"Not exactly…no." Not knowing quite how to explain why they fled to her place, Catherine decided to go for nondescript and elusive.
"He's gotten a dreadful case of the measles?" Janice popped in hopefully.
"No, that's not quite it…uh, listen-…"
"He's caught influenza? Why that poor, poor despicable creature." Janice trilled out in false regard.
"Wait! I have got an even better one." Fully excited and completely tuned in now. She clasped her hands together and blurted out, "He was out horseback riding when suddenly a field mouse ran into the stallion's line of vision, and the animal completely lost its head and reared it's forelegs in the air. While William, the idiot that he is, fell straight off the horse's back without even trying for the reins because he was so unbelievably stunned by such whimpish behavior from his champion horse. He then rolled down an incredibly steep hill that practically sprung out of thin air and unfortunately hit an obscenely large and jagged rock on the way to an unwarranted, terribly ill-favored stop. He then immediately succumbed to the ever alluring claws of lady unconscious. Then, while having witnessed such a dreadful event unfold right before your very eyes, you panicked and did not know when or how or the whats of the situation and how to handle it. So, you immediately thought of one person, one name that undoubtedly triggered a part in your brains where you knew if you asked this person, which is me by the way, she would know exactly how to solve this drastically, awfully, wonderful turn of events." This last she said sweetly through her pearl white teeth.
Unable to help herself, Victoria burst out into a guffaw of unequalled laughter while her mother stood stalk still from the quick ramblings of her sister's unimaginably silly story.
"Oh, Aunt Janice…" while wiping a stray tear from her eyes, Victoria continued, "that was both the most entertaining and ridiculous story I have ever had the pleasure to have stood through."
"Well, I tried." Janice outwardly sighed and pasted on a brilliant smile. Then in more serious tones, "So, what really happened to old Willy?"
"First off, would you like to hear the long version while we freeze our tushies off, or the considerably shorter one so that all three of us can finally rush into the comforts of your home?" She eyed her aunt with a gleam in her eyes.
"We could do that, or, we could all rush in right now to warmth and hear the short version anyway." Janice beamed her favorite niece with a playful grin.
So, the three little women fled to the kitchen where they immediately started to build a fire at the hearth and gathered round to warm their fingers turned purple from the cold. There, both Victoria and Catherine shared their painfully memorable experience with someone they comfortably called family.
"Why that no good, dirty, son of a bi-…"
"Janice!" Catherine seemed appalled by her younger sister's language. Though as to why, for the life of Victoria or Janice could figure, because fowl language toward William was next to breathing for Janice.
"Well it's true, and you damn well know it."
"Yes, but-…" Both women turned to glare at Catherine.
"Do not even think of defending that bastard." A unison of voices ground out.
"I was not-…" Catherine felt herself reddening in the cheeks.
While they bickered on, gone unnoticed were the beginnings of chirping from various birds, the fading of music the crickets fiddled, and the ever encroaching rays of sunlight seeping through every crack and window pane its pale hands touched.
"Well, it certainly isn't getting any earlier, on second thought…" Janice peered through the curtains that served as a protective piece for her immaculately clear windows, "Mr. sunshine seems to have made an appearance. So, what plans have you two conjured up as to how you will resolve this ditch in the road?"
"Well, I thought that maybe…we could…" then Victoria added in a smaller voice, "stay at…ahem…your lovely abode?" Then immediately amended with "but, of course we will pack our things and leave as soon as this mess is sorted out."
"Nonsense! You'll stay as long as you please, and for an unlimited amount of time if I please."
"Oh! Aunt Janice! I knew you would understand." Victoria gave her aunt one of her most winning smiles.
"But Janice, we couldn't possibly intrude upon you as such-…" Naturally Catherine, the ever polite one had to throw this in.
"Oh Cathy, you old prude! Live a little big sis. Hell! Live a LOT from now on!" Laughter spilled across the room from everyone except a certain very sour-faced woman for having been called a prude. But alls well that ends well: for now.
"Now not another word from either of you, it's high time for bed you hear?" Janice put on her sternest voice even while a slow smile split across her face.
"Yes, mama." Victoria replied in a sing-song voice, then headed up the stairs to her bedroom, the one that has always been reserved especially for her. The room was painted and decorated with Victoria's favorite color, lavender. An eye-catching four poster bed adorned the upper-center of the room with satin sheets and feathered quilt, laced with endless intricate designs of flowers and berries. Milky pale ribbons raced across the skirts of the bed to give it a princess look. Just looking at the sight warmed her down to her toes. "It's silly I know, but whenever I step into this room, I feel like a happy, excited six-year-old again." Victoria said to nobody in particular.
"Did you say something honey?" Catherine had followed her up the stairs to say goodnight, then plop into her own covers after undressing and unfastening the pins in her hair.
As if jolted back to reality, Victoria muttered a quick, "N-nothing mother, just thinking about…actually I'm rather tired, good night mother."
