Oh therapy, can you please fill the void?
“Alice? Alice!” She cried out loud, but not too loud, because it hurt too much. When she got no response, Annabelle ran to the cabin’s entrance. Her plan had been to remain on her horse, and only call for Alice. But since it didn’t work, she had to come up with a new plan. She left John behind and ran alone towards the cottage.
“Alice, Alice,” she breathed tired when she got inside the cabin door. “Come on, Alice,” she continued breathlessly, “please.” When she again got no answer, she sighed indignantly and then went farther inside the house. She was walking through the corridor that led directly to the great hall where they used to take care of the sick and injured. Annabelle didn’t dare to walk past the room that once had belonged to Killian. She knew she couldn’t stand to see that room empty, cold and dark. It still hurt just thinking about him; just as it did when she thought of her father and Dean.
“Alice,” she whispered now, more and more loud the longer she walked. “Alice, where are you?” Suddenly, she heard footsteps behind her, and turned around hastily. Her time in the army had made her become much more cautious and careful.
“Is it you, Annabelle?” The sound of Alice’s voice made Annabelle’s face form into a smile.
“Thank God you’re here. Come on, Alice, we have to leave.” Annabelle reached forward, towards her friend, but Alice didn’t take her hand.
“I can’t,” she murmured gently, afraid to make Annabelle angry, “they need my help...” Annabelle took a deep breath, but it still felt as if she didn’t get enough air. “Annabelle, please, stay with me, just for one day. We can leave early tomorrow morning. Just help me save them.” Annabelle raised her eyebrows and sighed hopelessly.
“John is waiting for us out there,” she replied, “your brother, Alice. We came to take you home.” Alice nodded, for she already knew.
“Yes, and you will take me home, wherever home is! Just help me with the last ones, Annabelle, please.” Annabelle clenched her jaws. She was tired of everyone expecting so much of her; she was tired of doing everything she was told. This had to be the last time.
“One last night,” she said flatly, “but you have to tell John.”
Time had gone so fast, Annabelle realized later that evening. She had missed Alice, no matter how hard she refused to admit it. She was also somewhat ashamed over how she had left her alone, to selfishly seek revenge on her own. Annabelle hadn’t even said goodbye when she left the house to join the army. Somewhere deep inside her it hurt when she thought of this, and she realized that she regretted her decision.
She could have stayed in the house, she could have helped Alice and spent Killian’s last days together with him. She wouldn’t have had to take such an abrupt goodbye to him. She could have held his hand every night, she could have told him it would be okay; he could have told her not to be so afraid. She regretted it, but knew that she never could undo it.
Annabelle smiled gently towards Alice, who sat in front of her at the table. They had managed to gather a small amount of food, luckily, and now they shared it with each other. Outside the darkness began to fall, and Annabelle silently prayed with closed eyes.
John sat diagonally in front of her, next to Alice, and Annabelle would rather not look at him. She had forgiven him because he let her go before, and for everything else had done, but it was something else with him that made her feel uncomfortable. However, she couldn’t put her finger on what it was, something that was very annoying.
“So, Annabelle,” Alice began, bright and cheerful to the voice, “how are you?” Annabelle smiled nervously.
“As usual, I guess.” She gave Alice a glance. “Alice, I’m sorry,” she said then, for she couldn’t hold in her guilt and shame any longer.
“Oh, for what?” Alice seemed genuinely curious, and Annabelle shook a little distracted on her head.
“Because I left you here alone,” she continued, and now tried to look Alice straight in the eye. “Because I only cared about myself. It was wrong, and I know that now.” Alice cocked her head slightly to the side, and smiled softly. John kept looking out the window; it was clear he didn’t want to be a part of their conversation.
“I understand you, Annabelle. Believe me - I understand.” Annabelle raised her eyebrows in a hopeless gesture.
“Not only for that I left you for the war and for my own revenge, but also for the way I treated you in the beginning. I still can’t understand how I could feel so strongly for you, even though you weren’t more than a stranger to me. I’m so sorry, Alice, and I hope that you can forgive me for what I have done.” Alice took a deep breath.
“It was so long ago, and during times as dark as these, people like us have to stick together. Of course I forgive you.” Annabelle could finally breathe again, but she couldn’t even though she had been forgiven, smile. Instead, she nodded.
“Thank you, Alice.”
The darkness was dense and cold outside the white walls, and Annabelle couldn’t fall asleep. Alice was, as before, in the bed next to hers and Annabelle knew that she was awake too. Many long minutes passed before Annabelle had gathered enough courage to speak.
“John is your brother,” was all she said, and her heart was beating hard after the words left her mouth.
“Yes,” Alice said, as calm as ever. “John is my brother.” Annabelle looked up at the black roof.
“He refused to tell me,” continued Annabelle, “about you. About your life and childhood, I mean. He only said- “Alice interrupted her, still with her voice calm and steady.
