Wow it's been a long time. 2 years....ouch. x_x;
I have a bunch of reasons for not having updated in so long but I'll give you the main reasons: I started attending a public school in '08 and it took some getting used to the whole system and there were some losses in the family.
But that's not what you want to hear about, am I right? xD
So after a very long wait here it is, the next chapter! :3 Hopefully I still have some readers to read this. xD;;;
Critique welcome as always. ;3
Night had quickly descended upon London. It was really no surprise considering it's obvious lack of sunlight. I would have rather been anywhere else than where I was. The source of my antagonistic mood was without question the Beadle. I could not stand the man! Clenching my jaw tightly, I took a deep breath through my nose in the hopes I would calm down. I might make a habit of this if I kept at the pace I had going today.
"You know, my dear Ari," the Beadle started and I mentally blanched at his use of my nickname. "You have truly grown lovely over these past few years."
It took all my willpower to keep a passive face. My mind was screaming for me to run, run very far away. "Thank you for the compliment." I said through my teeth and tried to smile, it was wasted effort on my part.
"Why I only speak the truth, my dear." He smiled.
I opted to not say anything. At this rate I wasn't entirely sure I could keep up this charade until we arrived at the manor. I only prayed he would leave me alone now.
"Yes, it is rather odd, what with your being so lovely, that you aren't married." he tried to say nonchalantly.
I felt my blood run cold, I did not like where this conversation was going. I kept my face forward, not daring to look at him.
He didn't say anything else on the subject.
I had to hold the huge sigh of relief in as I saw the manor come into view. So close now.
"Well, I thank you for escorting me all they way here Beadle, and now I bid you goodnight." I smiled tightly.
He tipped his hat. "It was my pleasure, but I do need to see Judge Turpin. Perhaps we shall go see him together? I'm sure you have to report to him about your delivery, no?"
I smiled feebly. It seemed luck was not on my side today. We headed inside and went straight to the Judge's study. That ominous feeling from earlier had come back.
"Ah Beadle, what brings you here?" the Judge asked when we arrived. It appeared he had been reading a book.
"I've come to discuss that topic, if you don't mind of course." replied the Beadle. He lightly tapped his cane on the floor.
The judge gave a short nod and turned to me. "Arianna, did you deliver those papers?"
"Yes sir, though he took them rather reluctantly."
"That is of no importance." he retuned the book he had been reading back on the shelf.
"Then I bid you goodnight, my lord." I said bowing slightly. I was more than ready to go to sleep already.
"Actually no. I believe your presence will still be required." I looked at him. I didn't like the look he was giving me, it emanated malice.
"Might I ask why?" I tried to keep my voice from shaking. If ever the Judge wanted me to stay it was not a good thing at all. Had he found out about my father's return? My breath hitched in my throat at the thought.
"I assume you have noticed how unusual it is for a young woman such as yourself to still be unwed?" he said as he began to pace in front of his desk.
I felt the blood drain from my face. It wasn't concerning my father but it was just as bad. This couldn't be a coincidence. Surely he wouldn't? He couldn't possible want me to marry- I stopped myself there, I would cause myself a unnecessary panic attack if I thought like that. Maybe it was just a coincidence?
The Judge did not bother to wait for a reply and continued, "Do not worry. I have already found a man who is willing to take you, as worthless as you are." He gave me a disgusted look.
Normally I would have flinched at his insult but I was distracted all together by the subject about which we were speaking. I did however look down at my feet. I always knew he intended to get rid of me. Especially after he announced that he and Joanna were to be married. I happened to glance at the Judge's face a saw that he held a truly malicious and mocking smirk on his face.
"W-who is it?" I couldn't keep my voice from shaking.
"Why, the good Beadle Bamford, of course."
My blood turned icy cold at his words. I couldn't think. I felt numb.
The Beadle finally spoke, "Now I assure you, Arianna, it will not be as bad as it seems." He smiled and the usual disgust I felt was ten times stronger. "I will treat you right, so long as you behave accordingly and do everything I tell you to." He gave me a lustful look and I could not react. I had reached my limit.
"You will depart in the morning and I trust you'll have what little you own ready." The Judge sounded almost bored.
My mind was screaming in protest but I did not dare try to speak up against it. I knew all too well what would happen. So I took and deep breath, tried to stop the tears I knew were coming, and nodded.
"Good, you may leave now, the Beadle and I still have things to discuss."
As soon as I turned to leave I felt someone grab my hand. I turned and saw the Beadle.
"Goodnight my dear." he said as he kissed my hand.
I swear his smile was mocking. I turned to the Judge and he was smirking, probably at the revolted look on my face.
"G-goodnight." I said and snatched my hand back.
I quickly walked out the door, and as soon as I was out of their earshot I dashed towards Johanna's room. I needed my sister.
I slowed my pace by a bit as soon as Johanna's door came into view. I was glad all the servants were already asleep by now or it would have been much more difficult to see her.
I reached her door and opened as quietly as I could. It gave a low creek in protest but was other wise quiet. I was surprised to see Johanna still up, it was quite late.
"Oh, Ari, what brings you here?" she questioned as she set the scissor and paper down. "Oh dear, Ari, your face is ghostly pale. Are you alright?"
I walked closer to her and suddenly the last few event of the day truly catch up with me. I started crying and shaking all over. My fate was starting to catch up to me and I wasn't sure I could handle it.
"Ari, what's the matter?" I heard Johanna ask. I could hardly make anything out everything was blurry because of my tears. I felt a hand grab my shoulder and I looked up.
