One: New Visitor
Have you ever felt so mad you could kill someone or do something horrible? Have you ever felt like everyone left you behind? Or to fight anyone or anything that denied you freedom or happiness?
I have felt all those things…once, a long time ago. Now I don’t want to fight for anything anymore not even to rid myself of pain. I have always been behind everyone else not really moving towards a future. It seemed I didn’t have one or that I wasn’t really living a life. I was simply, wasn’t completely there.
I could hear their taunts and insults. I could feel the bruises from the rocks they pelted me with. I could see their sneers and the pain they were causing on my skin.
“You’re not important or anything! You’re a waste of space! You’re family knew that when they gave you up!” A boy taunted me while I collapsed to the ground in pain. Tears dampened my face and blurred my vision.
Fake tears. At least that’s what I told myself. Fake. It was all for show, was what I hoped was true.
“No one needs you. You’re nothing! You’re lucky my parents decided to take you in.” Zack my adoptive bother kicked me hard in the jaw.
“Hey!” A voice called out to us. In a hurry all of them left except Zack whom bent down to grip my arm hard enough to leave more bruises.
“Get up you coward! Get Up! He’s coming!” Slowly I reached my feet but failed to keep myself up. In a panic I clutched to Zack’s shoulder. “Hey! Get off,” he shoved me back down just in time for Professor Bancoft, my adoptive father, to appear in front of us.
“Zack! No pushing around your sister. Irena is a part of the family now. You’ll treat her as you would treat your mother, with respect.” Professor Bancoft gave him a pointed stare before taking notice to the wounds I now bared.
“Are you hurt, Irena?”
“Did Zack and his buddies do this?” Professor Bancoft eyed Zack suspiciously like he hoped he did.
Also eying Zack I gave him my answer, “No sir. They didn’t; they were helping me.” Zack raised his chin, triumph shining in his pupils.
“I see. Well then come along my dear. Zack I have it from here, go chop some firewood until supper.”
“Father! You heard her I helped! I didn’t do anything! Why am I being punished?!” Zack’s glare moved to me, hatred taking over his features.
“Would you like to miss supper and upset your mother? I don’t think so; go chop some firewood until supper or until after sun set. You’re choice Zack.” Angrily he composed himself long enough to swiftly storm away towards the house.
“That boy could learn a thing or two from a girl like you, Irena.” The Professor sighed, “Now could you tell me why you lied for him?”
“I didn’t lie Professor. I swear on my life,” I immediately responded.
“I wasn’t born yesterday Irena. Does your life mean nothing to you?” His caramel eyes hardened into a stare hot enough to burn a hole through my body.
“Then why swear your life over a lie?”
“I don’t know sir. I wanted to make sure you believed me.”
“Irena, I think highly of you I hope you know that so listen to me when I say this. The next time Zack and his friends touch you, make it the last time.”
“What do you mean sir?” Puzzled on what he was hinting at I furrowed my brow.
“Hit them where it hurts. I won’t be upset and neither will his mother. Between you and me, Zack deserves it and more plus if he’s smart he’ll see it coming.” Professor Bancoft winked at me with a teasing grin making his eyes twinkle and his face look younger.
“Good now that we are on the same page, please come with me.” He offered me his arm encouragingly. Not making him wait longer than he had to, I timidly slipped my hand into the crook of his arm, allowing him to guide me towards his study.
Professor Bancoft lived on a glorious chunk of land near the sea. On his property his house and his study were two separate buildings. Behind his study were a few acres of crops the Professor, Zack and I tended to every morning before dawn. He also had a museum further away from both the house and study. It held most of his most proudest achievements.
“Did you have any more thoughts on the project?” The Professor asked getting the first aid kit out for my injuries.
If there was anything I enjoyed, it was building new things with my hands. I had a thirst for knowledge of how things worked, what gears needed to turn, and using them for my purposes. Except women would be condemned to hell if they ever learned the works of math and science.
“Yes sir. I thought if we connected these here and make a spot for another gear we could get it up and running sooner.” Anxious I ran over to his construction plans on the back wall to show him.
“Interesting and where did you get this idea from?”
