Marie lay at the bottom of the stairs for a long time after that. She found herself unable to cry: so unbelievable void of any emotion that she couldn't even make herself get up off the floor and return to her room.

Her mother didn't come and get her, either. Marie watched as she walked towards the top of the main staircase to descend for dinner, then avert her eyes and turn her back and stride towards the secondary staircase. Did Evangeline really hate her so much that she couldn't bear to comfort her: to even look at her any more? Did she blame Marie for what had happened to William? Night fell, and the hallway grew dark and cold. Even the maids wouldn't help her: presumably on her mother's orders. Marie heard her stomach rumble, but she didn't get up. She couldn't. So she lay on the floor of the hall, staring at the bottom step and waiting for morning to break.

She had hoped that the sound of birds and the light that poured through the windows of the hall would be a comfort. It wasn't. She couldn't believe that any of this could still go on even though her life was so hostile. She couldn't see how anything good could come anywhere close to Evangeline Sonomon-King and her emotionless daughter. William was the only thing in Marie's life that made her smile. Whenever he came back from wherever he'd gone to, the house seemed to echo with laughter. William had always understood Marie- he knew why she couldn't leave. When Marie was six, her mother told her that she would be written out of the will if she disgraced the family- and it was a threat that resonated in Evangeline's eyes every time she looked at Marie. William didn't care. He came and left between the terms at the Music College he attended, dropping in for a few days, and then going away again: staying with friends or seeing a concert. Sometimes, Marie suspected he just wanted to get away from her and their cold, controlling mother.

William hadn't even come home for Christmas the last time he was on holiday. Marie had had to spend two excruciating weeks with their emotionless parents: open her Christmas present- a cheque, as always- with a grateful smile, and look on as William's gathered dust under the pristine tree. William was the only member of her family she talked about at Oxford. She told her friends of her life with her amazing older brother, and the adventures they always had when he got home. She wouldn't have been surprised if most of her best friends didn't know her mother's name. And this was how she liked it. If she had to mention her parents, she shortly explained that they were boring and then changed the subject. But whatever she said about William glowed.

William, her brilliant big brother, was the light of her life. And now he was dead.

The End

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