perhaps Doctor Marcel should be the one stuck in a cell, not the four in the one Ben was looking in. He could not blame them if one of them would end up with claustrophobia, with all of them being stuck in a solitary cell. Ben wished he could just move them to another, more humane asylum. Anywhere was surely better than here. It was no surprise that so many patients attempted to escape, even if none were successful. But what Ben worried the most was that no one seemed to care how the patients were treated here. As far as he knew, for example, electroshock therapies were not done with an electric chair and, he paled at the thought, who knew how many people Doctor Marcel had executed with it. He was certainly sick, twisted and evil enough to do so.
Edna and the Key Master spent their time exploring the forest several hours after they had their lunch and after had enjoyed a nice swim in the pond near his house. It was actually the young woman’s suggestion for she had hopes of finding something exciting... and she wanted to relive her childhood of exploring the forest near the village. At first, he did not think much of going exploring but she convinced him by telling him it was better than doing nothing. So, as it was getting dark, they went into the forest as usual and went their usual path for a while until they reached a clearing. Here, Edna observed the area before deciding they should go the left way. She led the way with her male companion following closely behind her. It got darker and darker to the point that they could barely see their hands in front of their eyes. Edna stopped walking to get accustomed to the darkness. Unfortunately, she neglected to warn the Key Master and so, he bumped into her and she started to fall forward. She stretched her arms out to soften her fall but it did not prevent her from crying out in pain.
“Why am I always forgetting to bring a flashlight along?“, she muttered to herself. “Don’t move, I’m getting up now.”
Edna sat up and then rose to her feet. She wiped her hair from her face and took a deep breath.
“Maybe we should be getting a flashlight before proceeding?“, the Key Master suggested. Edna began to nod her head but then remembered it was too dark to see anything, so she gave a verbal answer:
“Yeah, guess you’re right.”
She heard the Key Master moving and she heard his footsteps getting farther and farther away from her. She followed the sound through the darkness back to the clearing. Compared to the darkness like a thick, black veil was the bright light of the sun’s last rays of the day shining in her face almost blinding. Edna shielded her eyes with her right hand.
“I should really make it a habit to take a flashlight with me...“, she remarked. She put her hand down, having gotten used to the brightness, and looked at the Key Master as if to ask what they should do now. He gave a clueless shrug.
“Perhaps we should go to my hideout first if you don’t want to get a flashlight immediately”, he suggested.
“Works for me.”
He headed off to the direction that led to the house he currently called his home, with Edna following him. She mentally scolded herself for not thinking about bringing some source of light with her. She should have known that the forest was so thick that it was nearly impossible to navigate through in complete darkness – unless one knew the paths well. And this was one path she did not know well. So, she should have thought ahead. Fortunately, it did not mean that they had to stop their exploration altogether; it had just been put on hold.
Edna plopped down on the ground in the middle of the field in front of the Key Master’s house. With a sigh, she let herself fall on her back and stared straight up to the endless blue sky. The first stars were twinkling like diamonds while the last rays of sunshine disappeared beyond the horizon.
“Already exhausted? I thought you had much more energy than that”, the Key Master noted, sitting down next to her.
“No, more like mad at myself for forgetting to bring a flashlight with me”, Edna replied, glancing up at the man next to her. “Or that I can’t just conjure light when I want and need to.”
“You would need to be witch to do that”, the Key Master replied. Edna was not sure but she could have sworn he mumbled something about her being a cute witch. Not wanting to embarrass him or herself, she decided not to say anything about this but instead said:
“Better a witch than something that rhymes with it.”
She grinned at herself for her joke and imagined what she would do if she could cast spells. In her mind’s eye, she saw herself hexing and jinxing Doctor Marcel and his minions, Heike and her boyfriend. They ended up with ugly little furuncles, Doctor Marcel’s nose had the size of a water melon and he was stuck in one of the cells of his asylum with no chance of escaping, his minions were the size of garden gnomes and had hair growing all over them; Heike had all kinds of blemishes a vain person would not want on their skin, and Daniel was turned into a sewer rat. The little fantasy widened her grin to the point that she resembled a Cheshire Cat.
“Hm? What are you grinning about?“, the Key Master questioned.
“Oh, I was just imagining what I would do to my enemies if I could really use spells”, Edna responded.
“And what would you do?”
“I would let them suffer.”
Edna cackled evilly and her grin took on a maniac vibe.
“Remind me not to get on your bad side... again”, he added the word as though it was an afterthought. Edna’s grin disappeared and her face became pretty much expressionless.
“Like the times you committed a murder?“, she asked dryly, sitting up.
“Are you ever going to stop to hold it against me? Or is there another reason?“, he retorted in an unnerved tone. Edna turned her head away, so that she was not looking at him. Her shoulders sank when she thought about her true reason. It did not matter whether she forgave him or not, he would be gone sooner or later. That was what he wanted. She had no rights to tell him he should not leave the country.