“On the porch, I was playing with the circuits there. I just wanted to know how you got the porch cover to extend.” I admitted looking at my feet guiltily.
“Ah Irena you are a precious gem,” Professor Bancoft planted a kiss on my forehead. “I believe you are going to do great things for this world. I couldn’t be prouder.”
“When am I to return to the orphanage?” I asked both longing to stay and regret for asking in the first place.
“Whoever told you, you were returning there?”
“No one sir,” I couldn’t help but grin up at him.
“Irena, I meant what I said to Zack out there. You are an official part of this family. Who else will tinker with the gears and circuits of my past projects? Or change my construction plans twice almost every day? Certainly not me, not that often.”
“I understand sir. I promise I won’t disappoint you.”
“I don’t think you could Irena. Even if I had a daughter of my own, I don’t believe she would be half as good or interested as you are in math. Now let us join Mrs. Bancoft for the supper I hope Mr. Weaver fixed.” Frowning at my ruined gown I batted away most of the dirt to reveal more cuts on me and tears in the dress.
“I’m sure Mrs. Bancoft would understand. At least you got blood on it instead of oil this time. God, we all know how that woman reacted to oil on a dress.” The Professor shook his head once more at the memory then led us back to the house for supper.
For six months I have lived with the Bancofts since the Professor adopted me for my interest in math. Women weren’t allowed to learn more than to read and write and only adding and subtracting. Anything else than the arts of the lady, women were shamed. Still through the six months I attended with Zack to his daily math, science and history lessons with Professor Bancoft’s encouragement to do so.
Mrs. Bancoft had only a few rules if I was to attend Zack’s lessons and help Professor Bancoft. Those were to go over go over my lady lessons at least twice a day, never to let strangers know of my knowledge that wasn’t supposed to be in my lessons, and to always appear presentable like a lady should be.
The Bancoft’s are an important family to society. Professor Bancoft participated in politics in government and built inventions or upgrades for the public. Mrs. Bancoft was the Lady of ladies, which meant she was the most upper class of the women in society except for royalty. This also automatically made her my mentor in the arts of the lady along with adoptive mother.
Royalty wasn’t that common anymore but there were still a few families that claimed to be of royal blood. If anything the Bancoft’ s had enough money to be royalty if they so wished to have the title. Zack was still too young and done little to have earn a title other than his last name Bancoft. And for me? I held no title, not even Bancoft. It would be the Professor’s decision to grant me his last name and claim me as his official daughter. For now I didn’t even bear the title orphan, instead I just went by my first name. This was only because I didn’t actually have a last name or title since my parents left without claiming me with the family name.
Mrs. Bancoft was indeed appalled at the sight of the gown, Zack and his friends so graciously ruined for me. I expected her to send me to change since she was sitting with an unexpected guest in the dining room but instead she ignored it with little effort.
Professor Bancoft was a lean, tall man without much muscle to show or to scare unwanted people. His hair was the color of sunlight and everything good in the world like Zack’s whose is a little darker with caramel eyes. Mrs. Bancoft was a shorter woman but much refined with a small pointed nose, ocean blue eyes and auburn hair. Zack was more muscular than his father but was going to be just as fairly tall with locks of light colored hair and light brown eyes that sometimes gleamed red in the proper lighting.
To our surprise the young man wasn’t much older than me or Zack. He sat in Zack’s place to the right the Professor’s seat and next to mine also to the right but of Mrs. Bancoft at the other end of the table not the Professor.
“Ah! The man I have come to see has arrived!!” The man stood a tad bit taller than the Professor with his hand stretched out to grip his.
“Pardon me but I wasn’t expected anyone tonight,” Professor Bancoft shot a pointed glance at his wife. “What is your name, kind sir?”
“No, no; pardon me sir. No one was expecting I would arrive so early. I would’ve sent word today but I arrived without a fuss. Mr. Bancoft, I am Mr. Durmad at your service,” He slightly bowed his head.
“Professor if you would please. This is my newly adopted daughter, Irena and my son Zack will be joining us soon.” My heart warmed at his introduction to the sir at the table while I curtsied. Mr. Durmad acknowledged me with a brief nod giving my gown a look of disapproval but still neither of the Bancofts’ pushed me to change before we all took our seats.
