To my relief, Harry had gone off to college and I was left alone in the house with Mrs Briffen. I'd done my best to avoid him this morning, making myself look occupied in the kitchen as I helped the maid wash the dishes. He looked like he couldn't be bothered with me anyway although I could sense him taking a few glimpses at me every once in a while but it was probably done out of curiosity, not lust.

I know we'd only properly met this morning and we barely spoke but there was a high possibility that Harry wasn't attracted to me... which I thought was great. All I wished for now was for him to keep ignoring me. Guys like him would obviously be more interested in getting with those pretty, outgoing blue-eyed blonde girls.

Yes, Mr Richard, you picked well. Ha.

I toured around the mansion in the afternoon, seeing the interior for the first time in daylight as all the heavy, velvet curtains were drawn open. I noticed that the ceiling was extremely was tall as I made my way up to the second floor by one of the two spiral staircases that faced each other. It was hard to believe that this place belonged to just one person.

I ventured along the lengthy corridors, taking careful steps on the ceramic tiles. There were all sorts of framed artwork hung up on the walls but they were all bland and lacking colour. Maybe I just didn't know how to appreciate art.

I found it odd how there wasn't a single family photograph until I came across a large portrait of two people at the end of a hallway. For some reason, I was drawn to look closer at it. It was of a dark haired woman, quite beautiful in my opinion and a little boy sat on her lap.

Eventhough the boy had straight, bowl-cut hair, he bore a resemblance to Harry. So I assumed the woman was his mother. It didn't look like they were posing for the photograph as their smiles were genuine. And eventhough there were only the two of them in it, it was a beautiful family picture.


"Thalia!" I jumped when I heard Mrs Briffen call for me. I backed away from the portrait and bolted through the corridors.


The house was so massive I had trouble remembering where I'd come from, which route I'd taken. "Thalia!" She called again, her voice shaking.


"Coming!" I yelled back, finally arriving at the staircase.


I rushed down the stairs and made my way over to Mrs Briffen, who was looking out the living room window. She had her hands over her mouth as she turned to me. "There's a boy outside, he keeps calling for you."


I pushed the curtain further to the side and glanced out to see my brother. What in the world was he doing here?

He began jumping and waving when he saw me. "That's my brother." I told Mrs Briffen, leaving her surprised as I ran to the entrance door.

Jakey quickly hugged me once the door was flung open. "What are you doing here?" I stressed, lightly pushing him back by the shoulders. "You could get into trouble if this gets to Richard. How did you even find me here?" I glanced behind him, in hopes of finding some sort of transportation. "Don't tell me you walked here!"

"I took a taxi, Lia! Would you quit worrying?" He responded, a smile coming into view as he finished. "What are you wearing?" He chuckled, amused by the long, vintage dress I had on. It was the only decent clothing in the sports bag I was given.

"Not funny, Jakey. Now would you tell me what you're doing here?" I demanded, folding my arms.
.

He slid the backpack he had off his shoulders and handed it over to me. "Clothes for you. Mum knew this would happen."

I took the worn out backpack from him, slightly disappointed that my mother hadn't come along. I missed her terribly. But I knew Richard would complicate things and turn our meeting into a problem if he found out. It was already dangerous that my brother was here. Richard could just pop up any minute.

"Thanks, Jakey." I ruffled his hair. "But you need to go now."

"When are you coming home, Lia?"

"Soon, hopefully. I don't think these people like me that much. I have a feeling they'll send me back." I explained.

"You're um... they haven't made you..."

"No." I intoned. "Don't worry. How's mum?"

"She had chest pain when you left. She's still recovering, that's why she couldn't come. But she says she'll be alright." He told me as the tip of his new sneakers brushed back and forth on the ceramic of the porch, his hands hidden behind him.

"Oh no..." My voice cracked. "Take care of her, Jakey." 

"I will. Are you sure you're coming back soon?"

"I'm almost certain." I smiled.


"Darren's coming to visit us in a few days." Jakey informed, his face lighting up. "He's really mad about all this. He sounded angry on the phone."

"That's great."


Darren was someone other than my mother whom I longed to see. If he were there the night Richard and his men barged in, things would've turned out differently. He was tough and I knew he would go all out to protect me. I trusted him with my family.


"Would you like to come in for a drink?" Mrs Briffen offered.

"No thanks, I-"

Jakey was cut off when the sound of an engine revving interfered. He looked at me with worried eyes, his pupils dilating as I stood frozen for a moment. "G-Go, Jakey. Now!" I urged.

"Bye, Lia." He murmured the farewell statement before quickly disappearing behind some trees. It was an absurd route to take but he was a smart kid and I trusted him to find his way back.

The blatant slamming of the car door filled my ears and I closed the entrance door. I rushed back into the house and attempted to integrate into the inherent environment, making sure nothing looked amiss.

Mrs Briffen watched as I trussed the locks of my hair into a ponytail and shifted around the living room, contemplating where I should stay. I gasped when the door flew open. I felt my heartbeat race as Harry stepped in with clenched fists. In them, he held crumpled papers.

His brows curved downwards, his eyes holding protuberant fire. The door suffered another violent push as it was slammed shut. Harry walked in, his dark eyes propelling around.

"This is the third time! The third fucking time!" He sputtered, fingers raking through his hair.

"I'm sure you'll do better in the next exam." Mrs Briffen said.

"There won't be a next exam. I'm quitting!" He vociferated back.

"There's no need for that, I'm sure-"

Fear filled my system when the furious boy violently threw the papers he held at the poor woman. She let out a loud gasp as her face contorted in distress, her consistent smile abruptly disappearing.

My fingers began to tremble when Harry turned to look at me, his daunting eyes piercing deep into mine.

I felt a lump in my throat when he gripped my hand. He forcefully tugged me towards the stairs, as my weak attempts to resist failed.

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