I was awakened by a cold sensation running up my arm. I tried to open my eyes, curious of my surroundings. My throat was dry and my eyelids felt heavy. I struggled to open my eyes. When I finally opened them successfully, I met a pair of bright green eyes. Panic settled in me. Carla was staring back at me with a smirk plastered on her lips. I looked down at my arm, she was tracing her finger along my arm. I jerked away from her hand and sat up. I moved as far as I could from her. This action only made her smile widen into a grin.
What was she doing next to me? Where was I?
“Finally you’re awake.” She hissed before heading towards a wooden door. “I’ll go and let them know you’re awake.”
I hadn’t even gotten time to process why she was here and she was already mentioning more people. Who was them? More importantly, why was I in Carla’s care? To familiarise with my surroundings, I looked around. I was in a room with cream walls and expensive wooden furniture. A few pieces of art hugged the otherwise boring clear wall. I glanced down where I was sitting. I was on a bed, very comfortable I must say, with a bright purple duvet covering me. This wasn’t my normal room. It didn’t resemble any room in my house either.
Where was I? How did I even get here?
I searched my mind for an answer but all I got was an agonizing pain. I groaned as I placed my palm against my forehead in hope to ease the pain. I removed the duvet away and sat on the edge of the bed. Where were my parents? I tried to stand but my legs buckled below me. I tried again and this time I succeed. A small chuckle sounded from my right. I snapped my attention to the sound. Jason stood by the door, his expression serious.
“Jason?” Puzzled, his name sounded foreign on my lips. Carla was behind him resting her arm on his shoulder. I thought they weren’t close friends.
“Hey Mary-Kate.” He responded sliding Carla’s hand off his shoulder. He shuffled towards me with a small smile on his lips. He gave me a hug. It was quick, that I accused my brain for day dreaming. However, I got a whiff of his scent. He didn’t smell the same. He smelled earthy instead of his normal mint and lavender. I searched for his gaze but he shunned mine.
“Where are we Jason?” My voice came out in a whisper.
“We are at my parent’s house.” He casually replied, turning his head towards me. However, his shoes were still more interesting to him than me. He walked a few steps away from me before looking up again.
“Why am I here?” I turned my attention towards the doorway, “And why is she here?”
“She’s just a friend Kate.” Jason avoided my first question. He took a few steps towards me until he was at arm’s length. He hesitated before lifting his hand to my face. It was as cold as ice. I resisted flinching away from him. “You must be so hungry and thirsty.”
As soon as he said that I felt the aridity in my throat resume. “Carla get her some water.” Jason motioned to Carla while directing me towards the bed. I heard the door shut as I sat on the bed.
“So when did we get here?” I slurred. Nothing was making sense in my head.
“We arrived late last night. You were so tired.” He laughed. “You asked to go straight to bed.”
“How come I don’t remember any of this?”
“You don’t remember?” Jason chuckled. I shook my head. “Your mother invited me for dinner on boxing day at your house. While we were there I suggested that you come with me to Romania for the remainder of the year. Your parents agreed.”
Very strange. Why would my parents allow me to go off to another continent with a boy I barely knew? This was very unlike my parents. How had Jason managed to persuade my dad? However, I was brought back to reality at what Jason had just revealed. “We’re in Romania right now?” I questioned Jason shocked at the disclosure.
Jason nodded before continuing, “We caught a flight day after Boxing day and it took us a day and a half on a plane to arrive.”
I did some math calculation in my head before splattering what I discovered. “Does that mean today is the 30th?” Bewildered, I interrupted him again.
“Yes. You were so exhausted when we arrived. I had to carry you in my arms.” Jason chuckled.
“Still, I don’t remember any of this.”
“You were exhausted through out the whole trip. I have heard that extreme tiredness and anxiety can cause short-term memory loss. That’s probably what’s going on. Trust me.” I beheld Jason’s gaze. His blue, with bright flakes of gold keeping me in trance. I found myself nodding at Jason’s revelation. He was probably right. I probably didn’t sleep the night before the trip due to extreme excitement.
Jason grinned. “When Carla gets back she will help you with anything. Later you can come down for dinner with me and some friends as well.”
“But Jason, you know I don’t really like her.” I whined.
