THE BINDING TIE
DISCLAIMERS: see Part One
FEEDBACK: Pretty please with a sugar on top : ) .....firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTES: Hello folks, I'm back again. For those of you wondering, this is the same story as before, but now that I have free time I can finish it in the way I wanted. I have an additional 15 new chapters to add so here is the new part ten! Chapter 14 is very slightly altered and so reposted in this part as well. Chapter 15 is ALL NEW!
THANKS: To everybody who read the original posts and e-mailed me. This coursework got a 2:1 (B), i got a 3rd overal. I hope that you give the new sections a chance...'cause the ending sucked ; )
It was a suburban street, much like any other. Children, too young for school, played on manicured green in front of their whitewashed homes. Young men and women watched over their progeny, while others mowed a square of paradise. The idyllic scene was marred by one house, standing out darkly against the pristine white around it.
The white paint work had long since turned grey. Huge chunks of bare wood could be seen through the flaking veneer. Neglect showed in everything, the lawn was overgrown, trees hanging hunch shouldered over a rocky path. Weeds peeked out between paving, creating a treacherous journey to a scarred front door.
Light shone through the dirty windows, tracing a path through tattered blinds to hit the rooms within. The thin beads of light provided the only illumination in the bare room. Where a family should have sat and watched television, laughed and played, there was only dust. Through an open doorway the kitchen was visible. Dirty plates stacked to the ceiling, filth covered the floor and cockroaches could be seen scuttling away from the light.
In the basement a figure paced, bathed not in the light of day but in the fluorescence of a television screen. Weird shadows were cast as a moving body blocked the light from hitting the wall. The basement was as full of clutter as the rest of the house was empty. A beaten sofa sat before a huge television screen. A moth-eaten carpet lay across the floor, balding in places. Yet no art coloured the walls, nothing gave away the true personality of the owner.
With a loud sigh of frustration a lean body threw itself onto the beaten sofa, settling as the furniture creaked with the weight of her body. Her eyes skittered over the television screen, taking in and rejecting the information it displayed. Her gaze sped away and landed on the open door of the basement and the clothes that hung there. A pristine blue uniform was hooked there, almost gleaming in the dull light.
"How could she act like that?" The voice was eerily loud in the otherwise quiet room.
Maybe they're friends?
"How could they be friends after what that witch and her family have done to her?"
People can forgive...
"NO!" It was a frenzied shout. "You can't forgive that!"
This is human nature...
"Slavery is wrong, men and women should be free."
"I am. I chose this crusade. When there are no more slaves I'll be free."
You live in a cage of your own making.
"She will look at me with, see Me, when I set her free."
If she doesn't...
But if she doesn't?
"Selfish bitch!" An ashtray flew across the room, shattering as it hit the wall.
How selfish? She is a slave.
"Everything is for her! I have sacrificed for her!"
She never asked.
"We pledged to be together."
She did not abandon you.
"She let the witch touch her!"
She was obviously disorientated.
"They must drug her." It was like a light-bulb going off above her head.
This is ridiculous....
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" The slender woman threw herself off the sofa. Her body hit the coffee table, sending its contents crashing to the floor.
Suddenly the basement seemed too small, she had to get out. She ran from the room and up the decaying flight of stairs. The faster she ran the louder the pounding of blood in her ears became, drowning out the voices. She had to get away from the voices. They challenged her conviction and questioned her motives. She must run, she mustn't loose focus. So she ran through the house and out the door, flinging it out of the way.
As she stepped onto the unkempt lawn at the back of the building she stopped. The light streamed down on her, bathing her in heat. She kept still, like a cornered animal. Her chest heaved and her eyes darted from side to side, alert for danger. Warey of prying eyes.
Slowly she began to calm. The warm, bright sunlight burning away the sound of the voices, like morning fog. Shallow breaths calmed to deep breaths as a calm settled on her. Her resolve began to reassert itself. Standing firm, a smile inched its way onto her lips as she looked up, allowing herself to bask in the purity of the light....
