IT TOOK VIOLET a few good minutes to shake Diana Haster off her tail. The older woman seemed rather reluctant to let her go, pressing her for the details of their escape. However, those questions were all left unanswered because only Maddox Haster knew what the reply to them was. Violet merely tagged along, a piece of additional baggage that could’ve been detrimental to his escape.
“I’ll get you both some warm tea and food,” Diana said in the end, standing up from her seat. “It’s freezing cold outside and you both need something to warm up your bellies with.”
To that, Violet nodded appreciatively. The thought of a warm drink in such cold weather seemed wonderful. Despite sitting in the house by the fireplace for nearly an hour, her hands were still freezing cold.
“Yes please,” Violet all but sighed in gratefulness.
Smiling softly, Diana nodded.
“I’ll get the kettle going. Will you be a dear and get Maddox for me?”
With a new task on hand, Violet retreated from the living room in the direction she had last seen Maddox Haster.
Unlike the familiar halls of Steinfield Asylum, the humble cottage walls were completely foreign to Violet. She ran a hand down the wood that made up the interior of the cottage, holding the structure firmly up. Even though the wood was old, aged down by the hard and cruel hands of time, it still held a warmth that the asylum never had. Despite the frosty winter weather outside, the walls of Diana Haster’s cottage didn’t bite nor was it chilly.
It did, however, spark the feeling of jealousy and envy in Violet’s heart. For so long she had dreamed of having a home just like this one— a place filled with love and affection. She couldn’t mask her bitterness, cursing the world at how she couldn’t have a taste of something as simple as that.
Standing in front of the door Violet was sure Maddox Haster had disappeared behind, Violet hesitated. She raised a fist, preparing to knock. However, before she could, the door creaked open and out stepped Haster in a fresh set of clothes. A towel hung across his shoulders, droplets of water dripping from the tips of his fine hair as he stared dazedly at Violet.
She, in turn, quickly darted her attention away once she realized that Haster had disappeared into the shower just now and not just any other room. The tips of her ears felt hot, her cheeks red as she licked at her dry lips. The sight of her with that expression made Haster smirk.
“Relax,” he chuckled. “There’s nothing to see even if you wanted to. I, as any other proper gentleman should be, am fully clothed.”
“I didn’t say anything about clothing,” Violet immediately retorted. She pursed her lips, clearing her throat before turning back to look at Maddox Haster in the eye. “Your mother is looking for you. She has the kettle going on the stove and mentioned making food.”
The thought of something to eat placed a smile on Haster’s face— one that was much more sincere than the cheeky smirk he had shown Violet. He grinned, dimples forming as he took a step towards the dining area of the house.
“Well then, can’t keep the poor woman waiting, can we?”
With a skip in his step, Maddox Haster disappeared as quickly as he appeared. Violet had come to realize that it was a trait of his, to appear and vanish just as quickly as the other. Haster never liked to linger, always keeping himself on the move from one place to another. Maybe it was because of the lifestyle he led, jumping from one prison to another, and it simply reflected in his everyday life. Or perhaps it was something he always did before he was locked behind bars.
Either way, Violet wouldn’t know. She didn’t know him very well — or at all — before they met at Steinfield. Beforehand, Maddox Haster was a mere face on the daily paper, a murderer the law managed to catch.
“Haster,” Violet called, stopping the man in his tracks before he could turn the corner. At the sound of her voice, he paused though without turning back to look at her. Violet took that as a sign that he was listening and she thus continued, “My name. How did you know it? I never told you.”
After a long bout of silence, Maddox Haster finally turned. He spun his head back slowly, peering over his shoulder. Although Violet could see his face, she wasn’t able to read his expression. Years stuck in Steinfield Asylum meant that she hadn’t seen enough of the world to be able to tear down masks easily. Sadly for her, the one that Haster wore was a finely-made mask.
“Your mother,” Violet added, “She knew my name too, didn’t she? Recognized it, at least. So it isn’t a name that you merely found out when you were transferred to Steinfield.”
“Hmm,” Haster hummed under his breath. Light danced in his eyes but they were not of joy. Rather, it was simple amusement at how Violet managed to deduce so many things with so little time. “I wonder as well. How did I know your name?”
He left those words hanging in the air, her questions unanswered. Without providing her with a proper reply, Haster darted off, curving the corner and disappearing into the dining area. Violet was left in the corridor alone, silence as her only company.
In the past, dinner was only ever spent with Luna as company. It was no boisterous occasion. After all, any laughter deemed too loud would only be served punishment if the nurses and guards caught wind of it. As such, the sort of dinner Violet was used to was a quiet affair.
However, in the Haster’s family home, dinner was loud, bubbly, and had the atmosphere of what Violet imagined a party would have. There was no lack of noise despite only having the three of them at the table and the topics exchanged were all light-hearted and fun. There was no need to worry or watch their mouths within these walls. Nothing was taboo.
“Oh, Maddox, you really shouldn’t give the warden so much trouble,” Diana jested. Her words, however, were to be taken with a pinch of salt. She was obviously delighted with what her son had accomplished. She was a loving mother, first and foremost— a mother that just wanted the best for her son.
“It was just unfortunate for Steinfield that they were the ones nearest to you,” Haster replied matter of factly. “It’s convenient.”
“How did you even do it?” Violet couldn’t help herself but slot in a question of her own. She placed the fork in her hands back down onto the plate, the half-eaten fowl temporarily forgotten. “You even had the key to escape. You planned everything perfectly when it should’ve been impossible.”
Haster scoffed, leaning back in his seat as he replied, “Nothing is impossible.”
Nodding in agreement, Diana chimed in, “When you truly put your heart into doing something and dedicate your time and effort, you can accomplish even miracles.”
Mother and son were in complete sync. Their insistent tone left no room for Violet to argue and she could only sit back and watch as the duo changed to a different topic. Occasionally, Diana would ask Violet a question, attempting to draw her back into the conversation but Violet’s replies were more often than not short and sweet. She receded into her shell, slowly carving away at her food as she watched the parent interact with her son.
Her heart grew bitter as she thought of her own mother, a woman that did not deserve that title in the least bit. Unlike Diana, Violet’s mother was void of love. She was a block of stone, holding no affection for something born from her own flesh and blood.
If only Violet had someone like Diana in her life. Maybe her world would’ve been more colorful than the current shades of white, black, and gray.