I looked at Malachy’s still worried face.
“Where are we?”
My voice had returned to its normal pitch, which apparently calmed Malachy a little.
“We are in the small village of Norha, in the mountains of Norha, north of Ignis.”
He pointed his finger in the direction of the invitingly lit chalet. I followed his finger with my gaze.
“This is ‘Chalet Eleonore’. It is secluded on the upper mountain, above the village of Norha and once belonged to my sister Sophia. Here, we are undisturbed and can take a breather and recover from the hardships and terrible events of the last few weeks and days.”
He paused for a moment while I looked at the beautiful chalet.
The building appeared to have been built entirely from rustic stone on the lower floor. From the first floor, it was characterized by an all-round wooden veranda and floor-to-ceiling, dark wooden windows, from which warm light shone. You could not see the exact details, as the veranda served as a privacy screen against prying eyes.
“Do you want to go in, love?”
I hesitated a moment before nodding my head in agreement, opening the passenger door and slowly getting out of the car.
The air here was fresher than in Ignis and there was a moderately strong wind, that made me shiver.
Malachy, who had also gotten out of the car and walked around to meet me, caught my trembling. He stood right behind me and put his arms around my waist to protect me from the weather with his body.
“Does anyone know we’re here?” I asked him, still unable to completely tear my mind away from the nightmare.
“No. Nobody knows that we are here and hardly anyone even knows this place at all. Maybe Andre and my father, if he even cares.”
Slowly, like a remote controlled robot, I nodded my head.
“Well then, let’s go in. It`s cold here.”
Malachy came up next to me, took my hand and slowly led me to the entrance of the chalet.
Similar to his private rooms in the castle, there was also a code lock here to open the door. Malachy entered the code and a low hum could be heard.
He opened the door and held it open for me.
“Come in, love!”
When I stood in front of the open door and looked at him as if I did not understand him, he carefully pulled me into his arms and closed the door behind us.
He wrapped his arms tightly around me and placed his lips on the top of my head. I returned his hug and hugged him tightly, too.
We stood there in the hallway of the chalet for a long time, without moving and without speaking. We just held onto each other.
After standing in the chalet’s hallway for what felt like an eternity, I broke away from Malachy, turned a little to the side and saw my own reflection in a mirror. I looked terrifying: big, frightened eyes stared back at me, with an exhausted expression. I was unnaturally pale and looked, like I had aged years in no time.
The agonizing death of Soraya had affected me more, than I wanted to admit. As my gaze wandered down a little, I discovered dried blood on my chin, neck and collarbone. The sight disgusted me and I felt sick again. I just wanted to take a shower and wash off all the dirt and the horrible memories.
I whispered softly, more to myself than to him:
“There’s blood everywhere! I have to wash the blood off of myself, but what do I do with my clothes? Even the things that I put on quickly earlier, are smeared with blood.”
If you took it into perspective, the lack of clean clothing was of extremely little concern compared to all the things, that had happened today. Nevertheless, it was the straw to break the camel’s back and once again brought tears to my eyes.
As if I couldn’t stand the sight of myself in the mirror, I put my hands over my face to cover my eyes.
Malachy pulled me back into his arms to comfort me. He spoke to me slowly and calmly, as one would do with a child, so as not to frighten it.
“I’ll take you to the bathroom, so you can take a shower. There you will find everything to clean and dry yourself off. Then I’ll check Sophia’s closet to see if I can find something for you to wear. I’ll put the fresh clothing in front of the bathroom door, so I won’t disturb you.”
“Sophia?” I asked him confused.
“The chalet belonged to my sister Sophia. There should be some of her clothes left here, for you to wear.”
As he spoke, he turned me around and away from the mirror and slowly pushed me into the chalet’s living room. Then he led me into the kitchen, at the end of which a small staircase led up to the first floor.
We came into a large bedroom. At it’s end was a large, luxurious bathroom with anthracite tiles and golden fittings.
Malachy carefully pushed me into the bathroom, then looked at me with concern.
“Can you manage alone?”
I nodded with little confidence, but was happy to be alone.
“Well. Then I’ll let you shower in peace. Just call me when you need me.”
He turned on the doorstep and closed the door behind him.
As soon as he had left, I let out a deep sigh. Then, I took off my clothes and stepped into the shower stall, fixing my eyes straight ahead, to avoid my sight in the mirror.
As soon as James closed the door behind Maggie, he headed towards the large walk-in closet right next to the stairs.
He slowly pushed the door aside and took a deep breath, before entering the closet.
So much for there being only a few of Sophia’s clothes left. In fact, nothing had been changed here, or in the rest of the chalet, after Sophia’s death. The closets were full, as if she were to come back any minute. Even her smell seemed to linger everywhere here.
James found a pair of leggings and a t-shirt for Maggie. That had to be enough. Like hell, he’d rummage around in Sophia’s underwear. Tomorrow, they would get all necessities in the village.
If Sophia were still here, she would tease him about his prudish nature and remind him, that sometimes you just had to be pragmatic.
After James had picked out the clothes, he left the walk-in closet and, as promised, placed them in front of the bathroom door.
Then, he went to work fetching firewood from the small shed behind the chalet. He wanted to make the room as warm and cozy as possible for Maggie. She needed to rest and to relax.
The way she looked, when she saw the blood on her face and neck in the mirror, worried him. She seemed more than worn out, rather traumatized...
As he was putting wood into a carrier in the shed, to have a small supply for the night, he thought he heard Maggie’s muffled voice. He paused for a moment and concentrated on noises from inside the house. He could hear the rush of water, which calmed him down. She seemed to be in the shower, still.
He hurried back inside the chalet. As he crossed the kitchen towards the stairs, he heard Maggie’s voice, again. This time, it was loud and clear and the crackling noises of the shower could still be heard.
“Malachy,” she called. Her slightly panicked undertone made him carelessly drop the logs and he ran up the stairs, as fast as he could.