Chapter 1 THE DEPARTURE
Creeping in the corner, Zared began to tremble. She hugged her knees tightly into her chest. The darkness invading the room due to the absence of electricity.
"Zared where are you?!" her drunkard uncle called her with anger and vehemence that seeping through her soul evaporating even in a narrow and dingy place. "Come out bitch!" he shouted angrily, accompanied by his harsh actions, throwing things and shattering it on the worn out and well cracked wall.
Her drunkard uncle buried in debt by his own foolishness and greediness, gambling and drinking in every places in their town, Lourosa.
Quivering in terror, her uncle strode noisily into her room with his face embroidered with an specific emotions, full of odiousness, lust and rage. He saw her curled in horror. "You fucking asshole get out!!!. Huh! and you're trying to hide from me?" He strode towards her and started grabbing her slightly wavy black hair and throwing her to the worn out and yet cleaned bed. Slapping her across the face one by one and spitting up on her. She was shivering and tears uncontrollably pouring out her eyes. Her cheeks stung. "Please uncle, I beg your mer...mercy" she stuttered.
He began to unfasten his clothes that stinks so badly making his way towards her. "Oh it will be good little niece" he busied himself unbuckling his leather belt.
Without wasting any time, she gathered all her might and run towards the door. Her uncle trapped in his own pants. By the time she reached the knob her uncle grabbed her again by the hair pulling it off without mercy. She screamed by the pain that penetrated through her sensitive scalp.
"You're trying to escape huh? I'll show you a lesson." He tagged her hair forcefully and slapped her. A slap that sent her tumbling on the bed, getting up, she stumbled in the floor and hit her head on the sharp edge of the wooden bed. Blood drifted out on her.
(No I can't let this happen, get up Zared run for your life. Oh help me God). She echoed silently despite the dizziness she felt.
Her uncle grasped her by the neck and began to throttle her. With nothing to blame his failures but to her remaining niece.
It seems that oxygen is running out and deafening her. She began to kick her assailant towards the groin but it never waver.
(Oh my gosh am gonna die) her mind panicked silently .....
Pouring out her remaining strength like an elephant jumping up in a deep water well she stretched out her weak arm and searched desperately beneath the file of bed sheets.
Panicking to grab her dagger, at last she found it, her little pointed dagger that she been hiding and cherishing. Sharpening whenever she was left alone in the dark and stinking room.
Without any hesitation, she stabbed her uncle on the right side of the stomach. Blood oozing out in his round and fleshy abdomen and pain taking place on his body. Arms weakening, he fell slowly on the floor and became unconscious.
In shock, Zared stared hard on a man that lie sprawled on the floor. The blood scattering slowly towards her. She was ashen, her skin beginning to turn white like a snow falling at the first of December. She can't believe her own eyes. She gathered her disarrayed thoughts, taking a deep breath to calm herself. She began to moved around the room, collecting her important stuff and placing it inside her leather bag. She can't prevent herself from quivering. She made her way towards her uncle who was lying unconsciously. Her skinny and pale hands shook.
"No he's not dead yet, it can't be."
Can't bear the thought that she killed a man. She checked his pulse and it's a little steady. Having known from reading too much books available in her neighborhood that was miles apart.
She zipped her bag and looked one last time in the place that became her hell dwelling for less than a decade. She glanced to the man that lie sprawled on the floor and made a promise to herself to fly away as far as possible. With a determined soul, she run as fast as she can. Run away as fast as her legs can take, not bothering about the blood that drifting through her forehead.
Tears pouring out her eyes while running away along with the natural sounds of creatures in her surroundings. Breeze blowing to her coldly, making her hair stand. She just run bare foot, ignoring the stung of sharp pebbles.
"Why earth's so cruel?! Why? Why me? God! can you see me up there? You're hurting me, I can't bear this life you gave me" she cried loudly pouring out all her emotion.
Breathing hard, she slowed her pace and sat on the silent bridge. The moon is in the third quarter, she didn't have an idea of what time it was. She's too tired, air whistling coldly into her ear, crickets accompanying her annoyingly. The surroundings was saturnine. Plus, the cold and scary sounds of a nocturnal owl that added to her already frightened soul.
How unfortunate my life is....She echoed and began to shiver she gathered her limbs to her chest and hugged it tightly and drifted to sleep.
After a few hours.
