My mother came into my room, handing me a bar of chocolate.
"Here," she said. "It's your treat for the week. Don't tell your father."
I smiled at her, taking the 'treat', as she put it. This had been going on for a while now. My mother was the most considerate of our family. She believed that what my father didn't know wouldn't hurt him.
"Mother, I..." I hesitated. Every time she did something nice for me, I had to resist the urge to tell her about Morgan. Simply because I had no idea how she'd react. I coughed. "For the party later, do you think I should wear make-up or...?"
She guided me to the mirror and stood behind me. We looked almost exactly alike, as she was trained into her own diet. Only I could see how tired and worn she was.
"Tamara, you are beautiful as you are," she told me. "And more to the point, I don't think your father would approve. You're lucky he's letting you go. Here, let me see your eyes," she moved to pin my fringe out of my face.
"No," I objected quietly, but too late. She saw the bruise, dark against my skin and scowled. She suffered her own share of abuse from her husband.
"I'll teach you how to mask those," she sighed, brushing my fringe over with her hand.
* ** *
I tapped my fingers on the arm of the bench, mimicking the only piano piece I knew. Morgan was already ten minutes late, but that didn't bother me. I knew she'd turn up.
The sun filtered through the trees, landing softly on the grass below. It was mildly cold, but not really noticeable. The breeze blew my hair back behind my shoulders from where it normally rested against my chest.
"Tamara Edwards," a voice said behind me.
I turned to see who it was, but they were hidden in the shadows of the trees. "Excuse me?" I asked. It wasn't uncommon for people to know who I was. But in the human part of town, it was slightly less frequent."You... said my name?"
They didn't reply, just stood there, so I got up and walked over. "Excuse me? Was it you? Only I heard-"
Once I was within touching distance, they pressed something into my hands. While I looked to see what it was, they slipped away.
A small blue flip-open mobile phone. The time was displayed on a small screen at the front.
I flipped it open as I sat back on the bench. There was a message on the background of the home screen.
You have been called ~ Romulus
I almost dropped the phone. "Oh... shit," I muttered.
"Swearing, Miss Tammie, that's unlike you," Morgan laughed, sitting beside me.
"Oh, I... it was a mistake, sorry..."
"Tammie, I'm kidding," she smiled. Then she tucked my hair behind my ear and kissed me. I gasped, my heart racing and hugged her quickly as an excuse to put my hair back where it was. "Are you all right?" She asked.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," I assured her.
She looked at me and frowned. "So if I do this again," she moved to tuck my hair again.
"No," I took her hand and stopped her.
I looked away from her and moved my fringe away so she could see.
"Oh... my gosh, Tammie. Are you OK? What happened?"
"I'm fine, honestly," As well as seeing through lies, I also knew how to tell them convincingly. "I slipped in the shower and hit my head on the side of the bath... I just didn't want you to see 'cause it sounds stupid..."
She shook her head at me. "It doesn't sound stupid. It was just an accident, after all."
"Oh... well, OK, I'm sorry."
"You need to stop apologising," Morgan smiled. "Oh, you'll never guess what happened to me on my way here."
"You'll never guess what happened while I was waiting for you," I laughed. "Here, I'll show you."
"OK, at the same time," she grinned, and pulled out her phone.
And the messages matched.