I walked into the room not knowing what to expect. I glanced down the hallway and gasped when I saw him through the window. He was outside, waiting for the end. I had fallen in love with him, but he lied. The disease had taken over him and changed his brain. Seeing the door made me shudder. I took a deep breath and slowly twisted the old glass doorknob.
"Don't delay, my darling, we must have our last dance,” his seductive voice purred. How could I have been so stupid? No one was there but us. No one at all.
I was walking into the room that I was to die in.
The white floor of marble was cold underneath my bare feet. The walls were a cream color and the ceiling was painted like a night sky. It was dark blue, with silver s
tars scattered over it as if someone had a handful of them and had just tossed them there.
I sighed as we whirled around the dance floor. I completely forgot the crash while dancing with him. I looked up at Raul’s face. His golden hair drooped over his vibrant, emerald green eyes. I blushed as he smiled at my embarrassment. He chuckled in my ear.
“Let’s get back to the corridor, Raul. I don’t really feel like dancing right now,” I whispered back. He took my hand and guided me away from the crowd. My silver dress swished against the floor and my pinned hair was coming loose as we ran down the hall.
He knew that I hated the fact that I had to act normal, but now we could escape. He led me to the library were we had spent many days reading, and talking to each other. Usually while we were there nowadays we would read stories to all the children that lived here with us.
See, me and Raul lived in a mansion where our “father” took in children off the streets and from orphanages, and brought them here. He gave us all a good education and taught us good manners. The only thing that we ever called him was Father. He never let us know his real name, or why he had so much money. Everyone was sure that he had once had a wife who passed, but he refused to tell anyone.
Then there was Maria. She was our governess, who was the closest thing we have to a mother. She was the one who taught us our rights and wrongs, and how to act, and which fork to use when. She tucked us all in at night, young or old. And once you were eighteen our father gave us the opportunity to work for him as a teacher and you would live there unless you decided to leave or he would let you live there for three months time to find a job and move out.
I was seventeen, and so was Raul. Father had already invited us to be the new ballroom dancing teachers. The previous dancer instructors had been planning to move out for years but they could never find a replacement. The only people who ever work at the house are former residents, except for Maria. Maria was the mother of a baby, Mark, who had passed away right after she had brought the baby here. Father adopted Maria to work with the children that had been around Mark’s age and now she just works with everyone.
But Father had agreed that once we are both eighteen he would hold a wedding for us. We were already planning. So we were very separated from the other residents except for balls, lessons, and meals. We had a ball four times a year, and we had just escaped from the winter ball.
I turned around to face him as we entered the library. Whenever I saw the mass of books I lost my breath. There were so many to choose from. There were old books, new books, books in different languages. I had learned Latin, Greek, French, Italian, Irish, and Spanish so far. I had been learning since I was three, when I first came. I would come here with Raul and we would read the tales of pirates and fairies and wizards and anything you could think of.
Raul smiled at me right before I kissed him. His strong arms wrapped around me. My muscles tensed and relaxed at the same time. He broke away from our embrace and looked down at me.
“I know you’ve been through a lot, Oak. You need to sleep. Let’s get you to bed,” Raul said. He worried too much.
“I’m okay, Raul! Everyone keeps expecting me to freak out and break, but I’m fine, really.” I said, waiting for his argument.
“I don’t expect you to crack, or anything. I just wish you would sleep. It’s been three days since the car crash and you haven’t slept at all. You just spend all night in the nursery and just watch the children sleep. You need to get some rest,” Raul said, as if I didn’t know what I had been doing the past three nights.
“Raul I just can’t sleep. We used to share a room. And we weren’t just sisters, we were twins. Honestly, Raul. Going in that room is something I won’t be able to do for a very long time. It’s too hard.” I told him. He didn’t understand that if I went in there I… well I don’t know what would happen. I just knew I couldn’t go in.
“Then you and me can set up camp in here, like we used to when I was little. I’ll get both of our things and come back in twenty minutes. Sit down and read a book.” He agreed.
I nodded and sat down. I didn’t like it when I had to talk about the crash and I liked it even less when I fought with Raul. Frustrated, I picked up Pride and Prejudice and opened it to random page. Fifteen minutes later he returned with blankets and pillows.
I took the blankets and laid one of them on the floor and put the two pillows next to each other, I laid down on one of them and Raul laid next to me. He put his arm around me and I rested my head on his muscular shoulder. I looked at him and saw his smile until I slipped into a long awaited slumber.
When I woke up Raul had changed and was sitting in a chair in the corner. I smiled at him and he chuckled under his breath. Since we were little it had been me who had woken up first.
