The girl who lived in the shadow

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22. Hana


17.09.2018.

I loved the sun. I loved the way it shined, bringing some light in this dead town. I enjoyed the feeling of its warmth as I sat on the bench in the park with my eyes closed.

It was a beautiful day today, and I needed to experience its beauty at last. It’s been a long time since I felt this calm - happy.

The past week turned my life around. I was in constant surveillance by my parents - especially my mother - the press, and even the two detectives who watched me like a hawk. I was treated as a child. Don’t get me wrong. I knew they just wanted to protect me - keep me safe - from whoever is doing these killings, but I would be damnd if I would be locked in my house at this such beautiful day.

I opened my eyes, seeing a bunch of children play in the mud at the park. They were smiling, laughing as they jumped into the pool of water. Seeing how happy they were made me think about my childhood, how I never had that kind of happiness. I don’t know what it means to have something like that.

A blue ball with ponies painted on it rolled down the sand, hitting my leg. Glancing up, I saw a little girl in a red coat running through a bunch of children towards me. Her little hands were in the air as she was trying to catch her ball.

When she reached me, she looked at me with her adorable green eyes, and my heart melted.

“Is this your ball?” I asked her.

The little girl nodded her head, looking down at her grey boots.

“What is your name?” I asked her.

“Klara,” she answered.

“You have a beautiful name,” I said happily.

I picked up the ball, leaned over to her and gave her ball back. The little girl smiled at me and whispered, “Thank you.”

“You are welcome,” I said back.

“Klara!” a woman, I’m guessing her mother, yelled her name. Looking up, I saw a tall, brown-haired woman in a black coat with a red scarf wrapped around her neck. The woman looked exhausted. I could see her tired brown eyes, and her brown-haired looked like it wasn’t washed for a couple of days.

The little girl started running back to her mother, but a few meters into her running, she tripped over a branch and fell into the mud. Her mother immediately ran towards her crying daughter, helping her get up. Klara cried hysterically. The woman tried to calm her down, but she still cried.

She picked up her daughter and carried her to an empty bench. Taking out a couple of tissues, she tries to clean her daughter’s coat while placing a couple of kisses on her daughter’s braided brown hair.

“Hana?” I heard a familiar voice calling my name.

When I turned around, I saw Mrs. Harding standing with the little five-year-old Alice holding her hand. She was wearing a light brown coat, some black high boots, dark blue jeans that had mud on them, and her light blond hair was pulled into a perfect low bun. Alice, on the other hand, wasn’t dressed as fancy as her mother. She was wearing purple leggings with butterflies on them, light brown rain boots, and a winter jacket. Her blond hair was braided into two long braids, exposing her small head, and large blue eyes.

“Mrs. Harding,” I said out loud her name, shocked that she was here.

Mrs. Harding walked to the bench and set down next to me.

I looked down at Alice who smiled at me. “When are you coming back?” she asked me. “I miss playing with you.”

“I will see you when I recover from my sickness.” I took her little hands in mine and gave them a soft squeeze. “I will bake you your favorite cookies, okay?”

She nodded her head. “But only If I could help.”

I glanced at her mother who nodded in approval. “Nothing without you, princess.”

Alice smiled a little before telling her mom to put her down so she could go play with her friends. We watched her run down the park to a couple of her friends on the swing. All of them looked happy to see her.

“I heard what happened to you Hanna. I hope you are doing well,” Mrs. Harding said.

I turned to the young woman and smiled shyly. “I’m trying. Thank you for asking, Mrs. Harding.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Lily?” she joked.

I smiled a little. “A couple of more times.”

She smiled a little, and I could see that beneath all of that pretending, there is a depressed woman who tries to be happy for her daughter.

“How are you feeling?” I asked her.

She sighed and glanced at her daughter. “I’m trying. It’s not easy to be a mayor’s wife in a situation like this. Especially when you have a daughter. You worry too much, not only for your husband but also for your child,” she paused for a moment. “I mean look at what happened in the past week. First the pastor’s niece, and now we have another murder on our sleeve.” She opened her purse, took out a cigarette, placed it in her mouth, and lighted it a second later.

“I thought Roman’s death was an accident,” I honestly said.

She laughed drily, glancing at me. “Nothing in this town is an accident, Hana. You may think it is, but it’s not.” she took another deep breath of her cigarette. “Children always pay for their parents’ mistakes. It’s always been like that, and it will always be like that.”

“So, you believe that someone killed Margareth because of her parents?” I asked confused. It never occurred to me that someone would kill a girl so they could get revenge on her family. Taking an innocent girl’s life for someone’s else mistake. It was something that I’ve never heard about before.

