INTO THE FOREST - 2
William was utterly surprised to see his mother waiting for him at the door. He did not expect anyone to stand there as he opened the bathroom door. Wait, could it be his mother that passed him the clothes? William scratched his head in frustration.
Sybil glared at her son who looked like he had gone nowhere after wearing his clean clothes. She looked at him suspiciously as to why he needed to clean himself in the servant’s bathroom where William could have used his own bathroom upstairs in his bedroom. She grew impatient as William had not answered her questions.
“I will not tolerate it if you lied to me, Will.” Came a warning from Sybil, making William look down in fear.
“Mrs. Graham,” a maid interrupted William and Sybil. She received an annoyed look from Sybil and a sigh of relief from William, who was glad that she came.
“What is it?” Spoke Sybil in a clear annoyance.
“Mr. Graham requested you and William to be present at the parlour.” The maid informed. After serving tea and sweets to Mr. Graham and the guest, Mr. Graham asked if William was home already which she answered yes to it. Then she was ordered to call William and Mrs. Graham to the parlour.
Sybil frowned, confused and then looked at William who was as confused as her. Had the governess come back to say something about William’s lesson? She wondered.
With a loud exhale, Sybil grabbed William arm and pulled him away from the servant’s quarter. “Come on, Will. We don’t want to make your father wait, do we?” She said. Her words expressed subtle meanings that got William anxious. He was more scared of his mother than his father, for the lady was sure an angel in disguise.
Only William and the maids knew how she really was.
When Sybil and William arrived at the parlour, they were greeted with a hostility that was quite thick in the atmosphere of the room. Sybil knitted her brows, looking at Mr. O’connor and her husband who both looked troubled.
Upon seeing Angus sitting on the couch at his house, William widened his eyes in horror. He could not hide the shock and the fear anymore as he knew that Angus’s visit to his house was not for a casual visit but for something that related to the boy that he and Thomas had left in the forest, unconscious. He gulped nervously. His green eyes looking away from his father and the guest, avoiding any possible contacts that could put him locked in the attic.
Angus had told everything to the Mayor about what he heard from his sons, that the children had been going to the forest without anyone knowledge. Hearing this, Gilbert asked the maid to call William and his wife after he was told that his son was home already. He wanted to confirm whether what Angus had told him was true or not. He tried to connect the dots of William’s disappearance during day time from home, excusing himself to go to Thomas’s house.
“Evening, Mr. O’connor.” Greeted Sybil. She came walking over her husband, sitting next to him on the long couch. He motioned William to sit on the single couch next to her. “What can we do for you?”
“Evening, Mrs. Graham. I apologise for disturbing your evening.” Angus started. “But Edmond has gone missing. And I came to seek an aid from your family.”
William, who had been staring on the ground, held his breath. He could feel that this conversation was leading to his punishment days. He had to think of something to get out of this.
“Angus said that the children had been going to the Forest for playing.” Gilbert spoke, he gazed at William from the corner of his eyes, gauging his expression as he continued speaking. “His son said that William and Thomas have been leading them to the forest.”
A cold sweat was running down from William’s forehead. He was sure done here. He could not get away from it.
Sybil turned her head to William. Looking at the tangible evidence of guilt on his expression, she knew in that moment that what she heard was true. She then turned around to look at her husband who also looked at her. His eyes said that he had the same thought as hers. Gilbert, too, knew that what he heard was true.
“William,” Angus called, his voice was as calm as he always be when he tried to suppress his anxiety or anger. “Do you know the girl who lives in the Forest?”
Gilbert snapped his head upon hearing Angus’s question. His eyes narrowed down at his guest, then at his son. “What girl is Edmond’s father talking about, Will?”
“Who is the girl?!” Shouted Gilbert at his son, unable to hold his anger any longer. “Did Thomas take you there?”
William froze himself. His body shivered in fear. He wished Thomas was with him right now, to put everything into better words as Thomas was much mature than him. William could not think of anything to say to his parents due to the fear he was feeling. How much did Angus know? What did Edmond tell his father exactly?! He wished he could just sneak out of the room and go to his room like nothing happened.