“She’s not that bad.” Jason smiled and stood up as the door opened. “Thanks Carla.”
Jason held a glass full of water towards me. I took it from him making sure to not spill it. I looked at Carla and then at Jason. Could I trust Carla? How was I to know if she hadn’t spat into it, or done something worse?
“Just drink it.” Jason ordered guiding the glass towards my mouth. I took a quick sip. It tasted normal. I quickly downed the water, quenching my thirst. “Good. Carla will show you where the bathroom is and your clothes. Ok?”
I nodded as Jason exited the room. I observed Carla. She was smiling politely at me unlike her usual smirk. This time the smile reached her eyes. I wondered what made her extremely happy to show a sign of glee in her eyes. I looked at her curiously until she spoke. “Well, the bathroom is over there.” She pointed to the other side of the room. Wary of her actions, I didn’t look where she was pointing.
I’m going to kill you. This statement insulted my brain. I couldn’t forget the death that reflected in her eyes when she mouthed those words and when she tried to pry into my brain.
“And your clothes are in that closet.” She interrupted, bringing me back to reality and continued. “There is a new toothbrush in there because you forgot yours at home.” I just nodded, still confused. “Well, I’ll come and get you when you’re done”
She walked out, again, slamming the door behind her. I sat there staring where Carla was standing just a moment ago. I looked down at myself in the mirror. I was in my pig printed pyjamas. My hair was sticking up in all directions. I felt my cheeks heating up, Jason saw me looking like a mess. I covered my face in embarrassment.
I quickly walked to the ‘closet’. I was shocked to discover that most of my clothes hung neatly from the hangers. Who had done all of this? I wouldn’t do such a thing. At every vacation I’ve been, I’ve never unpacked my clothes let alone arrange them neatly. It’s not as if we were staying at Jason’s house for that long.
Still suspicious of the world around me, I pulled everything I needed from the closet before heading to the bathroom. When I stepped in, a gasp escaped my lips. It was a big room with white tiles and walls. An oval shaped bathtub waited invitingly on the left, a shower right next to it. A square mirror was plastered on the right wall with a wooden bench top underneath. It was big enough to be my room at home.
A pink toothbrush, a tube of Colgate and a towel rested on the bench top. I guess that’s what I had to use.
I took a quick shower, still cautious of being in the same building as Carla. If Carla was here that meant Craig was close as well. I whispered a silent prayer that Craig wasn’t within this vicinity. When I walked back into the room I was shocked to see Carla seating on the bed with a book in her hands. When she sensed my presence, she quickly stood up and closed the book. She smiled. What was going on seriously? She never smiled at me before. I forced a smile back.
“Are you ready?” She queried quickly. I nodded. “Ok then, let’s go.”
I followed her out of the door. We weaved through a lot of hallways and passed a lot of doors. I gave up on trying to remember how I was going to go back to the room I was residing in. After walking down a long flight of stairs we finally reached the dining room. A few people were seated on a long wooden table.
“Ah, you’re here.” Jason walked towards us. He ushered me towards the table as Carla took a seat with the rest of the group. “Mary-Kate these are my friends. I introduced them to you that night at the club.”
No, he didn’t. He didn’t get the chance to because Craig and Carla decided to crash the party. I was about to question him when I heard someone snicker from the table. I looked around expecting to see the creep, Craig, among the people, but no. One pair of eyes made it hard to pass him. Brian’s yellow eyes burrowed into mine. It seemed as if there was something he wanted to tell me but couldn’t quite get to it.
Jason continued to introduce me to his other friends that I hadn’t met before. They all looked quite scary. I reached for Jason’s hand for comfort, but all I caught was thin air. Jason moved his hand away before I could hold it. I ignored the gesture as he led me to my seat. I felt every single pair of eyes in the room following my every move.
When we were all seated, a man in a white chef’s uniform walked in pushing food trolley. I could smell the sweet aroma of chicken from afar. I felt my mouth watering. The man reached where I was sitting and smiled politely. “Hello Miss.”
“Hello.” I responded unsure of what to say.
“What would you like to eat?” He didn’t wait for me to reply. “Chicken, beef or pork and with your choice of vegetables.”
“Um, chicken please.” I said not caring for anything else in the world. All I wanted was food in my stomach. I could feel it growling.
