Marianne sighed heavily, pacing the room unendingly with her arms crossed .
"How long are we going to stay at this trashy motel. We've been here for days and there's still no clue about where Maria and Leon might be," she complained, brows narrowed in aggravation.
Samuel rolled his eyes at her rant. He too, was finding everything frustrating, but he didn't need Marianne pointing out the obvious.
"Can't you just be patient, my friend is working on their whereabouts," he hissed, taking a long gulp of his scotch.
"Well he works pretty darn slow, if you ask me. We've been here for almost a week and nothing," she murmured under her breath, pouting in the process.
"Shut the fuck up!" He shouted, fuming, particles of saliva flying through the air.
Marianne slightly jumped at the sudden outburst, swallowing hard as she eyed an angry Samuel.
"The point is, we will not stop until we find your sister, and I assure you, we will find her," he punctuated, gaze narrowed on Maria while he pulled out a cigarette and lit it.
Marianne rolled her eyes and plopped down on the bed, forcing her eyes shut while her mind drifted to anything that would get her thoughts off things. Her thoughts wandered back to when she was eight years old.
Everyone was seated at the small dining table, ready to say grace before they dug into their thanksgiving meal. Marianne and Maria was seated beside each other, their parents at both ends while their grandparents were on the opposite side.
"Maria honey, would you like to bless the table before we begin?" Julia had asked, a proud smile painted on her face.
Maria smiled at the request. "Of course mommy."
"Could I say it too?" Marianne asked, beaming for a reply.
"Some other time honey, Maria will do it today," Julia said, merely shrugging her off while she bowed her head for the impending prayer.
Maria began to pray, everyone's head bowed with smiles on their faces, seemingly in awe at the words that came out of the small child's mouth. She was so confident and intelligent in her words aimed at God, her requests to him so genuine.
Marianne watched beneath her eye lids, the expressions on everyone's face and she immediately wished the room would light up like that when she opened her mouth, but unfortunately, every time she did, she was immediately hushed for saying impolite things or for saying things without relevance. Whilst Maria on the other hand was always praised and adored for doing the right thing, for winning trophies, for getting good grades.
As Marianne glared at her sister with mounting envy, she knew that they were nothing alike, regardless of the fact that they were identical. They might have dressed in the same pretty pink dress – that Maria chose – and hairdos in pretty little ponytails, but Marianne knew none of it was her.
She tried to fit in, sometimes tried to do what Maria did so she would be noticed, but it seemed she was only a reflection and Maria was the only one standing in the mirror.
Marianne suddenly opened her eyes, met up with the plain white ceiling while she further pondered on the memory. After the thanksgiving dinner, things had only gotten worst when it came to the comparison with the twins. She had only wanted to experience belonging to a group of people who loved her, but sadly, that was never the case, in her eyes.
A tear slipped from her eye, but she quickly brushed it away and buried her face in the pillow before Samuel saw anything.
Maria had never seen the stars so bright and so abundantly clear. The absolute beauty of it reminded her of Vincent Van Gogh's painting – starry night, but the difference was, this was not a masterpiece portrayed on canvas, it was a masterpiece expressed in reality. She smiled at the sheer beauty of it; a blanket sitting over the lake, adorned with tiny crystals and a moon that blessed the bed of water with a gentle glow.
Her smile broadened when Leon pulled her closer to him, his warmth radiating to her skin, making her feel warm as well as more secured as they huddled together on the chair on the porch.
"Are you ready to go inside?" he asked.
Maria shook her head. "Nah, I'll stay for awhile longer. It's not everyday I get to see such a beauty," she said, smiling up at him
"Fortunately, I can't say the same" he said, eyes settled on her, darkening with a newly formed lust.
Maria smiled cheekily, blushing as she raised her head and met the passion to his lips. They continued to explore the sultry taste of each other's mouth, igniting within them a flame that burned deep and wild, started by the match of desire.
"Mmm," she groaned against his mouth, slightly pulling apart while she smiled against his lips.
She gazed into his dark eyes, seeing the want which expressed itself clearly, slowly transitioning to unsated need.
But Leon knew that however needy he was, the night would prove as a resort to satiate his desires. He gave her a gently peck on the lips, before turning his gaze to the scenery. He couldn't resist smiling at what he was seeing and what he had felt during the past days. They had made the best out of the passing hours, exploring the outskirts of the house, and each other's body. It seemed they couldn't get enough of each other, as if making up for the years they missed out on.
Though Maria wished the days would be at a standstill, so they would have more time for themselves, she knew that they would eventually have to return to the bitter surrealism of the world.
