Nadira opened her eyes slowly as she woke up from her slumber. Today was her 18th birthday (or so she assumed) which could be seen as something good or bad and Nadira couldn't decide which one it was. Any child that was brought up at Saint Marie's Orphanage had a choice to make when they turned 18. They could either stay at the orphanage as a maid that wages only included a place to stay or leave and venture into the town. That second choice would probably be the most preferred except a child at Saint Marie's never left the orphanage walls until their 18th birthday and those that did leave never returned but Nadira was different from most. She ventured outside of the orphanage many a times without the knowledge of Ms Marie. She knew what waited for her and couldn't wait to get out of the orphanage for good. Even thought not everyone was nice in the Banjul district, they were all nice compared to the Queen of all witches, Ms. Marie.
Ms. Marie didn't fit any of the stereotypes of a witch. She wasn't extremely short or excessively tall. She wasn't too fat or too skinny. She wasn't disastrously bad looking or beautiful. Ms. Marie wasn't boisterous or timid. She was just an all around bitch that ran her orphanage like a prison. But even prisoners get one hour of sun shine a day.
So, the choice to leave Saint Marie's wasn't difficult at all and when Ms. Marie asked her if she was staying, Nadira knew that she would give the woman a piece of her mind before walking out those large, iron, double doors and into the Banjul district to search for any information about who she was and where she came from. She didn't even know her last name but she hoped that someone in the Banjul district or even in the Cornwealas Providence knew who she was and possibly reunite her with her family.
She pulled herself out of bed and walked towards her bedroom mirror to look at her reflection. She didn't feel any older or smarter but she did have more confidence in herself but it wasn't because of her age. When she first came to the orphanage, she had a concussion and a broken skull. She suffered from amnesia. She didn't know how she came to the orphanage or who brought her. All Ms. Marie said was that young boy brought her. She said that he was badly injured as well but he didn't bother to stay to get treated. Instead, he said that he would return but he never came. Ms. Marie thought he must have died from his injuries.
Nadira couldn't accept that. Whoever that boy was knew something about her and she needed to know what. Even if all he could tell her is that he found her in the street, at least she would have an idea of where she could began her search for her family, or if she even had a family. But before she could search for the boy, she would need Ms. Marie to give her a good description of him. Hopefully he had some distinguishable features that would allow Nadira to find him quickly.
"Nadira, come out. We need to have a discussion about your future here at St Marie's," Ms Marie's regal voice followed a horrifyingly loud knock.
Nadira looked outside her barred window and saw that it was still dark. It must be midnight, exactly. Ms. Marie didn't waste time with these types of matters.
"Coming, Ms. Marie," Nadira called out. She went to her mirror and used the moonlight to see if she looked presentable. Ms. Marie did not tolerate sloppiness. She looked at herself more closely and thought back to how she looked when she first came. Many people said that she was weird looking and not from the scars that she gained from her injury and she had to admit that she was a funny looking child. Everything seemed to be too big for her face but that all changed when she turned 16. She became the epitome of an ugly duckling. Her eyes were still big but not excessively so and she had long eye lashes to compliment her brown eyes. Her nose no longer resembled that of a pig. It was much smaller and well defined. Her lips were still full but had a shape about them that begged to be kissed. Her ears were still big but now adorable.
Her body changed with puberty as well. She became shapelier in her bust and hips. Her legs were long and lean. Every guy that she met called her a fox and that became her nickname amongst the people of Banjul. Even though her body changed over the years, her mind hadn't. She still saw herself as the ugly girl that everyone picked on.
"Yes, Ms. Marie." Nadira called out once again before pulling her long thick hair into a ponytail and opening the door.
"Why did it take so long for you to answer the door?" Ms. Marie said suspiciously
"I wasn't prepared for your arrival. I wanted to look presentable."
'Follow me, we have much to discuss."
The walk to Ms. Marie's office was a lot longer than Nadira expected. Perhaps it because she was anxious to leave this place and also tell Ms. Marie to remove that stick from her…
"Nadira, sit," Ms. Marie said once they were inside her office. It was just as cold and gloomy looking as another place in the orphanage. The furniture style was very gothic and foreboding not to mention uncomfortable. "Have you come to a decision?"
"Yes Mam." She said before sitting on the opposite side of Ms. Marie, in front of her desk. She did speak for a moment, trying to figure out how she wanted to approach the situation but Ms. Marie was very impatient.
