Chapter one: Silly little games
Let me get inside your head, Let me show you I'm prepared, Let me dig my needles in, Let me hurt you again
The little boy was staring at the eggs, mushroom, and sausage on the skillet with hungry dark eyes. He couldn't have been older than six and he had that little kid look that was so adorable.
He caught me looking at him and averted his eyes, hiding behind the counter. I laughed softly to myself and removed the breakfast from the stove and slipped it onto the plate. I also pulled out a small cup from the cabinet and filled it with orange juice.
Setting everything on the counter he hid behind, I pulled up a chair and kneeled in front of him, "What's your name?"
"Luke," he hid his face behind a hand.
"Are you hungry?" I offered him my hand.
"Yes," he nodded. "Rafael says I should save my food because we never know when we're going to get more."
"Here, Luke," I motioned for him to sit on the chair. "You can eat this if you're hungry."
"Really?" he smiled brilliantly at me. Then his face scrunched, "You won't tell Rafael, will you?"
"Nope," I sat on the counter. "I promise."
"She won't tell me what, squirt?" the doorway to the kitchen was blocked.
I looked towards the sound and saw a person, about my age, leaning against the frame, an unreadable expression on his face. He had a long body and copper skin. His eyes were a glittery emerald green and as unreadable as his angular face. His black hair spilled from his head in curly locks that framed his face and neck.
"Rafael!" he squealed, his mouth full of egg.
Luke sent me a look for help. I stretched and yawned, "We can't tell you. It's our secret."
"Is that so?" his dark eyes lingered on me.
I blushed, knowing what he saw. A paler than the moon girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. I was a skinny thing with practically no bust. In the terms of today's male population, I was a waste of space.
"Yes, that's so," I smiled cheerfully. Luke nodded enthusiastically and stuffed another forkful of egg into his mouth.
"So, who are you and where's Ms. Caroline?" Rafael asked, pushing himself off the doorframe and walked over to where Luke and I sat.
"I'm Evangeline," I started swinging my feet back and forth. My heel hit the back of the cabinet and I flinched, ceasing my feet swinging. "You can call me Angel if you like. Caroline is sick so I cooked my own breakfast today. Who are you?"
A look of shock crossed his face then he went back to being mysterious, "It's nice to meet you Angel, I'm Rafael and this is my little brother Luke."
"Would you also like some eggs?" I offered. "I'm pretty good at cooking. I usually help Caroline out in the kitchen in my free time."
"Really?" Luke asked, his voice happy. "More eggs?"
"Sure," I shrugged. "Maybe Caroline and I will teach you how to make them when you're older."
"Yummy," he squealed in delight. "You hear that Raf? I'll be able to cook eggs!"
Rafael smiled faintly. I got the impression that he never smiled completely. I felt a little sad when I thought about it but I figured it wasn't my business.
"Evangeline?" another male voice came from the doorway. I looked up again to identify the voice with the name. It was my older brother, Marcus. "What are you doing hanging out with them? Father wouldn't like it."
Marcus and I looked a lot alike. Blonde hair, dark blue eyes, skinny, and pale. Only he was slightly more tanned and muscular. Our hair curled the same way, we both clenched our fist when we were angry. Exactly the same mannerisms, or so we were told.
Don't be fooled by our looks though. Our personalities were completely different. He liked to be superior. He didn't like being commanded about. Nothing was worthy of him. He was better than everyone. Or so he thought.
My personality was more of, if you made me laugh or smile, I liked you and would hang out. I didn't mind being told what to do and would only disobey if I thought of a better thing to do. I would talk with our servants, even help them clean. The only thing that was the same about us was that we both hated to loose.
"Why not?" I asked, confused. Father never had minded me talking to anyone. He usually gave me as much freedom as I wanted.
"Because they're not like us," he frowned. "They're dirty and mooching off of Father's generosity."
"So?" I shrugged.
"Father will be hearing about this," Marcus growled angrily. "And he won't be pleased."
"Go ahead, tell him," I smiled, my dark blue eyes flashing. "We'll see who wins."
Marcus turned on his heels and left, his hands clenched in anger. I was still sitting lazily on the counter. I had begun swinging my feet back and forth again carelessly. Rafael was standing erect and stiffly. He looked shocked and angry. Luke looked a little scared, a little grateful. He had slipped his hand inside mine.
