Authors: S.E. Myers
Vera nodded in understanding. “Why did you move so much?” Ryleigh answered, “Because of Dad’s work. We would move for his promotions. One time we moved from Texas to Canada. That was an adjustment.” Ryleigh laughed at the memories that came flooding back from that move. Her Dad started saying “eh” a lot during the transition and bought skis so they could learn “how-to” as a family.
Vera then asked, “Did you know that you have grandparents on both sides and your mother has a brother. And,” Vera hesitated. “…you have an uncle.”
Ryleigh looked up from her finger playing. “I have an uncle?”
“Yes, and he will be here tomorrow,” Vera said self-assuredly. “His name is Finar, Fin as he likes to be called, and he will be arriving early in the morning. We are to prepare for his visit.”
“By prepare, I mean, we need to ensure we are up early and ready for his arrival. He is a little more “old school” and expects things to be done a certain way. So, we shall do them that way. And now, it is late, you need sleep.”
Ryleigh hadn’t been told to go to bed at a certain time since she was ten-years old. To hear it again was foreign but, this wasn’t her home yet. Not really. “Yes, of course, I am tired. But, um, Aunt Vera?”
lock my door anymore? I didn’t think I was a prisoner here. Also, I like would like to start running again, as soon as I am able. Is it possible to get more information about trails around here?”
Vera was stunned by how forward Ryleigh was. She’d half expected her to be as meek as her own brother. “Yes, of course, Siegfried will provide you with information on the local hiking – running trails. Also, locking your door was never meant as an action to keep you prisoner. I only wanted to protect you from waking in an environment you are unfamiliar with. I wouldn’t want you stumbling about and getting hurt in unknown territory.”
Ryleigh was relieved. Had Vera answered otherwise, Ryleigh wasn’t quite sure what she would have said next. “Good night Aunt Vera,” Ryleigh reached over for a hug. She needed the embrace. She needed the contact in order to get her through the night. She needed to know there was someone that cared for her. Because inside, she felt utterly alone.
And now for another introduction
Morning came quickly to Ryleigh after a full stomach and a good night’s sleep. Dreams about her parents plagued her through the night. Moments of seeing them alive and then…dead. Reaching out to her. She’d woken up more than once with tears streaming from her eyes. She could also remember a dream about a boy. A boy with the whitest white of hair that imbued her with a sense of calm. A sense of clarity. She didn’t know who he was but she was eager to dream about him again. She wanted to go back to sleep to continue dreaming of him; however, she remembered her Aunt Vera’s warning about being up early for her Uncle Fin.
She woke up about 5:30 a.m. in order to hit the ground running…or rather – walking. She was still in recovery and knew her body was not ready for the physical rigor she would normally put it through. She tested her door handle and it was unlocked as requested. There was also a note pinned to her door with a map of the closest hiking trail. The sun was starting to rise which rendered the outside desert in perfect condition, not too hot, not too cold.
She stretched out the best she could, warmed up, and was on her way. The desert never ceased to amaze her. New Mexico was by far her favorite place on earth. She loved the way the sun created the ultimate canvas with its array of colors. Ryleigh was not an artist, but she could appreciate it just the same. She loved nature. She could almost hear the desert humming in her ears providing music to her soul. The familiar smell of the morning greeted her nostrils as her feet pressed her forward. Because it had been a few weeks for her to experience physical activity, she felt that first sheen of sweat cover her skin within moments. The familiarity of being healthy and in control provided her an internal peace. She yearned for that feeling. It was almost like an addictive drug. Her skin craved the sweat that she would create. Her lungs seemed to wait for the burn.
She followed the map that Siegfried made for her and started thinking about the events that brought her here. It had been only a few weeks since her parent’s funeral. The police were unable to recover her parents bodies from the crash – all she would have to visit at the cemetery were headstones dedicated to her “loving parents.”
At the reading of the will, control of her parent’s estate, which was meager, and guardianship was passed to Aunt Vera. She thought about how surprising it was that she had all these relatives and her parents never once discussed it with her. She wondered why and hoped for answers.