She woke up from the noise beside her. She rubbed her eyes and glanced towards the noise. She gasped, realizing that it was a skunk. Not giving a chance to smell the fart, she grabbed her bag unnaturally and flew away.
"Goodness that was so close" she breathed relaxingly.
The sun is about to rise, her stomach growled loudly realizing that she haven't eat yesterday. She quicken her step, promising herself that she will never ever come back into this horrid place.
"I am Zared Natt, I have lived this far so I must continue this race. I will make a good living."
She continued to walked east. There are bicycles and motorcycles passing through her. News papers neatly folded in every abandoned places. There are several vendors carrying baskets of fishes. Couples walking together. Strangers walking here and there. She quicken her pace when the place got crowded. She passed sidewalks with outrageous, rude and indecent dwellers. She walked a good and long journey for one hour. Her sole bruised from walking barefooted. Perspiration trickling down her face and back. Her hungriness was eating up on her, making her tremble in weakness. She closed her eyes for a moment and sat down. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes after releasing some of her exhaustion. She got up and pushed herself to walked as fast as she can, ignoring her protesting stomach and arid throat.
Finally she reached the quay. By then, the sun was rising brilliantly. She headed there and observed her surroundings. The place isn't really crowded, conversations from passerby was audible enough. She heard murmurs and insulting giggles towards ladies at her age and glanced at the annoying noises. They were eyeing her mockingly and loathsomely. She was so disappointed of how absurd her generations are. They can't just shut their mouth off and stick their noses in their own businesses. She sighed and slumped her shoulder down.
She shut her eyes off, blocking away the images of mocking ladies.
"Oh God help me, I know I look like a pauper " she groaned and prayed silently.
She's starving crazily. She walked towards the public comfort room and washed her face and changed into presentable and comfortable pair of clothes but still bare footed. She faced the mirror and smiled in her own reflection.
"Okay I won't blame myself for being like this. I haven't grabbed my shoes because I got an unusual story back there. And because they're just so fortunate to have a good life where mine was very unfortunate. I've lived this far so I must continue. So what? they're not the one who feeds me, they're just one of the critics whom I should survive. I wouldn't waste my time minding their opinions and judgements towards me."
She had tied her hair in knots and got out then went to a convenience store and searched for her coins and bought a chocolate bar that reaches below her throat. She saw a faucet and headed there then drank thirstily through her weak hands. It will help she thought and began moving again.
She stood right there on the quay waiting for any luck. The sun was warming her pale skin. There are a lot of ships arriving and going. By then she spotted a good one, the Seabourn cruise ship. Tourist making there way in the ship so she hurried up towards them.
"Oh I can survive this. Be courageous enough you'll succeed Zared " she murmured and
made her way inside, clutching her bag tightly. Luckily she'd passed unnoticed. She don't know where to go. She explored inside, worrying how to paid for her travel. Lost totally in an alien world.
With all the courage, she asked a stranger, an old woman who looked kind enough.
"Good morning ma'am" she greeted, smile spreading through her face. The bruises she got from yesterday was concealed enough but deep inside was pain, a terrible pain.
"Good morning dear, how may I help you?" Asked the old woman with the most affectionate smiled she'd ever seen. "You're new here right? asked the old woman.
"Um... Yeah... I just got here " Zared answered honestly as she knew that it wasn't just a passenger ship.
"So what was it?" old woman asked though eyeing her suspiciously.
"Where is the kitchen of this very big ship? I am very lost madam." Zared expressed.
"Oh just head that way and you'll see an elevator just press 5 and you'll be there."
"Oh thank you madam" she smiled to her sweetly.
"You are welcome dear"
Zared head there and was welcomed with delicious aromas. Her stomach growled again loudly. Staff are busy around, kitchen utensils clattering and was deafening. She made her way aside avoiding people carrying trays. She stopped on her spot lost in a busy world. She was disturbed by the man in front of her, a big guy who had a perfect trimmed mustache, wearing an apron and a chef cap. Smiling down at her.
"You seems very lost. How may I help you kiddo?" he smiled widely.
"Um I... I need help, a job?" she hesitated and look down. The man grabbed her arms and ushered her inside the little room that stands as an office for the head chef. She trembled. After her recent experience with her uncle it was impossible for her to trust someone with the opposite sex.
"Oh sit down kiddo, I might help you "
She looked up from the big guy, old enough to be her grandfather. She gave him a friendly smile. She sat down on the chair in front of the desk.
"How did you get in here?" he asked curiously.