“There really is another reason...“, it was not a question but a statement that left the Key Master’s mouth. Edna did not move a muscle, gave no reaction that she heard him. She was deep in thought, contemplating whether she should tell him the truth or not. Maybe she should really tell him, he deserved to know. But what would he think? Would he suspect something? Or would he just assume she saw him as a close friend and nothing more? Edna quietly pondered if she could ever bring herself to listen to Tina and just tell him her feelings.
At last, she gave sign that she heard him and realized at once that she had not answered his question yet. Oh well, I got nothing to lose, Edna thought and spoke in one breath:
“I don’t like the thought of you leaving the country.”
“What?“, the Key Master asked in confusion, apparently not having heard correctly.
“You heard me, I don’t like the thought of you fleeing the country”, Edna repeated, this time more slowly and in a loud and clear voice. The Key Master frowned at her; he would surely be asking questions now. Questions that would cause her to tell him about her crush. She was a lot like a teenage girl, inexperienced in matters of love, relationships and males. At times like these, she wished she had experienced normal puberty. She could consider herself lucky that her memories of her childhood came back on their own over the years following her breakout – and even before that. If they had not, she would have been as helpless as an infant.
“Just because I’m not here anymore doesn’t it mean we can never see each other again”, the Key Master pointed out. “You could still visit me, just not every day anymore.”
“I guess you’re right... It was ridiculous of me to behave like this”, Edna replied.
“If it makes you feel any better, I’m going to miss you too”, the green-skinned man confessed. The young woman gave him a weak smile before rising on her feet.
“I should be going home... It’s getting late.”
“Don’t forget your stuff”, the Key Master reminded her. He, too, rose to his feet and accompanied her to his house, where she fetched her items. Then she left with words of departure and the promise to come back the next day.
It had been quite a shock for Lilli when she was unceremoniously dropped on the ground like a used tissue. This was a few minutes ago, now she sat together with the Beeman at a table in the arts and crafts room and watched him drawing a field of flowers with bees flying overhead, all in crayons of course. This man in his bee costume was among the few patients Lilli met when she broke in to rescue her friend Edna. Last time she saw him, he had jumped off the roof and flown away. From what the blond girl could tell, things seemed to have changed a lot around here since then.
“Are you sure you don’t want to draw anything?“, the Beeman asked her.
“No thank you”, Lilli politely declined. She took a look around the room, noting it was full of art supplies, like giant sheets of paper, an easel, clay and so on. Some of the artistic pieces made by the patients were also exhibited, for example various pictures, shapeless blobs that had a passing resemblance to ashtrays, and a copy of the master key. The last one was the best piece of work in her opinion.
“Shouldn’t it be time for dinner by now? I mean, it’s getting dark out”, Lilli remarked. She was on the brink of starvation, having not eaten all day long with the exception of a croissant for breakfast. She was worried about her adoptive parents and how they must have reacted upon noticing her disappearance. Hopefully, there was someone who had seen what happened on the parking lot and could thus help them out. The last thing she wanted was to spend an extended period of time here. Still, she was worried about what the doctor had said earlier, about wanting to kidnap Edna, even if it meant to capture a friend of hers. If only there was a way to warn Edna but how if the only telephone around did not even function?
“You’re right, we should have gotten dinner hours ago”, the Beeman agreed with her. “I wonder what’s taking them so long?”
Lilli shrugged, having no clue when the usual time for dinner was. But since it seemed like it was still a while until they could eat, she decided to ask a simple question:
“What happened here since the night I was here?”
“Well, I don’t know much myself but Doctor Marcel was apparently in jail, albeit very briefly”, the bald man in a bee costume replied. “He was bailed out quite soon, by an unknown individual. No one knew who it was, though, but rumor has it that it was the Phantom. But I can’t see how or why the Phantom would do that.”
“He’s Doctor Marcel’s oldest son”, Lilli explained, remembering well how the Phantom told her this in the storage room. She had not known who this Alfred he was talking about was, except that he was the younger son. But from what she could gather, Alfred was the ugly boy on the portrait she found and that he was dead. Oh, and that the circumstances surrounding his death were mysterious. Lilli never found out more about this since she had other, more important matters at hand.
“Oh? Now this is interesting”, the Beeman remarked. “We all know about his deceased son but we would have never thought he had more than one son. You know, Doctor Marcel has a room on the third floor, which no one is allowed to enter. He spends a few hours in there every day. Rumor has it that this room is a shrine for his son but the only one who could confirm this is long gone.”
“Hm, a young woman with purple hair. Always carried a blue rag doll rabbit around. If I remember correctly, her name was Edna.”
“Oh yes, you should have been here when she broke out. Left quite a mess behind. They needed months until they cleaned everything up. They even had to replace some furnishings.”
