The weeks have passed in the same manner a snail might pass a boulder. Painstakingly, while feeling like it's never going to get anymore. Now instead of wincing as I walk by in the hall the maids look right through me like I'm a ghost and, strangely, I don't mind in the least. I feel like anyone who's ever loved me has abandoned me, and without my usual strength it's like I don't exist. I'm starting to wonder if I ever even existed. Maria, even though she was always so sweet, has started to assume a condescending air whenever I look up at her with my empty eyes. I haven't seen Clarence in a month, he left to go visit his family for the first time in years, and seeing Alistair is out of the question. Not because I wouldn't be able to leave, I could walk right past Papa himself and he wouldn't even notice, but because I don't want Alistair seeing me in this state. I have never been like this before, but then again, I have never had a parent die before.
I slowly lean down to put on my slippers. After staring absent-mindedly at my reflection for a while, I pick up my hairbrush and stroke it through my tangled mane. A bowl of water has been lying on my bureau for a week, the water getting more stale by the day. Not caring about the drowned fly that floats around the edge of the bowl, I skim a layer of dust off the top with my fingers and flick it out the window. I splash the water on my face and gasp as I register the cold. My nails are too long for comfort and I take a moment to chew them off before slowly remembering what I was doing. It's strange having my brain wake up again. My though process is slow and clumsy and I have to coax my mind awake to tell me what to do. I don't look that bad once I freshen myself up, just a bit blank and emotionless. Quietly, without an escort, I sneak outside my door. Marveling at myself, I let my feet lead me to the door of my dressing room. I close the door quietly and hurry to open my wardrobe. My hands skim over my heavy, dark winter clothing and rest on a light blue summer dress. Feeling childish for some reason, I pull out the dress and a flash of pain shoots through my heart. It was my mother's favorite summer dress, the one she always took on family trips when I was younger, the one she gave me two summers ago. She said she was getting too old for dresses like such, but thought it would look beautiful on me. I had thanked her and stuck it at the back of my closet, where it had lain ever since. Studying it's faded spots and wrinkles, I press it against my nose. Disappointed, I put it back down. Of course, after years of lying in the bottom of my closet, it wouldn't still smell like her. Still, it reminds me of Mama and I set it aside as I shed my nightgown like an old skin. When I struggle into the dress and turn to the mirror, my mouth drops in shock. From nearly every angle I look like my deceased mother, from the golden curls to the slender ankles peeking out from underneath the hem of the dress. If I didn't know as a fact that she was dead, I would have though it was Mama staring open-mouthed at me from behind the wooden frame.
"Don't lie to yourself," Papa says from behind me.
I startle a bit. I hadn't heard him come in. A shadow of a beard is creeping across his jaw, his eyes are rather sunken. He looks even worse than me and I wince when he approaches. He tips his head at me.
"You aren't anything like your mother. I thought you weren't such a fool as to think anything otherwise."
My arms are stiff at my sides, my tongue lies useless in my mouth. Right now I feel as if I am in a room with a dangerous stranger rather than my father.
"You're more like me than her," Papa says.
His eyes glint as he turns into something I find unrecognizable.
"And I hate you for it."
He won't look at me, but it doesn't matter, I am shaming myself. Every second we stand in silence I am resisting the urge to rip the blue dress from my body and fling it across the room, but instead I just softly run my fingers over the careful pleats while my eyes stay trained on the ground.
"Papa," I whisper.
He refuses to meet my eyes, to even dominate me, as he has always done.
My father, my strong, composed father lifts his head, his crumpled face shattering me into a million pieces.
"I am no one's father. I am Mr. Bates to everyone, especially you. Clarence is waiting for you outside the gates. Take your things. You're leaving."
My breath leaves me and I am rendered speechless. My feet only start to move as Papa-Mr. Bates- begins towards me, and they move in terror. Why... what have I ever done wrong? What have I ever to done to make him ashamed of me? I have only ever followed his example...
I run into the dressing room only to take a few items of clothing. My mind is so distorted that only when I have made it to the middle of the courtyard, suitcase in hand, that I realize that my clothing choice was ridiculous. I had grabbed nothing but four dresses from the wardrobe that kept my fanciest dresses and a winter coat. There are no dinner parties when you're living on the street. Strangely, this realization is what causes me to cry, sobs shaking my body so hard I nearly drop my suitcase. As promised, Clarence is waiting outside the gates, his pale hair a beacon of moonlight. I nearly fall in relief. As he takes my suitcase in hand I turn around, hoping for a last glimpse of my father. All there is is Maria, smiling smugly from the second story window, waving like she knows this day would come.
It's nearly dark and we're still walking. I don't recognize this place.
"Where are we?" I whimper.
Clarence hasn't spoken a word to me since we have left. It's no surprise that he explains no further when he says,
"My father's house."
I ask no more questions. When the sun just disappears under the rooftops we arrive at a large gray building that Clarence stops under. He knocks once. When, five minutes later, no one answers he knocks again.
"Hello?" he calls.
Silence. He turns and mutters under his breath,
"He's probably lying drunk somewhere."
"You father?" I ask, surprised.
I would never guess that the man who raised Clarence would be an alcoholic,
"No," Clarence replies as finally, the locks on the door start to click.
"My brother," he says as the door swings open and Alistair's familiar face brings itself to light.