Friday, March 8, 2013

PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: Chapter 6 (UNEDITED)


If you are just catching up, see the CHAPTERS section to read the Prologue-Chapter 5 before proceeding to reading Chapter 6.  

Otherwise, read PART 1, NICOLAE'S ESCAPE: Chapter 6 from the jump :)



Nicolae was still staring in the direction the fox had gone in when he heard a low, distressed moan.  He turned around to see Teresa writhing on the ground, reacting negatively to something as she continued to sleep.  Whatever it was, it was something she did not want to be in.
Nicolae went over to where she laid and began to gently shake her awake. 
“Teresa…” he whispered.
Teresa responded by jerking and began to thrash violently.  The strength of the girl took Nicolae by surprise.
“Teresa!” Nicolae said with a struggled urgency.
Teresa awoke and if Nicolae hadn’t been as quick to restrain her arms as he was, Teresa would have struck him right in the mouth.  Nicolae loosened his grip as Teresa sat up and, for a few seconds, looked around in a manner that said she had no idea where she was or how she had ended up there.  It was when she noticed Nicolae that she began to calm down and recall where she was and why she was waking up somewhere other than at the hut in her village.  She managed to throw Nicolae off guard again when she threw herself against him, embracing him tightly.
“Are you alright,” Nicolae asked, feeling rather awkward.
Teresa didn’t answer and tightened the hold she had on Nicolae who at a loss for how to react, made a half attempt in returning Teresa’s embrace.  They stayed that way for a minute or two as Teresa calmed down before Nicolae spoke again.
“So…am I to assume an unpleasant dream?”
Teresa pulled back, looking into Nicolae’s eyes before finally bringing herself to speak.
“I don’t remember,” she said in between sobs.
“I’m sorry?” Nicolae replied.
“I don’t remember…what it was…”
Teresa was normally one to remember her dreams and on the rare occasion when she couldn’t, it did have much of an effect on her.  Teresa had had an interest in dream interpretation despite Gabriella’s discouraging her from doing so and although Teresa knew next to nothing about her mother, attempting to interpret her own dreams made Teresa feel close to her.  But something had occurred as Teresa slept this night; something she could not recall but still left her shaken with fright. 
Nicolae helped Teresa to stand and took her over to a nearby stream where she rinsed the sleep and tears from her face.  He watched her for a few seconds before turning away and looking off into the distance.  Nicolae was finding that he had more common ground with Teresa than he originally had thought.  Like him, she had lost their parents at a young age and also had family disappear without any explanation.  They both also seemed to be haunted by events in their past that would often revisit them in their sleep. 
The night Sebastain disappeared, Nicolae had a rather restless sleep where he couldn’t recall anything that had occured.  In fact, that had happened three nights in a row prior to his younger brother vanishing.  Nicolae and Sebastian had been in Hungary near Budapest.  They had found an old, abandoned barn to stay in as it was raining that night.  The barn’s roof was leaking and finding a dry area proved to be a chore, but the two boys were able to locate a corner that wasn’t affected by the weak roof.  Sebastian had been complaining of hunger pains that night and Nicolae had given Sebastian some food they had gotten from a monastery they had stayed in recently before they attempted to fall asleep.  Nicolae had awoken later, panicked to the point of his body trembling, though he didn’t know the cause until he turned to find the area Sebastian had been sleeping in empty.  The pre-sunrise light of early morning filtered into the barn and the rain had died down to a light drizzle.  The air inside the old barn was damp and musty and Nicolae could see some of the old wood rotting.  He called out to his brother a couple times to no response.  Nicolae stood and with his bag across his torso, searched the barn calling out to Sebastian.  Nicolae had also gone outside to search around the barn.
Nicolae remembered the growing worry and frustration he felt that morning.  He had told Sebastian repeatedly to not wander off by himself and while his brother had listened to him most of the time, there were times when Sebastian would go off by himself leaving Nicolae to search frantically until he found him.  There was also something else that made Nicolae uneasy: in the last month or two prior to Sebastian’s disappearance, Nicolae had caught his younger brother sleepwalking a couple times. 