Lilli raised her eyebrows, she knew Edna once broke out of this place but she would have never imagined she left behind such a mess. But judging from her behavior in the convent school, it should come to no surprise to Lilli. Edna did enjoy causing a little bit of mayhem now and then, though the blond girl was sure her friend was even worse before that.
“Last time I was here, you all could do what you wanted and Doctor Marcel couldn’t care less. What happened?”
“Well, after he was released, he felt humiliated and mad... well, madder than he already did. When he came back, he kept a more watchful eye on us patients and severely punished anyone who stepped out of line. He even took some patients away to places unknown, they were never seen again”, the Beeman recounted.
“Like who?“, Lilli questioned, fearing she would hear names she knew.
“Hm, the screaming guy who usually hangs around the laundry lift, Bruce, Peter, Washing Maniac and Tiger Head. There are more but I can’t remember them all. You should ask the Barkeeper for the names, he knows them all.”
The Beeman pointed with his thumb to the door nearest the windows. A man, approximately in his late thirties, early forties, emerged through that door. He had his long hair tied back into a loose ponytail. His clothes were arranged in such a way that he was dressed like a famous conductor, even though his garments consisted of rags in earthy shades. A huge grin spread across his face as soon as he spotted Lilli and walked with huge strides towards her.
“A newbie!“, he exclaimed joyously. He gave an exaggerated bow and then vigorously shook her hand. “My name is Maestro Frank, famous musician and reincarnation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.”
“I’m Lilli”, the blond girl with the pigtails replied, somewhat perplexed at this strange man’s antics. She glanced at the Beeman, who only shrugged as if to tell her to just go with it.
Edna was currently in Tina’s room and helped her pack. This room was vastly different from Edna’s, with its azure wallpaper and midnight blue carpet. One corner was covered with stuffed animals and plushies of fictional characters. Tina’s closet took up one whole wall while the one opposite of it had a painted picture of a lighthouse on cliff by the sea, painted by Tina. Beneath the painting was a desk with a computer and under the desk was a printer.
“I left you some money and enough food for two weeks”, the chubby blond said while folding a shirt and packing it into her suitcase. “And I leave you my PSP and the games for it, if you want to play a handheld. Uh, hand me over the jeans, will you?”
“Uh, you’re only gone for a week”, Edna pointed out. “So, why are you leaving with twice the amount of what I need?”
“Well, in case you’re going to invite someone over”, Tina replied, winking at her. Edna knew in this moment that the word ‘someone’ was a synonym for ‘Key Master’. “By the way, I hope you’re going to tell him about your feelings while I’m gone. I would be happy for you if it turns out he feels the same.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
Tina gave an exasperated sigh and rolled her eyes.
“Honestly, you sound like a character from a telenovela”, she remarked, shaking her head. “Only things missing are the heartbreaks every ten minutes and incredibly hot guys... at least when it’s a Latin American telenovela.”
Now it was Edna’s turn to roll her eyes. She knew that Latin American telenovelas were a guilty pleasure of Tina’s after Amy introduced them to her during her depressive phase, though she did not watch them regularly. But if she watched them, then on in the Internet. Edna did not see the appeal of a show full of heartbreak, misunderstandings and tragedies. Each to their own, she guessed.
“The thing is, you will never know how he feels if you don’t say anything, unless he suddenly develops the ability to read minds... or he becomes a Betazoid”, Tina remarked while walking over to her underwear drawer. She rummaged through her under garments, adding: “I’m actually surprised at you; I thought you like taking risks. This is no different, just jump head first into the cold waters.”
Edna leaned against the closet with her arms crossed under her chest. Her eyes were directed towards Tina’s bed but she was not really seeing it. She was lost in a deep sea of thoughts; it was true, she liked taking risks, she enjoyed dangerous stuff. So, why did she have qualms of just going to the Key Master and telling him what she really felt? It was not like she would lose her life or that something dreadful would happen if he did not reciprocate her feelings. The worst that could happen was that he did not want to have anything to do with her. A thought Edna could hardly digest without getting nauseous. But maybe he did feel the same or, if not, would not break off the contact with her.
“Well okay, you convinced me”, she announced as Tina went back to her luggage with her arm full of under garment. “I’m going to tell him about my feelings”, Edna added at her friend’s questioning look. Tina nodded and opened her mouth to let a quiet “ah” out.
“Anyway, I’m going to my room now. Good night”, Edna said and left Tina’s room. She heard her friend wishing her a good night too when she closed the door.
Harvey was already waiting for her in her room. He did not have any interest in helping Tina pack for her weeklong trip to her parents. He would have joined if it had involved swords that would randomly explode or if they would have used a bird bath in combination with the couch.
