JOSEPH’S MOTHER AND HER PARTNER FINALLY DECIDED NOT TO GO with them. Since their son was going to be on Playa, where there were annual trips to, the separation wouldn’t be so drastic and they’d be able to visit. He was all right with that and it didn’t alter his plans at all.
Joseph requested a transfer at the medical center, which was quickly and easily agreed to.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly. Only the women’s passes remained to be obtained and, in this, his mother’s boyfriend, also a doctor by profession, really helped them, endorsing the medical report stating their psychotherapeutic need.
“Not everything is bad on Planet Eleven,” Joseph told them, trying to cheer them up. “The medical and scientific organization is excellent. And it’s the sector that’s growing more strongly. Maybe soon, individuals like our father will be mere things of the dark initial past.”
Maybe. But, for the moment, he remained very present in all of the girls’ minds.
“Are we considered ill?” Roxanne eventually asked Joseph. “Is that why we’re allowed to leave?”
“Well, not exactly. Let’s say there is the understanding that moving elsewhere will benefit your health.”
“But if they care about our health, why have they let Leonard keep us trapped within the castle for so long?”
“This is not globally governed, Roxanne. It’s simply divided into private areas, which mind their own businesses and don’t usually interfere in the others’ affairs. The spaceships that travel to Playa from the Northern Territory belong to the scientific community settled there and, since they purchased the land from Leonard a few years ago, also here. So, they establish their own parameters when it comes to granting the places. But they don’t meddle in whatever Leonard does or has done in the grounds that still belong to him. Although, of course, they disapprove.”
“It doesn’t matter how we manage to get out of here,” said, almost implored, Lorraine. “The important thing is that we do.”
Roxanne realized she wasn’t as close to her aunt as she was before, and she couldn’t understand why.
Everything had got so complicated in the days, barely weeks, since they’d run away from the castle… She felt she was changing and, maybe, not always for the best. She felt closer to Celeste and Blanche, but quite the opposite seemed to be happening towards Lorraine. How could that be when she’d felt so distraught at the thought that she was dead?
It was the last afternoon at Joseph’s before heading off to the north. They could not delay it any longer if they wanted to arrive on time for the spaceship departure to Playa. They were going to go in his van, where there was room for all of them plus their luggage. They were pretty much packed and Joseph had gone to take his other car, the first one Roxanne and Celeste had been in, to his mother’s garage.
Lorraine approached her niece, who was sitting on the backyard steps.
“Please, forgive me, Roxanne.”
Roxanne looked at her with surprise.
“Don’t look so mystified. I know you hold grudges on me for letting that happen to your mother, but you must know if it had been in my power, I would’ve done anything to prevent it.”
“I do not blame you at all,” said the girl, astonished, more than anything, that her aunt discerned her emotions better than she did. “How could I possibly?”
She felt awful because, in truth, she was exactly doing that. And it was totally unfair, she now, at last, realized.
“I love you, Mama. I’m sorry if I’m acting strangely. It’s just that so many horrible things have happened.”
“I know. And you’re also going through a lot of changes. You’re not wearing red for one thing.”
“No, I’m not,” Roxanne smiled. “And Celeste has compromised with Blanche that when she feels ready, they will both change their clothes too. Blanche can’t do that yet. She must go slowly.”
“That’s very sweet of Celeste.”
“Indeed. I’d never known how good she was until I proposed that we run away.”
“She’s changed. I don’t mean she wasn’t kind before, but she’s really very different now. Very, very different. She’s become much more mature. She’s had to, I guess. Just like you.”
Roxanne didn’t know if Lorraine was aware of Celeste’s loss. In case she wasn’t, she didn’t mention it, and they both stayed for a while simply enjoying each other’s company until the doorbell rang. They had no electricity in the castle, so this kind of things always amazed her and her sisters.
Roxanne went to open the door, glad to have discharged some tension. From now on, she promised herself to make a bigger effort, always remembering that she wasn’t the only one who was suffering here.
When she opened up, she was expecting to feel awkward, for new faces still overwhelmed her, in spite of the additional strength the exceptional nature of the situations faced up till now had given her to cope with it. However, on this occasion, such particular strength was not going to be necessary since there were no new faces outside the door. She would need an infinitely greater one, to confront, to face, the two men she found standing in front of her.
Fear left her speechless.
The men didn’t say a word either until Lorraine appeared at the entrance, behind her daughter.