Dread joined Nicolae’s worry and frustration at the possibility of Sebastian wandering into the wilderness in his sleep.
(How possible is it for one to wander in a permanent state of sleep?) 
Nicolae ended up staying at the barn for that entire day and into the night.  He repeated the routine of searching the area and then returning to the barn in case Sebastian would return there.   Nicolae had gone without sleep, continuing his search for his little brother until daybreak.  By late afternoon, Sebastian still hadn’t been found and Nicolae had exhausted any possible (and some not so possible) areas Sebastian could have gone.  He had sat on the ground, agonizing over what should be done next.  He knew moving on was inevitable but the thought of leaving his little brother was beyond excruciating.  Since the death of their parents and the day they were bought by Domn Anton Alexanderescu, Nicolae had made Sebastian his responsibility vowing to his dead parents that he would always look out for the little boy and at least keep that part of their family together.  If there was ever a time Nicolae felt as though he had failed everyone, it was that time.  If Sebastian was gone, it would mean everyone who had ever meant anything to Nicolae was now lost to him and he did not want to be in Europe any longer than he had to. 
By the following nightfall, Nicolae had made the difficult decision to move on.  He left some supplies for Sebastian and drew a small map detailing the direction he would be going in (written in a code language that only he and Sebastian knew).  Nicolae then set out, traveling away from the barn and continuing on to a seaport.  But it wasn’t long before thoughts of his brother alone and scared would cause him to return to the old barn.  He went inside the barn and noticed that the supplies he had left for Sebastian were missing.  A surge of hope rose in him as he ran around the area searching again. 
Nicolae would stay at the barn for another day without any sign of Sebastian.  The hope he had had earlier began to decline.  He decided to head back onto the trail, keeping a close watch out for Sebastian in case the little boy had been following the map Nicolae had drawn.  But that search also proved fruitless.  Nicolae would also wait at the new location for his brother, but Sebastian never showed up. 
Nicolae would descend into a deep depression and, for a time, didn’t care if the officials caught up to him.  He was certain the Domn and Elsa had given Dimitri a grand and glorious send off where all of Eastern Europe’s aristocracy would gather at a mass in a beautiful cathedral for Dimitri’s funeral.  The callous young man who had brutally raped Eloisa until he killed her would be covered up and all the focus would be on what a wonderful son Dimitri had been to Anton and Elsa and a marvelous older brother to Lucinda.  Nicolae would be portrayed as the monster who had murdered Dimitri under no cause and Eloisa would not even be a mention among all of that.
(Eloisa who had fought for her integrity and then her life…and when he found her in the state she was in…) 
Dimitri would get a respectable burial, entombed in the mausoleum among many, many generations of Alexandersecus.  Romania and possibly even the rest of Europe would mourn his death and revere him as a young, promising life that ended too soon.  Meanwhile, Eloisa would be forgotten and a price would be put on Nicolae’s head. 
But Nicolae couldn’t help wondering how he hadn’t been caught yet, if it had been an act of God or if he was just that competent when it came to eluding the authorities.  He figured the Domn would hardly be able to rest until the man who had killed his only son was captured and executed. 
Nicolae’s sense of urgency in leaving dwindled after Sebastian missing.  It was more for Sebastian than himself that Nicolae decided to take the fighting chance of escaping to a seaport.  There was even a time after Sebastian’s disappearance when Nicolae actually considered returning to Romania to face the Domn and take whatever would come to him.  But it was the box with Eloisa’s ashes that kept him going.  Even in death she had been his stability.  There were times he had broken down sobbing as he felt Eloisa’s assuring presence. 
The burden of being unable to keep Eloisa and Sebastian safe would be a burden Nicolae would carry to his deathbed decades later.  But if there is any promise he would see that he kept, it would be that he and Eloisa would be together again one day when their ashes would be scattered in a land far across the ocean.  And that was a nightly vow he would make, holding the box with Eloisa’s ashes close to him before lying down to sleep.  In the end, he decided to follow through with his original plan of taking a ship across the ocean.

