Entry Twenty Three

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A thousand happinesses shattered in that very moment.

"Papa no! Tell me its not true. Tell me you did not use me as collateral to erase a debt of your own doing?" I yelled. With each passing second I felt the happy little memories I had of Papa, exploding in my mind, one-by-one, forever lost in his misdeeds.

"I was a foolish man, Belle. I got in way over my head. I was playing a game and I lost," he said as if that was some sort of explanation for his actions.

A realisation washed over me at some point during the conversation. Everything that Geroux had said was the truth. I am to believe the man who kidnapped me over my own father. I should not be surprised. All drunken gamblers are liars.

"You let him keep me there in his castle of horrors and you did nothing?" I asked, not expecting a response. I was merely trying to make sense of my own thoughts.

"Wait a minute. Belle didn't just up and leave one day, she was taken?" asked Henrietta rhetorically, connecting the dots. "So, this whole time, you knew that someone took Belle? You let Chantelle and Pierre go out there and look for her when you knew where she was this whole time?"

"I knew whom, I just didn't know where," he said, shaking his head. "I was too ashamed. I couldn't admit such a thing. I have brought so much shame to our family name."

"Our family name is mud you buffoon," I seethed. I was so blinded by rage I simply could not control myself. "You know, I used to blame mother for leaving, but now it is clear that the blame rests solely with you. How could mother possibly stand to live with a two-faced chancer like you. You were as fit a husband as you are a father. I am only surprised she did not leave sooner," I spat the words at him. A little more vitriol-laced than I had anticipated, but in the heat of the moment I could not be held accountable.

My words hung in the air, stinging him greater than any bee could ever dream of. Henrietta was first to come back to reality, walking briskly toward me.

"Belle," said Henrietta, in her instructive voice. The same inflection she would use as a child when she wanted myself or Chantelle to play dollies with her. Hen grabbed my arm and guided me into the hall.

"Why don't you go outside and get some fresh air," she said, in a hushed tone. "Hen, I could be seen," I replied, reminding her of the situation. "Its night time, nobody will see you. You know I would never want to endanger you. I will talk with Papa, while you calm down," she said.

"Calm down? After what he did!" I said loudly. I wanted Papa to hear that. "I can barely believe it either, this is all so... much. We have a lot to discuss, you and I. I'll calm Papa and put him to bed and then I'll come out and fetch you, alright?"

I did not even respond. I just turned and went outside, shutting the door behind me.

Pacing around outside, the farm did not feel anywhere near as welcoming as it did a week ago. My fists clenched and unclenched as I breathed in the night air.

So many questions flooded my mind. How could Papa have let this happen? Was he not concerned about his daughter? How could he not find the courage to come and rescue me? Would he have let me stay there forever had I not come back and exposed his lie?

A horrible thought to ponder, indeed.

Why I was taken and not one of my sisters was still not clear in the slightest.

If Henrietta could convince Papa to leave with us, then I would put aside those issues until we were safe. Then, I would endeavour to work on the relationship between myself and my father, if there is, in fact, any relationship left to salvage.

I am unsure of how long I was outside, but I remember thinking it had been quite a while. Henrietta had not come to fetch me and the night was rather chilly so I let myself back inside. Perhaps she was still consoling Papa?

Perhaps not.

Papa was back in bed, sitting upright. Henrietta sat on the side of the bed. She looked up at me with a thoughtful face.

"Well?" I asked.

"Papa has told me everything," Henrietta began," and all things considered, Belle, I think it would be best for everyone, if you went back to live with Geroux."

My mouth fell open, I was aghast.

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