“I win this time, Oak. Maybe next time you might win.” He joked, hoping to raise my spirits. “I am glad you got the sleep, but just to let you know, it’s three o’clock in the afternoon. Let’s go get you some breakfast, sleeping beauty.” He suggested. I sat up and stretched, but soon enough realized my empty stomach growling. I nodded at him and walked hastily to the kitchen. We knew that Maria wouldn’t be there, so we didn’t need permission to go in.
I grabbed bread, cheese, and some grape juice, threw them on a plate and sat down. Raul ate nothing. I looked at him, perplexed. This whole time he hadn’t talked about the crash yet. Tomorrow was the day I was to tell the police exactly what happened to my twin sister, Ivy, and I. The thought terrified me.
I watched his expression the entire time but his face never wavered. So I rattled on about something unimportant things until he gave up listening. I could tell, so I decided to freak him out.
“So yesterday I found out that I’m pregnant and obviously its not yours because we’ve never had sex it’s actually Father’s. His boring dimeanor really turns me on,” I said, testing him.
The look on his face was priceless. “You can pick your jaw up off the floor any time now, Raul. I was only kidding. I could tell you were bored I just wanted to see if you were paying any attention,” I said, fighting back the smug grin I had been hiding for the last half hour.
His face turned beet red and I could tell he too, was fighting back a smile. I looked into his eyes. They looked suddenly sad as if he was remembering a passed relative.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t listening to you, Oak. It’s just I am worried about tomorrow. I’m scared for you, because I know how hard it will be for you. I just want the best for you. I want to see that smile on your face, that mischievous look in your eyes, how your hair turns red when we swim in the pool, how your body moves when we dance. I miss it, Oak. I want this to be easier on you, but I don’t know how. Tell me, Oak. How do I make it better?” he asked. I sighed at the desperate tone in his voice. I didn’t deserve him.
Why did he have to go through this? Why? I didn’t want him to suffer just because of something that had happened to me, and least of all something that wasn’t his fault.
“Raul, I know I’m not doing my best right now, but I promise eventually I will be okay. It might take years, or it could be later today. There’s no way anyone can tell, least of all me. You couldn’t possibly do anything better.” I said.
I looked to me left and saw a little boy around the age of eight running in. I recognized him at once as Simon. I read a book to him and his three roommates every night to help out. There was a system in our house; you take care of anyone if you can. Everyone lived by those standards, and it was wonderful. It helped Maria not get swamped with work.
Simon came over to me and hopped up onto my lap. I hugged him and he turned his head and kissed me on the cheek. He was very shy, and I liked to think that I was one of the few people he talked to. Simon was probably the sweetest eight year old you could find in the world. He picked flowers for all the girls whenever he went for a walk, he played with all the boys, and whenever Maria or any other one of the staff needed help, he dropped what he was doing to pitch in any way he could. Sometimes he felt like a son to me.
I looked over at Raul and smiled. I could live like this forever. And for a moment, I had almost forgotten the crash. Then I remembered that the next day was the day I had to tell the police exactly what had happened on those earth-shattering hours of darkness.
“Hey Simon, guess what?” I said, tickling the youthful little boy as I spoke.
“What?” he asked, seeming excited.
“Everyone is going down to the lake to swim today. Why don’t you go ask one of the older boys to help you get into your swimsuit?”
“Yay! Swimming! I’ll see you in a little bit, Oak.” He hurriedly said as he hopped down from the table to run and find someone.
I glanced at Raul waiting for his reaction to the newest bit of information. His face glided into a playful smile.
“So we’re swimming? I’ll bring our swimsuits down here so we can change in the bathroom” he replied cheerfully.
Half an hour later everyone was in their bathing suits with towels and goggles galore loading into the bus. I was wearing my favorite dark blue bikini, and I had my towel with me. Swimming just let me relax. The longest time I had ever been under water was around two minutes.
The first bus Raul and I were in charge, and on the second bus two boys around our age, Rick and Tom, were in charge. Maria and Father never came swimming; Maria was taking care of the younger children while Father was… Well he never left the house except to walk the streets looking for children and visiting orphanages. No one ever saw him other than when you were first brought to the house.
When we arrived at the beach everyone spilled out and raced towards the cool water. I walked over to a patch of sand far enough away from the shore and there threw down my towel and took off my flip-flops.
Raul knew that whenever there was a large enough gathering of water I would be swimming, no matter what. Once he had tried talking to me while I was about to swim. Let’s just say that things didn’t end well for him.
I began my first lap thinking about Raul’s and my future as a couple, and maybe even as a family. I would live in the same house my whole life. I wasn’t sure if I could live that way. I wanted to travel the world, see new things, learn new things, and most importantly, write.
I wrote stories, and poetry, newspaper articles, you name it, and I would write it. I remember when I was young I had always wanted to move to Paris, France to own a coffee shop and write books under my nom de plume. I wanted people to hear my words, and love them. But the one thing I wouldn’t be able to deal with would be if I had to leave Raul. He was my other half, my soul twin. I could never leave him behind.