Nicolae would continue through Europe alone.  He kept a low profile, using his father’s name for the few times he dared to enter towns and other public areas.  He had altered his outward appearance a little, growing in a thin layer of facial hair.  His wavy, black hair was never short, but he grew it out a little more until it reached his shoulders.  Every so often, he would catch an old advertisement on the wall of a tavern announcing fugitives wanted by the law.  Nicolae would try to hide his amusement when he would catch one of himself and look around at the unsuspecting patrons and workers. 

By the time Nicolae reached Spain, he was accustomed to traveling alone.  He turned back to Teresa, watching as she dried her face with her shawl.  He thought about her words, telling him how she wanted to know him.  Nicolae doubted that he would ever share the details of his life with her, but in a moment of compassion felt for the poor girl he made a decision.
“Nicolae,” he said.
Teresa looked up at him with confusion crossing her face.  “What?”
“Nicolae.  That’s my real name.  Luiz was my father’s name,” he said.
“Oh…”
Nicolae continued, “But if we are ever in a public area, you call me Luiz.  Understand?”
“Yes…but why don’t you want people knowing your real name?  Are you in trouble?  Please, I won’t tell anyone!”  Teresa said.
Nicolae drew in a breath before saying, “Teresa, it’s better I spare you all the details.  But since you’ve expressed interest in traveling with me, it’s only fair for me to tell you that yes, I was in some trouble.  Time has passed since then, so it’s possible things have died down.  But I still proceed with a lot of caution and will continue doing so until the ship docks.  And possibly even after that.”
Teresa was silent as she took in what was said to her and the prospect of traveling with a fugitive.  Finally, she spoke, “What happened?  You can tell me.  Maybe I can help you.”
“How?” Nicolae snapped.
Teresa flinched at Nicolae’s tone.  “I care about you,” she said quietly.  Her eyes lowered as Nicolae regretted his harsh tone.
“Look Teresa,” he said more gently, “I’ve just told you more about myself than I’ve told anyone in the last year or two.”
“You can tell me more,” Teresa said.
Nicolae struggled to find the right words.  He could see Teresa’s genuine concern for him and while part of him couldn’t help feeling touched by it, he wasn’t sure if he could see himself ever opening up to her about his past, particularly is final nights on the property of Anton Alexanderescu. 
“Some things are better left unspoken,” Nicolae replied.
Teresa moved away from him, watching the slow moving stream.
“I’d like to take a bath,” she said, rather shyly.
Her statement succeeded in getting Nicolae’s attention.  “Fine.  I won’t stop you,” he stammered.
Teresa watched with her heart pounding as Nicolae dug into his bag and fished out a dagger. 
“Have this close to you,” he said.  Teresa took the dagger from Nicolae, holding it in her small hands.  Nicolae then handed her a small cloth to dry off with.
“I’ll make a fire right by that tree,” Nicolae continued.  “Don’t be too long.”
Teresa watched, clutching the dagger as Nicolae took the short walk over to the tree and sat down with his back to her as he worked to start up the fire.  Teresa felt her heart flutter as she remembered following Nicolae to the lake near her old village.  She had only gotten a small glimpse of him, but it was enough to excite her so she would dare to have fantasies of being with him.  Thoughts that she would feel guilty for as the disapproving look of Gabriella would enter her mind. 
Teresa knew she was falling for Nicolae even though she had only known him for a short time.
But how is that different from Gabriella arranging a marriage between me and a boy I don’t even know, Teresa told herself. 
She also knew how Gabriella would answer that by explaining about her destined occupation of being a good future wife is all she would need to concern herself and that she has no business running off with some young man not approved of by the elders.  Teresa wondered how Gabriella and the other adults in the village were reacting to her disappearance and how they would inform the family of the boy she was to be married to.  She thought of Alea.  Teresa felt some guilt for running away, but she knew Gabriella would never have let her go if she had asked to do so.
Teresa ducked behind a bush and began to undress.  She thought about Nicolae’s reaction when she had told him of her intention to take a bath and smiled to herself.  She peered out from behind the bush, getting a look at Nicolae finishing the fire.  She removed the last of her clothing with her eyes in his direction and her face burning.  She turned back toward the stream and took a second to indulge in the feeling of the night air on her bare skin.  For Teresa, it was an incredible feeling.
She quickly stepped down to the stream’s edge and stuck her foot into the cool water of the stream.  She set Nicolae’s dagger on the ground next to her.  She looked at the dagger and then at Nicolae once more before stepping into the water.

Teresa dried off as best she could and dressed before returning to where Nicolae was.  She handed him back his dagger. 
“Keep it,” Nicolae said.
“Thank you…” Teresa said. 
Nicolae then took the wet drying cloth from her and set it by the fire to dry.  Teresa went to the other side of the small fire across from Nicolae and sat down.  She watched him as he studied the map he had been using.  He looked up seeing her face framed with long, dark strands of her damp hair.  A small smile was on her lips
“And why are you staring at me that way?” Nicolae asked.
Teresa shifted her eyes away.  “Oh, nothing…I’m sorry…” 
Nicolae raised an eyebrow and returned to the map.  Teresa fought the hot feeling that crept toward her face and peered at him again, catching him with his brow furrowed as he concentrated on detailing their path.  Then stifling a yawn, she lay down one the ground with her back turned to Nicolae.
Her movement caused him to look up.  “You going back to sleep?” he asked.
“For a little while,” she answered.  She waited for Nicolae to reply, but he didn’t.  She sighed, shutting her eyes and allowing the thoughts of her and Nicolae together to enter her mind.  This time, she would welcome what they brought as she was no longer at her village under the watch of Gabriella and the other adults.  While the uncertainty of what the future held was a little scary for Teresa, she was right where she wanted to be.


~~~~~~~

Nicolae and Teresa would continue through Spain over the next week.  As Nicolae expected, they would not be able to cover as much ground in the time he wanted due to Teresa’s lack of experience outside of her village.  He still questioned whether or not allowing her to come with him had been the right thing to do.  But Teresa seemed content and while Nicolae would never share this with her, she had begun to grow on him.  They managed to work out the concept of traveling together and Nicolae began to anticipate the seaport and leaving behind the sadness his home continent brought him.
Nicolae maintained his privacy when it came to sharing details of his life and only told Teresa what he felt she needed to know.  He managed to mention (without much detail) of losing his parents at the age of eight and also told her that he was from Moldova (which wasn’t exactly a lie as that was where he knew was the birthplace of his mother). Teresa would often share her unhappiness while talking of growing up in her village and of her parents and Nicolae couldn’t help his amazement at Teresa’s ability to effortlessly open up to him.  He saw the way she looked at him and it scared him.  Even two years after her death he considered Eloisa his wife and couldn’t imagine it being any other way.  Nicolae also questioned whether Teresa could handle the truth about him and the details of his last nights on the property of Alexanderscu Castle.   Teresa had stopped asking Nicolae of his box, but he would catch her eyeing it ever so often.
On the last night of the first week they traveled together, Nicolae had settled into sleep an hour or two after Teresa had.  He awoke later, opening his eyes to see Sebastian kneeling over him looking straight down into his face.
“Why did you leave me?” the boy asked.

Read on to CHAPTER 7 .

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