Chapter 8: Death Did Us Part
Next few weeks were a series of Andre coming to Carter Manor or Genevieve and I going over to Andre’s house. Andre was thoughtful, sweet, very loving and caring. We would spend countless sunsets sitting in his garden marveling at the beauty of nature and talking about trivial things. On other occasions we would walk around his huge library and discuss books. If not Andre, Caroline would be the one spending time with me, entertaining me quite a bit with her sweet personality layered with childishness which was polar opposite to her brother’s. There was no moment of boredom in my life since the night I had come across Andre on my journey to Hollowlyn.
Meanwhile the mystery man from the night of the party at Andre’s house talked to Genevieve, and tried to entertain her somewhat on account of the fact that Caroline and Andre usually tended to me, leaving Genevieve to feel neglected which he noticed very well. He was present a considerable number of times during our visits to Andre’s, and on one such occasion Caroline introduced him to us as her and Andre’s cousin, Vincent. Well that divulged some part of the mystery, but the man was still very much an enigma to me, and I had a feeling that it was not very different a case for Genevieve either.
Vincent rarely sent a glance my way, but when he did, the way he looked at me; the intensity in his eyes stirred me to the very core. He kept to himself at most times, and talked no more than necessary, polite did not seem to be his cup of tea but he was not impolite in the least. Usually his interactions were confined to Caroline. They seemed to share a special bond. The two would be seen bickering, laughing, running around and teasing each other. Sometimes he would talk randomly to Genevieve and even more rarely to me. He was keeping a certain distance from me, but I could conjure up no reason as to why despite spending a considerable number of hours mulling over the same question.
Vincent intrigued me, but the curiosity got buried under the layers of calm and joy that encircled me when spending relaxed time with Andre, or at least that was what I was trying to fool myself into believing even though deep down I knew it was just a delusion.
A week had gone by since the time I had last seen Andre. He was gone out of town on account of some urgent government business. Over the period of his absence, I had missed his charming personality around me a lot. I felt at unease without him, such that I was currently sitting on his bed in his room waiting for him to return. Surprisingly neither Caroline nor Vincent was home. An elderly maid had let me in upon my arrival, and was currently working around. Perhaps Vincent was out hunting; he seemed to do that a lot, and Caroline went along him. I was just getting in to the mode of making a long mental list of possibilities and reasons for the absence of Caroline and Vincent, when a man came barging into the room, bringing along the feel of urgency in the air. I had only seen the man in question once before when Vincent had handed him his bow and quiver at the party. Without a word he waved a letter in front of me, which I took hold of in utter confusion. Saying or doing no more, he left. Without any further ado, I opened the cylindrical container and pulled out the scroll. Unrolling the parchment I scanned through the text inked in on the surface.
The moment I read the letter, the picture of happiness that I formerly had in my mind shattered to pieces. Anxiety, fear, worry and concern embraced me eagerly into their arms. ‘Andre has met an accident’, Vincent’s words kept ringing in my head as I ran out of the room to look for the man who had hand delivered me the letter. I frantically ran around the house, looked into every room, every corner, but found not a single trace of his existence. It was as he had vanished into the thin air.
I was onto my third round of searching the house for him when he out of nowhere stepped behind me, his booming voice met my ears, startling me.
“Are you alright, Ms. Black? Do you require anything?”
“Yes, I want to go to wherever Mr. Ozera is.”
“I’m sorry Ms. I have no idea where Mr. Ozera is. I was only bestowed upon with the task to deliver you the letter and stay around for your protection; that is if you wish to stay in the Ozera residence. If you harbor the desire to return to Carter Manor, I will be happy to escort you there.”
With this he turned on his heels and left. I was once again alone, gripped in the firm claws of anxiety accompanied by fear.
It was safe to say I had no idea how long had passed since the moment the news of Andre’s accident came crashing on me. My routine was constituent upon sitting in Andre’s bed waiting for some news, dwelling in the thoughts of worst possibilities for the future, forcing down a few bites of food every now and then on the ever increasing insistence of the elderly maid, and drifting in and out of the nightmare filled sleep.
Sounds of hooves clicking on the dirt, horses neighing, and feet shuffling snapped me out of yet another horrifying spell of sleep. I ran to the window to find the sight of carriages, horses and men entering the borders of Ozera property. Picking up the hem of my dress I ran, as fast as I could, out of the building into the garden where the party had come to a stop. The first thing I saw was Vincent dressed all in black, jumping off his horse. Next, my eyes land upon a crying and hysterical Caroline getting out of the carriage and running inside the house, paying me no heed. Men unloaded a wooden box from the carriage and laid it on the ground next to where Vincent stood. On second look the horrific realization dawned upon, me it was no ordinary box, but a coffin.
No. No. No. It could not be. My worst nightmare could not be unfolding into reality right in front of my very eyes, but Vincent’s pained expression, the hooded eyes he looked at me with, the coffin and Caroline’s state told another story; one I desperately wanted to be told was not true.
Building his courage brick by brick, his struggle evident in his eyes, with steeled resolve Vincent crossed the few steps that separated us. Looking me straight in the eyes ,he said those three words that had haunted my dreams for past few days, and all I could do was grab his collar and bury my face into his chest and cry and cry while he placed his arms around me.
His words hung heavy in the air, along with the sorrow, grief and pain.
“Andre is dead.”