"And?" Ms. Marie prodded.
"I wish to leave." Nadira winced as soon as the words left her mouth. She didn't mean to say that so soon. She wanted to get some answers first. She just hoped the witch was willing.
"Are you certain?"
"Well, then leave. You have 10 minutes to pack your things before you will be escorted of the premises. If you still refuse to leave by then, I will have the dogs chase you out."
"I understand but—"
"But? But what?"
"Can you give me any information about who I am? Who was the boy that brought me here?"
"I told you all I know," Ms. Marie said with a wave of her hand, "Now, leave my sight."
"Ms. Marie, can you tell me anything? Is my name really Nadira? Who are my parents? Where did I come from?"
Ms. Marie stared at Nadira sternly before releasing a long sigh. "Your name is Nadira; you were very instant on that when you first came. I don't know anything about the boy or your parents. The only thing I know is that you use to call the name Akira out in your sleep. Maybe that will help you. Now leave."
"Yes, Ms. Marie." Nadira said with a smile as she turned to leave. She paused at the door before looking at the middle-aged woman once again before saying, "I really appreciate the help that you have given me but I do hope that you will treat the other girls better. Being so cold hearted will not warm your bed at night and I can tell that your sheets have been freezing for some time. Good day, Madame."
The smile on Nadira's face grew wider as she closed the door behind her. Ms. Marie's mouth working something fierce with the way it was moving about but for the first time, in a long time, the woman was completely speechless. Yes, that felt good.
"Have you found her yet, my daughter?" Albert asked a young man.
He was lying in what will soon become his death bed. He had fallen ill during the winter. He has gotten progressively worse during the next few seasons until he reached the point where his physician was certain that he would not live past next week.
"Yes, she's leaving the orphanage today."
"Are you certain?"
"If memory serves me correctly, Nadira wasn't the type of girl that would settle for a maid's position. I'm sure she is leaving St. Marie's as we speak."
"Then find her, and bring her to me, Akira."
For the past five years, Albert had been searching for Nadira. He didn't accept his wife's lie that she had run away from home. He knew that something had happened to his daughter but he didn't know what. When he found news that she was alive, from an anonymous source, he enlisted the help of Akira, his personal butler, to look into the matter. And he knew that he made the right decision because not long after he asked Akira for his help, he had found Nadira and would bring her home.
"But sir, are you sure that is wise?"
Akira knew where Nadira was the entire time since he brought her to the orphanage. He didn't tell Albert, however, because he was still trying to find who attempted to take Nadira's life all those years ago. When the queen gifted him to the as an engagement gift for Lady Callia, he was thrilled. This would give him the chance to find the culprit and perhaps have them apprehended. He knew that Albert was not involved. The love that he has for his daughter is undeniable but he wasn't sure about the Duchess or the servants for that matter. He didn't want to bring Nadira back in such a hostile environment.
"Is there something you are not telling me, Akira?"
"Sir, according to Ms. Marie Cline, the night that Lady Nadira did not return, she was brutally attacked."
Akira watched Albert become emotional. His grew large and he was beginning to panic. He tried to get off the bed but Akira gently pushed him back down.
"What? Why did you not tell me this before?"
"Sir, I have suspicions that someone in this house is responsible for Lady Nadira's attack."
"Even more reason to tell me!"
"It could be someone very close to you. I didn't want to compromise you emotionally."
"Who is it, Akira?
Akira ignored the question, "She also is suffering from memory loss. She only knows her name, nothing else."
"My god! who did this to my daughter Akira? I have the right to know!"
"I am not completely sure and I do not want to upset you further in your current state. Just believe me when I say that it is not safe for her to return. I fear that another attempt will be made on her life and I afraid that the person will be successful."
"Is the situation that serious?"
Albert took a deep breath, if want Akira said is true then he would have to find a way to protect her. He didn't think he could live with himself if something happened to her again because he wasn't the father that she needed. He would have to wait before he could see her again. "Then I want you to find her immediately and take her to a secure place. She needs to remain safe until I can find a way to protect her. So go now."
"Yes sir," Akira bowed before leaving in a hurry.
Nadira felt her patience growing thin. It was obvious that the man was following her now. No one goes into the Banjul district for business unless they wanted to start trouble and this man looked like the trouble causing type. She turned quickly to face the man, catching him off guard. The shocked look on his face confirmed her suspicions. She glared at him before asking, "Why are you following me? What do you want?"