"I yuh.... I honestly sneak in here cause I do not have a... a choice ." She stammered.
"So tell me your story, I may not believe you if you're not saying the truth, so better tell the truth cause I may consider your situation and that could be very reasonable enough." The old man stared to her intently, reading her eyes as it was as open as a book at the middle part.
She looks really lost, her bright brown eyes was an open window to her insides.
It displays vulnerability and innocence. It flashes with pain and sorrow and he was taken aback at what he just saw and he felt a pang of compassion towards her.
Maybe this time around she can trust this old man. He looked big hearted, sympathetic and amorous, she thought. Maybe there's future ahead that awaits for her. Maybe she'll just step on it.
"Okay... Um... I... I am Zared Natt sir." She stammered and then continued.
"I'm 18 years old, an orphaned from the age of ten." She choked realizing that it hurts to say that she herself was an orphaned. She continued "I was left with my uncle since then. But he turned into a monster after some his debt and so he began to treat me violently, he abuses me. So, I run away just to escape as far as possible as I can. And I don't really have a relatives anywhere just my uncle. So I'm very desperate to seek a new life, a job and a place to live with. Um... That's it sir." Her eyes glistening from the tears that wanted to escape but she blinked it hard. Now she told him the truth besides she's not used of lying. It's really hard when you are just pretending it's actually tiring. So she always preferred to say the truth depending on what the situations are.
"I'm sorry kid, you're life was so terrible. I'm very convinced about that so I will make a job for you." It seems very risky to accept someone randomly but he was positive about this young lady. He can see it through her innocent eyes.
"Oh really? Thank you very much sir I appreciated it a lot. I can't express how happy and grateful I am." She clasped her hands into her chest, her face lightning.
"Come here dear I"ll give you a hug cause you deserve it."
He hug her comfortingly, a father's hug and gave her a tap on the shoulder.
"That's it" stated the man. "Oh you don't have a shoes?" he asked pointing at her feet as he looked down the floor.
Embarrassingly, she nodded.
"Poor kid, come here and suit yourself." He led her into a vast room.
"These are the clothes you should wear during your duty and there's the shoes too. Shower is on the left, your bed will be on the right facing the red walls west. Don't be scared you're safe here. We got a lot of vacant room in here so it's easy to place one and have them. Do you think you can wash the plates, casseroles and so on?" he asked calculatingly.
"Of course I can" she smiled genuinely and he smiled back.
"I"ll leave now, after you sort your things out you can start the washing then, cause it's pretty busy here. And you can eat whatever you want in my account and I bet you're starving terribly." He said teasingly and gave her an encouraging smile then he got out and closed the door.
She changed into her working clothes, took a 5 seconds look at the mirror then headed out. She was directed to the sink full of dishes and she's in awe.
Never seen in her life these kind of mess. She took the rubber gloves and began washing the plates, knives, glass, fork, spoon etc.
By then it was already 8:30 in the evening almost done. She took a seat and a 10 seconds rest then got up and cleared it all despite the trembling of her hands and knees.
"Dear, time to stop, you better eat now" the old man said.
"Oh thank you sir. I'm finished" she smiled to him.
"Just call me John" he suggested.
"Oh ok John. Thanks again" she said gratefully.
"You're welcome dear " he answered back. "Foods are here it's up to you if you'll eat it here or to your room. I'll take a rest now and leave everything with the staff don't tire yourself too much."
She nodded and smiled to him. He disappeared. She removed her gloves and took the dinner box. She waved goodbye to some of the staff.
She hurried inside her room with her right hand, a box of delicious dinner. She closed her door and removed her apron and shoes then positioned herself in the most comfortable seat. She took a gulped of fruit extract added with some heavy meals. Including Arancini, Ćevapi, Veggie meat balls, Vegetable salad, Chicken breast and Parchedrice with meat, mushrooms, carrots, horseradish, egg and cabbage all in one. Accompanied with icy water, grape extract and a slice of carrot cake. Her hands trembled from the hungriness.
"Oh gosh this is heaven " she savored every taste of it and closed her eyes and then she was lost.
1 week later..........
John retired to his bed, not at all feeling well. He searched for his phone and dialed Zach's number.
"Hello? Zach?" The old man asked in cheerful introduction.
"Oh hello uncle. How are you?" he asked knowingly.
"I am fine dear and you?"
"Terribly busy and tired because of this business of mine" he replied.