The man quickly placed a plate with chicken and vegetables in front of me. I whispered a quick ‘thank you’ prayer and picked up a fork and knife. I dug into my food and didn’t wait for anyone else.
“Slow down.” Someone mumbled. I glanced up where the voice came from and met Brian’s enthralling golden eyes.
I glanced at Jason; he was looking at me smiling. I looked around the table and noticed that everyone’s eyes were once again on me. No plates were in front of them just glasses full and half empty of red liquid. Cranberry juice?
“How come you aren’t eating?” I wiped my mouth with a napkin.
“Oh we already ate. “Jason replied casually. “This is dessert.” He lifted his glass to his lips.
I just nodded and went back to eating my food and everyone resumed talking to each other except one pair of yellow eyes that dug into my soul. This made me seize eating, all my appetite gone. I quickly gulped the glass of water and cleared my throat.
“Are you finished?” Jason asked. I nodded. “Good because we are going to watch a movie.”
“What movie?” I questioned standing up just like everyone else.
“Twilight.” Jason continued. “The girls suggested it.”
I just nodded my head. Tina always made me watch it with her. She said there was something about Edward Cullen’s beauty that made her want to fall down and cry. I followed behind Jason towards what looked like a living room. When we entered the room, the first thing I noticed was a big screen TV plastered onto the wall. Black leather sofas were arranged in a half circle in front of the TV. Everyone settled on the sofas, Jason patted a spot next to him for me to sit. I smiled as I sat next to him. He clicked a button on the remote and the movie started.
Through the movie when the vampire boy Edward was showing Bella that he “sparkled” in the sun, I heard one of Jason’s friends, Zac, comment. “That is not true! We don’t sparkle in the sun.”
Jason quickly hushed him. I saw him squeeze his lips between his thumb and pointing finger. Jason glanced at me and twirled his finger in the air while mouthing ‘he’s crazy’. I laughed at this but it didn’t reach my eyes.
I didn’t realise I fell asleep during the movie until I was awakened by Jason shaking me slightly. “What?” I asked annoyed.
“We are going to bed now.” Jason said pulling me up with him. I looked around, everyone was already gone.
“What’s the time?” I asked rubbing my eyes.
“One in the morning.” Jason guided me towards the stairs. I dragged my feet up the stairs and through many hallways, “We are here.” Jason said lowering me to the bed. I felt covers covering me. “Good night.”
I hummed in reply and I was soon engrossed into a dreamless sleep.
New Year’s eve.
I woke up to a toe biting cold. I lifted the duvet from my body causing more cold to sip into my skin. I didn’t care, I wanted to see what was causing this pain to my toes. I grabbed a jumper that lay on the ground. I must have thrown it there during the night. After all, I went to bed wearing my normal clothes. I made my way towards the window. I slowly moved the curtains expecting to see houses next door, but all I saw was a thick blanket of white snow. I felt disappointment fill me. Out of all the places, Jason’s house had to be situated in the middle of nowhere. I squinted my eyes searching for houses in the distance, but all I could see was snow and more snow. I sighed, giving up.
“Good morning” Someone’s voice startled me. I whirled around clutching my chest. A lady with the same skin tone as me stood there dressed up in a simple white shirt and a long black flare skirt. She looked a little bit older than my mum with her white stripped braided hair tied up in a tight bun. She was very pale. I almost believed that she was dead until I saw the pink colour forming on her cheeks.
“Hello.” I acknowledged her.
“Master Cr—I mean, Master Jason asked me to come and wake you up.” She said nervously clutching the cloths she had in her hands. She had a strong accent that I couldn’t quite grasp where it was from.
“Thank you, I am awake now.” Smiling, I reached for the duvet and sheets.
“No, no. You don’t have to do that child.” The lady waved her arms furiously in the air before she came towards the bed, “That’s what I’m here for.”
I watched her as she made the bed. “I’m Mary-Kate. And you are?”
“Oh, sorry child. I’m Joan.” She looked up briefly before dusting something from the duvet. “I’m the house maid.”
“How come I didn’t see you last night?” I asked, her face was unfamiliar.
“Oh, it’s because it was my off day.” She looked at me weirdly. “You better get ready, because master is waiting downstairs for you.”
