When Elizabeth woke up from her dream, she did not know about the other person, who just had the same dream many miles away from her.
The smack across her face brought her back to reality instantly.
“Stop daydreaming you skunk,” said her father, sitting opposite her with a puffy red face, all bleary eyed and reeking of disgusting stuff that came out of the small silver flask he was holding in his hand. He drew his mouth back into a devilish snarl, revealing his rotten yellow teeth. Her mother snickered into an old lace handkerchief, while her eyes scanned the air with frantic efforts. She looked like a complete lunatic, and Elizabeth always shuddered when she was in such a state, afraid of her mother’s constant inner demons.
The smack wasn’t too painful. Still, she had to fight back emotions of humiliation. Fighting for that little dignity left in her life. She lowered her head since she didn’t want her parents to see her tears; so instead, Elizabeth focused on her folded hands resting in her lap like two white doves. When she dared to take a sneak peek at her parents, she couldn’t help it, but feel sorry for them. They looked like vagabonds – like those theatre people everyone hated – always on the road, always in dirty battered clothes riddled with holes and stains. Her mother covered her fingers with rings – she called them her precious jewellery, but it was just junk, crooked imitations of the real thing.Yet, Elizabeth pitied them indeed.
Timothy, her father, had been in the liquor business. A long time ago, he was lucky enough to gain a small fortune, but a lavishing lifestyle of extravagant parties, gambling, and drinking left the family poverty-stricken. Her mother, Isabel’s expression was most of the time empty or dazed, and when she clumsily tried to grab the silver flask from her husband with a shaking hand, Elizabeth also couldn’t deny another realization... she felt sorry for herself.
The horses neighed nervously while the carriage rattled along the dirt road, not caring about the many washed-out potholes on the way. This year’s November was exceptionally cold and with it, the landscapes and surroundings turned into a bizarre picture of muddy villages, dark and musty forests with ravens crowing ominously somewhere outside above their heads. They had been on the road for two weeks, longer than expected, and with each day the girl sensed her parents’ growing impatience. Elizabeth however, wished for a never-ending delay – a miracle in form of a broken wheel or bandits robbing their little travelling party, maybe even taking her hostage. Anything would have been better than arriving at their destination.
“Excellent. How much will he pay?”
“Enough to leave this hellhole behind and make a new fortune in the New World.”
You see, Elizabeth had been sold for a full sack of money. Sold like a commodity to a man she had never met and whose reputation preceded him.
“You should be happy you brat.” Her parents told her and opened a bottle of red wine.
“Marrying a man like Xavier...never in our dreams we believed in such luck.”
“But he is so old,” Elizabeth said, the usual smack following immediately, leaving red marks on her face.
“I have no more of your ingratitude! After everything, we have done for you. Clothes...food...a roof over your head. You have been long enough a burden to us, it’s time for you to contribute.” Her mother replied, pacing the room like an aggressive cat.
“I hope she is still a virgin.” Timothy said while sitting in his rocking chair, smoking some old tobacco.
“Of course, she is!”
“I’m just saying...Xavier made it himself clear that he likes his girls young, ripe, and unused.”
Her mother glared at her daughter, studying her, trying to detect any suspicious sign about her purity in question.
“You better be,” she whispered, coming close to the girl’s face, smelling of the cheap liquor they were celebrating with.
“If Xavier finds out otherwise, we are doomed and you...,” she took another sip from her glass and pointed one of her bonny fingers at the girl.
“Go and pack your god damn bags. Xavier already took care of the travel arrangements.”
Elizabeth bumped her head when the carriage went crashing over another pothole.
“Jesus.” Her father grunted and opened one of the side windows, cold air filling the cabin immediately. "Go slower,or we will die in here!”
The carriage driver brought the whip once more down on the horses, forcing them to take up more speed.
“What is it?” Timothy screamed up to the driver’s seat, and in between creaking wheels and the horses’ frenzied panting, Elizabeth heard the gloomy response...
“We are nearly there.”