Even as I am adopted by the Bancofts’, I am granted the privilege of sitting on the right side of the table in the place of their daughter. Otherwise if they had a daughter I would sit to the left of Mrs. Bancoft not the right. Zack usually would be sitting beside me on the right as their son but since our guest was seated there, he was forced to sit on the left.
“So Zack, have you completed your studies in math and science?” Mr. Durmad asked him directly when Zack had taken up a seat.
“No sir, I am almost finished.”
“Ah, studying indeed does takes lots of time.” Mr. Durmad shifted to look at Mrs. Bancoft in turn, “Has Irena finished her studies?” I balked at the question that wasn’t directed towards me in respect.
“Oh! Umm…Mr. Durmad forgive me for getting off topic for a second but where do you come from? Its just here the women are allowed to answer questions themselves. We have that skill,” Mrs. Bancoft nodded to me to answer the disrespectful question.
“I am the same as Zack; I am close to finishing my studies.”
“Huh,” was all he said only flicking a glance at me before going back to the Professor when he asked a question of his own.
“Mr. Durmad would be so obliged to tell me why exactly you are here?”
“Oh where have my manners gone tonight? I am here for only one reason, to study under the best in the science and math field.”
“Well thank you so you’ll be here for quite some time then?”
“Yes I suppose I will. If that’s no trouble for the best of the best?”
“Of course not!” Professor Bancoft exclaimed eating up the compliments the strange man was laying out for him like a trained dog.
“Are you sure there is no other reason you are here?” Mrs. Bancoft’s eyes glittered mischievously at him.
“I am sure. Why do you ask?”
“I was just curious; I thought maybe you were looking for a suitable wife.” Mrs. Bancoft smiled putting her thoughts on the table. Professor Bancoft stopped eating and just stared at me, Zack was beginning to turn purple from keeping his laughter from escaping him and Mr. Durmad just blinked in surprise.
“To admit I didn’t think of that and I wasn’t really looking.”
“Well, Irena is about to finish her studies.”
“What? No!!” I blurted out rising out of my chair only a tiny bit before sitting back down.
“Irena!! Don’t be so rude and so quick to dismiss Mr. Durmad, he would make a perfectly good husband for you.”
“No! I refuse to marry!! I wish to finish my studies,” I pleaded with Professor Bancoft with my eyes.
“Maeve, leave her be. Irena should finish her studies.” The Professor answered my plead of help, “Mr. Durmad, I apologize for my wife’s and daughter’s behavior, I had thought I made it clear we were not looking for suitors just yet. Please don’t take this to offense you indeed would make an exceptional suitor for Irena.”
“I take no such offense and I perfectly understand. I wasn’t looking for wife at the moment,” Mr. Durmad replied smoothly still refusing to acknowledge me at the table. “Zack how is it working with the best inventor in the field?”
“It is everything you would think it would be,” Zack lied coolly taking up the act that we had been taught to use when under questioning.
“I wouldn’t believe anything less. You must be so proud of your father with all his inventions and role in government.”
“Yes, quite. Every day I believe I couldn’t be prouder of him but he doesn’t cease to do just that.”
“It will be quite the honor to work with you, under your father.” It went on like that most of the night, even after supper was done. It wasn’t long after I excused myself from them though the Professor raised an eyebrow at me especially when they just brought out my favorite dessert.
“I’m sure this man is going to bring trouble with him and I don’t like it. Did you know Mrs. Bancoft offered my hand in marriage to him?!! We don’t even know him and he has already proven himself to be an arrogant ass!!” I ranted to the artificial intelligence I built years ago when I needed a friend. “She even called me impulsive after supper when we were headed to the common area. Can you believe her?”
“Yes I can Iren. It sounded like you were and I don’t blame her for offering your hand. She just wants you to have a good future and life with someone that can take care of you.”
“Rose!! I need you to know I hate you. Remind me again why I built you,” I collapsed in a huff on the bed she just made for me when she went to go adjust something else.
“You built me because you were a loser and couldn’t make friends in the orphanage,” she answered without hesitation.
