Victor relaxed in the back of the car as it silently drove through the town towards the highway that would take him to his forest and his house. The evening had already fallen and it was blissfully quiet with no one about to interrupt his thoughts. He had taken leave of his home for three days and it had been a blessing. His business contacts had more than made it worth his while to be out and it gave him some much needed reprieve from the entertaining of his skittish sister. Caroline had been increasingly difficult to tolerate as the days wore on and she had been keeping more to herself as of late. She had only ever been like this when she was younger and he always knew it was to hide a secret he did not want to know about. Something that their arrogant father had said or something that their equally insufferable siblings would attempt to do was always something they filtered through Caroline first and it was just like her to wring her hands until they cracked about it before she would eventually spill it.
It had been such a relief to be able to displace this unwanted presence in his house. Victor felt his jaw tighten as he approached the threshold of the town and the road that would take him to the cusp of Courtland county. He ran his hands through his dark hair and glanced up at the spires that rose above the trees. He so wished to be there now but at the same time, he was frustrated. He loved his home and he grew to love it more as it developed beyond even what he had envisioned. The house was his and it would be his own estate to be run the way he so desired. This was the effort that was his alone. Still, knowing that there was the poison of the past sitting up and pacing and wringing her hands up there filled him with annoyance that threatened to become worse. How refreshing it had been to be away from her and the terrible lies that she spun around herself about what their home life had been. Caroline was reduced to simply an afterthought while he was away. Just something to be irritated by from afar but nothing more. He scarcely thought of it. As he approached the house, however, his irritation grew steadily worse and he knew without a doubt that his temper was coming to the surface. He knew his sister and for all that she might be innocent in coming here, she was hiding something. She may not know what it was yet but he knew that something was happening with her that he was going to be altogether furious with before long.
As the car trundled along the road, slowing its way past the closed shops that he had helped bring to fruition here, he thought of the letters that brought his sister here in the first place. He could still see the scrawled pen of her hand in his mind and he remembered the initial shock of having her address him. Using her own delicate language, Caroline had managed to get beyond his efforts to remove his family from him life. Saddled as he was with his last name, he had once thought of removing even that stain from himself but he would not allow pride to rob him of an opportunity to be free. It seemed that it had carried with it the eternal tie that someone might find him. How fitting it should be his older sister and her cloying letters to him. Victor was disgusted with himself over the sentimentality of it all. How blind he’d been to be touched by her words in those first letters. How truly naive of him to believe that she meant no ill in coming to see him. He thought of the bitter memory of how he had anticipated her arrival and how he could show to her all that he had built. All of the work that he had put into becoming the man that his father insisted he could never be without them. He had exceeded even that and even managed to establish himself outside of their comfortable European prison out there. He believed that this would have proven him finally. How foolish he’d been to think such things. Such daydreams.
Still, something deeper plagued him yet. Something he could not settle upon and he was anxious now as he thought of it. The letters had gotten to him and fed his sense of nostalgia as only Caroline seemed to know how to do. Now that she was here, he seemed immune to it. Like there was a part of the spell that she usually wove that just could not work here. He was not entirely sure if he resented her for her failure of it or if he was angered by the fact that it ever worked. Victor found himself returning to long forgotten memories of their time as children and how she would speak to him then. The way that she would cloyingly fetch him when he had angered their father. The way she would speak to him as though she could replace their mother. Still, there was something strange about it and he found himself feeling cheated. As though some terrible secret was simply waiting to bloom underneath this fertile ground of time. He knew not yet what to make of these feelings but he knew that they became worse as he got closer to his home. Closer to finding her, no doubt, sick with worry and pacing as she did when she was in a furious spell of anxiety. The house staff had called to tell of her strange behavior and he felt as though he was on the cusp of his terrible discovery. He also felt as though it would reveal far more about his sister than he had anticipated.
The car silently wove its path around and finally reached the main road that would lead them to his home. In the centre of the main street building displays, Victor saw the small gift shop that had been there. It had been one of the first he had built on that street and he had seen to it that everything was exactly as was fitting a modern city. He had stopped in once or twice to see what the gentleman had in stock. As the car came to a pause, he felt a sense of dread come over him when he noticed the foreclosure sign posted on the doorway. It was uncommon for stores in this community to simply fold up like that. Why, had not Caroline been there just last week? She had been lamenting about ornaments that she wished to return for. What might have happened that could have caused this in so short a time, Victor wondered. As the car pulled away, he was plagued ever more heavily by the onset of this information. He felt the world close off around him as the car pulled up to the steep incline to his beloved home. He wished that he could enjoy this feeling but he knew that a thorn was sitting among them and she was hiding something very significant if she knew why one of the businesses in one of his buildings failed. Something significant and, he feared, much bigger than he had originally thought. The steep road felt like it was tightening its grip on him and more and more he felt the urge to lash out.
When he arrived home, the house staff were all immediately aware of his mood and no one dared to get in his path as he went up to the third floor where the guest room was. There was a chill in the air as he approached the door and found it slightly ajar. It was the feel of a room with the window left open. Victor rushed inside only to find it as empty as he assumed it would be. The bed had been made already and the window had been flung open to air it out. Every trace of her belongings were gone. Before he could call to anyone to demand to know what had become of his sister, he saw the curled edges of a letter left for him on the large oak desk in the corner. The edges fluttered lightly beneath the heavy paperweight, a trinket that she had recently bought. It was a snow globe with a woman sitting among many flowers, the snow covering them only until it was shaken.
Victor took the letter from the desk and read it silently to himself. He grit his teeth as he finished it, reserving the urge to throw it in the fireplace.