“We’re gonna have this place all to ourselves from tomorrow on!“, Harvey excitedly exclaimed. “Yippie!”
Suddenly he stopped his cheering and eyed Edna suspiciously:
“Unless she’s not going or you’ll invite people over.”
“Don’t worry, she is going”, Edna replied while she opened her closet to find something fresh and clean to wear for sleep – she accidentally spilled ice coffee on her pajamas that morning. However all she found was a pair of shorts and a purple shirt that was a few sizes to big for her. Oh well, it would have to suffice, she thought as she got changed. Then she made herself comfortable with her parents’ diaries and a bar of chocolate.
“Hm? What?“, she asked when she noticed Harvey was looking at her funny.
“Should I be worried that you’re wearing the Key Master’s shirt?”
“What?“, Edna breathed the word full with puzzlement.
“That’s the shirt you washed for him weeks ago”, the stuffed lagomorph replied. “I’m just wondering if there’s any reason to worry about you.”
“Well, that explains why I have a shirt several times my size in my closet”, Edna mumbled to herself. “At least in a part that isn’t occupied by my parents’ clothes.”
She shrugged to herself and opened the books and read about her infant years. She was slowly getting to the part where she had her very first Christmas. Both Mattis and Vivian described how she kept them on their toes since she started crawling. They had to be careful not to let anything fragile out for it would be shattered in pieces not long after little Edna was near it.
December 24th, 1990
Edna, Mattis and I celebrated our first Christmas Eve together. We invited Doctor Marcel over for dinner since he didn’t seem to have any family. Well, he got a load of Edna’s porridge in his face. I still don’t know whether she didn’t like Doctor Marcel or her porridge. Anyway, we exchanged presents after dinner – I got Mattis a new suit for his dinner with his boss in early January, and as for Edna... she got a blue rag doll rabbit, although I better make sure it’s not near her when she’s sleeping. It is much larger than she is.
Edna’s jaw dropped as she read those words. So, she had Harvey since she was a little baby. She gazed at her blue friend and tried imagining herself as a baby next to him. He was a lot bigger than she was – especially if one counted his ears – and they would have been approximately the same height – if one did not count his ears – some times as she grew.
“What? Is there something on my face?“, Harvey asked when he noticed Edna staring at him.
“Sorry, I was just imagining myself as a baby next to you”, she explained. “I read in here that I got you as a present on my very first Christmas.”
“So, that means we’ve been together since you weren’t even a year old”, the blue rabbit exclaimed with a huge grin on his face. “Is there anything else that’s interesting?”
“Well, Doctor Marcel was invited over for dinner –“, Harvey responded to this with a noise of disgust, “– and I threw porridge in his face.”
Harvey snickered at that part as did Edna. She could just see the old man’s face getting red in anger and frustration since he could not actually do something against an innocent infant. But there was one thing that confused Edna. Why did her mother mention that he did not seem to have any family? Alfred was around her age and he had an older brother, so there should have been a mention of them in there. Or were they not his biological children and a woman, who was insane enough to marry him, brought them into his family after her first failed marriage? If so, Alfred must have been very young still, seeing how close he and Doctor Marcel were. There so many possibilities why things were as they were. Hopefully her parents learned more about this and wrote it in their diaries. Edna did not really want to theorize too much about this. Thus, she continued reading about her first year in life, her taking her first steps and her saying her first word – “wabbit”. On her first birthday, she got a toy elephant, the one she would eventually give the name ‘Apocalyptor’. She was certain it was the one since she could not recall having owned any other elephants. Still, if she got both Harvey and Apocalyptor during her first year of life, it would explain why these two and not somebody else were her two best and oldest friends.
“Why do you spend so much time reading?“, Harvey suddenly asked after Edna read an entry in her father’s diary how she showed a lot of interest in books that were far too sophisticated for her. “Don’t you think there are more exciting things you could do? Reading too much is boring.”
“Harv, I want to find out why Mattis didn’t go through with me having the character correction when we visited the asylum, remember?“, Edna reminded him. Harvey looked at her skeptically.
“I don’t so think, otherwise you would’ve started reading Mattis’s diary and have jumped right to the part with your visit to the asylum”, he pointed out.
“You almost sound like it would be bad for me to know more about my past”, Edna remarked. Back then when she first started reading those diaries, her only intention had been to find out why she did not have to go through a correction of character and to get to know her mother. But the more she read, the more she became interested in her long forgotten past and could not stop reading. Those were all things she never had gotten the chance to ask her parents about, so she was immensely glad that they had written it down. It was also like a proof for Edna, evidence that proved that Mattis and Vivian Konrad really existed once. So, she had to disagree with Harvey; she did not think reading as boring, especially in regards of those pages. But lately, she and her blue rabbit did not agree on certain things and even spoke less with each other. It is because you have others, actual people to talk to now, a little voice in her head whispered. Edna could not deny it; if she had problems, she could talk with Tina or any of her other friends. It became rare that she would go to Harvey for consulting now. Still, even if Edna and Harvey were drifting apart, he would always remain a dear friend to her and she would never separate herself from him again. Not since that fateful night she lost him after falling into a river.
