Chapter 1 - A Fateful Meeting
Lizbeth stepped off the train, with her bag in hand she stared down at the town settled between the mountains. “Not what I had expected.”
A few weeks ago Lizbeth was sitting at the dinner table, staring down at potential university brochures. Her head in her hands, she sighed exasperatedly.
“Are you alright, sweetheart?” Chris, Lizbeth’s dad, asked as he busied himself in the kitchen.
“I feel lost, dad.” she sighed again, “Am I supposed to feel this way?”
Her dad smiled. “You have no idea.” he acknowledged, “But you’ll be fine.”
Lizbeth pushed the brochures aside, stood and moved to the kitchen to help her dad with dinner. “I know, but I feel so overwhelmed, because honestly I’m just not sure. I wish I was more decisive.”
“Sweetie, just because Amelia already has a university lined up doesn’t mean you have to.” he said.
Lizbeth’s brows furrowed. “You say that, but a lot of people my age already know what they want to be doing with their lives. Even Clarke decided he was going to be a veterinarian right off the bat.”
Chris laughed heartily, “Yes, but Clarke is otherwise. That boy doesn’t know what it means to fret. He just eases into everything.”
Lisbeth bit the inside of her cheek. “You don’t have to talk about him so familiarly.”
“You brought him up, Liz. Besides, you two have been friends for a long time, I’ve known him since you were in diapers.” Chris reminded his daughter.
Lizbeth rolled her eyes. “We’re not in diapers anymore, dad. And he’s not my friend.”
Chris looked at his daughter quizzically. “What happened between you two? Ever since-”
Liz shook her head, ignoring the rest of the question her dad was trying to ask. “Can we not talk about that. I have other issues to fix.”
Her dad gathered his thoughts as he plated their dinner. “It’s not an issue to fix, Liz. You just need time. I don’t want you to feel rushed.”
“Thanks, dad. But at the same time I can’t just sit here and not think about it.”
They sat down for dinner. Lizbeth glanced at their third empty dining chair. “What would mom do?”
Chris pondered the question. “Your mom was always seeing the bright side of things.”
Father and daughter sat in comfortable silence as they ate. Chris stood to take his empty plate to the kitchen and start the dishes. “You know, I bet you could go and spend some time with grandma Elise. I know she would love to see you.”
Lizbeth was picking at her leftovers with her head in her hand. “You think? She hasn’t ever been to see us since I can remember.”
“I think, she might not know how to.” her dad said, “Mom was the one that always kept the families together, making plans to see each other and trips to visit.”
Lizbeth thought about this. She took her plate to the sink and gave her dad a side hug, her head resting on his shoulder. “I might give her a call.”
So, Lizbeth found herself making a trip to the little island of Mount Lumia, where her grandmother Elise lived. After a long flight and short train ride into the town, Lizbeth had arrived.
She walked her way down the gravel roads that led into town. She remembered them vaguely when she had visited with her parents years ago.
Lizbeth pulled out a piece of paper that she had used to write down the directions to her grandma’s house.
“Maybe I should have taken grandma up on the offer to meet me at the station.” she admitted.
Mount Lumia was an agricultural island that has been around for centuries. Her father had told her that he met her mother at Mount Lumia during a business trip.
She had rounded a corner in a rush and bumped right into him while carrying a bag of pot soil, promising she’d pay him back for getting his suit dirty, she excused herself. Afterwards he met her in town and she couldn’t remember the event at all, he had kept her at her word however, and that was how their love story started.
Walking towards a split in the road, Lizbeth noticed the road sign lying broken and forgotten half buried in the sand, grass starting to grow over it.
“Well, I don’t supposed Lumia gets many tourists.” she allotted.
Looking down both roads, she noted the one to the left seemed to be going into the woods, with large fir trees acting as an archway, underbrush nearly covering the path. The other road, an open path seeming to slope up to the hills.
“I don’t want to go up. I must get into town by going left then.”
Lizbeth adjusted her backpack and kicked up a pebble as she started down the gravel path overgrown with fir trees and underbrush.
Sunlight flickered through the trees. Lizbeth followed the winding path and started to doubt that she was going the right way into town when she saw light around the bend. She started a quick speed in her step.
Her eyes squinted as she stepped into the light. Expecting to see the town, but instead found a tall brick mansion overgrown with vines and aged with moss clinging to the walls.
The home was surrounded by tall fir trees. Lizbeth knew she had gone the wrong way, but she was curious about this place she found. Is it abandoned? She shrugged off her heavy backpack and placed it against the wall by the door.
She rasped her knuckles lightly against the door, feeling silly. Opening the door she was met with a dusty foyer. It was dark inside and passed the foyer she could see nothing clearly. Lizbeth could hear her own heartbeat in the quiet.
Stepping further into the mansion she vaguely noticed stairs on the right, ascending upwards, and a large open space to the left. Using the wall to guide herself her hand touched velvet, she assumed she found the curtains that she was looking for to shed some light.
The front door creaked eerily. Lizbeth’s heart hammered in her chest as the door slammed shut with a resounding thud. Left completely in the darkness, Lizbeth tried pulling on the curtains. “How do these open?” she mumbled impatiently.
