Everything that happened after that was a complete blur. Somehow I had moved from the yard of the Lowreys’ home to a bedroom in Kendon Hall and was now lying in a bed.
My head had that fuzziness I always had after one of those memories and, if I closed my eyes, I thought I could still feel the breeze of the sea on my face.
I groaned as I sat up, wincing as my corset dug into my ribs. I had to squint through the darkness of the room to see I was still dressed in the gown of last night—
Dad’s bloodied body flashed behind my eyes and I gasped, slapping a hand to my mouth as my brain cleared and the events of last night filtered back to me.
“Elizabeth?” There was movement across the room and then the hiss of a match being lit. A candle bloomed and illuminated Nathaniel’s concerned face. He hurried to my side, resting the candle on the night stand and sitting in the chair beside the bed. “Are you all right?”
My voice was choked as I said, “My father—"
“I am so sorry, Elizabeth.” He covered my hand with his. “I know what it is to lose a parent, and words cannot convey how sorry I am that you had to witness that.”
“Lawrence,” I said, wiping tears from my cheeks and sitting straighter. “Did you catch him?”
He dropped his hazel eyes away from mine, staring into the flame of the candle instead. His voice was very clipped when he said, “No.”
I threw the blankets off me, scraping the heel of my hand against my cheeks to get rid of any evidence of sadness.
“Wait, hang on, where are you going?” he asked, grabbing my arm before I could get out of the bed.
“I have to check on Lydia,” I said, slapping his hand away, rising to my feet, and heading for the door. “And my mother. She saw him in the tree, too. There’s no way she’s coping—"
“Just slow down for a second.”
“Why?” I spun on him, my heart beating unhealthily fast and adrenaline coursing through my veins. I was dangerously close to exploding, but I couldn’t seem to stop the fuse from burning. “Who benefits from me slowing down? My father is dead, my best friend was actually stabbed, and the man responsible has gotten away. So please explain to me why I need to slow down.”
“You’re not well, Elizabeth,” he said. “You’ve been having these spells—"
“I am fine,” I insisted. “And any case, why do you care?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You’ve always been so kind to me and I want to know why. For years, I did nothing but ignore you and your sister. Yet, you haven’t shown me even the slightest disdain.”
He stood from the chair, his eyes widening. “Carter said you couldn’t remember anything that happened before your holiday.”
“Never mind. It doesn’t matter.” I turned on my heel and headed for the door. “I need to see Lydia—"
He rushed ahead of me and blocked the door. “Lydia is going to be fine. Jennifer is taking good care of her. I didn’t fully comprehend all the terms she used but she assured me that Lydia would recover.”
My shoulders sagged. “Thank God. And my mom?”
“I…didn’t get a chance to ask, but she seemed all right when I left. I am more concerned about the fact that you passed out on our way here.” He set his hands gently on my shoulders, guiding me back to bed. “I really think it would be best that you get some rest. Carter would never forgive me if I let you—"
“Well, Carter isn’t here to stop me, is he?” I shrugged him off. “You will not tell me what to do, Nathaniel. If I want to leave this room, then I will. Get out of my way.”
He drew a deep breath, the muscle in his jaw ticking identically to Carter’s. “If your mother had allowed it, Carter would be in here. But since he is not, I am the one looking after you. And I really think you ought to lie down.”
Tears of equal parts deep despair and utter frustration burned my eyes again and I locked them with Nathaniel’s hazel ones. “I want to see my mother. Are you really going to try to stop from doing that?”
He stared at me for a moment, taking in my bedraggled appearance and the tears in my eyes, and nodded, stepping aside. “But if my brother asks—"
“You let me worry about your brother.”
He bit his lip a moment before saying, “She’s with Lydia in my office.”
“Thank you.” I rushed out the door, barreling down corridors and around corners. I wasn’t exactly sure, but somehow I knew exactly where the office was.
Pushing open the door, I barely even registered the grandness of the meticulously carved fireplace mantel or the hundreds of books carefully stocked in the shelves lining the walls or the gentle glow of the soft candlelight bouncing off the warm brown walls. My gaze zeroed in on the cleared desk in the middle of the large room. Lydia had been lain across it dressed in nothing but her chemise, bandages wrapping her stomach visible through the sheer fabric.
Mom was standing off to the side, studying bottles filled with different colored liquids, some mushy, others as smooth as water. “This should help take away some of the pain,” she was saying as she settled on one vial.
Stone sat in a plush chair which he had pulled beside the desk. His hand was clenched tightly in Lydia’s and the way he stared at her, it was like he was gazing at the last burning star in the sky, praying it wouldn’t be snuffed out.
Mom looked up when she heard the door open, her eyes red and puffy.
“Who is it?” Lydia said, her voice rough with pain and disuse.
“Elizabeth,” Mom answered, turning away from me to tilt Lydia’s head forward and spill the contents of the vial into her mouth.
“Nathaniel said she’s going to be all right,” I said, coming further into the room, my eyes flicking between the three of them, not sure who to address my words to.
“That’s what the doctor said,” Stone answered me, gesturing to my mother.
“Beth, I’m fine,” Lydia said, though her pale face and pinched expression weren’t doing much to convince me.
I gazed at Mom. “Are you sure?”