Edna woke up the following morning, which was gray and overcast, with Vivian’s open diary on her stomach and Mattis’s right next to her with Harvey lying on top of it. She could not remember falling asleep but it must have been quite late for when she looked at the open page, the date was in late 1991. She shut the book and sat up with a loud yawn. She realized she was hungry, so she got out of bed and left her room. Tina was already busy eating a bowl of cereals and reading the morning newspaper.
“Mornin’“, she said, briefly glancing from the paper. Edna mumbled her greeting back while heading to the kitchen. She was about to go through the door when she heard her housemate say: “New sleeping shirt?”
Edna turned her head and glimpsed at Tina, asking:
“Since when are you so interested with what I wear for sleep?”
“I’m just saying ’cause I’ve never seen this shirt before”, Tina shrugged. “Of course, there could be various reasons for that.”
She went back to eating and reading and Edna walked through the door to the kitchen. Her choice for the early morning meal was a bowl of cornflakes. She prepared her breakfast and returned to the living room, joining Tina at the dinner table.
“Wow, with a guy like that I guess we can consider ourselves happy he’s dead now”, Tina suddenly remarked a few minutes later. Edna looked up from her breakfast with a questioning expression on her face.
“Who’re you talking about?“, she asked.
“Remember the murdered man they found in an alley a few weeks ago?”
Of course Edna remembered that guy, it was kind to hard to forget him if the one she was crushing on was the culprit. She had never told anyone about this, she did not want to see the Key Master behind bars.
“Yes I do. What about him?”
“Well, they found out more about him. Supposedly, he attended countless sex parties, hosted a few of them actually, and most, if not all, girls he had sexual contact with later became prostitutes and worked in a brothel owned by him”, Tina replied, gazing at her newspapers once in a while. “I feel kind of better that a man like him was murdered and not a kind person.”
“I guess you’re right”, Edna agreed with a shrug and went back to her cornflakes, finishing them soon. She brought her bowl back to the kitchen and left it in the sink, being too lazy to clean. Instead she went back to her room and gathered her clothes she was going to wear that day together. One trip to the bathroom, with her articles of clothing in her arms, later, she emerged from that room showered, teeth brushed, hair brushed, and, most importantly, dressed. In short, she was ready for whatever the day might bring her.
“I’ll be going out now, see you when you get back from your parents’ place”, Edna said to Tina after getting her phone, money, a flashlight, and Harvey as well as some spare batteries from her room. From the kitchen, she got a bottle of water. “Harv says see you too.”
“See ya, Tina”, the blue rag doll rabbit confirmed, even waving at the chubby blond, who smiled at the two of them.
“Enjoy yourselves while I’m gone but I wanna see the apartment in one piece when I get back”, she warned them. “I like having a home, y’know?”
“What? Does that mean we can’t let a herd of mad, raging bull and a flock of crazy chickens loose in here!?“, Harvey exclaimed.
“Don’t you worry, the apartment will still be standing when you get back”, Edna assured her housemate before leaving. Her destination was the Key Master’s place of residence. She wanted to have another go at exploring the forest after it went oh so well the previous day. At least she thought of taking some source of light with her this time around. Who would know what they might find? A long forgotten treasure? A portal to another dimension? Or perhaps the mortal remains of a creature that went extinct millions of years ago? The possibilities were as endless as the skies. People in this town usually did not venture into the woods, though Edna did not know why, so everything possible and impossible could await her and it was hers to figure out, with the Key Master and Harvey by her side.
Back at the place where she lost a decade of her life, near the garages were Bladder and René waiting for Babbitt. Even though they managed to kidnap Lilli, Doctor Marcel still wanted them to capture Edna or her friend, preferably both. This was why these two men were inside the van, waiting for Babbitt, who was getting his golf club.
“What do you think?“, René suddenly asked.
“What do I think about what? Be a little more precise”, Bladder retorted.
“About what Doctor Marcel’s planning.”
The bald man sighed and leaned back, taking off his sunglasses and wiping them off on his shirt.
“Well”, he started after replacing them on his nose, “I think he should just forget about it and do what every psychiatrist in charge of an asylum should do. That is to treat the patients.”
“Yeah, gotta agree with you there”, René nodded. “It’s pointless anyway, if you ask me. She’s going to find a way out sooner or later. And where’s that Babbitt? He can’t be taking this long to find his golf club. Why does he need it anyway? Is he expecting to play a game of mini golf on our way?”
Bladder chortled to himself just as Babbitt appeared at last.
