Authors: S.E. Myers
The large picture window across the room from the doorway was surrounded by a built-in bench lined with soft pillows.
Siegfried set down Ryleigh’s luggage, “Please, take your time and rest for a bit. I will be back to assist with putting away your things.” He gestured toward the bed.
Ryleigh grimaced, “I’m really not that tired.” Although she was exhausted, she didn’t want anyone telling her that she needed to take a nap. She wasn’t a two-year old.
Siegfried held his hand to stop her from speaking any further, “Miss Vera says you need to rest, I suggest you heed her commands.”
Ryleigh was a little taken aback. Siegfried left and pulled the door behind him. She heard a latch close and stood there for a moment before walking to the door. Locked.
Anger welled from the pit of her stomach and she pulled on the door handle. Ryleigh felt like calling out and screaming to be let out that instant but stopped herself. Instead, she stood still attempting to absorb the moment. It was then thought she felt something in the room with her. The air surrounding her felt electric. She noticed the hairs on her arms standing on end.
Turning around she closed her eyes not wanting to face what might be there. Her breaths came sharp and fast and she started to feel as if she were going to be sick. Heart beating near through her chest she slowly started to open her eyes. Nothing. There was nothing there. She could feel as if something was standing right in front of her. Hesitantly, she reached out her hand and felt nothing but air.
She shook her head, scolding herself for being so silly as she walked to the bed. Throwing herself back into the mattress, she stared at the canopy admiring the pattern of leaves above her looking like autumn foliage. It was strangely comforting. She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath trying to clear her head of all that had happened in the past few days. An overwhelming sense of sadness resonated from her chest and threatened to flow from her eyes but she shook it away. There was something that she was missing. An aunt arriving out of nowhere, a new place to live, surviving a wreck that decimated her parents, and now things strange and unusual happening to her. She closed her eyes. She needed to think about everything that was happening and try to gain control over her emotions. It was only a few hours since she left the hospital and she was already imprisoned in a person’s house that she did not know or understand. An aunt. Family. At least she had that someone, for now.
She closed her eyes and drifted to sleep.
Siegfried ventured downstairs to report back to Vera. He thought about how remarkable it was that Ryleigh looked just like her father. Siegfried had served the Simmons family for generations. This generation however was a little surprising. The children have come few and far in-between over the last few years and so far, Ryleigh was the only child that has been around for the past thirty years. None of the other members of the family have reported having children. Vera was not happy about that at all. Their children were their greatest asset. It was how they carried on their power. Or, extracted it. Vera needed Ryleigh. She needed her very much.
Siegfried reported back to Vera interrupting her thoughts, “Madam, she is in her room and secured.” Vera was very pleased with how things were progressing. “Very well, you are dismissed.” Siegfried turned and walked toward his room relieved that his day was over for the moment. He resigned to the quietness of his room.
Vera entered her study off the main foyer. Her office was lavishly decorated in the most expensive décor money could buy. It was classy and chic. Nothing but the best. Mahogany was the trade of the wood in the house; it was her favorite and was cleansed easily.
Vera contemplated her next moves. She knew that family would start coming out of the woodwork. Picking up the phone she dialed an all too familiar number, “Yes Fin, I have her.” The only words that she spoke before hanging up the phone.
Vera didn’t understand why she felt so nervous. She had been preparing for this moment for the past few weeks. Since she’d received word that Tom and Adrianne had a child she knew this day would come. Calling Finar was a necessary evil.
Pressing a button on the intercom, she called Siegfried back into her office once more before retiring him for the end of the evening. “Fin is coming,” she said with a nervous laugh. Siegfried understood what this meant. “Yes madam, I will prepare his rooms and call in the staff.” The staff. The only time that she employed more than Siegfried who’d been with her since she herself was a child.
Siegfried knew the only thing that Vera would ever fear was Finar and his wrath. Finding the child gave Vera an edge that none of the others had or will have. The Elders would want a peek at Ryleigh. The blessed child from a blasphemous marriage.