“I don’t know honestly.” her eyes searched for her daughter in the park. She found the little Alice going down the slide.

“What does the mayor think?” I asked.

She let a dry laugh. “My husband thinks that someone from your school killed Roman and Margareth. You know, a young love triangle gone wrong.” she threw the rest of the cigarette into a pound of water. “My husband doesn’t concern himself with things like that. ‘A mayor doesn’t concern himself with things like that. It’s the police’s duty to find out the truth,’ he said. Well, he can go to hell with his comment. A mayor’s duty is to know everything about the people in the town, but I guess my husband didn’t learn anything during his thirty years as a mayor.”

“You would make an excellent mayor, Mrs. Harding,” I told the truth. Mrs. Harding would be an excellent mayor. She would bring more harmony and peace in this town.

She smiled a little. “I wish my husband thought the same thing. According to him, no woman should be a mayor because the town would immediately become a whore house.”

Her comment shocked me. I never expected something like that coming from the mayor. “Mr. Mason never struck me as a sexist man.”

“You want to know a secret?” she whispered.

I nodded my head and waited for her answer. I was eager to know what secret she wanted to tell me. The curiosity in me prevailed, and I became someone who I didn’t recognize. I was never someone who liked gossip, but I have to admit, that now that I know what kind of a person the mayor was, I wanted to find out what kind of secret she wanted to tell me.

“He never...” she started, but couldn’t finish it as her daughter ran to her crying. Alice’s knees were riped, and I could see a few drops of blood sliding down her skin.

“What happened?” she asked calmly.

“The slide.” That was the only thing that the little Alice could manage to say as her face was covered with tears. Mrs. Harding wiped the wound with a tissue before standing and picking her daughter up.

“We have to go now and check on the wound the little Alice got,” she said childishly. She wanted to make her daughter smile, but the little girl didn’t stop crying.

I took Alice’s little hand. “Everything will be fine. Look,” I said as I showed her my scar on my neck. “I got one big wound too when I was your age, but I handled it like a big girl.” I tried to cheer her up.

Alice stopped crying for a moment, admiring my scar. “Did it hurt?” she asked.

I smiled a little. “At first, but then I got used to the pain.”

~ - ~

There was no one at home when I got back. Not even my father who was supposed to have a day off today so he could spend it with me.

I threw the keys into a small on the kitchen table before I made my way to the sink where I poured myself a glass of water. Taking out my bottle of pills from the kitchen drawer, I took out two pills, placed them into the mouth, and swallowed them while I drank the water.

My head was hurting. Again. I guess that the fresh air didn’t help as I thought it would be.

Taking out my phone, I looked at my three missed calls from Romana.

That’s strange, I thought. She never calls more than two times.

I dialed her number and waited for her to answer it. It took her a while to answer her phone, and I grew more and more impatient as time went by.

“Hana?” she finally answered her phone.

“Thank God, Romana. I was beginning to worry,” I confessed.

“That is what I’m supposed to say,” she joked. Her breath sounded heavy like she was running or something.

“What happened? Are you okay?” I asked, leaning on the kitchen table.

“I’m fine, it’s just...” she stopped for a moment. “Did you saw the news?”

I frowned. “No, why?”

“Roman’s parents made a TV appearance. His father is offering five thousand dollars to the person who knows anything about his son’s death.”

“Five thousand dollars?” I asked shocked. “That much?”

“Well, it’s enough for the people in school to talk about it. Everyone wants to take that money,” she sighed.

“I can only imagine the chaos that is going around in school.” I turned around and poured myself more water.

“You are going to see first hand when you come back to school. By the way, when are you returning to school?” she asked.

I took two sips of water before answering, “Tomorrow.”

“That soon?” she sounded shocked that I was considering returning to school when I had a psychopath on my back.

“I can’t stand being locked in my house any more day. I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind,” I finally confessed.

“Did you talk about it with your psychologist?”

“Not yet. I’m meeting her today. She is coming to my house.”

“Well have a nice chat with her today.”

I smiled a little. “Anything new in school?”

“Oh, I almost forgot. The two agents stopped by,” she said annoyingly.

“Why?” I made a strange face. I wish that Romana saw my face now. She would probably laugh.

“They were talking to junkies at the backside of the school. I heard from one of them that they were now searching for Roma’s notebook. You know the one he keeps all of his information about his clients.”

“Yeah, I know about the notebook. I saw him writing in it during lunch.”

“Well, according to the FBI agents, the notebook is the missing piece for solving this murder.”

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