In the basement the uniform still rested against the door, alone. The room was dark now, the television blank. On the floor laid scattered cigarette ends and cans, fallen riders of the tables surface. In amongst the refuse lay a brown paper file. Bold against the cardboard a white label stood out starkly, proclaiming a name....
uniforms swarmed over the house searching for evidence, like workers ants busily gathering food. The grey haired man looked on in bemusement, his blue eyes roaming his estate. He was a little perplexed by their actions, were protecting his home or trying to find evidence against his daughter? It is was the latter, he was confident that they would find nothing. Francesca was a gentle soul and just not strong enough, physically or emotionally, to beat a man to death. Although, he couldn't find it in his heart to hate the person who did. Not after what Douglas had done to his baby.
Salvatore turned to the man by his side. "How much longer will your people be here?" It had already been a week.
"We'll be out of your hair by the end of the day, Mr Prince. I plan on leaving a police presence here, just in case the bomber strikes again." The chubby, red faced, police inspector did not wish to antagonise the billionaire.
"Good." Salvatore turned on his heels and strolled back to the house.
"Mama, where's Trish?" Asked the bemused young woman.
"Contrary to popular belief, and what your father might say, I am capable of cooking a meal. Pass me the paprika." She took the jar from her statuesque daughter. "Anyway, Trish has the week off." Darla was engrossed in her preparations and missed the smirk that spread across Francesca's face.
Before the singer could make another comment about her mothers culinary expertise the door to the kitchen banged open. Two small children and one flushed adult barrelled through it. Hunter pulled out a kitchen chair and fell down into it, the little bundle in her arms held with great care. She placed the now wriggling Becca onto the floor and seemed to deflate into the seat.
Francesca and Darla shared a raised eyebrow as they watched the uncharacteristic actions of the bodyguard. For her not to acknowledge them as she entered was out of character enough, but to presume to sit in her owners presence without permission was unthinkable. Mother and daughter were quite pleased at this turn of events, for although the bodyguards were still slaves, they were trying to make each of them feel more at ease in the house. The other four were settling into this new degree of freedom with quickly, Hunter, however, seemed to be looking for the catch.
Terrance noticed the exchange of looks between his mother and grandmother and couldn't wait to reveal what he knew. "Mama, Hunter has a cold. She sounds just like that elephant on the TV." He beamed up at his tall mother, before rushing to his grandma for a hug. Rochel was close on his heels for some familial attention.
"Hunter?" The other woman didn't even turn her head, seeming to be in a world of her own. Francesca walked to her side and looked more closely at her face. Not only was the warriors face unusually red, her skin looked clammy. In the age old tradition of mothers everywhere Francesca reached out and laid a cool hand on the smaller woman's forehead.
The touch on her face startled Hunter out of her near catatonic state. It shocked her so much that she fell out of her chair and crashed to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs. The brunette barely held back her mirth at seeing the other woman in such a state of disarray, she was usually so in control.
"I'mb sorry. I should have asked... Atchooo!..." A genuinely pathetic look spread across the usually stoic face.
"Hunter, do you have a cold?" The warrior nodded mutely. "Have you had a cold before?" The same head shook. "I think we should get you to bed."
"I never get sick." The artificially blue eyes were filled with bewilderment. "It's all because my implant is switched off, makes me imbune...." She trailed off with a sniff.
"Francesca, take that girl to the day room and get her to lay down." Darla took charge, as was her right as matriarch of the family. She could see the older girl was about to abject. "You will do as I say, young lady. I think we can take care of you for a few days. There are police everywhere, so you don't need to worry about your duties. Now scoot, I'll make you some tea, you used to like that when you were a little girl." She got a forlorn nod in response as the shorter figure followed Francesca out of the room. Becca hurriedly following in their wake.
Terrance and Rochel briefly looked up from their colouring, but quickly dismissed the adults antics in favour of their own. Darla beamed at the two children, just like old times.
"Hunter, Hunter." The singer was becoming frustrated with her patient. "Rhani, if you don't lay still I am going to tie you to that sofa!"
Becca's eyes grew wide as she heard her mama use that tone. Mama only used that tone when she was mad at them, but trying not to show it. It was even more dangerous when Mama used their full names. Becca always knew that she was in trouble when she got called Rebecca. The little girl started to giggle, Hunter was in sooo much trouble.