Vera gave Siegfried a look as if she knew what he was thinking, “I know you are worried about what Ryleigh is, but let me guarantee you that I will have her under control before anyone has time to convince her to be on their side. That includes Tristan and Illeana. I’ve smelled them meddling in my affairs and I will have none of it.” Siegfried nodded in understanding, “They need to know that I am in charge and that I am the one who gets prime rights for this child. I am her guardian after all,” Vera commented.
“Yes, ma’am.” Siegfried turned to make preparations for Finar. He would not be happy. Not happy at all that the child had been found. Now would be the time for a serious power struggle.
“Siegfried,” Vera called after him. “Yes, Miss.”
“Please bring Ryleigh downstairs for dinner.”
“Yes, Miss,” Siegfried answered knowing that this would be the last normal dinner Ryleigh would ever have in her life.
Time for new family
Ryleigh was awake when Siegfried unlocked the door. The long shadows cast on the walls let her know a few hours had past while she was sleeping. After she awoke she found the bathroom connected to her room and was grateful for the familiarity the hot water cascading along her skin gave her.
After her shower, she had waited patiently for the door to open. She wanted answers and would even be willing to wait for them, but for an aunt to be excited to see her and then lock her in her room, was a bit bizarre. The urge to yell, kick, and scream was tempting and Ryleigh could feel
slightly familiar growing in the pit of her stomach - a gnawing urgent sensation beginning to rub her insides raw and set her nerves on edge.
Siegfried walked into the room with an air of someone other than a butler, “Miss Vera requests you downstairs.”
This is what Ryleigh was waiting for. She was waiting for a moment to approach her aunt and get some answers to her long awaited questions. As Ryleigh shuffled past Siegfried she extended her hand to brush his arm and thank him for attempting to show her a bit of kindness.
Siegfried jumped back as if she stung him. “Do not ever touch me madam. Ever,” he said with disgust resonating from his timbre.
Ryleigh’s jaw dropped to the ground in confusion. Stammering an apology, she continued out the door and down the hall to the foyer where she met her Aunt Vera.
Upon seeing Ryleigh, her face broke into a genuine smile. Her long blonde hair was down and looked as if she had walked out of a salon with each strand intentionally placed for a dramatic effect. She’d changed into a trendy pair of jeans, cream colored blouse, and topped the look with red stilettos. She opened her arms wide inviting her in for an embrace, “Ryleigh, how are you feeling? Come here and give your aunt a proper greeting.” Ryleigh needed the affection. The pain she felt was minimal compared to the comfort she needed at that moment. Once she started hugging her, she couldn’t let go. She didn’t want to. She needed to collapse into another human being. She needed to feel needed and loved, and in that one moment, she needed to comprehend all of what happened to her.
Ryleigh collapsed to the ground and began to sob – controlled and quiet. Vera followed her to the floor. As the tears began to flow more freely, the intensity increased and her body began to shake. Vera clutched Ryleigh tighter and continued to hold her wracking body until she was done. Wiping her face with the arm of her sleeve Ryleigh sputtered between sobs, “Thank you, for everything.”
Vera waved her hand toward Siegfried and uttered, “Tissues.” They were in her hands immediately.
Ryleigh leaned into her aunt’s chest. She rested her head against Vera’s right shoulder allowing herself to be held by this woman she didn’t even know and wasn’t even sure that she was related to.
“Come - come my darling,” Vera comforted pulling her up from the ground and leading her into the formal dining area. It was an extremely large room. The table that centered the room seated at least thirty people. Dark wood with golden vines trailing along the sides and legs of the tables with matching chairs. Each chair ornate in its own right. The fabric sparkled with tinted gold and deep chocolate brown patterns reminding Ryleigh of autumn once more. The candelabra lining the center of the table matched the etchings and were also gold with dark brown candles burning. Two places were set toward the head of the table. One at the exact head and one to the right.
Vera took her place at the head and motioned Ryleigh to the other seat. Siegfried pulled and pushed her chair in and then repeated the motions for Ryleigh. She sat as Siegfried pushed her chair in for her a little unsure as this was foreign to her. She hadn’t had anyone ever pull out a chair for her in her life.
