Chapter 2: A Mother's Sacrifice
Ameara heard a door close, followed by rapid footsteps somewhere on the upper level of the faculty building at Eastern Vermont University. She imagined another professor catching up on paperwork this early hour. On the other hand, it could be Mr. Lin. On her arrival, she did see a car parked near her mother’s Jeep Wagoneer. With this thought in mind, she quickened her pace, her shoes scuffing against the steps, echoing down the empty halls.
The marbled doorknob to Nanna’s office felt cold in Ameara’s hand. The hinges shrieked abnormally loud when she entered, finding the room dimly lit, and the heavy cloth curtains shut. Something’s wrong. Her mother didn’t stand to greet her. Instead, she sat motionless. Something was very wrong.
Rushing to her side, Ameara called out softly. “Mommy?” Her words were reminiscent of younger years when she lingered in her parent’s doorway as they slept. This time, her mother didn’t open her eyes and smile at her; Nanna’s glassy stare looked right past her daughter. Absently, she stroked her mother’s hand, while swallowing back the ball of emotions forming in her throat, “Mom, please—” The slow whine of the door drew her attention. Turning she saw a tall blond man in a dark suit deliberately walking towards her.
Ameara could hear his labored breathing, saw the sweat glisten his pale skin that ran from his brow into his gray eyes. Halting a few feet from her, he looked past her to Nanna. He said nothing.
“Are you Mr. Lin?” she whispered. “I think something has happened to my mother.”
“You are Professor Fairland’s daughter?” She thought his voice was surprisingly steady for someone who appeared to have run a footrace.
“Yes. Can you help me? I need to get my mother to a hosp—”
“She’s dead. There’s nothing you can do for her now.”
No! Ameara clinched her eyes, not wanting to absorb the truth. It was too late; the impact of his words stung like a slap to the face, forcing her to admit what she sensed from the moment she entered the office. Her mother was dead. However, her mind had no time to adjust to this realization, when without warning the pale blond man seized her by the wrist.
“You need to come with me.”
“What— No!” Clawing at his fingers, she tried to loosen his hold as he dragged her through a door behind her mother’s desk. “Help… someone help—” She tasted the salty sweat of his palm as he pressed it over her mouth, while wrenching her arm behind her back. She stiffened her legs at the top of the stairwell, but almost tumbled as he swiped his foot underneath her and proceeded to carry her down.
Emerging from a side entrance, Ameara found herself ushered to the dark blue vehicle she’d noticed on her arrival, where now a stocky young man paced beside it. “Simms?” she heard him call out to her captor, while being shoved into the backseat.
She tried to keep her hands from shaking by clasping them between her knees. The Maskhim know about us, she thought, as Simms climbed into the driver’s seat. “Where are you taking me?” He gave her no answer. Her head churned like a blender trying to process what she needed to do next, and that’s when she remembered the woods adjacent to the university grounds; an area she’d walked through before. Ameara knew what she needed to do. She felt she had no other choice. Focusing on the back of Simms’s head, she held her breath, and watched as the car neared her mark. Adrenaline at full tilt, and with all her might, she raised her leg and kicked him. His forehead hit the steering wheel, the car swerved, and she jumped out, running as fast as she could into the woods.
The moist leaves muffled Ameara’s feet. Her once neatly pinned curls hung about her shoulders. Her heart thundered, threatening to burst from her chest, but she couldn’t stop. She had to reach the densest part of the forest where there she knew she would find the one who could deliver her message.
Daring a quick glance behind her, she saw no sign of Simms. She hurried along, knowing she was closer to whom she sought as the clear whispers of the trees encouraged her to “Run this way.” Following the whisperer’s directions, she dashed past tree after tree, finally ending her flight in an area thickly walled by pines. Sheltered in the midst of them, a gnarled old tree stood. Throwing herself at the ancient one’s feet, she wrapped her arms around its trunk. “Help me, I need your assistance.”
A light breeze blew across her face as there before her an old woman stepped forth from the tree, and Ameara delivered her message to the crone.
“My mother, Nanna Fairland is dead.” As she spoke those words, a picture of her mother sitting lifeless behind her desk flashed into her mind. She shook her head, not wanting to dwell on the image. “The Maskhim have discovered our secret. I, Ameara Fairland, cannot return home. Please tell my husband Innis he must protect our daughters.”
“Child, don’t lose hope. I will send a message to my elder sister. Help will come.”
Somewhere nearby Ameara heard impending footsteps and knew her time was up. “It’s too late for me now.” Turning back onto the path, she walked away slowly. There was no more need to run.
Tears spilled from her large brown eyes when an image of her mother came to her mind. Her thoughts then turned to Innis, Anna, and little Sam. Ameara allowed herself to escape within these images until interrupted by a figure that blocked her path, wiping her cherished memories from her mind forever.