"Sorry." Hunter spoke in a little voice, her eyes wide and dejected. It made Francesca's heart melt.
"You know, I don't remember you be this pathetic when we were kids?"
"You must have a really selective memory, darling." Interjected Darla as she walked into the room. Terrance held the door open for his grandmother who was burdened with a tray of tea and cookies. "She was never a good patient, she'd only keep still if you watched cartoons together. So falling back on an old tradition, you two girls can watch cartoons and the children can keep and eye on you." The older woman was positively glowing. "That way I'll have you all out of my hair while I finish preparing dinner." She put the tray on the table and after giving the slave a smile she was gone.
Anyone looking in would see a picture of domesticity. Two of the children sat cross legged in from of the television, absorbed in the antics of a cartoon cat. Behind them, equally engrossed laid one prone adult. Their mother sat in an armchair with her smallest child ensconced in her lap. The room was quiet except for the sounds emanating from the screen and the occasional munching of biscuits and slurping of tea.
Francesca was watching Hunter as Hunter watched the television. The expressions that flittered across the cherubic face were mesmerising, she hadn't seen the other woman so animated since they were children. Little did she realise that her own face was reflecting her pleasure.
Becca tugged on her mothers sleeve and as the tall brunette looked down at her she whispered in her ear. Francesca beamed down at the little girl. Francesca nodded in answer to her daughters, then watched as the child climbed off her lap and walked over to the invalid.
Becca tapped the gladiator on the shoulder to get her attention. Hunter turned her head towards the serious girl. "Can I sit with you?"
The sniffing adult looked towards her owner, her eyebrows raised in inquiry. "It's alright. The kids have been inoculated against everything, you can't give them your germs."
Taking that as a yes, Becca clambered up next to Hunter, placing herself between the muscular body and the back of the couch. Within minutes she was sound asleep, showing that she was still suffering the lingering affects of the bombing. Hunter absently stroked the child's hair. In a low voice, so as not to attract the attention of Rochel and Terrance, she began talking with Francesca.
"You don't seem worried."
"Why should I be? There haven't been any letters or phone calls since.... Anyway, there are police crawling over the place. Papa said that they are going to leave a presence when they are finished." Francesca didn't want to talk about what had happened to Douglas, especially not in front of the children. They had been told their father was dead and seemed to be taking it in stride, using the resilience that children seemed to possess.
"That's not what I meant. The police suspect you..."
"Why should I worry about that? I'm innocent. It's obvious that my stalker was really after Douglas, that's why the threats have stopped. They've got what they wanted. I'm sure that once the police have finished with their investigation they'll have the culprit and we'll be safe." Francesca seemed so certain and happy that Hunter didn't want to rain on her parade.
Hunter didn't share the other woman's confidence. Deep inside she had the sinking suspicion that Douglas' murder was just the tip of a very large iceberg. Francesca was in the frame, and without any further threats things didn't look good for her. The fact that the police had no physical evidence meant very little, considering that they couldn't place anybody else at the scene either. The warriors head began to ache, too much thinking was not good for somebody with a head full of mucus. She let out a pitiful groan.
"I feel like a snot goblin!"
Two tawny heads swivelled in her direction with the speed of light. She was suddenly bombarded with two more bodies as Rochel and Terrance settled themselves on top of her, jostling their sister awake. Three small faces looked at her expectantly, wanting to know all about Snot Goblins. Francesca fell about laughing at the panicked expression on her patients face. She returned a look which said, very firmly, your on your own. She couldn't wait to hear this.
"Sal, have you seen Francesca's watch?" Darla was still bustling around the kitchen.
Salvatore looked up from his position at the kitchen table, the newspaper spread out in front of him. "No, should I have?"
"I just thought she left it on the window ledge while we were cooking." She shook her head. "She must have taken it with her. But I could have sworn..."
In the day room, Francesca glanced at her watch, only to realise that it wasn't on her wrist. Must have left it in the kitchen. She turned back to the sleeping quartet on the sofa and relaxed. Just for now, all was right in the world.
The silver watch disappeared into a dark pocket, ready to join its fellow souvenirs back in a suburban house.