I thought Adelaide would have explained everything, yet she never mentioned anything. I shouldn’t have expected anyone to help me here though. I was being naïve again.
          “Your Highness, is something bothering you?” Adelaide asked.
          We were marching down the corridor with a guard leading us back to my chamber. I had, at last, acquired several important clients, and so, I was promoted to live in a beautiful room that had a view of the mountains. They probably should have boarded the windows, but I guessed that they trusted the ladies, knowing that we would never have the means to escape.
          I still remembered that nostalgic feeling when the guard opened the doors to my chamber. I could recall what that man said, and from his voice, I knew he didn’t mean well.
          This is your prison, your golden cage. You live to serve me.

          “Your Highness, Your Highness!” Adelaide had clawed my shoulders. I had sunken to the floor, afraid to even enter this lavish room.
           “I am fine—“
          She had interrupted, “Mother said you used to live in this room.”
          “I used to?” I had furrowed my eyebrows.
          “This castle belonged to a royal family, but no one knows much about it.”
          “Why are you telling me all this? I’ve never been here before. I couldn’t have possibly. . .” I thought I saw a woman perched at the corner of the window ledge. No, she was sitting on velvet, cushioned lounge, shifting her head to smile at me. Her smile quickly turned to a frown, and that frown turned to cries. While she walked towards me, she was crying, crying that the whole room was being filled with her tears. She reached her hand out to me, and then her eyes widened, like a predator on a hunt.
          “Your Highness!” Adelaide had hung onto my arm. The pressure of her fingertips had brought me back to my senses.
          “D-d-did you see that woman?” My finger had pointed to the window.
           “What woman?”
          “I-I must be too tired,” I had mumbled.
          I must have been too tired then, but . . .
           “Your Highness.” Adelaide tugged my arm to remind me to advance. “You’re always staring at that portrait.”
          I didn’t know how many times I had walked along this path, how many times I had been drawn towards that painting of a lady. She was the same woman that I had encountered in the room and every time, I watched her, I felt envious and angry. Did she ever live here? Why did she have such crestfallen eyes? Why did she smile so forcibly? How could she sit so stiffly with her hands folded by her lap? She was dressed in the finest jewels and fabrics. She was beautiful in her own way, perhaps from her elegance. What more could a girl want?
          Why? What did I ever do to you?
          “Don’t call me that!” I whipped her arm away from me.
          “I’m not a princess. I didn’t want to burst your bubble and hurt your feelings, but I can’t take this anymore. I’m not ‘Your Highness’!” I hollered and continued to follow the guard, who had grimaced at us.
          I didn’t know why I had shrieked at a little girl. She was just dreaming, and I should have played along, yet I couldn’t. Your Highness, Your Highness, Your Highness . . . I was never whoever she said I was. I didn’t think I would ever be her.
          As expected, Adelaide didn’t dare speak to me for several days. We followed our duties in silence. Awkwardness. Pure tension. Induced suffocation. I sighed before hopping off the bed. Opening the windows, I felt a light breeze creep in. How long had it been since I breathed in fresh air? Too long, far too long. Although there were chills on my skin, I felt warm within. I closed my eyes, sensing fatigue overwhelming my body. My mind was . . . at ease.
          Wake up! Wake up! Do not close your eyes! Please, just wake up!
          Don’t leave me again. Just stay. I don’t care. Just stay.
          My eyes were closing then. I couldn’t triumph over my exhaustion. I couldn’t see him again. A blurred figure.
          No matter how much my body wanted to hold onto him, I felt a force pulling me away. I couldn’t move at all. My feet were rooted to the ground?
          “Your . . . Lady Ren, you must have had quite a nightmare.” Adelaide placed a warm blanket over my body. “Is something wrong? You’re crying!”
          I hadn’t realized the tears overflowing from my eyes until Adelaide’s warning. “I-I-“ I croaked, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know why I keep hearing and seeing things. I keep hearing him!”
          I felt an arm pull me closer, burying my head in her chest. “Everything will be okay. You’ll be fine.”
          If I would be fine, then why did I feel so upset? Why did I feel like my heart had been torn, and was now dripping droplets of blood? Why?
          Adelaide only reassured me that everything would follow nature’s course. “I really can’t, Your Highness,” she had remarked. “Saying you have to go back is already too much and I will bear my sins soon.”
          “Who would punish you? The guard?” I had asked.
          “No, the Gods.” She had shaken her head. “Fate will punish me.”
          “If I . . . do what you say then,” I had argued, “wouldn’t I be punished as well?”
          She had answered, “You must go back to receive your full punishment.”
           “Why? Why me? What did I do?” There was that familiar splintered tone in my strained throat. I wanted to shut my eyes again and allow a flood of tears smother my face, yet nothing came to be. My eyes were dry, clearly seeing Adelaide’s grim frown. “Tell me,” I had begged, rocking her shoulders with my hands. “I don’t know why . . . why Dad had to die . . . why Mom would leave me . . . why they would betray me . . . why?”
          Her eyes had diverted from me and her body had backed away. “I’m sorry for your losses, but . . . they were needed.”
          “Why?” I had shrieked.
          She had shrugged her shoulders. “We will worry about that later. We need to find a way for you to return.”
          I had thrown my head backwards, laughing at her. “I think you’re crazy. Return where? Return home? There’s no place called home!”
          “Although Mother told me not to tell you this, I guess you should know,” Adelaide had at last spoken. “If you’d like to have your questions answered, then you must go back.”
          I covered my smirk with a hand. “Ha! Who is this Mother of yours? What does she even know?”
          “Mother could see everything. She knew everything too.”
          “Then, why did she have to kill herself?” I scoffed.
          “To go back to where she came. She’s waiting for you, you know.” Adelaide had stared at me with such intensity that I felt guilty for suspecting her mother’s intentions. “We are all waiting—“
          A sound of a gunshot came from behind her. She tumbled to the ground, face front. Blood was spewing from her, tainting the floor red. Before I could even help her, I saw the man pointing his gun towards me. I took a step back and closed my eyes, knowing that this was it. I was not going to live anymore.
          Another bang, and another bang, and I felt my chest. Dry. Opening my eyes, I saw the man on the ground and was confronted by . . . Brett.
          “Wh-what are you doing here?” I asked.
          “There’s no time to explain,” he uttered.
          “But, what about—“
          “J-J-Just go.” I heard her drained voice. “Y-y-you have to go be-before he comes for you.”
          I felt my wrist being tugged along by Brett. I didn’t want to leave, yet he insisted, “We have go.”
          “Where are we going?” I was running beside him down the corridor.
          “Somewhere where no one can find you.”
          You can hide, but you can’t run away from me.
Chapter 4                                                                             Chapter 6