"What if Sam and Marianne are looking for us right now?" Maria asked as she eased into Leon's embrace, cuddling more into him and the warmness of the blanket.
He breathed in the freshness of the night. "Then they'll look until they tire but they'll never find us."
"I hope so." She really did, but somehow feared, that wasn't going to be the case.
"I can't believe my own sister would do this to me," her voice grew small, saddened by the magnitude of her own words.
He gave her a gentle squeeze. "It's her loss for missing out on such a wonderful person like yourself."
She gave a brief smile, regarding his words. "I know she was always jealous, but I never once made her feel less when we were kids," she softly said, thinking back to when they were children.
It had been their ninth birthday party and everyone was in the backyard, running around and enjoying themselves. Maria was talking with her friends, while Marianne had been sitting silently on a step by herself, watching them.
She never could understand her sister's distance from people.
"Hey, come over here!" Maria shouted, smiling brightly.
"Your sister is such a bore and the frown she always wear is so ugly," a girl scoffed, giving Marianne an unwelcoming once over.
"Hey, she's my sister and I'm right here," Maria hissed in displeasure.
The girl shrugged nonchalantly. "Just stating the facts." She walked off with the other girls leaving Maria in that spot.
She walked towards Marianne whose frown deepened upon seeing her sister.
"Hey, are you OK?" she asked, sitting beside her.
"I'm fine," came the bitter reply that left Maria confused. Marianne then got up and left, leaving Maria to wonder if she had overheard what the girl had said.
She knew now that Marianne was maybe disgusted my her then and that disgust had slowly gotten worst as they grew up. She sighed a resigned sigh, getting up from the chair.
"Let's go to bed," she told Leon who immediately smiled as he bounded from the chair.
"Let's," he winked.
"Do you think this is it?" Hannah asked Julia as they both stared at the huge mansion ahead.
"It's rich enough to be, but there's only one way we can find out," Julia said, reaching for the handle to open the car door.
Hannah grabbed her hand. "Are you sure we should do this?"
Julia turned to face her. "My baby could be in that house right now, I'd like to finally breathe a sigh of relief upon seeing her."
They had spent days in search of Leon's California home, checking every possible source that would give them a lead. They had both thought the house would be located in the heart of the city, or even a penthouse, but their information had taught them that, that was strictly not the case.
Leon, alongside his mother, resided in a mansion on the outskirts of town, only susceptible to little media attention.
Now here they were, finally at their destination, relief pressing on the dam in their throats, waiting for the moment when it would flood both their bodies with unexplainable joy. Julia like no other, was the eager one, anticipation profound while she waited anxiously for her answers.
It had burned a hole in her bank account with traveling and other expenses, but she knew that it would all be worth it when she was finally assured Maria was safe. Right now, she was hanging on to hope, because she had no other way of knowing whether or not her child was safe. Her phone had been off for days, a conversation of reassurance restricted because of such, but before her was a house that she hope would quell her desire for answers.
"What if all this was just exaggeration on our part? What if Sam is back in New York while we're here worrying for no reason?" Hannah asked as a thought came to her, one she thought needed to be expressed aloud.
Julia scoffed, evidently finding her words ludicrous. "You saw how Sam reacted when he heard Maria's location. That mad man will stop at nothing to hurt Maria," she pointed out firmly, eyes never wavering from Hannah's.
"Fine, but you can go ahead. I'm sure Maria doesn't want to see me," her voice fell a tad and so did her eyes as disappointment made itself known within her.
Having no words to protest against her declaration, Julia only sighed while pushing the door open.
"OK, I'll be back," she said, grabbing her purse and moving towards the entrance of the impressive structure.
She rang the doorbell, the door opening seconds after doing so, welcoming a tall man around her age, dressed in a robe while his blue eyes analyzed her cryptically. Julia also noticed the uncanny resemblance he held to Leon.
"Hello, how may I help you?" the man asked, his assessment of the stranger thorough while he awaited an answer.
Julia cleared her throat before answering, straightening her shoulders in an attempt to look just as intimidating as the man before her.
"I'm –" her sentence fell short when a woman approached in a matching robe, a messy bun knotted at the top of her head, while her fresh face held not a single blemish. Julia immediately knew who she was, she had seen her in pictures Maria had shown her once. In fact, they were both on those pictures, she realized and suddenly realization dawned heavily.
Her mouth parted and then they closed, words unable to form in that instant.
"May we help you dear?" The woman asked, batting her lashes while a smile played at her perfectly curved lips.
"I'm Maria's mother, is she here?" Julia watched as the couple looked at each other, surprise on their faces, while they looked back to Julia.