“ARE YOU IN LOVE WITH ALAN?”
The question caught Roxanne completely by surprise. The most embarrassing thing of all was that she actually had to reflect on it before she was able to give an answer. Blanche’s face – she was never left alone, for she seemed extremely frail since the terrible event – lit up on hearing the topic initiated by Celeste. Roxanne was really glad to see this sign of improvement.
“I wish I found it easier to answer that; but I don’t. I always thought I would.”
“Before things really happened?”
Celeste, the most affected one of all at first, had once again drawn upon her own strength to put the trauma behind her. She was suffering, a lot, Roxanne was well aware of that, and surely kept repeating to herself that night’s obsessive mantra: He thought it was me. But in front of everyone else, she was back to normal and helping Blanche exceptionally well.
“Do you miss him?” Almost two weeks had gone by since he had left.
“Yes, I do. But I don’t think that has to mean I’m in love. Besides, he’s gone, so it wouldn’t matter anyway.”
“Joseph is in love with you. He’s head over heels.”
“Where did you get that from? Head over heels?”
Blanche watched them, almost enjoying herself, laying aside her deep sorrow for a little while.
“From a book he lent me. He borrowed several for me from the library yesterday. I’m reading other things now, you know? Reeeal stuff.”
There was a fresh tone of healthy mischief in Celeste’s words.
“Well, I’m happy to hear that you’ve gotten interesting books to read, but, concerning that other thing, I’m convinced you’re wrong. Joseph sees me as a sister. Just like you.”
“Oh, not at all. And then, why would he ask me if you have feelings for Alan?”
Celeste pursed her lips and blinked with exaggerated eyelid movements.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Well, it’s true.”
Celeste turned to Blanche for confirmation. The latter nodded her head.
“But… why did he think I would have told you…” Roxanne stopped in time a question that no longer applied – the current conversation proved it – and that would hurt both of them.
It didn’t escape Celeste in the least, but she nobly overlooked it.
“Now, it is only left to know,” she went on without a hint of anything but good humor, “what you feel about him.”
“I…,” she decided to be honest. “I don’t know how long it takes to know something like that. And… I should probably need him to talk directly to me.”
“All right. Fair enough. I’ll then turn to a less pleasant issue, at least for me.”
Roxanne, who had remained with a blank stare for a couple of seconds, immediately focused on her sister.
“As you know, I’ve been a little weak… unwell, in general.”
“Joseph has done some tests, and he believes it was the shock that caused everything.”
“Roxanne, I… was expecting a child and I’ve lost it.”
The girl who didn’t always dress in red anymore was speechless. It was the reaction Celeste was expecting, so she went on to explain herself.
“For several months, Mr. Harris has been paying secret night visits to me. He said it was all right, because we were engaged and everything… And I… I liked being with him. He was very sweet and I thought I was really lucky to be the only one who knew the man I was going to marry, for how handsome he was… because he seemed to love me.
The last night he came to my room, when he was leaving, he said he intended to ask Father to give him Dora instead of me. Because he’d had enough of me already. It was then that I came to know his true face, his wickedness, how he enjoys causing humiliation.”
“That’s why you changed your mind so suddenly about getting married.”
“Yes. I knew it was a lie. He didn’t mean to ask Father for anything. He only said that for the fun of making me believe he was. But I didn’t want to spend my life with such a despicable person.
We’ve later seen he is also a murderer.”
“What does murderer mean?” asked Blanche, with a voice hoarse from disuse.
“It means what he did to Violet,” Celeste kindly answered her, aware that, even if Blanche was older than her, she’d come out into the world later. “It’s funny how Father didn’t want us to learn the words that have turned out to define him and his men better.”
Roxanne raised her eyebrows in agreement.
“I’d very much liked to become a mother,” said Celeste. “I really would have liked that a lot.”
“You will. Someday,” spoke again Blanche, truly joining in the conversation now.
“Probably,” said the one in blue, taking her sister’s hand in thankfulness. “But I won’t forget this. And if I ever have the chance to make him pay for what he’s done, I certainly will.”