“Hey!! I could’ve made friends but they were all idiots. They barely knew their names.”
“That’s an exaggeration, they all knew their names but they were idiots indeed.”
“Yes! Thank you!!”
It was true though I didn’t make friends at the orphanage so I made Rose, my artificial intelligence for some company. She was also the only way the Professor found out about my forbidden interest in math. He came weeks after finding out to adopt me but I refused to leave when I thought it meant I had to shut her down forever but he never asked me to do such a thing. Over the months I was here I was allowed to use the Professor’s equipment and gave Rose a personality of her own. Which it turned out she was a neat freak and didn’t like agreeing with me most of the time but never denied she was my friend.
“You still could’ve made friends. You had a slim chance of making one but a chance nonetheless.”
“Rose shut up!”
“I don’t know what you really mean by that but I guess you want me to be quiet.”
“Yes Rose that’s what I’m saying.”
“I could be quiet but that wouldn’t be very interesting. Also may I remind you, you didn’t build me with a mute button.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the joke we had since I built her while I threw a pillow at her head. “There’s your mute button, you pile of bolts!”
“That’s not a button, you heap of meat,” Rose replied taking the pillow back to where I took it from with an irritated look on her face. “You know I just tidied up that area.”
“Hahaha! Rose, no one said you had to clean everything.”
“And you don’t have to be a slob everywhere we go.” Her voice this time was stern but teasing.
“You know I clean up my messes but it seems you do that for me so tell me. Why should I take away your hobby that you seem to enjoy?”
“Emotions can’t be put into a program.”
“Ugh, never mind. You know you’re very stupid for an artificial intelligence I built.”
“That’s because you built me.” Rose went back to tidying up the spot she was before I threw the pillow. “Someone is at the door.”
“What?” Not a moment later than Rose’s announcement a knock jolted the door. Expecting Mrs. Bancoft to lecture me about my behavior I opened the door to see Mr. Durmad.
“What can I do for you sir?” I curtsied but refusing to offer him to enter my room with Rose in there.
“May I come in?” He asked but was already pushing me aside to stand inside my room before I could answer.
“Why not? You’re already here anyway. What is it you want?”
“Do you have no manners?”
“This is my room and I will speak how I wish to anyone who enters.” I crossed my arms over my chest and leaned to one side.
“Does the Professor know you have that?” Durmad gestured to Rose.
“Of course, he built her for me. It was a welcoming gift.”
“Ah and it cleans your room?”
“Yes, Iren is quite the slob. I’m Rose not It,” Rose turned confronting him with a similar attitude.
“I am not!!” I glared at her but she didn’t seem to care as usual. “What do you want Durmad?”
“I wanted to speak to you about the subject your mother brought up at the table. I have no intention of marrying anyone at this moment especially an orphan. I mean no disrespect.”
“Excuse me!! I don’t care about your plans about marriage and I will never marry someone like you! You can shove that up your freaking ass along with your disrespectful attitude towards me!! I won’t marry anyone who especially refuses to acknowledge me at our first meeting like you’re better!!”
“If I may comment, I am better.” Durmad analyzed me coolly, “I also don’t care about your plans for marriage nor how you feel about my attitude. I am here to study under the greatest and you will not throw yourself at me in any way to interfere with my studying no matter what your mother tells you to do.”
“Are you a moron? I do not take orders from you or anyone else that I can despise in such little time! And you shouldn’t worry I will never so such a thing even if Mrs. Bancoft tells me otherwise!! Now unless you’re here to tell me you’re leaving forever, get out!!” I shouted in outrage at him.
“I don’t take orders from low lives, Orphan.”
“Rose, remove him from my room and my presence.” Immediately Rose took a firm grip on his torso and practically tossed him into the hall then closed the door before returning to cleaning the room.
“Well he has an interesting sense of humor if he thought that was a peaceful visit.” She broke the tense silence that didn’t yet settle.
“His stay here will surely be interesting.”
“More of bring trouble.”
“There is a chance of that but still interesting.”
“He’s definitely an arrogant ass.”
“Oh Irena sometimes I wonder how you can be so observant.”
“Shut up Rose.”