“I’ve been through the pain and been dragged through the dirt …”
David Guetta ft. Estelle
Monday June 15th
Scavador Castle, Principality of Rock, 6:49 p.m.
Isobel had felt invisible her entire life under the employment of Baroness Famika. When people spoke to her, they seemed to peer straight through her and she could see in their eyes that they were thinking of something or someone more important. In all the years she had worked for Baroness Famika, she had hardly ever heard a kind word from any adult staff member. Everyone in the employment of Famika spent each day flattened under her expertly manicured thumb. The closest and dearest person in Isobel’s life was Ming Ho, a spirited girl who had ceremoniously* anointed Isobel as her honorary sister. *The ceremony involved five stolen chocolate biscuits, a crude crown of rank goose feathers, a sceptre artfully crafted from empty cereal boxes and Ming’s insistence that the two girls seal their pact of sisterhood by spitting copious amounts of saliva into their palms before shaking hands
Isobel longed to be free. Free from her enslavement and a world of endless confinement. She remembered little from the fateful day when her father’s hovercar had spun out of control and somersaulted into the Undine River near Scavador Castle. Isobel had faint memories of her parents, and of her short childhood in the leafy suburbs of Bouldia City; but searching for specific details was like trying to grasp a feather trapped in a cyclone. The more she tried to remember, the more blurred the pictures of her past became. She could no longer separate her dreams from reality. She had learned that no amount of tears would bring her parents back, and nothing could recreate the pictures of her past.
Baroness Famika had arrived at the scene of the accident shortly afterwards. She had ordered her chauffeur and escorts to free Isobel and her parents from the sinking wreckage. Too late to save her mother and father, a Marionette guardsman pulled Isobel to freedom and carried her dripping to the Baroness’s limousine.
Isobel had been trapped in the freezing water for several minutes and all she could recall was her astonishment at seeing a school of luminous fish swirling around her. Try as she might she couldn’t quite recall what they looked like. All she remembered was how peaceful their gentle humming had been and how a violet ring of light had encircled her in safety.
Another flash of memory that stood out clearly in the jumbled mass of fear and sodden misery was the exact moment that Baroness deLauer had rolled down her window and inspected Isobel, eying her up and down like something foul and dirty. Isobel remembered gazing wide-eyed at the menacing woman, utterly entranced by her icy-eyed beauty.
‘Put that child in front with the driver! I don’t want her in the back getting my seats wet.’
That was it. No sympathy and even less compassion – and it had stayed the same for Isobel since that day. From then on she lived each moment as if in the next she would be beaten or accused of something she hadn’t done.
On a few occasions she had accompanied Baroness Famika to Rio de Grande, and seen other girls her age. How she longed to be like them, to stroll along the Lacroix Riviera waterfront without a care in the world. Her last outing to the city had been shortly after her twelfth birthday; she had spotted a few young girls giggling near a group of boys, each party acting more awkwardly than the other. Would she ever have the chance to meet a boy, and if she did, would she have the courage to hold his hand?
Once, when Isobel was ten, there had once been a delivery boy, a tall handsome boy of about twelve with the greenest eyes Isobel had ever seen. He’d been given a few days’ work in the Castle storage sheds. On an errand in the kitchens one day, Isobel had walked in on him unpacking boxes in the cavernous pantry. Isobel had heard other serving maids giggling about boys and kissing, but she knew nothing about ‘falling in love’. But on that day, when she saw that boy, she most certainly knew that she had never felt anything like the warm tingling that spread through her and left her cheeks burning red.