“Sorry, Anes was holding me up”, he apologized as he got into the vehicle. His two colleagues and friends nodded in acknowledgement and René started the car to yet another journey to Edna’s new hometown. Although none said it out loud, they could all imagine doing other, more productive and exciting, things than chasing after an elusive young woman. One could hardly call it an ‘obsession’ anymore, the way Doctor Marcel wanted to act vengeance on her. It was more like madness than anything. His neglect of the patients led him to hire guards who tended to treat the patients like they were nothing but worthless vermin. While those three in the van would never say of themselves they were the nicest persons to the loonies, they could at least say for themselves that they treated them like humans. The conversation Babbitt had with Amy once certainly helped in this regard, though there were times they could not help but to make fun of the patients.
“Anyone remember the address we’re supposed to go to?“, René questioned when they reached the town, where Edna was supposed to be home.
“I have the address on a piece of paper in my pocket”, Babbitt piped up. “I even wrote the directions down.”
“Then give them to us, lest we miss Edna again and have to come here a third time”, Bladder demanded. The small man gave one nod and he took a small piece of paper from his pockets. He began reading aloud like he was a GPS system. It was not long until they arrived at an apartment complex, where Edna’s friend, and hopefully Edna herself, was home. Babbitt and Bladder got out of the van the moment after René parked and headed for the mailboxes, scanning them to find either the name “Kemmer” or “Konrad”. The heavyset man soon found the former name and on which floor she lived. The only problem now was to get inside this building.
“Maybe we should just ring the bell?“, René, who joined them a minute ago, suggested. However, before any of them could respond or even contemplate the matter, an elderly woman opened the door, holding it open when she spotted the three young men.
“Would the three young gentlemen like to come in?“, she asked with a kind smile.
“Yes, thank you, ma’am”, Bladder replied for them all. He rushed over to the door and held it open, so that the old lady did not have to do this and could go on her way. Babbitt and René hurried into the building as soon as the woman was gone; Bladder followed closely behind. Up the elevator they went until they reached the right floor. Soon, they would be a step closer to Edna and this pointless chase would have an ending. It was kind of a general agreement between these three guards that they were sick and tired of having to chase her. For all Babbitt, Bladder and René cared, the girl and her blue rabbit could just stay away. None of them really knew why Doctor Marcel hated her so much, they all started to work for him after Edna was brought to the asylum, with Bladder working there the longest.
“Looks much better than my first apartment”, Babbitt muttered to himself. René gave him a weird look:
“How can you know? We weren’t even inside one of these apartments.”
“The hallways here might as well be part of a mansion compared to where I first lived after moving out of my parents’ house. It was more like a dump than anything.”
René waited until Babbitt had his back turned to him before he shared a look with Bladder. Then he raised his index finger on level with his temple and did a quick circular motion with it. Bladder responded with his shoulders moving up and down as he silently snickered. Babbitt, oblivious to all of this, went farther down the hall until he spotted two name tags at a door. One was “Kemmer” and the other was “Konrad”. In one swift movement, he turned around and waved his two brunettes over. Both were at his side in a few quick strides.
“Who would have thought these two would really live under the same roof?“, René remarked a little dumbfounded. “So, who’s gonna ring?”
“The one who asks so stupidly”, Babbitt retorted. René gave him an annoyed look but nevertheless rang the bell. A minute or two passed before the door opened and a young chubby woman revealed herself. She frowned at the three men:
“Yes? Can I help you?”
“Hello, miss. We’re looking for Miss Edna Konrad”, René said in the most polite voice he could muster. “Is she here?”
“Sorry, no. She went out a few hours ago and it’s unlikely she’ll be back until the evening”, the young woman explained.
“That’s a shame”, René replied.
“Yeah, you would need to find another way to get in contact with her”, the only female in the small group shrugged.
“Oh, we already have one”, Babbitt responded with a malicious grin while taking out his golf club. The woman took a cautious step back. Babbitt raised his sports equipment and brought it down on her head, only she managed to jump back and avoid it with such agility that one would not expect from someone who did not look like an athlete. However, it was all for naught since Bladder and René had taken out their blowpipes, which were filled with the anesthetics darts and they each blew one at her, knocking her out.
“And how are we going to get her to the van without being seen by anyone?“, René questioned. He, Bladder and Babbitt stared at each other clueless, not having thought that part of the plan. There had to be a way to get out of this building without being seen by the neighbors, otherwise they would surely be in trouble with the police. If they were caught, they could explain it was their employer’s plan, in theory. But in reality, they knew it was pointless; Doctor Marcel would just deny it.
“Maybe Babbitt could carry her and me and Bladder give cover him by walking in front and behind him?“, René suggested, earning a shocked look from the mini golf enthusiast.
“No way! She is much bigger and heavier than I am!“, he exclaimed.
