Rose sat in her rocking chair and stared out of her front window. The grandfather clock echoed loudly out in the deserted hallway as the pendulum swung back and forth with a steady and monotonous rhythm. Rose was waiting for something.
She raised the mug she had in her hand to her lips and grimaced. Her tea had gone cold. She stole one more glance out the window at her empty drive and the silent night before heading to the kitchen to brew another cup. She rubbed her eyes as the water started to boil. She was tired. But more than that she was worried. Had the bus been delayed? Had it crashed somehow? Had she been caught? She scolded herself for these thoughts. They were pointless. She would wait and think more constructively. Think more positive thoughts. Like, how long would this girl be here before trouble started again?
Rose sighed and hung her head. She was too tired to think diplomatically here. The kettle clicked off and as the water simmered to a stand still, she heard a knock at the door.
She hurried down the hallway and opened it without hesitation. There was no need to ask who this girl was standing on her front door step in the wee hours of the morning with a battered suitcase and enough bruises and cuts to last a lifetime. Even without all this, Rose would have needed no introductions. She could see it in her eyes. She could see IT. This girl was in her charge for the forseeable future. She stepped back to let the girl inside and allowed once last thought of despair to slip through the net before she closed the front door on the dark before dawn.
I'm going to regret this.
Melanie, for that's what her name was, stood just inside the door at the foot of the stairs. She had her shoulders hunched and her head down, her long hair covering her beaten face. Rose checked that the door was locked then headed once more for the kitchen. Melanie followed slowly, arms folded tightly across her chest.
"Would you like some tea? You look like you could do with some." Rose offered, reaching for another mug in the cupboard above the kettle.
"I don't like tea." Melanie admitted, her voice hoarse and cracked.
Rose took down a mug anyway saying, "First sign of evil that is." She froze, then sighed. "Sorry about that." Melanie said nothing. Rose made two cups of tea, and as this would be the last two of the night, she added two generous helpings of whiskey. She set them both on the table and motioned for Melanie to sit opposite her. Melanie sat, holding the cup between her hands and staring at the steam rising up from it.
In the light of the kitchen her injuries looked a lot more severe. Two black eyes, one looking rather fresh. A severely bruised nose, as though it had been broken and reset; possibly more than once. Multiple scratch marks and even what looked like teeth marks on the right side of her jaw. A dark ring of bruises round her throat. Rose took a gulp of tea. For this to happen to one so young. It made her want to cry. And these were only the injuries that she could see.
"Drink up." She urged. Melanie twitched and focused her blood shot eyes on Rose as if only remembering that she had company. "It might not taste so good, but it will help you sleep."
Melanie glanced back at the mug, then gulped the whole thing down in a few seconds. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "I don't sleep much." She said tersely.
Rose nodded. "Well all that is going to change now that you are under my roof." Rose said kindly. Melanie raised an eyebrow and winced. "Tonight, or what we have left of it anyway will just be an observational period and we will get started tomorrow on the real work." Rose took a few more gulps of her tea and took both empty mugs to the sink.
"Tonight? But wouldn't it be better to start tomorrow? I'm too tired to-" She didn't finish but Rose knew where she was going and she heard the fear in her voice.
"I know that you are afraid, but the sooner we start, the sooner we can make you better." She put her hands on Melanie's shoulder's and guided her out of her seat and into the hallway. Her breathing had sped up and her eyes were beginning to fill with tears. Rose took a key from around her neck and with little effort, slid the grandfather clock over to reveal a small door. Melanie's heart was racing. Rose opened the door. All they could see was a set of stairs leading down into the dark.
She leaned in close to Melanie and said to her softly, "I won't let him hurt you. Not anymore." She took a small tattered bible from the inside pocket of her cardigan and guided Melanie down the stairs.
Melanie wanted to believe her, she wanted to believe her so badly. This kind woman who had taken her in, accepted her into her own home, even knowing what she was. She had saved her life. But she had been made that exact promise so many times, and she knew now that no one could keep it.
Not far away, Em woke in a cold sweat. She reached for the talking clock beside her bed and it told her that it was the middle of the night. She groaned. She couldn't get back to sleep now. She put her hand to her head and tried to remember what had woken her. Did she have a nightmare? Had she heard a noise? She didn't feel right anyway, so she decided that she had better get up and make herself a drink.
Her feet had just touched the cold wooden floor when she finally realised what had woken her. It had been so long since she had had contact that she didn't recognise it at first. But now it brought her shaking to her knees. She balled hr hands into fists and held them close to her chest. Her heart was beating unrecognisably fast and her breathing was erratic. An invisible hand had an iron grip in her neck, pulling her head backwards. He spoke again, repeating the words that must have woken her.
"Let him kill her." The voice breathed in Em's ear and she whimpered. Her skin crawled and she thought she might be sick. It held her for a few more seconds before she fell forward onto the cold floor with a cry of anguish. It was gone and she could breathe again. She curled her knees into her chest and stayed there until the morning sun shone it's warm rays on her face. She had been warned.