It was so easy to see the good things about people's lives. I mean, why concentrate on the negatives? No, it was much more fun to envy and covet what appeared to be a 'fortunate' life.
Take myself for example. Everyone wanted to be me.
If one more person told me that I was the 'luckiest girl in the world' I would strangle them myself. Let them live my life for a week, a day, an hour even, and still say that to me.
On the surface, granted, I appeared to be blessed. I was the youngest darling daughter of Sir Michael Townsend and his charming wife, Lady Isabella. My elder brother was a respected lawyer and my sister was a doctor.
Then, there was me. I was the beauty, apparently. That always made me laugh. People seemed to forget that before my eighteenth birthday, I had been a skinny, unkempt tomboy. A 'late blossomer', as my dear mother used to say. And then, yes, I had filled out enough so that people took notice of me. And all the friends and acquaintances who had never had a clue who I was suddenly wanted to know me.
I despised them all.
I was still the shy, uncomfortable little girl, despite my altered appearance and I hated being the centre of attention. Yet, there was no getting away from it.
My father was a diplomat. He had been a regular in the British expatriate circles around the world. When he got sick of that job he began a new one as a British aide, sent to foreign countries to meddle in their affairs.
Do I sound bitter? I am.
My life has not been my own. My parents used me from the day I was born. I had a part to play in our big Happy Family Act. Appearances were everything, despite the fact that we were all miserable. My brother and sister had better parts to play than me. They were the Clever Children and, as such, were allowed to do as they please, as long as they were highly successful and top of their fields. That way, my parents could boast about them at dinners and cocktail parties.
I, on the other hand, have another use. I am the Pretty Child. I am there to look good; an ornament that graces my parent's house and entertains official guests. No one seems to notice that I am twenty-one and should have moved away from home by now. No, they do not enquire and I do not tell. My parents do not care if I am happy or sad or lonely. As long as I do my job.
They do not love me. They do not love any of us. My brother and sister escaped as soon as they could. I hardly know them.
I was not so lucky. My mother is 'training' me to enter British High Society and marry someone aristocratic. Someone old, with money and a big estate.
Am I living in the 18th century? No, this is now. This is happening to me now.
I have to get out.
I won't sacrifice the rest of my life. They wouldn't let me go to university. Why do you need to go, they asked, no one cares if you're educated. I fought them and lost.
I won't lose again.
'You will stay here.' My mother's clipped voice rang out in the empty hall. It was my final death toll.
Was I scared? Oh God, yes.
'Mother, please.' I tried one last time. To appeal to her as a fellow person, as a woman. As my mother. She turned away from me and walked down the hall.
We had received death threats. My father had managed to make some inflammatory remarks on television that had greatly offended some right wing organisations in France and Belgium. Now, they were after his blood.
My father was scared. He was running away. Him and my mother were flying out to an undisclosed location. I was to stay put and look after the house. My father didn't think the death threats applied to me. He was stupid like that. I tried to explain to him that they would use me to get to him. But, he didn't love me so it wouldn't work. He knew that, I knew that. But, the terrorists out there didn't.
I had to do something. We were in out house in Sardinia, so close to any French terrorist group that decided to take action. I wasn't going to be safe here. I walked into the study and picked up the phone.
'Could I speak to Jack Torrance, please?' I asked, when someone picked up.
'Mr Torrance is currently in a meeting. Could I know who is calling, please?'
I swallowed, 'This is Leah Thornton. I am sorry, but this is something of an emergency. Is there anyway I can reach him?'
I tried to keep the panic out of my voice. Jack Torrance has been our family bodyguard for two years during my father's time in Lebanon. He was the best in his field and now worked from MI5 in London. He knew what my family really was. He knew that my parents would sacrifice anything, even me, especially me, to get what they wanted. So, before he had left our employ, he had given me his card and told me to use it if I was ever in trouble.
Now, I was in trouble.
The secretary mumbled something and put me on hold. I prayed that he would be there.
I almost cried with relief, 'Jack. Thank God.'
I smiled. Jack had always been straight to the point. The two years he had spent with us had allowed me to understand what a real father was like.
'I need your help, Jack. We've received death threats.' I explained what had happened.
Jack let his breath sigh out, 'This is serious. I know these organisations. What the hell if you father thinking getting involved with them? He's not a terrorist expert.'
'His ego tells him he is. He does more harm than good, he always has.'
I could sense Jack's silent agreement, thought he was too clever to say it out loud.
'What are your plans?' he asked.
'I need to get out of Sardinia. I need somewhere to go. And I need someone, can you recommend anyone? I have money if they'll do it.'
I could tell Jack was thinking, 'Stay where you are for the moment. I'll have someone with you in six hours, Lee. Keep you doors closed and your lights low.' There was a pause, 'You know I would come myself, don't you? But I'm too high profile, they'll spot us a mile off.'
'I know, Jack. And thank you.'
'Rest easy. I'll find you the very best, Lee, I promise.'
With that, he was gone.
I put the phone down and watched my parents directing the chauffeur on where to load the luggage. They should have been my safety net, but they were not.
I was on my own.
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