"Are you sure sweetheart?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
Catherine placed a hand on her daughter's shoulder and kissed her goodnight on the cheek. Janice followed suit and after a short while, all three women were locked safely in their own separate rooms.
That night, Victoria dreamed fitfully of quarrels and fists on a rained filled stormy night. She was trapped in the body of a four-year-old version of herself having woken up from the shouts she heard from a slight distance off. She had followed the shrill sounds and the play of light and shadow changing abruptly cast from the barn walls. As she drew closer she could discern two identifiably male shapes in the middle of a heated brawl. She ebbed closer still and got a glimpse of one broad shouldered male in all black drawing a knife against another man's throat he held down on top of a barrel. She could tell neither one of their facial features because the tiny flicker of candle light that lay carelessly on the floor next to the men provided less then sufficient lighting. The four-year-old watched on in part curiosity and part fear at the scene playing itself out in front of her.
"She will never be fooled by the likes of you!" The man on the receiving end of the knife bit out. And then added, "Especially not Karen!"
"Oh? And why is that, pray tell." The man in black sneered at his prey.
"Because your feel is different, your aura, the connection will be severed after I die."
"There is no link you fool! Is the knowledge of near death blinding you to sanity?" An eerie resounding high cackled laugh burst through from the darker ensembled man's lips.
"She will know the difference." Then in more quiet tones, "the difference, she must know…"
"Enough!" The malignant man roared. "You die…now." With an evil glint in his eyes, he brought the blade down in a sickening thud as it hit flesh and dragged until the entire neck split wide open.
She screamed then, a high pitched squealing sound that cut like a blade through the night air. Even the pelting rain and lightning that crackled above was drowned out by that one horrified screech. He turned, searched the barn for the glass shattering, blood curdling scream. It didn't take long to spot her, hiding just beyond the barn door that was open a smidgen. He muttered a curse under his breath and started towards her. She didn't need a guiding voice to tell her she was in trouble. So, she ran, ran like she would lose her rights to her legs the following morning. Ran like the devil himself was chasing her. Ran like she never thought herself capable of doing. She split through the front door like a dash of thunder and ran into the kitchen where she found a tiny cabinet to crawl through. Hiding in the cramped space meant for placing kitchen tools was no easy task, especially while freezing from the wet and cold. And, on top of that being chased by a murderer with every intent to keep what she saw tonight under wraps, by killing her…
His booted feet screeched to a halt as they slowly started walking into the living room, then the kitchen, slowly, ever so slowly. He started to at first knock on the wooden cabinets lightly with a thrum of his knuckles. Then he'd open each and every one of them to inspect, and for every empty slot he came away with, his tempered flared all the more. Pretty soon he was banging on the wooden panels with more force, creating jarring noises that scared her to death. He was getting closer…so close…the banging just wouldn't stop. Make it stop. She kept thinking. Just make it stop…Please.
"Victoria!" A voice roared from somewhere below her bedroom accompanied by hurried, willful pounds on the mahogany wood of her aunt's door.
"Make it stop!" She nearly shouted as she sat bolt upright on her bed not quite awake, yet not exactly in slumber either. She shivered uncontrollably for a moment, then realized where she was…safe. In her aunt's place, where it wasn't raining or thundering, but safe.
"What in 'tarnation is the meaning of this?" Janice grumpily and groggily yanked herself out of the comfortable confines of her bed and stomped non too happily to get the door.
What met her was quite an interesting sight to behold. A huffing and puffing gentleman with jet black hair and blazing silver eyes glared at her under a slightly reddened face.
"What is the meaning of this?"
"Of what, exactly?" Janice stared dumbfounded if not a bit offended at this unwelcome stranger.
"I have been knocking near my knuckles clear off my hand for the past quarter hour or so. And, NOW you come?" He stared at Janice as if he was completely in the right.
"First off, strange sirrah, you have not been knocking, I believe what you were just doing run clear along the lines of breaking down my door." She replied in an agitated fashion. Then continued with, "Secondly, have you no manners you uncouth little ingrate?" She sent him a glare that would have sent the Grinch hi-tailing back to his little cave.
Well, that shut him up for the moment.
But he managed to recover some of his senses and cleared his throat to hide some of his unease. "You are absolutely in the right madam, and I apologize for my less than courteous behavior just now."
Janice snorted at that, but decided against quarreling with him because she needed to get more sleep.
"Aunt Janice, what is the matter, and who was it knocking so forcefully on your poor door?" Clad only in her rather revealing chemise and a pair of soft slippers, Victoria emerged from the stairs and stopped dead in her tracks. Her breath hitched in her throat and her heart missed a beat. In fact it didn't just miss a beat, it started to drum erractically against her rib cage and her ears started to drown out all sounds but the blood that rushed in hurried streams to her head. "Ivan…!"
"Ian! Dear boy!" Came an excited gasp.
Oh no, oh no, this is fast becoming a nightmare come true. Victoria couldn't contain the shake in her hands and the quiver in her voice.