A husky whisper breathed into her ear. Lizbeth clutched the fabric for dear life, a shrill cry escaped her throat as she swiveled to get away.
A loud tear pricked her ears and as she fell, dragging the curtain down with her.
Sunlight streamed through the window. The curtain remained clutched in her hands as her eyes darted around the room and fell on a young man with a scowl on his face.
Lizbeth shivered. “I-I-” her body trembled with the fright. A closer look at the man standing in front of her and she took a breath, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to tear your curtain.”
Out of all the things. She chastised herself for being an idiot. “S-sorry, I mean. I didn’t- I wasn’t- I...” her anxiety shot through the roof.
“Would you stop your incessant blabbering. It’s unbecoming and quite frankly, very annoying.” he stared her down with his dark onyx eyes, a frown pulling at his brow, a permanent scowl on his mouth.
Lizbeth was red with embarrassment. “I apologize,” she gulped, “I-I thought this place was abandoned.”
“As you can see, clearly, it’s not.” he pulled a hand roughly through his dark hair and examined her on the floor.
“Get yourself up and out of my house.”
Pure shame washed over Lizbeth. She stood up on shaky legs and stared at the half torn curtain in her hands. “Ah, I am sorry I tore your curtain. Can I replace it for you?”
Lizbeth was eager to change his stance on her. She knew she was wrong for entering someone’s home, but felt worse for the damage she caused.
He clicked his tongue. “Those were imported from Germany many moons ago. It’s irreplaceable.”
Feeling uncomfortable to just let it fall to the floor, Lizbeth walked to the window. Opening it, she tied the torn piece to the frame.
She couldn’t look him in the eyes. “I’ll take my leave now.” Stepping to the door, Lizbeth realized her knee burning.
Looking down she noted a scraped knee, blood dotting on her skin. Stupid. She berated herself for being so clumsy.
As she strode passed the young man, his nose twitched as he inhaled the air. His breath hitched, freezing in place he quickly clapped a hand over his nose and mouth. At the foyer, Lizbeth noted his hunched state.
“Are you okay?” she dared to asked.
Glancing over his shoulder, his hand still over his face. His eyes gleamed red. “I told you to get out!” he growled at her.
Shaken and suddenly terrified at his tone of voice, Lizbeth’s eyes widened and without further thought she sprinted out of the mansion. Into the woods. All the way back to the train station.
Breathing heavily with her hands on her knees. Lizbeth stared at the ground with wide eyes. What is wrong with me? I feel terrified.
Looking up, she came face to face with an elderly lady who acknowledged her with a kind smile.
“Gran?” relief washed over Lizbeth.
“I got worried when you didn’t show at the house. I thought I should come to the station to collect you.” her grandmother explained.
She walked towards Lizbeth and pulled her into a long hug. “I’m so happy you came to visit me.”
Forgetting what happened moments ago. Lizbeth hugged her gran and smiled. “Me too.”
Elise held Lizbeth by the shoulders, examining her face. “You are starting to look a lot like your mother did at your age.”
“Really? I always thought I looked more like dad.” Lizbeth shyly played with a strand of her hair.
Elise ruffled her granddaughters hair. “Rather, you have your dad’s demeanor. Always so curious.”
“Well, curiosity killed the cat.” Lizbeth acknowledged.
“And satisfaction brought him back.” Elise amended.
Lizbeth laughed. “Thank you for having me. Truly, I did get a little lost.”
“Not to worry, your grandma is here. Let me show you the way. You’ll quickly learn the ins and outs of this little town.” Elise smiled
On their way to her grandmother’s house, Lizbeth explained how she went the other way when she came to the split in the road.
“They really need to fix that old sign. It fell over during a thunder storm some months ago and the town’s council had never bothered to fix it.”
Lizbeth learned that the road to the right did go over the hill, but at the top there was another split in the road. One to the left leading directly into town and continuing straight up the hill would lead into the farmers lands.
“I feel so stupid.” Lizbeth admitted, “I just hope I don’t run into that guy that lives in the mansion.”
Lizbeth had shared about the mansion she had found with her grandmother, however her grandmother denied anyone living there. “I wonder if it’s a freeloader?” Elise thought aloud, “There hasn’t been anyone living there for centuries, it’s odd that no one noticed a young man living there all this time.”
Arriving at her gran’s home, Lizbeth was amazed to see her grandmother having a small but thriving garden. She looked at everything curiously. “Aren’t flowers blooming this time of year?”
“Hmm, yes dear, why do you ask?”
“Your garden. I don’t see any flowers.” she mentioned.
Elise laughed heartily. Lizbeth blushed. “Did I say something wrong?”
“Not at all dear. I shouldn’t be laughing, I was just surprised by the honest question.” she explained, “Everyone that lives here is a professional farmer or family of one. No one in town would need to ask about plants.”
“Right. I guess that makes sense.”
Elise gestured to her small garden in front of the house. “These here are all herbs. I am growing some rosemary, thyme, ginger, that sort of thing.”
“Oh, right,” recognition dawns on Lizbeth, “For cooking and such.”
