Burying herself in the covers of the large hotel bed, Caroline was drawn away from the disturbing thoughts that had taunted her so cruelly in the bath. She longed to be in the comfort of home but the very idea of the estate seemed to take on a terrible sense of foreboding and she found that she was completely repulsed by the thought of going back. It seemed that the longer she was away, the more her memories played such terrible tricks on her and she was ashamed at how anxious it had made her. Why, she had not thought of the time Papa had struck her in years. She’d been but a foolish little girl who was behaving like a ragamuffin. It had been hardly appropriate and though for many years, she struggled to understand why he should lash out so hard, she knew he was right to chide her. Still it played upon her mind now and she could not bring herself to cast the ghosts of her memory away. These intruding spectres made her flesh crawl with a creeping anxiety as she was in the bath and since she’d dressed for bed, she felt a kind of relentless sense of attention had been placed upon her. A deep sense in her was disturbed and she could not fully quiet it even as she escaped the bathroom and began to pace the room before retiring to bed.

Oh such a fine mess she was making of this evening. Here she was, not a full week away from that gloomy house and yet her mind runs to such rancid things. Such horrid memories plaguing her, it was a wonder that she could keep her head in this place. It must be simply the aftermath of being in such a hostile environment. How she loved her brother so very dearly but he was such a terribly stubborn young man and so very tempestuous sometimes. She knew she must focus and soon she would be able to understand how to approach this vexing situation in which they had found themselves. Surely she had been able to come to some sense before her imagination had sabotaged her. Victor, always willful and stubborn, was simply still acting as children would act. He may think he was a man but at twenty four he could hardly say that and she had been foolish to take him at his word. She should not be taking him for his fantasies any longer but it appeared as though this might be a difficult spell for him to overcome. How very disappointing after all this time to realize he was still just a boy who would not fall into line with what he should become. It had been so wonderful to see him and yet he was taken with such a darkness that it was difficult to take any pleasure in his company at all. Withdrawn and sullen, she could not bare his beloved melancholy any longer. She knew that he must be suffering terribly up there, though he was simply too hard headed to admit it. How she wished that he had married like he was supposed to. They would not be in such a mess as this if he would only listen to good sense. All the more reason she must regroup and make a better effort to bring their lost brother home to his destiny.

Ah her beloved reason was such a comfort in times such as this. Reasonable dreams to chase away the dark phantoms of these idle fears of hers. Fears and dreaded memories that she dare not even think of. None of that now as she thought of what must be done. Caroline was no stranger to such unpleasant deeds that required a light touch. Why, she’d spent most of her life looking after her brother. Watching him grow from a babe when she was little more than a child herself and into a boy as she blossomed into womanhood. It seemed the years were cruel to run so fast that one day he stood before her, the image of a child who had years yet to grow and the next, he was a young man, ready to stand at the helm of the house. The years for him produced a stunning young man with large, fierce dark eyes and sharp features while in her it had softened the edges of her figure. Rounded and slower, she grew more and more like her own father’s faded figure and she saw, with some pain, the lines around her eyes darkening and deepening. How beauty had touched her beloved brother in a way that it never had her own body.

A familiar melancholy settled in her breast and Caroline settled in before her vanity. The dim lights of the room eased the image before her in the looking glass but she still saw it in her eyes. There was once that she swore that she saw the same kind of fire that she feared in her brother reflected in them. That passionate spark of life that he insisted on surrounding with the darkness of those damned trees. In her own eyes, however, she saw none of that now. Only the faded grey that she had come to ignore for how it bored her. It was a color that bored most people for its unassuming ease to look at and yet it held no emotion. Surrounding those sunken grey eyes were the short lashes colored black for effect and so very many lines. Lines that denoted no humor but only a life that had been lived under Papa and his unyielding laws. The child must be tended to. She must be the one to do it. She must control the little ones. Such deep lines as though they had been scarred into her through the brutal years of yearning and secret and silent thoughts that were too resentful for even her to confess to. She sat before the mirror now, gently pulling the pins from her hair and letting it fall in thick waves to her shoulders. Pulling the brush through her wheat colored hair, she soothed herself that it was still soft. She did not have the darker color of her beloved brother nor some of their other siblings but she had their father’s golden crown still in the dying light of the evening. A burnished halo that shone around the locks as she smoothed them from the long braids that she kept them in at night. When she watched the dying light of day catch the gentle waves, she took comfort in seeing the glow of that golden color shimmer about her.

Within the simple strokes of the silver brush whispering its bristles along the strands of her hair, it was as though she could still see the young woman that had been buried by time. Too soon it had all become so faint, her youth was reduced to an echo that only she seemed to be able to detect in the woman it left in its wake. Oh she was never the beauty that some of her sisters were but there was once a young woman in there who held the potential. If only she had been just a little more like her Mama, she might have been able to be the dashing lady that her others married sisters were. Looking at the faded lines in her reflection, it was a painful longing that she felt to only be able to view that distant spectre in the softest of light. It was so far away now. Just as she’d seen her brother so swiftly grown from the image of a babe to one on the cusp of being a man, so too was it with her though her looking glass insisted that time had been far too crude in its punishments. One day she had been a girl, hiding in servants quarters and carving out time by herself at the deep, cool pond on the edge of the estate and the next she had been a spinster tending to the willful child that would be her father’s sole heir. It seemed like there had been no time in between to look back upon with yearning tenderness. Before the vanity, she could still see what little age had left unspoiled and try to imagine herself still in the prime of life like Victor was. How endless it must seem to him now. How cruel to know that it would be gone before he knew it. Before she could save him from the relentless passage of time and its wicked hands.

The brush in her hand suddenly came to a halt when the dim light caught a color she had never seen before. Amid the ash blond and golden wheat shine of her waved locks, she felt her breath catch when she saw the glint of silver to match the brush in her now trembling hands. The shades drawn, this was no cruel trick of the mocking full moon’s silent, deceptive beams. Silver touching the top of her head like it had Papa when he first started to turn from the gentleman she knew to the elderly man who was dying now. The old man that he became before her eyes. The brush strokes became harder, lashing with a furious tempo, pulling recklessly at the strands to reveal more buried silver strands beneath and at the temples. The touch of old age come creeping into each stroke making her breathing ragged as the strokes pulled with such force as to streak her golden locks with a vibrant, angry crimson.

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