The old man chuckled "Keep it cool dear have some fun sometimes."
"You know I can't uncle my business is getting even wider. It reached 20 countries now" he informed.
"Wow impressive! That good huh?"
"Of course uncle." he paused a second.
"Uncle why don't you retire from your work? I wanted you here. You can stay in my place. I'm always wondering why you're keeping yourself in that Seabourn ship when you can live with me" he reasoned.
"Don't be silly Zach. You knew I love this work of mine as you love yours. And I wanted to travel all around the world. Actually we're in the Palopians right now and it's really beautiful in here, the islands were breath taking."
"Yeah, definitely. I've been there remember?"
"Oh yeah I forgot" he chuckled and paused. "Zach can you do me a favor?" his tone became serious.
"Of course whatever it is. Just blurt it out uncle" he waited.
"I need you to help someone. She really needs help and my heart clenches so hard seeing her suffer." He paused.
"Her, you mean it's a girl, a woman?" he asked oddly.
"Yeah a young woman, she just arrive here in the ship a week ago. Only heaven knows where she's from. She scaped from the grasp of her cruel uncle. She suffers from violent abuses cause she got some contusion around her arms and you won't believe it she run and arrived here barefooted. Hey are you still there Zach?"
"Yes, I am listening uncle" he said coldly.
"Her parents died from a car accident when she was ten and no relatives except his uncle. Oh she's really poor Zach, she came here penniless. She just sneaked in here. I have this feeling that she don't deserved this place and that she's not yet safe. Well you know, she don't deserve to be a dishwasher." The old man stopped and laughed.
"God! why did it sounds like a machine dishwasher? Oh forgive my harsh words. She just wash dishes here and I can't bear to see her just wash all day" he paused.
Zach on the other line relieving himself from the recent joke of his uncle. Dishwasher? It always makes him happy having time with his uncle. He forgot everything with the presence of his uncle's cheerful voice.
"Okay what do you want me to do uncle?" he asked.
"I am planning on bringing her with me there in Eursia to your supervision of course." He informed persuasively and continued.
Zach remained silent. It was not at all an easy favor to do. Accepting a stranger inside your house to nurture and to provide guidance was a big responsibility for him, knowing that he's independent by his own means. A total bachelor of Ljubljana city. A busy man with extensive business and responsibilities.
"Please Zach I know it's a random thing to ask and heading nowhere but I really wanted to help this girl. Trust me Zach I have this strong feeling that she was trust worthy and in need of acceptance. Oh she's orphaned Zach. I need you to take care of her to keep her. Please Zach trust my judgement about this, I'm old, very old I know when one is real and when's not. I wanted to give her a good life but you know I am old too old. Please my handsome nephew. I can't really keep her here so you're the only option I had because I trusted you so much. She was indeed trustworthy. Please" he pleaded, placing the phone to his left ear.
Zach never wanted to disappoint his uncle to what length it cost.
"Okay, okay I trust you. I'm willing to help her cause that's what, what you wanted. By the way how old is she?" he asked curiously.
"Oh she's only eighteen my dear."
"Oh, too young " he commented. "You think it's a good idea to keep her in here?" he asked, eyes narrowing.
"Like I said my dear handsome nephew that I trust you despite how busy and rude you are." Truth hurts but it's never to Zach.
"Okay then. When are you two coming in here?" he asked.
"Next month dear" he replied.
"Okay I'll look forward to it and I'm excited to see you again after all these years."
"Me too nephew. See you next month then?"
"Yeah sure, bye." he hanged up the phone.
The old man, John, was so relieved. He put his phone down to the table and checked down to Zared. He opened the door silently and headed towards her. He knows that it won't be easy to Zach but he's absolute that Zach will handle it himself. Besides, she's a living creature not a business that needed full attention in a matter of launching ideas. It is much more difficult to handle big businesses than a single woman with vulnerabilities.
"Poor kid" he spoke silently and covered Zared a thick blanket to cover her up from the cold. Who was sleeping peacefully again away from her uncle for the first time. He collected all the dinner box and closed the door silently. Making sure not to make any noise.
THREE WEEKS LATER
"Listen to me Zared my dear, it would be really good to see you live in Eursia and there's a lot of opportunity in there. I am doing this for your sake. I hate to see you all worn out and worked up in here. You should study and earn a good living in there. I will arrange everything and oh actually it's all taken care of. Everything is settled dear. And you would be too far away from your uncle. Zachary will take care of you and I will also support you. Don't worry about anything" he pleaded, doing all his powerful tactics in a matter of persuasion.