She nodded, not meeting my eyes. “It’ll be a long recovery, but she will recover.”
She turned, not answering me, returning the vial among the rest of the bottles.
I cleared my throat, my gaze straying back to Lydia and Stone. Her eyes had drifted closed, whatever Mom had given her having already taken affect. Stone had lost complete interest in me as he watched the pain seep out of Lydia’s face in her unconscious state.
“Mom,” I said softly, coming to stand behind her, “there is something I wanted to ask you about.”
“Not now, Elizabeth.”
The first twelve years of my life, I had always been Lizzie to my parents. I hadn’t even known my real name was Elizabeth until I was in the third grade. Once Dad had passed away, I had no longer been Lizzie. And here I was, once again, Elizabeth.
I clenched my teeth. “It’s important.”
“So is Lydia’s life.”
“It was him,” I said, deciding to bypass all the arguing completely. “I believe you now, Mom, because that was definitely Dad.”
“Stop,” she said softly.
Again, I didn’t listen. “It had always been Dad, and you could see it even when I couldn’t, and I am just so sorry I didn’t listen to you—"
“But he said something before he…died,” I said, choking slightly on the word. “He told me that there is a way out. I think he was talking about a way out of the book, Mom. He said we have to find Sarah. I don’t know who Sarah is, exactly, but I’d heard that name mentioned before and Lydia said that she was believed to be a sort of sorceress that could see into the future or something like that. Whoever she is, Dad said we had to find her and I think whatever she has to tell us could give us a way to go back—"
“I said, that’s enough!” Glass shattered and I realized that she had been gripping the vials so tightly that they had exploded in her grip. Her voice was sharp and venomous as she said, “I am with a patient right now, Elizabeth. Lydia needs my full concentration right now, not any of your disruptions. Please, get out.”
I frowned at her, the bite of her voice making my eyes tear yet again. Swallowing past the lump in my throat, I straightened my shoulders. I was not a scared little twelve year old girl anymore. I would not wilt and dissolve simply because my mother had spoken roughly to me. “Lydia is asleep,” I said, using every ounce of strength within me to keep my voice controlled. “She doesn’t need you right now. I need you, Mom. We have to talk—”
“I don’t want to talk about it. Get out.”
I tried a different tactic. “I know you’re hurting. So am I. But I really think—"
“Leave, Elizabeth!” She spun around, her eyes wide and angry, her voice shrill and loud as she screamed, “Get out!”
I flinched, stumbling backward slightly as if she had slapped me across the face. At least, that’s what it felt like. My face burned and my eyes stung, my blood like molten lava as it rushed through my veins. A humorless laugh fell from my suddenly dry lips. “I don’t know why I expected anything different.” I turned to Stone who was now watching the two of us in surprise. “Could you let me know when she wakes up again?”
He nodded. “Of course.”
Before he had even finished speaking, I had already spun on my heel, telling myself I wasn’t fleeing the room as my feet rapidly ate up the distance between the desk and the door. I slammed the door loudly behind me, moving blindly through the halls. Where I was going, I didn’t know, but my legs seemed to remember this house more than I did as they brought me before another door, this one familiar to more than just my feet.
The Room of Fire and Grass. My favorite room in the entire house. I stared at the door. There was nothing especially different about it; it was actually rather plain. But the tiny scuff mark at the bottom, the warmth of the knob, the way I knew it would have just the slightly squeak when I opened it, made this door the most important door in the entire building at that moment. Behind that door was familiarity, behind that door was a life I hadn’t lived, yet a life I was starting to remember better than my own.
There were muffled footsteps behind that door.
Slowly, I pushed it open, that barely audible squeak calming my nerves better than anything ever could at that moment.
Carter spun around as I entered, a metal shield slamming down in his eyes as he registered it was me. “What are you doing?” he demanded. “I told Nathaniel—"
“I went to go see Lydia. And my mother.” I closed the door behind me, too emotionally exhausted to care about the tension that stuck to the walls of the room as Carter watched me come further into the room.
“And how was she?” he inquired carefully.
“Lydia or my mother?” I dropped into one of the green sofas, disregarding the way my corset pinched my sides, sighing as I stared up at the beautiful gold and emerald ceiling. “Lydia is going to be fine. Mom, on the other hand…” I shook my head. “I shouldn’t blame her, really. You’d have thought after years, I’d have learned by now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Never mind.” I waved my hand. “Forget I said anything.”
He paused for a long time, turning to stare into the flame of the large fireplace. When he did speak, his voice was very carefully devoid of any emotion. “Change.”
I blinked several times, looking up at him, the tears I had so harshly tried to suppress completely forgotten. “Excuse me?”
“I should think you’d rather be wearing something more comfortable. We begin your training tonight.” He turned away from the fire, heading for the door.
He stopped, cocking an eyebrow at me. “You did ask me to train you, did you not?”
“Then we train now.” He opened the door.
“Carter, my father just—"
“Which is why we must train now. Go change. I will wait for you in the stable.”
“What if I don’t want to?” I said. “What if you are the last person I want to be around right now?”
“I do not care. Go.”
“No, I—" But he was already gone. I glared at the open door, my already heated blood boiling and my uneven breaths turning into gasps of fury. Clenching my hands into fists, I stood.