Chapter 2 - An Empty GrateMature

                Eve sat on the edge of a high wing backed armchair so large that it almost made her feel like a little girl again.  It had been a decade or so since she had been in this stately manor but she could still remember it.  It had been one of the few visits that she had made with her parents that had been in any way a pleasant experience.  She had help Marie reconcile with her husband in this house and it appeared that Marie had not forgotten what she had done.  Eve wasn’t entirely sure how the old woman had found her or why she had even bothered, but of all her parents acquaintances she was the most amicable by far. 

                Presently, Marie re-entered the room carrying an ornate silver tea tray in her hands, laden with tea pot, porcelain cups and iced fairy cakes.  Eve’s mouth watered uncontrollably; she certainly felt like a little girl now, though her mother had never allowed her such luxuries. 

                “Now then.”  Marie said as she shakily set the tray down on the small table between their chairs.  Eve found it a little redundant sitting in front of an empty fireplace, but it seemed to her that it had become such a habit to Marie that she didn’t notice whether the grate was light or not.  Eve poured two cups of tea and handed one to Marie who accepted it with a weary sigh and a smile of deep gratitude and pity.  Eve returned her smile tentatively and brought the cup to lips, scanning her eyes around the room at the many expensive and ancient ornaments that it held.

                They sat in silence, the only sound to be heard was the ticking of the large clock that sat over the mantle piece.  Eve remembered having stared at that clock the last time she was here and how she had thought it was unusually loud then as well.  She wondered why she remembered Marie’s house so well?  She probably wanted to convince herself that not everything she did was terrible.  The minutes ticked by, with Marie not saying a word, just staring off into the corner of the room with a glazed expression, reliving some half-forgotten memory, and forgetting her rapidly cooling tea. 

                Eventually Eve had to clear her throat.  “So,” she asked, setting her tea cup back on the tray.  “What did you want to talk about?”  Marie returned her gaze to her guest with a wide eyes expression of surprise, as though she were seeing her for the first time.  She opened her mouth but didn’t speak.  Then she closed it, set her own cup down and folded her hands in her lap. 

                “Why did you go, Eve?  Why did you leave them?”  This question took Eve so much by surprise that she was dumbstruck.  She never expected Marie to be so frank and forth coming.  And she assumed that the answer was obvious anyway, especially to someone who had seen her parents in action. 

                She smoothed down her skirt again before answering.  “I just couldn’t do it anymore.” 

                “Do what?” 

                “What they wanted me to do.”

                “Why not?”  Her tone wasn’t accusing, yet Eve still felt as though she had been struck.  She looked Marie in the eye, trying to discern her motives, but her expression was fixed on curiosity and nothing more. 

                “I was a child.  A child should never be made to go through that.”

                “But you had the talent for it.  A gift.  You handled a hell of a lot more than most adults could.  And with a lot less damage to those around you.” 

                Eve felt her face flush with anger.  She hadn’t thought about these things for years.  She had buried them deep inside for the very purpose of forgetting them and never having to relive them ever again.  And now this old woman was coaxing them out of her.  “Yes,” she replied through gritted teeth, “because I inflicted all the damage on myself.  Joanna and Graham,” she couldn’t hold back the venom in her tone, “they taught me to harm myself above all others.  To never let the client see the damage that could be done.  Showmanship!  Showmanship was of the utmost importance, but never the blood or the pain.  Never the trauma or the darkness that I held back from them.”  She realised that her hands were shaking and she interlocked her fingers and pressed them together.  “I could have killed so many….. it was so dangerous…. The responsibility… the fear… the evil…”

                From the dark corners of her mind Eve heard the laughter that made her bones melt, the screams that made her skin crawl.  She heard the whispers of evil that no child should ever have been witness to.  But she had been.  No matter how many times she had cried, no matter how many times she had fallen into unconsciousness out of fear, she always ended up right back where she had started.  It was all for the clients.  All for the money.   The memories seeped back into their holds and Eve raised her eyes to Marie. 

                She had one hand over her mouth and tears threatened to leak from her eyes.  “That was not their intention.”  She whispered, lowering her hand slowly from her face.  Eve was shocked.  She hadn’t realised the effect that her words would have.  She hadn’t really expected Marie to believe her.  Her parents had been masters at deceiving those around them, making them believe that they were wholesome and true people.  When all Eve saw was the greed and the determination.  “They loved you Eve, they really did.  They had no idea the pain that you were going through.” 

                Eve shook her head and stared at the clock.  “There’s no use defending them now Marie.  They are dead, and all I have are the impressions that they left on me.  You can’t convince me otherwise.” 

                Marie gazed at her.  “Maybe not,” she said after a pause.  Without saying a word she got up from her chair and went over to an old writing desk that was pushed against the far wall, below a picture of her and her husband on their wedding day.  She opened a drawer and took something out, seeming to pause and look up at the picture before she returned to her seat.  She set a large and thick black book on Eve’s knee.  “But maybe they can.”   

The End

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