By the time I had done around 40 laps it was sunset, so I reluctantly swam to the shore of the lake and walked onto the dry sand. I searched the crowd of Raul and watched him as he handed out bottled water to everyone. The smile on his face warmed the hearts of all. Anyone could see that he was hopelessly devoted to helping everyone that lived with us.
I walked up to him and kissed him on the cheek. “Hello, Raul.” I said.
“Why hello, Oak. How was the lake? I heard from these silly little beings that it was fun.” He said, looking at the soaking wet children that were giggling at our “lovey-dovey ness”. He took my hand in his and led me around the pavilion while handing out the water.
Later after dinner and some picnic games we all went back to the house and all changed into our pajamas. One of the boys our age was going to read everyone a story that he wrote. His name was Ted and he could bring any character alive. The way his expressions changed as he read and how he made up voices made the younger kids absolutely adore him. We gathered in the library and he sat in a large red armchair with everyone at his feet.
“ Alright everyone, quiet down, quiet down. “ He said in his gentle, yet firm, voice. All I heard him say was “Once upon a time” before I fell asleep.
When I woke up I was still in the library lying on the floor with Raul. I struggled to look at his face while in his arms. I managed to turn my head toward his face and looked up. He hadn’t woken up yet. Over the years I had found that watching people sleep was one of the most fascinating things to do. I know it sounds creepy, but it’s calming.
You just see their chest rise and fall with each breath they took. You see their eyes restlessly move. You see them toss and turn. But watching Raul sleep was different. He would mouth words. Not talk, not even whisper. He would mouth words that he was thinking. Luckily I was good at lip-reading. He sometimes mouthed my name, or he mouthed things that had happened that day. It was usually my name, though.
This morning was different though. He was whispering this time. I couldn’t make out the first words, but then very clearly he said; Ivy…Oak… crash …police…” The tears started flowing before I knew it. Today I had to talk to the police. After I dried my eyes from tears I shook Raul awake.
“Unh..." was all he mumbled as he sat up, disoriented. Recognition appeared in his eyes when he saw me looking down at him as I sat up in the makeshift bed. “Good morning, Oak.” Raul said, smiling. I could tell he was going to try and distract me from the meeting with the police.
“Would you go get me a clean pair of my jeans, my favorite blouse, and my flats please? I need to get ready to go to the station.” I said, trying to seem gentle but firm at the same time. He nodded and groggily got up to go get our things. Once he left I slipped away to the kitchen to check the time and get us some breakfast.
I ambled into the kitchen and glanced at the digital clock on one of the ovens. It was 8:07 a.m. Perfect timing for me to wake up; I was to be at the station answering questions at nine thirty. I opened the cupboards and looked through the refrigerator and walked out of the kitchen with two grapefruits, a plate of bacon, and a plate of pancakes.
Proud of my haul, I stumbled back into the library. I set out our feast out on the floor in front of me. There were pillows for each of us to sit on. I couldn’t wait until he came in and saw that breakfast was already taken care of.
Five minutes later he came back with a stack of clothes and a shocked expression on his face. “You got breakfast? You didn’t have to, I was about to get us some after I came to check on you and bring these clothes” He said lovingly, as he handed me a bundle of clothing. Of course, he had chosen what he liked to see me best in. I liked it too.
It was a dark blue, long sleeved dress made with crushed velvet. It had silver ribbons on the bottoms of the sleeves, the collar, and around the bottom. It flattered my curves, and made my waist look tiny.
I went to the restroom and changed, while he did the same in the library. I strolled back into the library. He was sitting in an armchair wearing a light blue button down shirt with dark wash jeans. “I’m sorry to say this, love, but we have to eat now so that we can get to the station on time,” he said. We ate breakfast quickly and then walked out to the garage where the dark blue Mercedes was waiting for us. It was the car that Raul had received for his 16th birthday when he got his driver’s license. Father gave all of us cars when we got out licenses. We got in and he held my hand as we drove down to the police station.
We parked in the parking lot and you could tell that we were a small town because there were only about fifteen spaces total and seven of them were vacant. Raul maneuvered us in-between two police cruisers. I opened my car door and walked over to the one-story grey building trying to stay brave. I didn’t want to talk to any kind of detective, but it could lead to finding out who tried to kill me and/or my twin sister. I wanted to know who would hate us enough to do that, and why they would hate us in the first place. I couldn’t think of any specific reason as to why someone might want one or both of us dead. It just didn’t make any sense to me. I walked into the police station and walked up to the counter.
“Good morning ma’am. What can I do for you today?” asked the officer sitting behind the desk.
“My name is Oak Berrettini and I am supposed to be here for an interrogation,” I replied, as kindly as I could.