Zared thought about it, tempted to say yes but hesitating at the same time. Yes people nowadays shouldn't be trusted easily. But why her heart so felt relaxed about the old man and it's decision? Did he do the same before right? When she stumbled in the ship looking like a pauper. Can she trust his words and his so called nephew? She was terribly confused and afraid of big changes and adjustments.
"Okay this time around I will trust this soft hearted man. Goodness I hope I'm making a good decision" she echoed silently.
She looked up at the man in front of her. Her temporary guardian angel, she thought.
"Okay I will go to Eursia with you as you wish cause I trusted you more than anyone in this world of ours since I don't have someone to rely on. But Paddy why are you leaving me to your nephew?" She complained childishly.
She was now calling her paddy close to papa and he like it, so herself. But truthfully paddy is a wet field plantation for rice. John was the one who asked her to call her paddy and so she did, missing her own father. And it sounded unique and sweet despite its reality. John was aware of it but he didn't mind at all and
it only takes them just weeks to know each other's temperaments and virtues.
"I trusted Zachary my dear you can trust him too. He's just so busy cause he has a business and you knew it reaches 20 countries now. Oh I'm really proud of him."
"What business was it paddy?" she asked curiously.
"It was a private service and security communication Zared and was passed automatically to him when his parents died from ambush. He was then 23 when that happened. He was already working by the side of his father when the incident happened. so it's not really that hard for him to run the business cause he been trained to it. He was very excellent, he run it successfully and even expanded it to triply. Of course by the support of his childhood best friend Lanz. He never leave Zach despite his unpredictable mood. The company named after Zach, it was ZMoore corporation." He explained proudly while smiling up at her.
She stared to him wide eyed he then continued the story.
"I'm the remaining relative of him but I chose to lived and worked like this. He's a billionaire now I don't know why it's not enough for him, though he had it all, powers, looks, luxury and so on, except " he paused.
"Except what?" she asked curiously.
"Except romance, I mean love life. He never stick to one. He got a lot of woman" he chuckled. "But don't worry he knows his limitation and besides you're young so you're safe and you are a special person to me so he knows it. So don't worry about that dear." He gave her a reassuring smile and tap her on the shoulder. "And for the record I am not exaggerating at all about him" he added.
Her heart expanded from his word with delightfulness.
She gave him back the sweetest smile she had. "I trust you paddy " she gave her word with finality.
"Is your birth certificate with you?" he asked.
"Yes paddy I got all the important papers of mine before I flew away."
She's about to leave when he called her again.
"Zared? is your forehead okay now? " he asked worriedly.
"It's healing good paddy " she smiled.
"When we reach Eursia we're going to hospital, okay?"
"Alright Paddy." She went back to the kitchen and rubbed again perpetually.
She made a lot of friends in the ship. But there are circumstances that she felt very pitied and it makes her sick sometimes. Her clothes were worn out and her hands were roughed. She sometimes locked herself into her room and shed all her tears, all her pain, all her hardships. She let it flow in her cheeks cause it helps too much.
There are places where the ship will stopped and they will grabbed the opportunity to get out of the ship for an hour and indulged themselves into buying and touring. Zared didn't at all waste the time and her salary for nothing. She had purchased lots of clothes and some feminine products. It was a progress for her, earn from her hard work and perseverance. She had felt a sense of self-independence, assurance, serenity and confidence within herself. A tough days of her life was left behind at her front was an entrancing new life to begin with. Her small and skinny body was the proof of her previous life. It emblematize poverty and insufficiency but her face was her pride. Invisibly with innocence and deep and yet pure beauty. A rare one that only an exceptional can see.
Luckily, Zared began to gain more fats in her bones and that was a good thing. Her cheeks visibly round and she's gaining her colors back. Her cheeks reddish from the chill brought inside and out of the ship and so was day and night. Passing icy places as they venture at the vastness of the ocean. She ate foods whatever and whenever she wants. She was prettily spoiled by her paddy. She was so excited and also thrilled at the thought of living in Eursia such a big place and where exactly?
Her paper was taken care of including her residency and some important details about her immigration. Zachary had arranged everything so there was no problem anymore. Including the arrangement of her soon to be room. Her sizes was ordered up. So tomorrow was their arrival in Eursia Seaport. Zach was eager to meet his uncle.