"Luke, I think it's time to go," Rafael finally loosed up enough to let his jaw move.
"Why?" I asked, curiously.
"Did you not hear a word he said? We're a lower status than you. I thought that maybe you had been a servant or something because you were cooking. Now I see that you're Mr. Anhelic's daughter. We're sorry for the intrusion."
I laughed, "Separation of status is so medieval! I don't mind at all. So what if I'm my father's daughter. It doesn't make me his tool."
"But what about your brother, Mr. Marcus?" Rafael asked. "He will say to your father and he will get upset."
"First of all, Marcus will need a day to formulate the right story. He can't just go to our father now, with only the mere facts. He needs to throw in some juicy tidbits first that will really enrage Father," I grinned, happy that I knew Marcus' game plan. It wasn't all the difficult. He'd done things like this before. "I'll give father a half a day to figure out what to do about it and to confront me. Nothing, in the end will happen, and Marcus will have lost."
"Why do you say that? If your father punishes you," Rafael trailed off.
"Because he won't punish me," I smiled. "Who do you think has all the real power here? Marcus? Father?"
"Your father," Luke chimed in, happy because he thought he was right.
"Wrong, it's who Father likes the most. He grows tired of Marcus' complaints day in, day out. I'm the one he'll listen to because I give him the least amount of trouble," I said gleefully. "Trust me, I've done this before. It's really nothing to worry about."
"This," Rafael fought to find the right word. "Power struggle happens often?"
"More often than I'd like to admit," I frowned but then smiled at what I had to say next. "But in every debate, I have won. I am confident that we will prevail."
"I don't want Luke to be punished for anything," Rafael fixed his intense eyes on me. "I don't care about what happens to me but Luke, he can't be harmed, you got that?"
"Raf?" Luke's small voice seemed sad. "What's going on? Why is your voice mad?"
"Nothing is going on, Luke," Rafael's jaw was clenched shut. "Finish your breakfast and we'll leave."
"Why would you leave?" I tilted my head to the side. "You have nothing to be afraid of. In fact, I think you'd be even safer with me."
"What makes you think that?" Rafael glared at me.
"Marcus will seek you out and attack you if you wander around alone," I jumped off the counter. "I have an idea! Why don't we go and hang out in town today? It's nice out and it's not far."
"Mr. Anhelic doesn't want us to leave the mansion without an escort," Luke said in his cute little kid dish voice.
I took away his now empty plate and began to wash it, " I'll be your escort. Who better to look after you two than his own daughter?"
"Are you sure this is alright with you?" Rafael asked warily. "I don't want Luke punished for this."
"Don't worry," I waved off his concerns with the drying rag. "Even if Father minded, he couldn't do anything about it since we're not going directly against his orders. Everything has a loophole as long as you're patient enough to find it and if you really want to get past something."
"I would hate to get on your bad side," Rafael grinned. "You seem to be the type of girl who could pick a guy apart and then scatter the pieces in the wind while making the guy like it."
"I haven't tried it," I smiled back at him. "But it sounds like fun if someone ever made me mad."
I put away the now clean dishes and pulled out a few cookies from the refrigerator, "Follow me. The guard at the gate will let us through if we leave now."
"Why now?" Rafael asked curiously, grabbing Luke's hand and dragging him after me.
"Because then the guard will switch and I won't have the proper bribe," I told him.
"So you aren't supposed to be doing this," Rafael's voice was grim.
"Oh, we are," I shrugged. "But if we were to leave formally, we wouldn't have any fun. Admit it, it's much more adventurous this way than to merely ask for permission."
"Are you sure we shouldn't just ask?" he persisted worriedly. "I'm not very comfortable with this."
I sighed in exasperation. Really! These days no one had any sense of adventure, "Alright, we'll go about this the formal way." I brightened again. "But in a way, this could be even more fun! Oh! I can't wait to see Marcus' face!"
"Ah, Ms. Evangeline?" Rafael hurried after me, slightly surprised at my sudden change of direction.
"Don't call me Evangeline and my name doesn't have 'Miss' in it. Please just call me Angel or Eva, or something else," I requested.
"Yes, Miss Ev-," he caught himself. "Angel."