Her body started to protest against the minimal exercise. She could feel that she was pushing it too far. She slowed down her walk listening to her body. Her dad always told her to listen to her body and watch for the signs it was giving her. Thinking about her dad drew sadness from her chest. She pushed it back down, compartmentalizing it, refusing to allow it to surface. She needed to move forward and think about the future. She knew that is what her parents would want her to do.
She needed to listen to her body, and right now it was telling her to turn around and go back or she would regret it. She decided to listen this time. But next time she would push it a little further.
By the time she got back to the house, an hour and a half had past. The sun rose to greet the morning casting its rays shedding light into the once hidden shadowy crevices. Ryleigh took a moment to appreciate her aunt’s mansion in this morning light. The sun brought out the reflective specks in the bricks surrounding the home making it look as if they were made of gold.
Siegfried was there to greet her upon her return, “I trust you found your way around?”
“I did. I appreciated the map. I’m back earlier than I anticipated. I am just not ready to push it.” Siegfried offered her a slight smile, “Breakfast will be served shortly.”
“Thank you,” Ryleigh replied and ran up the stairs to her room to take a shower.
She emerged to the glorious smell of bacon. Although the home was large, the smell of bacon made a beeline path to Ryleigh’s nose. She wanted to head downstairs but decided to check her email. She’d sent Cy an email after seeing him at her parent’s funeral. She missed him terribly. It was hard not to see him every day. He promised he would write her, video chat, keep in touch – they didn’t live too far and by bus – it was only two hours. They both promised to get together as soon as Ryleigh was well enough. Although those promises were made, it seemed that Ryleigh was the only one keeping up her end of the bargain. She hadn’t heard from Cy.
She logged into her messenger services and responded to a few messages from her other gaming friends before logging back off. She hadn’t received anything back from Cy and was disappointed…once again. She wasn’t sure why he wasn’t talking to her and decided that she was going to give him a call before the day was over.
Heading down the stairway a foreign male voice echoed toward her. She entered the dining room and paused looking at a man who was a male replication of her mother. Tall, thin, handsome. He was much taller than her mother, over six feet at least, and his nose curved under slightly like a bird’s beak. His dark chocolate eyes glinted as he extended his hand in a formal greeting.
“…and you must be Ryleigh. I am your Uncle Fin and I am
glad to meet you.” Ryleigh grabbed his hand as he offered it to her and Vera cleared her throat.
“Breakfast is ready and we do not want it cold,” she said snidely. Fin turned and gave Vera a knowing glance, “Yes, you are right. We must eat. I am famished.” Fin laughed as he turned toward the dining room. He immediately took a seat at the head of the table. Vera stood by the chair with a look of surprise on her face. How dare this man enter her home and take over! But, it was the way of things. It was how it was done and she would not argue. Instead, she took a breath, and sat directly across from Ryleigh.
Siegfried entered the dining area with the staff from last night that seemed to appear out of thin air. The smells were mouthwatering and Ryleigh imagined she would need to wipe drool from her chin. “Everything smells amazing!” Ryleigh complimented.
“Yes, it does,” admired Fin. “Your Aunt Vera has to make sure that everything is perfect, including the eggs that are served in this household.” Taking a bite of bacon, “Right, love?” he asked.
“Yes,” agreed Vera. “Perfect.” Although she appeared to smile, her eyes conveyed a deeper message that Fin could only understand.
Breakfast proceeded as normal and after the dishes were cleared, the new family retired to the living room. Ryleigh wondered who this uncle was that was now part of her new life.
Fin stared at Ryleigh, thinking to himself how much she resembled his sister, her mother. Drawing breath, he apologized, “Ryleigh, I am so sorry that until now we have had no contact. But…your mother and father wanted it that way. They wanted no part of this kind of life.” Fin gestured towards the house. Ryleigh was confused. Why would her parents not want money in their lives? She thought maybe they wanted to make it on their own. Her dad was a contractor and her mom stayed at home - she thought they did pretty well. Interrupting her thoughts Fin said, “I know you must be wondering what is going on and why I am here…” He drew closer to her placing his hand on her knee, “…but, I must reassure you that we want nothing but the best for you.” Ryleigh’s heart started to race and she felt a little more than uncomfortable.
