JOYOUS OCCASIONS COULD never last forever. Everything blissful, more often than not, would be forced to come to an end once the time was ripe. When would the time be ‘right’? One could never tell. The way the world worked was always unfair since the dawn of time. However, one thing was for sure: Happy moments would always end when they least wish for it to.
Violet was abruptly woken up in the middle of the night. She bolted upright in cold sweat, her eyes wide, and her breath heavy as she turned in the bed that Diana Haster had so kindly provided her for the night. The room wasn’t cold nor was it too warm. Just right. Hence, Violet knew that her unceremonious awakening didn’t have anything to do with the temperature.
Fidgeting, she spun her head around to take a glimpse at the world outside. The skies should’ve still been dark. After all, the moon was still high up in the sky, glimmering softly. However, nothing about the skies was as noir as it should’ve been. Rather, it was tainted with a layer of angry red, orange streaking across the heavens as if it was touched by the devil. There was only one reason why a calm night would turn so violent in shade.
They’ve been found.
Thankfully, Violet wasn’t the only one that had realized the changes in their haven. Maddox Haster burst into the room, still dressed in his bedclothes, hair unruly. Strands were sticking out in odd directions, left curling back and forth defying gravity. Yet, there was no time for him to spare on his appearance. His eyes, too, were wide as saucers, glancing in Violet’s direction the second he entered. He hadn’t bothered to knock, a habit Violet knew he had since the first few times they crossed paths in Steinfield Asylum. That could only mean that it was every bit an emergency as Violet predicted it was.
“You’re awake,” Maddox said, out of breath. A brief flash of relief crossed his eyes but they disappeared as soon as Violet had caught it. “Get dressed,” he continued, “ We have to leave. Now.”
He didn’t wait around for Violet to react. Once he had said his piece, Maddox turned on his heel and left, the door still dangling open just a crack. He had to change too, no doubt. They couldn’t run outside in their bedclothes just like that, not in this weather.
As instructed, Violet quickly started to change. She pulled on layer after layer, hurriedly clothing herself before grabbing her coat and making a mad dash out of the guest bedroom. In the hallway, she ran into Diana Haster, still dressed in her nightgown with a candle in her hands, her face as white as sheet.
“Is Maddox ready?” The older woman asked, peering over Violet’s shoulder before glancing back at the front door of the cottage. “They’re nearing us. I took a look outside. Guards, for sure. You two have to leave as soon as possible.”
“And we are as good as gone,” came Maddox’s voice from behind. He was now fully dressed, wrapped tightly in a winter coat with a large bag over his shoulder. “Is it ready?”
Diana nodded, her lips pursed.
“You know the way,” was all she replied enigmatically.
Violet hadn’t even had the chance to ask what they were talking about before Maddox and Diana were rushing her towards the kitchen, the candle in Diana’s hands extinguished as she puffed at the small flame. In a distance now that they were engulfed in silent darkness, Violet could hear the voices of other people echoing from deep within the woods. She couldn’t make out the words but she knew that the mother and son’s guesses were right— they were indeed guards that have come to serve retribution.
They were no longer safe in Diana’s cottage.
“Watch your steps,” Diana reminded as she placed her hand under the basin. With a quick yank, a creek sounded and the floor beneath the sink dipped under. The wooden planks made way for a passage into the shadows, leading to places unknown. “Stick together and be very careful. Refrain from drawing attention to yourselves, understood?”
“Stop worrying, Mother,” Maddox chided. His eyes were, of course, softer than his words were. “We can take care of ourselves. Be careful of the guards and watch what they ask.”
Even with all that was happening around them and the rush of it all, Diana Haster still managed to offer her son a smile. She sighed, chuckling softly while arranging the messed up strands of his hair. With her fingers, she combed them back into place, patting him once on his shoulder.
“I know,” she whispered, her voice cracking a little at the end.
With a grim nod, Maddox turned towards the basin, bending down low so that he could squeeze into the minuscule secret passageway. He had a hand on Violet’s wrist, tugging her along behind him but before he could pull her in with him, she weaseled her way out of his grip.
Violet hadn’t stepped back because she was afraid of the dark, dirt, or anything along those lines. Rather, she hesitated so that she could offer Diana Haster a last and final hug. She wrapped her arms around the woman, enjoying the warmth of a mother’s embrace for one last time. Before she could step back, she closed her eyes to savor the moment, the feeling of Diana’s hands gently caressing her hair.
“Take care of each other,” Diana murmured into Violet’s ear. “And thank you, Violet.”
Violet waited to see if Diana would ever specify what she had thanked her for but alas, no words followed.
Instead, what she found was Maddox’s hands around her shoulder again, peeling her back from his mother and into the gaping darkness. They stumbled down the rabbit hole, the light of Diana’s kitchen illuminated by nothing but the silver moonlight was the final sight Violet could see. The older woman stood there, unmoving until they were a safe distance away from the mechanism. After that, just as the sounds from outside grew louder, Diana pulled the lever again.
This time, the door slammed shut and all that was left was nothing but quietude.