The man didn't say anything. He only smiled before turning down the alleyway that she had just passed. Nadira didn't know what to make of the situation. If she didn't think the guy was creepy before she sure as hell did now. 'Who just smiles and walks away when they're being asked a question,' she thought to herself.
She sighed before turning back around and heading towards her secret spot that she often spent her time when thinking about her life and trying to figure out who she was. It was a small alcove located between Mr. & Mrs. Gams cycle shop and Tum Tum's bakery. Only a few people knew about the spot because it was blocked off by a brick wall but there was a small spot that someone small enough could fit through and Nadira was the right size. She squeezed through the small opening before sitting underneath the small tree that was in the middle of a grass covered ground.
She didn't know what she was going to do. She didn't have a job or knew where to find one. Not many people would be happy to take in a girl with no background or previous work history. She didn't know how to do much of anything except for cook and clean and being a maid, while one of the lowliest positions, was not the easiest to fall in to. Normally it was a family business and that's how servants were hired, as a family.
"You shouldn't look so said. A beautiful girl like you should be smiling all the time."
Nadira's heart nearly leapt out of her chest. She looked over at the brick wall and saw the same man that was following her, smiling down at her happily. "What do you want?"
"Oh, I heard that you were looking for me."
"I wasn't looking for you," she said with a role of her eyes.
"Really? Well, I've been looking for you for quite some time. Well, that is a lie. I always knew where you were. I just had to wait until you were ready."
She watched as he climbed over the brick wall, and land next to her. She looked at him closely and decided that he was very handsome. It was his eyes that attracted her. They were so dark, obsidian. She never seen anyone with that eye color before and his black hair only made it look more beautiful. Her mouth fell open in awe.
"Wow, I haven't seen that look on your face in a while."
Nadira snapped out of her thoughts when she finally registered what he said. "What? Who are you?"
"I am Akira."
"Akira? Akira! You were the one that brought me to St. Maries!"
"Indeed, I am."
She took another close look at him and realized that his attire was that of a servant; which made her wonder how he could possibly make it over that wall. "You're a servant?"
"I am a butler, yes." He offered his hand and she took it graciously and attempted to stand but her legs were like jelly. Akira placed his hand around her waist to steady her. Time seemed to standstill as he led her within his arms. Akira had to admit that he was attracted to the young lady but he knew that his feelings would be rejected once she returned to the mansion. It made him wish that he was a noble worthy of her affection. He released his hold on her and slowly backed away. "Are you alright, Nadira?"
"Yes I'm fine," she blinked, "How do you know me?"
"I was with you the night that you were attacked."
"Do you know who I am?"
"Yes, but I cannot tell you at this moment."
"Why the hell not?"
Akira was surprised by her choice of words. She definitely didn't have the mouth of a Lady but then again she never did. That's what he liked about her. She had spunk.
"Your life will be in danger if I tell you your true identity. For the time being, you only need to know that your name is Nadira and you are from this province."
"How can you tell me what I need to know? I've been trying to find out who I am for the past five years!" She shoved him but he barely moved. "Who the hell are you to tell me what I need to know?"
"I am the man that is trying to save your life and until I find out who is trying to kill you, I will not tell you anymore than you already know. So please, calm down."
Nadira stared into his eyes for a moment and knew that he spoke the truth. She sighed and tried to control her tears. It just wasn't fair. His life was so screwed up and the one person that could help her refused to do so.
"How can I not? I am so close to finding out who I am and now…"
A tear fell from her eye. Nadira went to wipe it away but Akira beat her to it. He held her face within his hands and looked at her sincerely. The warmth in his touch comforted her more than Nadira expected.
"I am really sorry that I can't tell you more but I promise that I will someday and I promise that while your with me, I will protect you to the best of my abilities."
"While I'm with you?"
"Yes," Akira released his hold once again, "I wish for you to stay with me while I find out who put you in danger and why."
"I can't live with a man that I barely know."
"You've known me for 5 years to this day," He smiled brightly and Nadira felt her heart skip a beat. "And I am a man that you can trust. I promise I won't take advantage of you, if that is what you're worried about."
"You make a lot of promises."
"I only make promises to beautiful women that I plan to keep." He kissed her hand before winking, "Come, I have a place that's nearby. You can stay there."
"Come," he said once again before pulling her away.