I nodded and quickly rushed to the bathroom.
When I got out of the bathroom, no one was there waiting for me like yesterday. So I decided to go down by myself. I exited the room and started on the long hallway. Portraits of different faces hugged the wall. The first portrait I saw was nearest to my room. It was a picture of an old man and underneath ‘Lucius Orfeo’ 1790-1895’ was written. This must’ve been Jason’s great great great grandfather or something like that because I’m pretty sure his last name wasn’t Orfeo.
I continued to the next one. It was a woman this time ‘Jillian Orfeo 1800-1901’ was written underneath the portrait. She had long bright blonde hair, a radiant smile on her red lips and an acne free face. She wore a green dress, a typical nineteenth century dress. Well that’s what I presumed from only seeing the top half of the portrait. Another portrait displayed a man, wearing black throughout. It was really hard to see if there were different layers of clothes in the painting. I looked up to his face; he was pale just like the other people from the portraits. This one had a caption at the bottom that said ‘Lucas Orfeo 1830-1950’
These people lived really long times and I’ve got to admit, the detail of the paintings was exquisite.
I continued to the next one and it was of a person that looked familiar to someone I have seen before. I couldn’t really put the pieces together to remember who it was. The man was dressed in a fancy black suit with a red tie on top of a black shirt. He had longish pale blonde hair that was combed neatly to the back. Vivid ochre eyes glowered at me. I quickly looked down to read the handwriting at the bottom, ‘Paul Orfeo 1963.”
Wow, that was very weird. How come all these people had a different surname to Jason, even the one person that was still living. Maybe he used his mother’s last name. I looked back at the person’s eyes. I have seen those eyes somewhere before, but I couldn’t remember where.
“You know it’s rude to stare.” I quickly spun to face the owner of the voice. Brian. He was again watching me with his scrutinizing eyes. A sense of insecurity flooded me.
“You scared me.” I clutched my chest.
“People who are startled easily are usually guilty of something.” Brian’s yellow gaze made me cower.
“Well, I’m not guilty of anything.” I scoffed crossing my arms. Despite my small bravery, my heart drummed in my chest. I turned my head towards the portrait. The golden eyes were staring back at me.
“That’s Craig’s father.” My heart nearly bounded out of my mouth when I heard Brian’s words in my head. I turned around to confirm my assumption, I jumped in surprise. Brian was standing in arms length. I moved back until I hit the wall. He just stood there with his hands in his pockets. His yellow cat-like eyes continuing to bore into me. I quickly looked at the portrait and then back at him. When I didn’t speak he repeated his sentence again without moving his lips, “The man you were staring at is Craig’s father.”
I looked back at the portrait and back at him again. Was I hearing things? I hesitantly twisted my head towards the portrait. He was right; the man in the portrait did look like Craig. What was a portrait of Craig’s father doing in Jason’s house? I looked back at Brian for an answer but before he could reply Jason appeared behind Brian.
“Hey baby.” He called with a hint of reluctance. At first I didn’t know who he was referring to since he had never called me that. As soon as Jason noticed Brian standing in front of me, his smile faded. “Brian.”
Brian nodded his head and quickly met my eyes before disappearing down the hallway.
“Ready for breakfast?” Jason asked hugging my shoulders. I nodded in reply and followed him. Jason informed me about what we were going to do the rest of the day, but his words went through one ear and out the other.
“Mary-Kate.” Jason called my name for the fifth time. “Are you ok?” I quickly nodded my head and forced a smile.
“Good.” Jason continued. “Because, my parents are coming home tonight and I want you to meet them.”
“Your parents?” I questioned, fully aware that Jason only had one parent living.
“Yes, they are so excited to meet you.” He grinned.
“But your dad.” I started unsure of myself. Had he been lying about his father’s death so he could gain my sympathy and favour?
“Oh, yes.” Jason replied wincing. He stammered before giving me an answer, “What I meant to say was that my mother and her partner are coming home tonight.”
“Ok.” I replied not wanting to pry more into his family affairs. Somehow, I found it hard to believe it. It had only been a year and his mother had already moved on? I shook my head. I wasn’t in a position to analyse other people’s business.
However, a question still gnarled my brain. What was Craig’s father’s portrait doing in Jason’s house? I couldn’t bring myself to question Jason about it.