"Good," I slowed my pace slightly. "Now what did you need?"
"I was just curious, why do you still have the cookies? We passed the kitchen a few doors back," Rafael pointed out.
"Oh, it just so happens that Father likes cookies too," I announced happily.
"We're going to see your father?" Rafael asked faintly.
"Yup," I confirmed. "Now let's go."
"I think we'd better call this whole thing off," Rafael started heading the opposite direction. "I'm sorry."
"Oh no you don't!" I grabbed his wrist to keep him from running then I released him. Grabbing him was just to get him to stop so he would listen to me. "Do you really want to live in fear of him for the rest of your stay here? What a pathetic way to live. Maybe I was wrong in thinking that you were worth helping."
Rafael stood still. A different vision than what I saw in him as he leaned against the door frame earlier. He looked so weak, pathetic. I wouldn't help those who were unwilling to help themselves.
"Alright, we'll go," Rafael took a deep breath. "On one condition."
"And what would that be?" I asked, pleased that he was feeling well enough to negotiate. Maybe he wasn't a waste of space after all.
"That you'll stay on our side, you'll help us whenever we need you," he requested. "Well, I don't necessarily mind if I'm left behind but Luke, he needs someone he can count on."
I laughed in amusement, "You're ridiculous! That was a given! Once I commit to a person, unless they prove that I can't trust them to be on my side when I need them, I'll back them up all the way."
"Alright then," Rafael's confident self from earlier returned. "Shall we go see Mr. Anhelic?"
"Wise decision," I nodded approvingly.
Father's office was just a little ways further down the hall. He liked his office on the first floor because he didn't like having to climb up stairs to go somewhere. In fact for him, the less physical activity that he had to do was fine with him. The end result was all of his offices, rooms, everything that he wanted was downstairs, and everything else lay on the two upper floors.
I knocked twice on the door. At Father's command of, "Come in." we walked inside.
"Hey Father!" I smiled at Father in a way that would have his attention for however long I needed it. "I wanted to bring you some cookies before Rafael and Luke and I go out to town together."
"Thank you," Father sighed. "Rafael…Luke? Are they in your league, Evangeline? I don't like the thought of you spending the day with two ruffians."
"Ruffians, Father?" I cocked my head to the side innocently. "But they live here with us, do they not?"
"Oh," Father hesitated. "Those two. Are you sure that's wise? After all, they are poor, living off of my generosity."
"It is quite alright," I smiled convincingly. "Since Caroline is sick, Rafael helped me cook breakfast Luke is darling. Actually, Marcus has been really mean to them and threatened to hurt Luke, which I think is unforgivable."
Father looked up again from his paperwork, "Why are you so attached to them?"
"Well," I sucked in a breath, pretending that it was hard to say and let tears fall, some fake and some real. "I think Rafael and Luke are being mistreated and Marcus is threatening them. I hardly think it's fair. They lost their parents and now they must feel pain here too? I like Rafael and Luke a lot, they're my best friends. I don't think it's fair."
"Best friends?" Father asked flabbergasted. I nodded in affirmation. "Alright, I'll see what I can do about Marcus and I'll let them have some more freedom. I suppose it's only fair."
I smiled brilliantly, "Oh! Thank you Father!"
"Alright, alright," Father looked like he was in pain. "Now go out, all of you. Go ahead and go to town."
I gave Father one more smile and flounced out of the room, Rafael and Luke right behind me. I closed the door to his study and began heading towards the front door. I walked a ways down the hallway but stopped when I realized that Rafael and Luke had stopped following. I turned around and faced them to see what was bothering them.
"How? How did you know about us?" Rafael asked severely, his face contorted in anger. "About our parents being dead, about your father taking us in, about Marcus?"
"Come with me to town and I'll tell you everything," I didn't smile this time. I was tired of games. I wanted them to know the truth, well, part of it anyways. If I told them too much…who knew what would happen?
Ms. Evangeline didn't smile when she told us she would tell us everything. Every other time she had smiled, acted coy, and lied but now she was offering the truth and there was no smile. No reassurance that everything would be alright.
"How do we know you'll tell us the truth?" I asked, letting my doubt show through. "You just lied to your father, said that we were your best friends. You told him that you had brought him cookies and 'mentioned' that we were going to town. You played him like a violin and he didn't even notice."