“Guys, the darts’ effect won’t last forever. I’ll just carry her”, Bladder said in an admonishing tone and picked her up. He left the apartment, with Babbitt and René hurrying after him and slamming the door behind them. Bladder went down the hall to the elevator in large confident strides. If he feared he would be seen, he did not show it. Both René and Babbitt were astounded by the heavyset man’s boldness. Normally, when they were not busy with pointless hunting, they would only see a Bladder with an affinity for watching television and with the tendency to sit on the toilet for hours on no end.
The elevator’s silvery gray metal door slid open, fortunately revealing no one inside it. The three men and the unconscious woman entered the small cabin, René pressed the button for the ground floor and down they went. Lady Luck seemed to smile upon them, for the elevator did not stop until they reached their destination. No wanting to push their good fortune, they hurried out the elevator and the building and to the vehicle waiting for them outside the building. René opened the cargo door of the van and Bladder disposed the unconscious prisoner in there before following her. Babbitt got onto the driver’s seat and René on the passenger’s seat. Hoping they would not have to go for another hunt, they drove back to the asylum.
While Tina was being kidnapped, Edna explored the forest with the Key Master as her companion. So far, they found nothing particularly interesting, not even the skeleton of a recently deceased animal. Still, they only covered a rather small part of the forest and thus, there was still hope they could find something. But first, a little break since both Edna and the Key Master had been walking for hours. Edna plopped down under a tree and took a big swig from her beverage. She leaned her head against the tree trunk and watched the leaves of the treetop gently swaying the breeze. The Key Master joined her silently and just sat there, doing nothing but to observe their surroundings. Edna knew he glanced at her once in a while but she said nothing about this. It was not like he was watching her change her clothes or showering. There was nothing wrong with two friends sitting all alone under a tree and doing nothing. Edna realized because of the emptiness in her stomach that she was hungry. She took her cell phone out and took a look at the screen, noting it was way past noon.
“If you want to go home and eat lunch, then you’re free to do so”, the Key Master said. “The last thing I want for you is to collapse from starvation.”
Edna could not really tell whether he was being sarcastic or not with his last sentence but she nevertheless decided it would be better to assent to his offer. If she were to collapse, the Key Master would have to carry her and she seriously doubted it would be a good idea only shortly after he removed his arm from the sling. No, he could carry her when his arm was in a better condition. But Edna still had to agree with Anika, it would be better if he went to a hospital yet at the same time, she could not blame him for being so cautious and wanting to avoid going there. So far, he had been lucky and no one realized who he really was. But who was to say that it would always be like this?
“Yeah, we could come back here later”, Edna decided and stood up. She dusted herself off while adding: “I’ll be going now, see you later... Unless you want to join me for lunch?”
“Well, I’ve been feeling a little hungry myself, so the answer is yes”, the Key Master replied as he rose to his feet. He signaled to her to lead the way with a simple nod of his head. Edna took his hand in one of her own hands and, holding a flashlight in the other, guided him and herself through the woods. She made sure that they did not walk through stinging nettles or any other plant that could possibly be harmful. Like Tina, Anika and her sister Amy would not be around, although in their case it was because they would be going to the United States. If she thought about it, everyone of her friends was going somewhere for a few weeks. Only she stayed home. But she guessed it was okay, she had the Key Master to keep her company and she had to keep an eye on him just in case.
“By the way, you don’t have to worry about my housemate”, Edna spoke up as they got closer to a familiar part of the forest. “She is visiting her parents this week. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was already on her way.”
“In other words, you have your apartment all to yourself”, the Key Master remarked.
“Not completely, I still have Harvey, although...“, Edna trailed off and fell silent. She felt the Key Master’s green eyes on her as they walked the path they had so often tread upon for almost two months.
“Although?“, he repeated quietly, with a hint of curiosity layering his voice.
“We don’t seem to be getting along like we used to anymore... At first, I thought it only started recently but... when I think about it, we might have drifted apart years ago...”
Edna heaved a heavy sigh. She felt bad for it, even if it was not her fault. She knew she had grown up while Harvey would perpetually remain a child. Still, it did not stop her from feeling bad. Harvey was after all the only link she had to happier times, when her only worries were of Alfred ratting on her.
“Really? I thought you two were inseparable”, the Key Master replied. He tried to hide it but Edna could nevertheless hear the astonishment in his voice.
“I want to say we are and that he and I would always be together but I feel something had changed after I lost him...”
Edna gazed at the Key Master and confirmed with a nod before proceeding to remind him how it happened.
“Ah yes, I forgot”, he remarked when she got to the part about her losing her blue lagomorph. By the time she had finished recounting the situation, they had reached the Key Master’s house, where Edna had left Harvey. The clouds had become an even darker shade of gray. No words were exchanged between the two humans, none of them took another step the moment she stopped talking. She could not bring herself to want to go on any further. She was too worried about having offended Harvey by leaving him behind.