“I’m going to get a drink.” Jason walked out of the room.
All of Jason’s friends, including me, were in the ‘Activity room’ as Jason called it. There were a few games in the room. The ones I took most note of were pool, pinball machine, ping pong table and a smaller version of ten pin bowling in the corner, away from the other games. I guessed everyone was tired of playing them because we were all seated on the sofas playing with our nails. I was wasting my time. I had to find out why Craig’s father had a portrait perched in Jason’s house. I stood up from the sofa determined to find Jason and ask him about the portrait.
“Don’t.” A voice warned in my head. I knew it was Brian’s voice. Was I hearing things? I turned my head towards him to confirm my imagination. Brian was staring at me shaking his head. He didn’t want me to ask Jason? How did he even know that’s what I was thinking?
Jason walked back in holding soft drinks in his hands making me take my seat again. “Anyone want soda?”
Zac was the first one to grab a can. I watched as Jason handed the soft drinks to everyone. Brian refused before briefly glancing at me and walking out of the room. What was up with him?
Jason ignored it. He offered me a can of coke but I refused. “I’m going to get some water.” I stood up and headed towards the exit.
I had to find out what was up with Brian. I started towards the kitchen, but I caught a glimpse of Brian’s shoes going up the stairs. I quickly turned my direction towards the stairs. I ran, taking two steps at once. I was wheezing by the time I reached the top of the stairs. I saw Brian disappearing in one of the rooms. I quickly ran towards the room and knocked on the wooden door while whispering Brian’s name.
The door opened slightly. Blond hair and a pair of yellow eyes peeked through the opening.
“I have to ask you a question.” I whispered hurriedly.
“What do you want?” He asked firmly.
“How did you do that?” I asked but he just stared at me expressionless. I sighed, “Speak in my head.”
He glared at me for what felt like a long time before he replied. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Yes you do.” I snapped.
“Fine, all shall be revealed tonight.” And with that he shoved the door in my face.
What was he talking about? I was about to knock on his door again when I heard Jason’s voice calling my name from the stairs.
“I’m coming.” I hesitated before running towards the stairs.
“What are you doing up here?” He asked meeting me at the top of the stairs.
“Oh, I was just-,” I didn’t get to finish my sentence because Jason cut me off.
“You got lost didn’t you?” He placed his hand on the small of my back protectively. I just nodded my head and let him guide me to my room.
“My mom and her partner are nearly here and you’ve to dress formally tonight.” He smiled. “They have a thing for people dressing formally for dinner.”
I nodded my head smiling at him a little. I caught a glimpse of his eyes. They were more green than blue.
When Jason opened the door, to what I presume was my room, I noticed a crimson red dress on the bed. I walked towards it in awe. I could hear Jason chuckle behind me.
“Is this for me?” Shocked, I questioned Jason.
“Yup.” Jason said popping the ‘P’. “A beautiful dress for a beautiful girl.”
I lifted the dress from the bed and examined it. It was a long dress that probably went down to my ankles. There were a few diamond shaped blood red specks glued around where the skirt and top met.
“Thank you Jason.” I held the dress tightly against my chest.
“No problem. Oh don’t forget to open the boxes over there.” Jason motioned towards the dressing table.
I placed the dress on the bed and walked towards the boxes. The one on top was small. I quickly opened it and there was a pair of gold earrings and a matching necklace. Looking at these items I nearly cried, no one had ever bought something like this before. It looked expensive.
I looked at Jason who was smiling satisfactory with tears in my eyes. “Where did you get the money to buy all these?”
“That doesn’t matter right now.” Jason walked towards me. “Open the other box.”
I placed the small box on the bed and picked up the big one. I opened it. Golden and glittery high heels stared back at me. I gasped and hugged Jason quickly.
“Thank you!” I said kissing him on the cheek. I felt him tense but I ignored it. I was so happy.
“You’re welcome.” Jason looked away smiling. “I got someone to come and help you with make-up and everything else you need to prepare for tonight.”
I thought Jason was all about not having make up. What made this such a special occasion? Wasn’t it better if his parents met me looking like my normal self. I shook my head. I couldn’t deny him. I was curious as to who he hired to do my make-up.
