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The Child

By Bea Sobreira

Romance / Fantasy

Chapter 1

She sat with her cards on the warm and soft Persian rug. The parlor was dark except for the roaring glow and heat of the lit fireplace behind her, it's harsh orange glow illuminating the shelves of dusty books around her, but offering her a peaceful feel within the wood-covered room.

She once again stared at and analyzed the cards laid out before her. A result of which she had never expected… Or intended. The only sounds that could be heard were that of the crackling fire and the barely audible snores of the little girl on the sofa, a very worn powder-blue blanket tucked beneath her little cleft chin, dark curls falling over her cheeks, forehead and shoulders.

She looked at the image of the young child and could barely believe her to be already five years old. Time had passed them by mercilessly and a part of her deeply regretted the long years and milestones missed. The other part of her regretted re-entering her short little life, the inevitable pain, trauma and quite possibly shame she could illicit on the child coming to mind. With Lucifer himself threatening to take her, witches and demons on her trail, vampires looming in the dark… She was no suitable person to be raising a child—especially this child—such a clever, pure and beautiful one.

A child who would be stigmatized enough for being the result of a torrid and unlawful love affair, the product of her own moments of sexual hysteria, jealousy and impulsive behavior. She had always been careless of people's judgments of her. She could not be as selfish and reckless to allow herself shadowing the girl's life with her sins. They were so, so many…

Yet, despite all of this, here she was, at the home of her childhood where her father's body in rigor mortis was kept in his bed upstairs, awaiting the wooden casket and the final destiny of every damned creature.

She knew how they looked at her—the servants, her father's lawyers and accountants, the distant relatives neighbors and business partners all coming in to pay their last respects to a man whose life had been uneventful and at the very least dull and unhappy.

The hours passed and she sat there, staring and staring, not moving an inch. Soon she could feel the sunrays invade the room through the tall windows and the warm fire diminish into a pile of gray ash.

Her body hurt but she wouldn't budge. There was nothing he had owed her, quite the opposite. He had taken responsibility for every single one of her dirty acts. He had taken in her child and adopted her as if his legitimate heir; educated and cultivated her, all the best toys, books, foods, nannies and clothing. He had written her at least once a month with news of her development and growing—the child had given him joy in his last days—a joy that she herself never had. Not once did she respond to those letters—so very difficult to read. He had never stopped sending them; relentless and stubborn till the very end.

She could tell the minute the little girl was awake. First she could hear her yawning and stretching her little limbs, rubbing and making sounds against the leather seat. And then she could feel it as she rose from her makeshift bed and slowly walked towards her, a small and warm hand coming to rest on the curve of her shoulder.

"You don't need to take me if you don't want to." She said with her voice resolute in a way that surprised the woman. "There is a boarding school in France… And I have lots of nannies."

"Do you want to go to boarding school?" Was the question that hoarsely escaped her lips, "I mean, for both of us, it would be the proper and wise thing to do—but wise and proper are not always ideal…"

"You are the adult Vanessa, you should decide."

"What if I am afraid of doing so, of making the wrong decision?"

"I don't know—I just rather be with you than alone with a hundred of angry nuns."

"Heloise, do you honestly know who I am?"

"You're my mum, even though you're not much of one."

"I'm sorry about that."

"It's fine."

"Is it really?"

"Well you are here now, aren't you?"

"I may disappoint you… My life is—extremely complicated. I'm not married, I live with my mother's former lover who is currently on his way to Africa; I'm in love with a wonderful man, who sometimes turns into a beast. I have all these bad spirits after me and the devil himself. I'm not fit to be a mother."

"I think that's for me to judge, though."

"Oh is it?"

"Yes. And as long as you don't make me play with dolls and eat soup, I'm happy." Vanessa smiled to herself. "And you're far better looking than Nanny Sheffield and Mrs. Tate."

"Hmm, thank you." The little girl, Heloise, looked into her mother's similar blue eyes and allowed her little armor to fall off. "I have always loved you. Always, all right?" Heloise nodded her head quickly and tears began to escape her eyes and a loud sob burst out of her trembling lips.

Vanessa pulled her tightly and warmly into her embrace and held her for a long time. Heloise's arms snaked around her neck and they clung together for dear life.

Vanessa Ives' life wasn't near as pretty and perfect as the one the devil had taunted her with—the perfect little life with the man of her dreams, legitimate, happy and unscarred children. However, the most important thing was here with her, her baby, her own tiny piece of family and of perfection.

"Please take me with you, mama." The little girl requested in between sobs.

"Always, Heloise. Always."

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