I was not told of Father's plans, what he planned to do with the girl, but I didn't care. My mind was preoccupied with him, and the fear that he'd come again, and with the fear that he'd not come. And the girl, she was an odd lady; half the time, she seemed half here, as if her mind floated in another world. Her movements were jerky, and sometimes I caught her staring at her reflection in the mirror, feeling the panes of her face, as though they were unfamiliar to her. Odd indeed.
I sat with her when Father was off completing his mysterious outings, and normally, I kept silence. But this morning she asked about something I could not resist answering. She asked about the swans. Her eyes held no guile, clear blue, just eyes, not comparable to any flower or sea.
"They live on the lake."
"They seem to flock to you. I always heard swans were pretty mean birds, even though they're so beautiful." Her tone held true interest.
"I don't know," I answered, looking down at my hands. "I haven't heard this—I know the swans. Petty perhaps, but not mean."
"Oh." The girl who named herself Elise smiled slightly. "Well." I think she sensed my discomfit. I certainly sensed sadness in her, a new, fresh gouge of grief. But she hid it well. Her appearance, as well as mine, gave no clue as to what might be stirring beneath the surface. To the mirror, surprisingly, we had similar features: thick hair, fair complexion, light eyes, sharp bones. But inside—I was black. Father had told me. Of her, I didn't inquire, for I'd lived alone, with the exception of Father, who was gone half the time and in between, and I was not curious.
She didn't ask anymore about the swans.
Elise had floated in consciousness between her body and the world of the swans, until with a goose-bump inducing jolt, she seemed to fall into a body again, only it was not her own. Now, she had resigned herself to this strange dream until she found some way out of it—whatever it was, it definitely involved the book, and her grandfather's warning.
But Elise was also distracted by the strange girl who watched over her. She seemed distracted within her own mind, constantly gazing out the window; the girl hardly spoke, she walked through the halls night and day as a wraith, entering and exiting Elise's prison silently.
The girl worried Elise far more than the man did, strange though he was. When he came to question her, sometimes he called her a different name…an odd name, Odette. The name pulled teasingly at Elise's mind, yet she could not recall quite where she had ever heard it before. Or if she indeed had. And the questions that he asked made no sense to her, nonsensical inquiries about a man named William, her inheritance, and where her mother had hidden the keys.
But he never got far with his interrogation, for then Elise would once again find her mind wandering in some black, endless space of which there seemed no end.
I sat outside the chamber; father had bid me leave, but there was nowhere else I wished to go. I longed to go to the garden, and yet I was afraid. What could I do if he came back? I had no power of my own, everything, everything I was belonged to father.
I heard him, over and over and over again, ask Elise for the keys. I knew what he was about, for it was no different than what his only goal had always been. Power. Father fed off power like a leech, growing more bloated with each taste he received.
While I sat, my back pressed against the cold stone wall, listening, I reached a decision I should never have been able to make. I too wished for power, but only the power to be free. To free myself from the chains that held me fast to this place, and to him. I knew not how, but I knew that one day, I would fly like the swans… yet never would I have need to return to the lake. I would move toward the horizon, and never look back.