THEY TOOK THE REST OF THE NIGHT AND HALF OF THE NEXT DAY TO arrive, but they didn’t find any other car or problem. Roxanne managed to sleep quite some time and spent the rest of the trip admiring the changing landscape. The village where the inn was had already constituted a tremendous novelty for them, but what they were now seeing went far beyond their wildest dreams.
Particularly Celeste’s. She had to close her eyes, and even cover them with her hands, unable to absorb the information.
The plain façades, the even soil, vehicles moving here and there, entire glass walls, lots of heterogeneous people passing each other, wearing disparate clothes…
Roxanne had heard of many of these things, but Celeste hadn’t. And, although her common sense taught her to expect that things outside the castle would be different – which, in fact, she wished them to be –, she suddenly found herself not ready to face it.
When they got out of the car, at Joseph’s house, she opened her eyes, but was careful not to pay too much attention to anything.
“Who are you?” Joseph asked her point blank once they’d left Roxanne lying in one of the bedrooms.
Celeste couldn’t help running her eyes over the room, looking for familiar objects – she was only able to identify the rug under her feet.
“You do know our names… and I’m not sure how much more my sister would want me to tell you.”
“Are you Leonard’s daughters?”
She began to feel calmer. Focusing her attention on the talk with Joseph was helping.
“I wouldn’t know.”
“I don’t know our father’s name.”
Joseph could tell by the girl’s candid tone, just like her sister’s, that it wasn’t going to be an easy conversation.
“All right,” he said, settling himself more comfortably on the sofa. Celeste didn’t seem to mind his proximity – what made her feel weird was the sofa itself. “Tell me what you know about yourself.”
“Well… My name’s Celeste. I’m nineteen years old… And, up till now, I was living in the castle with my sisters.”
Joseph realized how narrow he had been in claiming that they were grown-ups.
“How many sisters?”
“Five. Any brothers?”
“Whose castle is it?”
“Our father’s,” she replied, as if it were something obvious and needless to say. In fact, she somewhat took offense at Joseph’s ignorance.
“What is it you know about your father?”
She suddenly felt fearful. It was forbidden to talk about him, even though it was true that she and Roxanne had greatly violated this rule recently – or rather, Roxanne had, for she’d just listened.
“I mustn’t speak about him.”
What was wrong with her? Wasn’t she actually trying to escape rules like that?
“He’s tall and strong,” she blurted out, with the overwhelming need, from that moment on, to bite her lips. “And he travels a lot.”
“OK. And why are you dressed as if coming out from a medieval fancy ball? Wait a second! Oh, my… Six sisters in a castle…,” Joseph rubbed his forehead with both hands and then his chin several times. “I can’t believe it! But then it’s true! The legend is real!”
“NO!!!” the girl screamed and ran upstairs to the room where Roxanne was sleeping.
“Alan!” Joseph called, when he saw his friend coming in, at that precise moment, through the front door. “You won’t believe what I have to tell you!”