I awoke to the sound of shuffling around and the creek of my window and a flare of annoyance dispersed around my veins. I grabbed the closest object which was thankfully just a pillow and lunged it at who I assumed was Leila at the same time as letting out a string of colourful words.
“Not a morning person,” It was not Leila; she did not own a voice of such. It was the woman. I had almost forgotten about her. I rolled over to face the sight of the woman pushing herself out of the window and into the sea.
“What are you doing?” I was genuinely worried.
“I can swim.” I shaked my head and yawned. This woman was crazy. She looked towards me and smiled.
“D’ya remember the first time?” And she speaks nonsense.
“No. What first time?”
“You, me...? I thought you would have worked it out by now. Hmmm... Never mind. I must leave,” she put her other leg through the window, “You shouldn’t have saved me. I.. I don’t like owing people.”
“Stop!” I threw another cushion at her and made my way up, “I paid for you so this is why you need to stay.”
“I never asked you to...”
“Stay! I’m sorry about yesterday! We can start again.”
She waved and then dived into the flaring ocean. It was a fairly nice day. The seas were so still that I could see my reflection in the water and the wind was elsewhere. Perhaps the woman could survive. Perhaps.
For the next hours I dwelled on the fact that I could have stopped her from leaving. But then I knew she would not be so easily swayed. My uncle had told me that once a human was set on a descion, once their soul gave no room to other opinions, no one else could make them change their mind. To keep them and force words and thoughts in their mouths would make them miserable. They must change on their own accord. There is only so much one can do.
Dove tried to ask where she had gone but I simply ignored him. I did not need for him to rub his achievements in my face, especially when it was so clear he had won. I waited each day for the sight of her, in the hope that if anything my money had not been wasted in complete vain. Maybe I should not have meddled with someone else’s fate. Maybe she did not need saving.
So I drew with a piece of charcoal Leila stole for me. It was dark that night and the wick had already long burnt out. I could not see what I drew, but I could feel. The lines and curves blew out of my fingers and onto the page like a rider guide the horse. My bodily form was simply a vessel for something greater and something so much more. I let my mind guide me to oblivion and back. I didn’t care that my hands and clothes were now stained black and my body was pleading me to sleep. I needed to know something and I was trying to tell myself.
It had happened before in the inn. I found a boy dead by the river past the graveyard but I could not quite remember who had killed her. In the night I felt urged to do something I had never done before, to draw. However much I tried to fight it in the end, I drew a cat and a man, something I later realised to be the murderer of the poor boy.
Waiting for the light to come was a real test of my endurance. I paced across my room like a lion until I realised there were sleeping servants underneath my rooms, at which point I resorted to a quieter tiptoeing. At last dawn breaks and I whisper quiet word of thanks to my uncle and run over to my drawing. It is, it is a man, a young man with loose clothing and a scarf wrapped around his face.
The realisation dawned upon me. The man. How could I forget? The Stranger. How could I forget? I chanted the words to myself as I took the time to process my stupidity. But then.. That must mean that. Suddenly everything clicked. How the woman acted as if we had met previously, how she acted like someone I had seen before. Every movement, every radical action was a repeat of when I had first entered this hellhole. The woman was the Stranger. The stranger was the woman. Somehow. I would remember this time. I would remember. I would remember. I would remember. I would remember.
The door creaked open. I forgot.
“Amara!” sniffed Leila, eyes blotched red as she fell into my arms. I was too surprised to move her out and my arms fell limp. What was I meant to do? Comfort her? How? Where were my arms supposed to go? Should I act sad too when I did not know what to be sad about?
So I did the only thing I knew, “There is.. There is a story of a girl who lost her way from home. She travelled far and wide to try and find somewhere but she never settled anywhere,” Leila let out another sob, this was obviously not helping, “But then she found her friends and her life. She found her happily ever after.”
I layed Leila’s head on my lap and brushed her bright ginger hair from her freckled face. She was young too young.
“I do not know why tears fall, Leila, but I know you will tell me when you need to. Just remember, whatever happens that there is always me, there is always a friend for you. Understand?” Leila nodded in her extravagant way and sat up.
“Now, would you like to tell me what is wrong?”
Immediately, she looked down. At first I thought it was out of guilt, but then I realised that she was looking at a pair of black and blue bruises poking out from underneath her white uniform. I pulled the flimsy fabric up, to reveal a picture of wounds. Someone had gone out of their way to hurt the poor teenager, right where no one would see. And this someone didn’t know what was coming their way. I grabbed my dagger and the thickest cloak I could find to hide my nightclothes.
“Who was it?” I asked with warning, “Who did it?”
“I can’t tell you.” She shaked her head in exaggeration, it was a habit of hers.
“Where is Anne Marie?”
“I.. I don’t know.”
“Then tell me, because by the God’s they deserve a lesson.” I crossed my arms, fuming in unfeigned anger and hatred.
“It was him.” She made the gesture half-heartedly and automatically I sprinted to where I was needed.
“Miss. How may I be of assistance at this early hour?”
Dove sat in a wooden chair and desk with a pen and clean white sheet of paper. I sat down at the chair without invitation and tapped at the floor, impatiently.
“The last day, today. The last day in a very long voyage. I hope your travels have been enjoyable.”
He spoke statements yet not once he did not look up to me. I was at my breaking point, each scratch of the pen and smalltalk adding to my already pounding headache.
“Dove!” He finally looked into my eyes, at which point I hoped he saw the threat and the anger.
“Oh. Amara, I must ask you to leave.”
He was mocking me, at such an hour, he was mocking me. So I would fight fire with fire, and by God, there would be a bigger fire than all these rich brats have ever seen.
“Under act 5 of the Harsew chronicles, one must never hurt their employees.”
“Why quote such lengthy texts. A woman should not bother with such bores.”
“I am no woman.”
“And under act 5, if anyone hurts/harms/exploits their employees for whatever reason they are to be trialled and if found guilty spend the rest of their horrible lives burning in some terrible prison cell.”
“And.. Miss, what are you hinting at?”
Laughing coldly I continued, “And defence in name of ones self and another is also permitted under act 9 of the Harsew Chronicles. But I will give you a chance, why? I love a good story.”
I could see him smirk through his reflection in the mirror, “ So do I. You first, miss. Who are you? You have no records, no passport, no birthplace, not childhood. Mystery much.”