“Exactly right.” her gran smiles, “This is more of hobby than the farm work I do out in the fields, but I like to make enough to trade with the folks in town. We have few general stores here, and they don’t always stock specific herbs.”
“I didn’t realize people were so adamant to use herbs in their cooking. I usually just add salt when I cook.” Lizbeth admits, “Although, that could be why my meals always turn out tasting bland.”
Lizbeth laughs at herself. Her gran laughs with her. “You made me remember your dad when he first starting courting your mother.”
Lizbeth nearly cringed at the word ‘courting’. Such and old timey word to use in todays age. “Yeah, I can’t imagine dad ‘courting’ mom.” she used air quotes.
Elise giggled like a young school girl. “Yes, I suppose youngsters these days call it dating. But to be frank I don’t think your parents dated at first.”
Lizbeth raised a brow. She followed her grandma into the house and marveled at the quaint place. “Uhm, what did you mean you don’t think my parents dated?”
Elise moved to the open kitchen, “Have a seat and I’ll make some tea. Or would you prefer coffee? I’m afraid I don’t know what young people drink these days.”
“Don’t stress over it, gran. Tea would be great.” Lizbeth smiled at how considerate her gran was being.
She took a seat on the couch and stared at her grandma working in the kitchen. Lizbeth waited for her grandmother, she brought them both tea and sat with her in the living room.
“Now where were we?” Elise asked, “Right, your parents.”
Lizbeth nodded. “Yes, you said they weren’t dating.” she sipped her tea.
“You see, when your parents met your mother didn’t have an interest in your father at the time.”
Her eyes widened at the thought. “Really? Dad never told me the story that way.”
“I suspect he wouldn’t.” Elise smiled curtly, “Those days your father was a lot more proud than he is today. So, of course, when he met Eliza he was adamant she owed him for dirtying his dress shirt with potting soil.”
Elise laughed aloud. “She was so stunned and immediately shunned him, telling him he had the wrong girl, but he was persistent.”
“So for months he would come to visit her, we were running a small goods shop at the time. He would come into the shop, walk around and browse. Your mother was working shifts in the afternoons and your father would come in and ask her to go have lunch with him at the coffee shop close by. She would refuse him over and over again.”
Elise’s eyes glazed over as she recalled her memories of those days.
“Your grandfather got so irritated at the two of them that one day he told Eliza, ‘I’ll handle your shift, just go and have lunch with the man’, she was less than thrilled that her dad threw her under the bus.”
Lizbeth smiled as she watched her gran reminisce. “So mom wanted nothing to do with dad?”
“I believe Eliza wanted the freedom to do what pleased her, she was a child of the wind to be sure. Always of on some adventure or other.” Elise smiled, “Your father however didn’t let that stop him. He was very curt and straight to the point those days, not always considering how your mother would feel.”
“That doesn’t sound like dad at all.” Lizbeth blinked. Her dad? No way.
Elise nodded, “So much so that he came bursting into the shop one day demanding to see Eliza. She all but yelled at him to walk out of her life and leave her alone.”
Elise clicked her tongue, “There was so much anger there that day. Till now I still don’t know what it was about. But afterwards, your dad didn’t come to see her anymore. A few weeks after that he was done with his business here in Lumia and he left for home.”
Lizbeth blinked. “What then?” she was on the edge of her seat.
“Few days after that your mother disappeared for three whole days. We were so worried. She finally called to let us know she went to visit Christopher. He brought her back home the next day and she received a harsh scolding from your grandfather.”
So much drama. Lizbeth never knew this side of her parents lives.
“And that was that. Afterwards your father moved to Mount Lumia to be closer to Eliza, that was when they truly started dating each other.”
“So dad’s love was one-sided for a long time. He never said anything.” Lizbeth muttered.
“I suppose he didn’t want to slander Eliza in front of you. She was a loose cannon those last two years, always disappearing and having moods, like she was a different person.”
“I guess you’re right gran. No child wants to hear how their parents were fighting, especially if dad could only explain his side of the story.”
Elise agreed, “Your father was many things back in the day, proud to a fault, stubborn to the point of annoyance, but he was forever loyal to Eliza and it was clear to me and your grandad that he cared about her very much.”
Lizbeth felt a well of tears threatening to spill. She wondered how her dad got along without her mother by his side. She quickly wiped at her face.
“Sorry dear, I didn’t mean to get all sentimental.”
“No,” Lizbeth rushed, “I am happy you told me. I like hearing about her. Dad almost never talks about her, I think it’s too painful for him.”
“Right.” Elise took their empty cups to the kitchen, “Where about is your luggage Lizbeth?”
Lizbeth’s eyes widened. “Oh no, I forgot my backpack in front of the house in the woods.”
Elise checked the wall clock. “It’s too late to go out now, I wouldn’t feel right if you did. Let’s grab it tomorrow morning. I doubt anyone would be lurking near that old place anyway.”
“Right, thanks gran.” Lizbeth sighed relieved. She was still feeling uncomfortable after that guy yelled at her. “I’ll go back tomorrow morning and get it.”