Elise slightly read the first entry in her mother's book.
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My "father" delights in telling me that I was not born, but made.
I sit in the gardens sometimes and wonder what I have. I am beautiful, but that is not mine, for I was made to be beautiful. Father said he wanted nothing ugly cluttering his household. Intelligence too, not because I learned, for I was made also to be so. And so it was not mine either. I was elegant, well-spoken, well-mannered, graceful, charming: my attributes, but not mine. I was made that way.
The only thing I have of my own learning is evil. He teaches me, with his dark spells and experiments deep within the ruined castle. And he waits. He bids his time to find William's weakness. He says I will help him. He says he shall rule a great kingdom. I have never seen a kingdom. All I have seen are the gardens.
And the swans.
They come, some white as new snow and some as black as coal. They sit upon the lake, graceful dancers of the water and wind, in the sun and moon, serene. They float in the water, and oft in wind, and watch, tranquil.
I watch too.
That is how I found something else to be mine. I learned the language of the swans. That was mine, and mine alone.
My father had gone for some time; I did not know how long, time in the garden was simply unimportant. But when he returned, something had changed. He seemed happier. I wasn't always sure what happy looked like.
He told me to come. That we would be going on a short journey. I came, for I always listened.
He told me I was made that way.
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Elise looked up from the book, and took a glance at her watch. What? It can't be four already. That was like a page, it couldn't have taken six hours! Elise stood, but was overtaken by a spell of dizziness, which forced her to sit back down. Oh my goodness. What the heck is going on? I've never been dizzy in my life.
She looked back at the book, still lying open on the desk. I'd better put it back. Elise stood again, slowly this time, and this time, she succeeded. She picked up the volume and took the key as if to lock it again. Well, maybe keeping it here wouldn't hurt. Just in case I ever want to read it again. Not that I will. Of course. But it can't hurt.
She did lock the book again; however, just for a feeling she had, subconscious, but strong. She slid the book into the first drawer, and then got into bed. Such a long day. But she realized the only time she'd stopped hurting was while she read. Elise slipped into an uneasy slumber, but it was more than she'd gotten for almost six days.
But she dreamed of swans.
Ugh. What time is it? Elise sat up, bleary-eyed, and looked over to her clock. Seven eighteen. She wasn't going to school yet; she wasn't sure she could, and the last thing she needed was to burst out into tears in the middle of class.
Luckily midterms had just ended so she would have plenty of time to catch up before any more major exams. She got out of bed and went to brush her teeth, looking at her desk as she went past. She had the sudden urge to forgo all sense of hygiene and just sit back down and start reading. But she dragged herself into the bathroom.
She peered at her reflection and hardly recognized herself. The circles under her eyes were purple and black, and she found she looked old, haggard. It might be a good thing I'm not going to school. She washed her face and wondered absently where she'd left her bathrobe, and decided it didn't really matter. Her dad would have gone to the office by now.
The house felt so empty, she didn't really want to walk around, but went downstairs anyway to grab a bagel and coffee. She'd made it the night before, and just iced it. Now where's the milk? Elise hated anything too sweet, so she didn't buy sugar anymore. Her mom had loved everything sweet. That's why Elise hated coming downstairs, too many memories. She took her breakfast and ran back up the stairs.
She sat down at her desk and organized the papers there, and set down her plate. Then she pulled out the book. I can just finish this one part, and then I'll put it away for good.
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We went in father's carriage, but we didn't take anything. I wasn't sure why he'd wanted my to come along, for usually he went alone and returned with some sort of exotic ingredient or peculiar form of beast. This time he brought nothing, and it looked like he wasn't expecting very much to bring on our return for he had no cases.
We rode on the roads deep within the forest for the first leg of the journey, and we traveled through the night. Father and I hardly spoke; he seemed tense. He kept his face toward the window and I kept my eyes ahead, lest something be in the forest I wished not to see. And, like this, we rode forward. I wondered if we might see a kingdom. I almost wanted to see one, because my father coveted one so.
We stopped abruptly, just at the edge of the trees, where the carriage was shielded by leafy branches and the shadows of night. Father opened his door and exited without a word to me; he knew all I could do was wait. And so I waited, for hours, it seemed, and he did not return.
Still I waited, and finally, the door of the carriage opened again, but instead of father climbing inside, he shoved a body inside.
It was the body of a young woman, one near my age it seemed, with golden hair and a golden circlet. She was not dead, but she was not awake. Then my father got in. We began to drive.
I said nothing, and neither did he. I was not made to ask questions. Only silently did I wonder who the girl was, and why Father had taken her.