“Do you think my friendship with Harv ended when I lost him all those years ago?“, she asked the Key Master almost inaudibly.
“I doubt it”, he replied. “You didn’t mean to lose him from what I could gather. You were in a hurry and in panic, there’s no reason for him to end his friendship with you. And don’t forget, you’re constantly growing and learning; you go through changes in life while he would always remain the same.”
“You got a point there. He still wanted to cause mayhem even when we were back home while I didn’t want to. I mean, it was my home after all; I wanted everything to stay intact”, Edna explained, her voice rising in her passion. She fell silent as she remembered the state of her childhood home. Back then when she finally arrived home, a wave of euphoria and sadness had washed over her. It had felt so good to be back in the house she grew up in and yet, its bedraggled, mildewed state depressed her – because it showed her how much time had passed and how much had changed, as well as the house’s symbolism of her having no family left. Harvey’s suggestions of defiling or even destroying objects in her old place of residence were just so wrong. Edna could never bring herself to do that... except to the garden gnomes.
Her train of thought came to a sudden halt when she felt herself being unexpectedly pulled close to the Key Master. The moment her body came in contact with his, he put one arm around her waist while the other was around one of her shoulders, going up her neck, so that his hand rested on the back of her head. She buried her face in the crook of his neck, though she felt baffled and her facial expression showed it.
“Wha- wh...?“, she stammered.
“Thought you could need a hug”, the Key Master explained. Edna’s expression of bafflement changed into a peaceful, tiny smile. She closed her eyes in content as she enjoyed the physical contact with him.
“Kind of out of character for you, isn’t it?“, Edna remarked; even she was surprised by the amusement in her voice.
“Perhaps”, he agreed. She could hear a hint of amusement in his voice, too. “Or it’s just a side of me you don’t know.”
“If this is, then I like it... much better than your murdering side”, the young woman mumbled before being suddenly pushed away from the man who was embracing her.
“Edna, do you remember my reasons for finding you?“, the Key Master unexpectedly asked her, holding her by her shoulders and staring intently into her purple eyes. Edna lost herself into his green eyes. She could gaze into them for hours and never get tired of them. There was so much to see, all the emotions he was feeling, whether it was happiness or sadness, anger or excitement, even the insanity that was at times hidden in his eyes and something she could not put her finger on. His eyes would look softer and he often had this look when he had his eyes on her.
“Yes”, Edna confirmed. “You said you wanted to kill me first but then, you lost the desire and just wanted to see how I was doing...”
“This wasn’t the complete truth, there was something I neglected mentioning”, the Key Master whispered. Edna tilted her head, looking at him with big, confused eyes. “You once said to me ‘but everybody has the right to freedom’. I never forgot those words because this was the first time since I ended up in the asylum that I had hope for a life outside confinement. You were the first person to make me feel this way; it just took me some time to realize this all. I wanted to find you because I knew you would give me a chance to show you I can change. I don’t want to be seen as an insane murderer anymore. I never wanted people to see me as this...”
“But you still killed a person, even if he harassed me once he didn’t deserve this fate...“, Edna turned away from the Key Master and stared down to her feet. Her eyes were filled with tears. Was it because of what he said? Or because he succumbed to the urge he had been fighting for so long? Could she ever trust him of not killing anyone again? She heard him sigh.
“I know and I regret it”, he forlornly said. “And I can’t guarantee it won’t ever happen again but I can promise you I will do my best to try to not let it happen again.”
Edna did not move a muscle, she thought about what he just said. He sounded like he really regretted of what he did and he was honest, she had to give that to him. He did not make an empty promise of never doing it again; “try” was the key word in this case. This was the best she could hope for.
“I don’t wanna be mad at you or refuse to see you for some time again”, Edna turned around and embraced him. “I got too accustomed to your presence, to your voice, to your face.”
She felt how he once again wrapped his arms around her. He pressed her closer to his body. His warmth made her feel right at home, like she belonged here with him. Was this perhaps the right time to admit her feelings to him? There was nothing that spoke against it. So, she leaned back and spoke up:
“Uh, you should know that I... t-that I...”
Her heart rate increased, words failed her. She felt like she had a giant lump in her throat. No, she could not say it. Not yet.
“... that I forgive you”, Edna finished. Why could she not say what she actually wanted to confess? What made it so difficult to tell him she had a crush on him? She was an adult and not some teenage girl.
“I’m glad to know”, the Key Master responded. “How about we get Harvey now and then go somewhere to eat lunch?”
Edna nodded in agreement. Even if she still had not confessed her feelings for him, she still felt a lot of better after a lot of unsaid things were revealed. As she and the Key Master headed for his house, it began to drizzle. A gentle, light summer rain that would make one sing and dance.