“Who?” I asked just when the door opened. An olive skinned woman walked into the room holding a big bag.
“Hello my dear.” The woman said giving Jason a hug and air kisses on both cheeks. I felt a pang of jealousy go through me. “Oh and this must be the beautiful lady.” She walked towards me and gave me a quick hug.
“Hair needs straightening, oh armpits need a shave indeed, maybe a little bit of bronzer and blush.” The woman whispered looking me up and down and lifting my arms upwards. I cringed at her observation. I eyed Jason and he looked disinterested.
“I’ll leave you to it.” Jason cleared his throat and walked out.
Leaving me alone with a stranger. How was she going to turn me into a beautiful swan?
“Let’s start shall we?” The woman clapped her hands together.
She walked to the dresser and started pulling out a lot of little square and circle shaped containers. Lots and lots of little bags, more combs and brushes of all kinds of sizes were being pulled out of the big bag. I gave up on trying to make sense of what she was pulling out and sat on the bed. I waited until she was finished. She turned to me and informed, “You need to shower first.” She paused and turned around towards the dresser. She picked up a pink bottle and gave it to me. “Use this. Smells like roses.” She sang the last part before twirling away from me.
I walked to the bathroom and did what I was told.
After a lot of getting pampered, massaged, make up slapping on my face, it was finally over. I looked at myself in the mirror. I underestimated this woman’s ability. I didn’t even recognize myself. My eyes were coated with a light black eye shadow. My lips were a colour of dark red. I looked at my dress, it fitted me so well, showing curves that I thought I didn’t have. A cloth ran from my arm to my ankles making the dress look like that of a goddess. I twirled around before the mirror and smiled at myself. I could see the woman, who I found out her name was Josephine, smiling at me victoriously.
“Thank you.” I said hugging her.
“You’re welcome darling.” She replied. “I’m sure Master Craig will be pleased.”
“Excuse me?” I asked confused, but before she could answer a knock sounded on the door.
“Are you ready?” Jason asked opening the door a little.
“Are they here already?” Freaking out, I blurted.
“Ye—wow. Mary-Kate, you look absolutely gorgeous.” Jason covered his mouth. I could feel my cheeks heat up. He didn’t look too bad himself. He was wearing a black suit and a red bow tie, to match my dress. His dark hair was combed to the right in a formal way.
“Come on.” Jason motioned taking my hand. “Thank you Jossy.”
“Anytime.” Josephine sang and followed us downstairs.
When we got to the bottom of the stairs, Jason let go of my hand and told me to wait for him while he walked Josephine out.
I nervously bit my nails while waiting. I heard a sound of heels descending from the stairs. I whirled around and was flabbergasted at the gorgeous woman that stood before me. She was pale with dark hair that flowed past her shoulders. She wore a long black dress with a small train. Dark chains hugged her pale neck and hands. She was what you’d call a gothic goddess. She was absolutely beautiful. I met her blue eccentric eyes and I could see her dark-red lips turning into a huge smile. She must have been Jason’s mother but I couldn’t see any resemblance.
“You know darling it’s rude to stare.” The woman’s angelic voice made me snap out of my thoughts.
“I…um…” I stammered not knowing what to say.
Luckily she rescued me from my misery with her melodic voice, “You must be the girl my boy has been talking about.”
Was I? I just stood there staring at her beautiful face until I heard Jason say. “Yes ma, she is the one.”
“Well, it is wonderful to meet you my dear.” She smiled at me.
“Where is Paul?” Jason asked clearing his throat.
Paul as in the man in the potrait?
“Oh he is just finishing something. He will be here any time soon.” She paused. “Speaking of which, here he comes now.” I heard footsteps coming from the stairs. I looked up waiting to see is my assumptions were right. I turned my head towards Jason nervously. He was focused his attention to my right.
“Good evening, beautiful family.” A deep voice sounded from my right. How did he descend the stairs so quick?
“Hello pa.” Jason said before correcting himself, “Paul.”
He grinned nervously. I slowly turned myself to face the man Jason called “Paul”. He was wearing a black suit just like Jason, but he wore black throughout. He was pale just like Jason’s mother, but two features made me gasp. I stared wide-eyed at the man before me.
No, it couldn’t be.