“Right this way, Miss Berrettini. Detective Roberts is waiting for you.” He said as he opened the door. “Now your friend here is going to have to stay outside and wait until the interview is over” I noticed how he said interview as nice as he could, but I knew that I was on their suspect list. I would just have to prove them wrong.
I released Raul’s hand and walked into the room. There was a mirror on one wall and I knew there were people behind it watching my every move. I sat down and tried to prepare myself for what was coming. I hadn’t talked about the crash to anyone; I was scared that I would have some kind of mental breakdown.
“Hello, Miss Berrettini. My name is Detective Roberts but you can just call me Jon.” The man across the table said. He had a manila folder in front of him on the table. It was still closed.
He didn’t pronounce my last name right and it was going to bother me so I decided to take the easy route. I said, “Call me Oak, please.”
He looked at me with what to most people would seem like welcoming eyes and an open heart, but I knew it was all fake. He thought it was me who did it. He was wrong.
“So Oak, where were you the day of the crash?” he asked.
“ First I was at home; then Ivy and I went out for lunch around noon. After that we went shopping at the mall and then we went out to dinner. Then we went to see a movie. We were driving home when the crash happened,” I said, suddenly realizing that I was crying. Detective Oak just stared at me.
“Who was driving when the crash occurred?” he asked, no longer nice.
“Oh, Ivy was,” I said, then I started bawling. I knew thinking about the crash wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t think I would cry this much, here, in front of the officers. I hid behind my arms, laying my head on the table. I cried for a few minutes then tried to compose myself to answer the next question.
“Oak, the brakes on the car were cut. We can show you if you’d like,” he said. When I nodded, he opened the folder. There was a picture of the brake cables and they were very clearly cut in half. It was a clean cut. “Is there anyone, anyone at all, that you can think of that might want to hurt you or your sister?” he said, softer this time.
I racked my brain for any kind of enemy that my sister or me had made. I could think of none. I shook my head no and started wringing my hands. It was killing me emotionally not to know who did this.
“Well Oak, this is all we are going to need for now. If there’s anything you need to tell us just call us. Now if whoever did this is targeting you tell us immediately. In the meantime, one of the officers is going undercover. You are going to pretend he is your boyfriend and he will be your bodyguard. His name is Charlie.”
I walked out of the room and ran into Raul’s arms and explained everything.
“Oak, it’s going to be okay. We can get through this. We will get through this. We are getting through this. I promise that we will be okay and someday we will be together again/ I love you,” he said, choking up.
“I love you too, Raul,” I sobbed.
I turned around to see a tall man around my age with curly dark brown hair. His eyes were a clear blue, and unlike many blue-eyed people there was no dark ring on the outside of his irises. In them I saw that he, too was in emotional pain. I wondered briefly if our scene would upset him, but as far as I knew he was a cold-hearted jerk.
“Um, hello. My name is Charlie, but I guess you already knew that. I’m really sorry. I don’t want to break you and your boyfriend up. You have to walk out of here as if you and him are nothing more than siblings. You and I though, are going to look like a couple,” he said, nervously.
There was some dark, alluring air about him that made me thing that something in his past had affected him deeply, and that he was hiding a big secret from the rest of the world. I didn’t know that I really wanted to find out what it was.
I sniffled and wiped my face. “Okay,” I said, still wary of this stranger that I was supposed to pretend to love. I couldn’t bring myself to look at either Raul or Charlie. I hugged Raul once more and then went over to stand next to Charlie, and he held my hand. He squeezed it once, and I thought that meant he was sorry. But I would never know.
We walked out to the car and Raul got in the driver’s seat. I watched as Charlie sat in the front seat so I resorted to the back. I sat behind Charlie, just to be safe.
The drive home was awkward; no one spoke for a short while. I just sat there and kept to myself.
“Well where do we sleep? Because they said you guys lived at some kind of orphanage, and I guess I’ll be living there, too.” Charlie inquired. I was nervous about him moving in with all of us. He wouldn’t understand the way that things were.
“You’ll probably be in the East wing, were Raul and I are. I haven’t been sleeping in my room lately, because I shared it with my sister; we’ve been sleeping in the library. I might be moving back to my room soon…” I trailed off. I realized that I had said something that bothered him, because he, ever so slightly, stiffened in his seat.
Raul glanced at me, puzzled, in the mirror. He knew I didn’t trust Charlie, but for some irrational reason I was telling him things. I didn’t usually open up to people this way. Sometimes I said less than a sentence to strangers. I shrugged at Raul.
We got back to the house and met Maria at the door.
“Now this has to be Charlie,” she said in a loving yet slightly skeptical way. He nodded. “All three of you, follow me,” she said, a little more solemnly. She led us up to our father’s study, and knocked on the door,
“Come in,” his familiar, gruff voice sounded.
Maria opened the door for us. Raul walked in first, I walked in second, and Charlie followed close behind.
Publication Date: 06-09-2011
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