A pulling sensation emanated from the where Fin placed his hand. Ryleigh looked at her aunt who was sitting across from her calmly. Ryleigh started to panic and grabbed Fin’s hand. “Fin!” Vera barked. Fin removed his hand and Ryleigh started to breathe a little more easily. “Please, please excuse me,” Ryleigh said standing up from the couch. She felt as if she were going to lose the breakfast she just consumed. Barely making it to the bathroom on time, she wretched violently. Ryleigh thought her internal organs were going to come lose from the amount of vomiting she did.
Gently at the door Vera called to her, “Ryleigh, are you okay?” Ryleigh leaned her forehead onto the seat of the cool porcelain toilet knowing that it was clean enough to eat your lunch from. “Yeah, I’ll be okay. Just, uh, give me a minute. I think I overdid it this morning.” But even as the words spilled from her mouth, she knew it wasn’t true. She knew that there was something more in the works here. And she was going to find out what it was exactly.
After Ryleigh’s vomiting episode, Fin and her aunt vanished into the study that doubled as Vera’s office. Returning to the living room, Ryleigh stared out the large picture window at the picturesque landscape. Had the accident not happened, she would be home hanging out with Cy. Who she needed to call, desperately. With Vera’s home separated from the surrounding community, there didn’t seem to be anyone her age for her to connect with. Ryleigh wasn’t sure what the rules and limits were without incurring the wrath of Siegfried. She had a feeling he didn’t like her.
Voices rose from behind the dark heavy door. The deep baritone of her uncle resonated through the wood. Vera’s quiet undertones barely audible. This was her new family. Family. More than her parents. What a strange concept.
She’d always been jealous of other kids growing up. Around holidays, birthday’s, gatherings, she would wonder what it would or could be like to have family other than her parents. Now that these relatives found her, she didn’t know how to feel. Betrayed? Did her parents betray her? How could they have segregated themselves from their own blood? Having craved family her entire childhood – grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles – Ryleigh was disappointed. She felt guilty for allowing these feelings to surface. How could they have excluded this side of family from her? She’d always felt so lonely. And now, she wouldn’t have to. Would she?
Interrupting her thoughts, the door to the study opened abruptly and Fin stormed out. “You mind what I said Vera. You mind it or you will be on the other side.” Vera watched him walk out the front door. Vera brushed her hands down the front of her jeans and Ryleigh could see her face that was just moments ago darkened with anger, soften as she walked towards Ryleigh.
“What was that about?” Ryleigh asked.
“Nothing, really. It’s your uncle, being your uncle,” her aunt said unconvincingly.
“Is it about me?” Ryleigh had an overwhelming sense that it was. Vera raised a perfectly waxed eyebrow. “No. It’s not,” Vera said unconvincingly. “Even if it were, it wouldn’t be anything for you to worry about. At least – not right now.” And with that ominous ending, Vera turned and walked out of the room.
New year, new school
Before Ryleigh knew it, time blinked away even more quickly. The days became cooler turning the season to fall, which meant starting a new school. Again. Ryleigh was not looking forward to starting another new year - her senior year at that.
Although she didn’t have many friends at her old school, she’d looked forward to knowing the same people as before. This school year would be even harder for her. The social niches and cliques that had been formed since freshman year didn’t have room for any outsiders. She expected to end the school year as she would begin it. New. Unknown. Unbelonging.
Ryleigh spent hours attempting to convince her aunt to allow her to be home school for this final year; however, Vera felt it necessary for Ryleigh to integrate herself into the teenage social order. Ryleigh needed to “socialize” herself. She’d spent hours on the computer gaming, chatting, and reading instead of interacting with real people.