“Dear, calm down.” Sybil put her hand on her husband arm. As much as she wanted to blow her anger to Edmond right now, she did not want to do it in front of the guest. Her family’s reputation was important to her. If her husband could not play the role of the calm one, then she had to do it. She turned her gaze on William, who looked absolutely in fear. “William, I know you would tell us the truth, dear. Please, do not lie. The truth will make everything better.”
That was not true. In William’s case, the truth was going to ambush his and only solace. The forest and Finch. But William knew his parents too well that he would not be able to tell them any lies. So he spilled everything out.
“Thomas and I got lost in the forest.” He started. His voice was broken. “We met a girl who lives there. She showed us the way to go back to the village. “
“What’s her name?!” Asked Gilbert, glaring at his son.
“Finch.” William whispered.
“Who?!” His father, who could not catch what William said, yelled at him.
“Finch,” William said a little bit louder. “She lives by herself, Father. She is my good friend.”
“What kind of girl who lives in the forest by herself?” Gilbert got up from his seat and started pacing around the room, thinking about who the girl could be. “She must be lying.”
“Did Edmond go to the forest today?”
“Did you got to the forest today?”
Both Sybil and Angus asked William different questions in unison.
The boy closed his eyes, regretting what he was about to tell them. “Edmond followed us to the forest.” William’s simple sentence answered both questions.
Angus furrowed his brows. “Why didn’t he come back with you? Did he go somewhere else?”
This time, William broke down, he went to his mother side and sob. As much as he knew that his mother would punish him much harsher than his father later on, he did not know who he had to ask for help right now. William did not want Angus to get angry at him. He did not like it when someone else, apart from his family, scolded him for something.
“Mother, I did not know what to do. Edmond was hurt. I was scared, Mother.” William cried helplessly.
“Hurt you said?” Angus’s eyes started to burn with anger. “How?”
William continued to cry. He did not know what to do anymore. He did not want to say anything anymore as it would just make everything became worse and the worse his punishment would be.
“Will, how did Edmond get hurt?” Asked Sybil who tried as best as she could to maintain her calm demeanour. “Did he fall down?”
William shook his head vigorously, still sobbing and silent. He really did not want to utter a word.
Getting impatient, Angus got up from his seat and started to yell at the boy. “How did my son get hurt?! Where is he now?!”
“Angus!” Shouted the Mayor, glaring at the man who just dared to raise his voice to his only son. “Watch your tone!”
Angus turned his head to Gilbert, glaring back at him. “Do you even know what I’m feeling right now? My son is missing. He’s fucking missing!” He shouted. He totally lost it.
“Calm the fuck yourself down! I don’t appreciate you yelling at my house, to my son.”
Sybil got up, pushing William — who was still sobbing — to the side. “Gilbert, remember we have a child here. You both better watch your words. Let’s talk about this in your study.”
“I will not move from here until your son tell me where my son is!” Angus spoke to her. His words were uttered in bitterness.
“Then you might search the whole forest by yourself, Mr. O’Connor.” Spat Sybil, unhappy with the disrespect she got from a mere vegetable and fruit seller in the market, who happened to be lucky as her family always ordered their vegetables and fruits from him.
Angus pinched the bridge of his nose out of frustration, closing his eyes. “Mrs. Graham, you need to understand that I need to find my son.” He spoke in his lower voice. He then opened his eyes and looked at the Mayor’s wife solemnly. “If it was William who went missing, would you be as calm as you are now?”
“Angus,” Gilbert stepped in between his wife and his guest. “Do not test my patience.”
“You don’t test my patience, Gilbert. I’m the one who has my son missing because of your son.”
“Your son followed my son. Didn’t you hear?!” Gilbert snarled at Angus. Losing the plot, Gilbert turned around to his sobbing son. “And you, William. You better start telling us where Edmond is.”
William still refused to speak, pushing the men’s patience to their limits.
“Speak now!” Gilbert commanded him. “And stop crying like a girl.”
“Gilbert!” Sybil complained. She did not like the way Gilbert belittling his son in front of the stranger like that.
William snivelled, trying to manage the words to come out of his mouth. “With Finch, in the forest.”
“You better come with me and show me where this Finch lives.” Angus grunted irritably.
With or without William’s parents permission, Angus would drag the boy with him to the forest.