"Yes," she admitted. "I lied, I schemed. But, in the end, if I didn't, would you have your new freedom?"
I hesitated and looked down at my bored little brother. The last person in my family that I had left. Luke needed the freedom. He was tired of not being able to do things. I was sure he was getting fed up with me saying "no".
"Wasn't there another way to do this? Without lying?" I asked my anger and doubt and confusion leaking through my visage.
"No," she said simply. "Are we going to town or not?"
"What's in town?" I asked cautiously, determined not to get caught in one of her schemes. I didn't want to be as easily twisted as her father.
"Possibilities," she shrugged. Then she smiled in a manner that terrified me. "And the truths, if you're man enough to listen."
"Alright, we'll go, but Luke will stay here," I consented. "Luke, I want you to go help Ms. Ryans with the cleaning, alright?"
"Does this mean you are going away again?" Luke asked sadly.
"Yes, but I will be back before nightfall," I promised him. "I'll bring you something amazing back, alright?"
"I want a new teddy bear," he demanded.
"Alright," I sighed. "Now go."
Luke ran off towards where our rooms were and from there, he would find Ms. Ryans or some other maid to help. They all loved him and he adored the attention. I turned back towards Ms. Evangeline.
"Are you ready, Rafael?" she asked, her voice as innocent as her angelic looks. Her name suited her.
"Ya," I sighed. "I need to do this on Luke's behalf. I need to know everything so I can protect him."
She started walking again, I only a few steps behind her, "You're attached to him. You act kind of like a father to him. Why is that?"
"Because he doesn't have one," I shrugged. "Besides, us older siblings, our job is to look after those who come after us."
"It's nice to see that you have morals," she smiled back at me. "You live by an honorable code."
Outside, the weather was a little cold for a Florida winter. The sun shone ice over head and the clouds looked like warm blankets just out of reach. Wind nipped at our cheeks and I kept my head down to brace myself. But Ms. Evangeline didn't even flinch. She only wore a red sweater and a pair of black shorts that were REALLY short. But no goosebumps were on her.
I, on the other hand, was wearing a pair of heavy duty jeans that had survived the car crash and a dark long-sleeved shirt under a black jacket. I was still cold. I was much better suited for the heat.
The walk to town, luckily was a short ten minutes. Everywhere people walked, shoulders hunched into themselves, using purses and shopping bags to protect themselves. Again, Ms. Evangeline was standing tall and proud against the wind. Still not a shiver out of her.
She stopped in front of a café and turned around to me. I immediately felt the urge to straighten my posture even though I was still taller, folded into myself as I was.
"This is the café," she turned her back to me and began walking into the place.
"Why here?" I asked, letting the curious side of me get out.
"You're right, not here," I saw her eyes positioned on one person.
He was as tall as me, well, maybe a little shorter, and had reddish brown hair. His eyes were brown and he had a normal skin complexion. I didn't see what the big deal about him was. Maybe he was an ex?
"Alrighty," I shoved my hands in my pockets of lack of something better to do. "Where do we go?"
"The park," she stated automatically. "There won't be many people there."
"Let's go," I stood aside so she could walk ahead of me. It didn't ever feel right when I walked in front of people.
She proceeded to lead me past a numerous amount of parks. Each one nearly deserted but she bypassed all of them, not even glancing as we walked on by. Where the hell was she taking me? It was fine by me to go to a park but why one park in particular.
She eventually stopped in front of a park that only had one set of benches. No gazebo, no slides or swings. Just grass, a few trees, a sidewalk winding in a spiral towards the middle, and a fallen tree.
She ignored the benches and sat on the tree stump, "I suppose I should tell you the truth now, yes? How I know about you?"
"Yes, among other things," I stood behind her. I didn't want to freeze in a sitting position.
"Well, I'll start with…how I knew your parents were dead," she sighed theatrically. "Father himself told me. He actually got off his lazy bum and walked upstairs and told me that we had two guests living here. I was told you had lost all of your family, that I was not to interact with you, and that you were not to interact with me."
"Alright," I inhaled deeply, ignoring how it felt like I was inhaling water. "I suppose that makes sense but how did you know that Marcus was targeting us?"
