Weeks passed, and Alana received more treasures and letters. The gifts she received were always small and easy to hide, though not all were as extravagant as the first two. Sometimes it was a mere wild flower, or an acorn with tiny pictures carved into the surface. The more lustrous items she was given were placed in a worn wooden box at the base of her clothing chest.
Alana was content. The letters she exchanged with the person from the Border gave her enough of a thrill to quell her adventurous yearning. Her curiosity, however, was far from being quenched. Through the brief exchanges on paper had been vague on the identity of her new friend. They refused to give Alana their name, but were overjoyed after learning her name. They knew that she was a lady, but when asked whether they were a lord or lady, they replied with, I am a cursed human.
Alana generally would have been extremely frustrated at the lack of information, but the fact that she had any sort of communication with someone from the Border calmed her slightly. She'd rather not risk losing such an exciting source of information.
* * *
She sighed as she rode home after one of her daily visits. There had been another letter, and today's gift was a pretty blue shell. The kind that one only read about in books about the sea. Alana had been thrilled. She sighed again, she loved the thrill, but at times she desperately wished for more.
The ride home was long, and when she returned to the house, she headed straight for her room. Intent on finding the comfortable warmth of her bed. She froze as she entered her room when the she was met with the sight of her sister, Isabel, digging through her clothes chest.
Fear seized her heart, as she realized how close to discovery she was. “Isabel? What are you doing?” She whispered, the tense situation stealing her voice.
“Ah, Alana. I tore my shift earlier, and remembered you had a spare. I'll need to borrow it until I can patch mine. We're close to the same size, so it should fit fine.” Isabel replied digging ever deeper into the chest. Alana couldn't think straight, the item her sister was searching for was at the bottom of the chest. Right on top of the box. That box.
Realization hit her slowly as her sister announced her find, “Ha! Found it! Oh? What's this?”
Alana felt like the world had slowed, she wouldn't get there in time to hide it. She lunged for the box as Isabel brought it out from the chest. In her moment of panic, she stepped on the hem of her skirt, her outstretched hand knocking the box to the floor as she collided with her sister. The box burst open as it hit the floor, sending the letters fluttering and the trinkets rolling to the ground.
“What was that for Alana?!” Isabel shouted as Alana watched her treasures lay exposed. “I was only curious. No one hides anything uninteresting at the bottom of their clothes chest, not get off! Much better, now what…?” Isabel trailed off as she focused on the contents of the box littering the floor.
Alana's heart sank. It was over now. She was caught. She sat frozen in fear as her sister reached for the nearest item, it was the first gift, the pretty little Ivy leaf.
“Alana...” She flinched at her sisters warning tone, she couldn't meet her eyes. “Alana. Look at me!” She looked up. In one hand Alana held the leaf and a few other trinkets, in the other she held an open letter. “What is this?” Isabel's voice lowered to a whisper.
“They're gifts.” Alana barely squeaked out. “Presents from a friend.”
“Friend?! Alana, you know that place is cursed! A person sending such things, surely is not meaning to be a friend. What if they curse you? What if you already are? You know I'll have to show mother and father this?”
Alana was shaking, her sister sounded as scared as she felt being discovered. Her beautiful, responsible, sister Isabel would always do the responsible thing. She admired that about her, loved her for it. It was a great quality, and she blamed her not for taking the truth to their parents.
“I'm sorry, Isabel,” she whispered as her sister placed the remaining items in the box and walked past her with it in her hand.
“I'm sorry, too, Alana. You're my little sister, I can't let you get hurt. This is for your own good.”
Alana stood and followed her sister to the sitting room. Might as well be there for the telling. She slumped into a chair at the table to wait her intending sentence. Her father looked up from the small carving he was working on by the fire, and eyed his two daughters.
“What's so troubling that has two of my daughters so distraught?” He asked.
Alana hid her face in her hands as Isabel handed him the box. The room was silent except for the occasional rustle of paper as her father rifled through the box. Several long minutes passed before he let out a strangled whisper, “Alana!” She flinched and peeked through her fingers to see him turn to his wife, showing her the contents. Her mother had been doing needle work when the sisters had entered the room, now it lay forgotten on her lap as she looked at the items in shock.
“How long has this been going on?” Came her mother's stern voice.
Alana lifted her head before whispering, “Nearly three months, mother. I don't think they meant any harm, though! They even said that they haven't used anything to harm me on the gi-”
“Silence!” Her father hissed angrily. “You will not go there again, Alana. You don't know whether they meant harm or not. That place is cursed, has been cursed for the past century! You are foolish for tempting fate and playing around curses. You will stay in this house until you understand what isn't to be trifled with. Do you hear? And these things, they will be buried in the back pasture along with any curse they might carry. Now, to bed with you.”
Alana clenched her fists at her father's words. Her eyes glistened with tears of frustration as she ran to her room. She cried herself to sleep while cursing curses, fate, and anything else that she deemed unfair.
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