"Sit down." Johanna gently urged.
I did as she said and promptly cried my eyes out harder. She rubbed calming circles on my back.
"Now tell me what happened."
And tell her I did, I spared not a single detail in my recollection of the day's events. She would now why I was in the state I was in. _____________________________________________________________________________________
"What are you going to do?" Joanna asked as I finished. Concern was etched on her face as she looked at me.
"I do not know. I'm to leave tomorrow." I let my words hang in the air. I felt weak and weary. Everything around me didn't feel real. Perhaps I was trying to subconsciously block out what had happened?
"Then you must leave tonight."
I looked up at my sister. "What?"
"You said you're to leave tomorrow? Then run away. Tonight." Her expression was stern, she was not joking in the slightest.
"I can't leave you. We promised, remember? We'd both leave this place or stay here forever." I looked down. "Besides, you remember what happened the last time we tried to leave…" I would never forget. The judge hadn't harmed Joanna but I on the other hand had not been so lucky. I don't think I had ever been in so much pain. I still had scars on my arms, but I wouldn't think of that now. There were more pressing matters at hand than old memories that ought be forgotten.
"Then we try to leave again." Joanna's voice was firm. Very rarely had I heard her use that tone. There would be now dissuading her from her decision but still I tried.
"You know we can't do that! Remember last time, I was the one who got hurt." I hated using that against her but I had to stop her foolish thinking.
She looked pained by my words. "Then…then I will leave myself!"
I stared at her. Yes there was nothing more in this world I wanted than to be free of all this but I couldn't just take her up on her proposal. We couldn't act rashly, but…freedom was so close.
Could I agree to this? Throw every bit of caution to the wind and risk our safety? But…we had nothing left to lose anymore. If we just sat around and did nothing we would never be free. "Alright Joanna, we leave tonight."
She smiled at me and I knew she was jumping with joy inside. "So how should we do this?" she asked.
"We'll leave in a few more hours. After the Beadle has gone and the Judge is asleep. We can't take too much with us though. Only the most essential things."
"Where will we go?"
I smiled at her. "To Aunt Lovett's of course, which also means to father." I could hardly suppresses the feeling of joy that ran through me as I thought of our family coming together again. Our father would keep us safe I was sure of it.
"Father…" A smile appeared on her face as she whispered the name. This would be her first time meeting him.
"I should go to my room for the time being. I'll be back in a few hours. Alright?"
She nodded and I left her room.
My walk through the dark halls was a quiet one and I couldn't help but worry about the future. Would we be able to escape the Judge or would he forever hunt us down? Were we really going to be able to escape?
I shook my head as if to physically expel those negative thoughts from my mind. I had to think positive. We were going to escape from this awful place. I reached my room and stepped inside, determined not let myself think this escape was going to be anything other than successful.
The hours passed at a sluggishly slow pace and more often than naught I founds myself pacing around my small room. All my belongings of importance were already packed. I only had a small bag's worth of things to take with me.
Once I was sure sufficient time had passed I made my way over to Johanna's room.
"Are you ready?" I asked as I entered the room.
She jumped a little when she heard me. Turning around she answered with a quiet, "Y-yes." she looked nervous and unsure.
"Are you sure you are ok with this?" I asked concerned for her.
Johanna took one last look around the four walls that had been her prison since the horrible day we arrived here. She closed her eyes and took a deep breathe and made her way towards me and the exit.
"Let's go." She looked at me with a determined expression on her face.
I smiled at her. Glad to see the determination in her eyes. Perhaps she would shake off that timidity of hers yet.
We stepped into the darkened hall with only the light from the moon outside to guide our way. We stepped as carefully as we could, terrified of making a noise loud enough to wake anyone. There was no telling what would happen if a servant awoke and found us. Like last time…
We reached the end of the hallway. I took a tentative glance around the corner, it was clear. Our walk slowed to a crawl when we passed the Judge's room. The lights were off but that did not mean that he was asleep. He could even still be in his study which could mean we might run into him. A chill ran through me at the thought.
It seemed we had been inching along in the dark for an eternity before we made it to the staircase. We were almost there.
Then I heard it, the sound of footsteps. I forgot how to breathe. Had we been found out so quickly?
"Ari." Joanna whispered to me. She grabbed my should and gave me a little shake. "We must go now."
"R-right." I whispered back to her. Maybe if we were quiet enough, no one would hear us.
We descended the steps in the fastest and most silent way we could. We could not afford to be caught now.
We had just reached the bottom of the stair when another noise rang out. Only this one wasn't footsteps. It sounded like a cry of rage. That could only mean one thing…
The judge knew we were gone.
I grabbed Joanna's hand and caution be damned, I ran for the back door. If we were fast enough we could hide in an alleyway.
If was a very large factor because I could hear the Judge's angry shouts getting closer. Other voices were joining in too and while not angry I was sure they weren't going to help us if they found us.
We rounded a corner and I almost slipped on the floor, I'd have brought Joanna down with me if I hadn't flung my arm out and happened to catch a sculpture of some sort. The sculpture gave me an idea.
After righting myself I knocked the sculpture to the ground. It shattered and our followers would have a nice surprise waiting for them when and if they came this way.
The back door finally came into view. This was it the final stretch. We were so close. The shouts, however, we getting louder. They were catching up.
I let go of Joanna's hand and undid the locks, the night air hitting my face like a series of small daggers.