I was about to doze off for another long night under the watchful eyes of Mira, my guardian, my warden, my stepmother's mercenary--and as hard as it is to admit, my sweet, old friend. This room is my prison, and Mira is my only link to the world beyond these walls. Besides, she's been with me for years. She knows me and I know Mira's just as much a captive of her as I am. And today had been an especially exhausting day. So right after dinner, I snuggled in with my bottle of forbidden red wine, my recently purchased copy of the latest, and also forbidden, Rebecca Wells novel, and the peace and quiet of a September night in the changeless confines of my bedroom.
With a sweet sip of the good stuff, page one. I didn't even get to the first word, when the Westminster chimes of my well-priced doorbell rang.
"What's this?" I asked Mira. She tries to make things bearable. Maybe she'd planned some kind of diversion for me.
I went to the door and found nobody there, only a package wrapped in brown paper waiting for me to adopt it as something new of mine.
I have this thing about packages ... I just have to open them ... and when I opened this one, my life did take its turn.
I pulled at the stings, letting the brown paper fall away. As I took in the package's contents, my heart went into double-time. Before me lay a length of rope, a knife, a dark jacket, and a pair of running shoes.
I shot a wide-eyed glance at Mira. Her face showed a rare smile, but I noticed a tremble in her hands. The wine, the book--those had been risky. This was outright mad.
A voice shouted up from downstairs. I jumped and scrambled to rewrap the package. Mira just shook her head and hurried toward the door to answer my stepmother's call. A distraction; her plan was perfect. I reached for Mira's hand as she passed and manged to mumble a "thank you." Barely stopping, Mira brushed a quick kiss on my forehead. She was gone before I registered her last whisper.
"It wasn't me."
My head spun. If it wasn't Mira... I ran to the window. When I pulled back the curtains and looked down, my hand flew to my mouth. I bit my own fingers to keep from crying out. I'd thought I'd never see him again.
I didn't look back while I threw on the shoes but closed my eyes just a moment to clear my thoughts. Escape. Freedom. Love.
I yanked open the window and let down the rope.