"Again, another easy one," she laughed. "He boasts about his bullying. He wants me to fear him so he tells me of all the nasty things he does. Sometimes they're exaggerated, sometimes not. I take note of all of these happenings. I remember everything. For example, it's true, is it not, that Marcus once withheld meals from you for two days and that Luke screamed with hunger pains? It is also true, though, that he was surprised to see you eating on the third day. Do you remember what you were eating? Eggs."
I blinked at that fact. Yes, we had been eating eggs. Eggs and toast with a lot, almost too much, butter. How would she know that? I asked her.
"I was the one who gave it to you," she grinned. "I've always been helping you. Ever since you came. I've given you clothing, food, and books, anything it was in my power to give, except my appearance. I made sure you thought it was someone else. I wanted you to think I was stuck up and wouldn't give you the time of day."
"So you've manipulated me, just like you have your father?" I clenched my fist. "Why do you do such things? What are your motives?"
"Now, now, Rafael," she made a 'tsk' sound and shook her head. "You can't expect me to tell you everything today, can you? After all, we've only just met face to face. I don't really trust you, and you certainly don't trust me, and that's within reason."
"So what do we do from here?" I asked harshly. "Play more mind games for your amusement?"
"I think," she stood up and walked around the stump so she was face to face with me. "That we should continue to at least pretend to be friends. Like I said, we've only just met. You're still…interesting. You're still a virgin to our silly games. Everyone is playing them these days, even Father. Marcus, the maids and servants, even the plants seem to have their own hidden agenda."
"If you involve Luke in all of this, I swear I'll make you pay! I don't know what yet," I admitted ruefully. "But you will loose something dear to you, whatever that may be."
She laughed in what seemed like delight, "Oh! Yay! A threat! The game wouldn't be so interesting without such a thing! But you needn't worry, Rafael," she smiled. "Nothing will happen to Luke. I happen to like him a lot. He's cute and the maids like him."
"So, he's safe?" I persisted.
"Yes," she rolled her eyes. "Your love of your brother really is astounding. I wonder if someone had loved me, would I have ended up like this."
"I don't know," it was my turn to shrug. "I didn't have anyone to look after me and I turned out just fine. Maybe you'd have turned out like this anyway. In the end, I don't care. I don't want any part of it. I just want to go back and take care of the one person who I can trust."
"You'll never be the same after this, will you?" her pretty smile turned into a cold sneer. "Everyday, you'll be suspicious of everyone. Is that person really nice or do they want something? And it's not like you can avoid me. Luke is fond of me and I of him. What if I want to play with him. Surely you won't deny Luke a friend? What kind of monster would that make him in your eyes?"
"Why can't you just leave people alone?" I demanded to know. I was aware at how my voice was raised, which wasn't very polite. I was taught to always be polite but it didn't apply to this situation. "Why can't you just keep your nose out of other people's business?"
She began laughing, "Because what fun would that be?" Her laughing suddenly stopped and I saw fear flash in her eyes but it was hidden as quickly as I had seen it. "Why don't I let things alone? Because if I do, I'll turn into a puppet again. I won't let it happen. I want everyone to know what it's like to be a puppet, to be scared and not knowing what was going to happen next."
I couldn't help it, I reached out and touched her shoulder. She was shaking and I drew my hand back in surprise. Where was that self assured person I had seen not two minutes ago? Where had she gone?
I flinched when I saw tears, genuine tears and pain and shame displayed across her face. I reached out again and wrapped her shaking form in my arms. This was not how I was supposed to act but I didn't know what else to do. She was crying out and I couldn't ignore her.
"Angel," I whispered into her ear. "I know what it's like to be used, to have people play games with you. Hell, you're doing that to me right now but you need to let go."
Her sniffles stopped and I was sure I had gotten through to her. She was still shaking when I let her go and stepped back a bit. What I saw shocked me. No tears. No redness under her eyes. No pain. Nothing except my shocked face reflecting in her dancing, beautiful blue eyes.
Now she was laughing. Hysterically. And it was a little frightening. I stepped back and shook my head. No, what I had seen earlier was real, right?
It hit me. Of course it wasn't. She was playing with me. I was her new "friend". I shuddered to think what happened to her last one.