Ryleigh was still continuing to compose herself after her outburst, “Aunt…Vera?”
“Yes, my darling,” Vera replied giving Ryleigh room to speak. Vera was prepared to answer all of Ryleigh’s questions. But she kept thinking about needing to prepare for Finar’s arrival and Ryleigh’s emergence.
“I am not quite sure what is going on here. I am just trying to deal with…,” Ryleigh choked on her words for a moment trying to explain to her Aunt Vera the confusion she was feeling. Being in the hospital for a few weeks and then finding out she has family that she never knew about. “…my mother and my father dying, the accident…you. I am not quite sure what is going on here.”
Vera grabbed Ryleigh’s hand squeezing it and looking at her square in the eyes. She had so many things that she wanted to say but could only allow so much information to break through the dam she’d held onto for seventeen years. “Ryleigh, I am your aunt. Your dad and I didn’t get along for many years; however, he still loved me enough to assign me your guardian should anything ever have happened to him or to your mother.” Vera paused watching Ryleigh’s face. At the mention of her parents, Ryleigh forced her eyes shut in an attempt to whisk away the tears that threatened to flow once more. “I want you to know that I have your best interest in mind. We should try and keep things as normal as possible. And by that, I mean school. Friends. There are also some things that we need to discuss that can wait until a later time, but for now, let’s get you strong and back into good health again.”
Ryleigh offered a small smile to acknowledge how grateful she was. All Ryleigh wanted to do was to go back into her room and cry but she knew that she also needed to eat and…she needed to run. She needed to get rid of the gnawing sensation growing in the pit of her stomach with sweat and strength as her father taught her.
The smell of food caught her attention. Her rumbling stomach started giving her fits and she realized exactly how hungry she was. All of a sudden, people, servants appeared, bringing trays of food and setting plates in front of her and her aunt.
Ryleigh’s mouth started watering, “Wow, everything smells so good.”
Vera smiled, “I’m glad. We are having some kind of fancy meal…and I can’t think of the name right now.”
Ryleigh smiled and replied with a slight grin,” That sounds so amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything like this before.” Ryleigh stopped for a moment before reaching for the food in front of her. Looking at Vera, “Would you mind…terribly…if maybe we said some kind of…something? For my Mom and Dad.”
Vera’s face went blank and then softened. “Yes,” Vera cleared her throat, “We could do that.”
Ryleigh grabbed Vera’s hand and closed her eyes hoping her parents were in a happier place. She wasn’t quite sure what to do or say; only that she hoped there was something beyond…this.
“I am sure that your Mom and Dad would have appreciated that.”
Ryleigh smiled at her Aunt Vera and her voracious appetite kicked in. She consumed her meal as if she hadn’t eaten in weeks.
Vera chuckled, “Slow down dear, trust me; this is not going to go anywhere.”
Ryleigh grinned and took another bite of potato, “It’s delicious. I am so hungry right now I could eat an entire cow. The hospital food left something to be desired.” Vera laughed and they continued to enjoy their first meal together.
After dinner Vera took Ryleigh into the drawing room. A roaring fire cast light into the darkness. The drawing room was also as ornately decorated as the rest of the house. Ryleigh was not surprised by this as every room that she entered followed the same extravagant pattern and color scheme.
Vera became very serious and asked Ryleigh, “What do you know about your family, my dear?” Ryleigh looked at Vera puzzled for a moment, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, what do you know about your family? Your mother, your father, your grandparents...”
Taking a deep breath, Ryleigh explained, “I don’t know a whole lot. My mom and dad both said that their parents were dead, and they were only children which is what got them talking and together anyway. The amount of things they had in common. Because I was the only child, not that they didn’t try for more, we did a lot as a family. I didn’t really have a whole lot of friends growing up because we moved around a lot, but we were very close.” Ryleigh could feel the sobs threatening to come back up her throat and she swallowed – hard.