“That they died.” Annabelle nodded in the dark, even though she knew that Alice couldn’t see her.
“Yes,” she breathed. Then she added, in a very sweet voice, “I would love to hear your story. If you want to tell me, of course.” She heard how Alice’s breathing was deep and slow.
“If you really want to hear, Annabelle, I will tell you.” Annabelle’s heart began to beat even faster, for she hadn’t believed that Alice would agree to tell.
“Yes,” she answered, as before, and the silence before Alice began to talk again felt like it lasted forever.
“I suppose John told you about our brother, Matthew? Anyway, before we arrived in Atlanta we traveled around in North America, never able to stay in one place for too long. We were hunted, you see, for something we hadn’t done, or really for something that we wouldn’t do. We were constantly on the run, and always had to hide. My family had fled since before John was born. Eventually, after years being hunted, we managed to escape them, and could finally rest. We didn’t have to run anymore. My family built a beautiful - though not too beautiful - house in the outskirts of Atlanta, with rose bushes and a white fence. We lived there, like a real family, for a few years. Those years were happy, and John, Matthew and I were allowed to be the children we never got to be. Happy children; free children."
"My mother, Elizabeth, used to stay at home with us and when we weren’t playing outdoors in the large green garden, she read beautiful poems and novels for us. She loved to read, and father always used to give her books on her birthday. She often said that she would have never had become the person she eventually became, if she hadn’t read the books that she read, and I remember that I always envied her for that. Edward, my father, hated books, though. He was rarely at home, since his job at the city hospital demanded much of his time. Yes, he was a doctor, and he always used to say that his greatest wish would be if we became doctors just like him. It was he who taught me everything I am today; To survive in the wild, to hunt, but also things like how to swim.” She smiled gently.
“I loved to swim in the open, so dark and so big. I used to feel free.” Alice went silent, and Annabelle wondered if that was all she was going to tell. Just when she thought about opening her mouth and ask, Alice began to speak again. “The day when it happened, was-” Alice suddenly interrupted herself, and Annabelle didn’t know if she would say anything or not.
“I’m here, Alice,” was all she said, in a voice as calm as Alice’s been.
“I know,” the girl whispered back, and then drew a deep breath.
“It was an accident. At first I thought it was them, that they had returned, that they had found us. But it was an accident, Annabelle, I know it now and I knew it then, even though I blamed myself. I was only eight, and John was ten. Matthew was five.” She took a deep breath, and Annabelle could hear her shake on her head.
“I can hardly remember what happened. It was so warm, Annabelle, that it made my skin boil. My dress was on fire, I remember now. Burning flames licked the fabric, but I didn’t scream. Everything was so quiet, so numb that I didn’t dare to. I ran around in there, in the house, while the beautiful white walls were painted in red and orange hues, the same shades as the leaves get dressed in during the autumn. I tried to get to my parents, to Matthew and John, but the fire got me astray; smoke painted my vision black. I knew I had to get out. Eventually, I found the door, and the cold air outside embraced me. I could breathe again. John was already there, watching the fire devour the wood, without seeing me. I remember how he suddenly seemed so small - he was, after all, only ten years old - but I couldn’t understand. He stood there, and he didn’t even see me. His dark hair was wild, and his clothes burnt at the edges. I couldn’t understand that he hadn’t saved us. He just stood there and watched our family get torn apart; he watched them burn."
"I tried to get inside again, when I had calmed down, but then he was with me and held me back. He said it was too late. ‘But Matthew’, I cried then, ’and mother and father?’. He refused to let go of me, and together we watched the fire rise and fall. We saw the people who were with us, who embraced us, talked with us. John said nothing as I screamed and cried. I couldn’t forgive him, Annabelle. Judge me all you want, but I still can’t forgive him. He is my brother, and I love him, but I will never really be able to forgive him for what he did to me, that day so long ago; for what he did to our family.”
Annabelle, who when Alice had been talking had been so quiet that she now had a hard time breathing, took a deep breath. She wished for a second that she had been able to hold Alice’s hand.
“I still haunts me. I would have been able to save them when I was still inside the house; I could have saved them. They didn’t have to die, and it kills me inside. There are days when I regret that I got out; I regret that I didn’t stay inside. I should have done it, Annabelle, for then all of this would have been over now. John shouldn’t have survived either. We should have all died, together as a family. It would have been so much better, so much easier. It wasn’t fair, Annabelle, that we got to live. It isn’t fair.” Alice breathed deeply, and Annabelle realized suddenly how difficult Alice’s life must have been. A respect for the girl, deeply rooted in Annabelle’s heart, had begun to grow.
“Family means everything, Annabelle. Family is forever. Without it, you have nothing; without it you are nothing. Never forget that.” Alice stopped her sentence suddenly and abruptly, and Annabelle could hear from the silence that filled the room that she wouldn’t talk any more that night. She was right.