Home > The Ravishing(3)

The Ravishing(3)
Author: Ava Harrison

I hate clowns.

I didn’t recognize a single face.

And I suspected neither did my brother.

They were all strangers. All invited over from happy homes to come and make it look like this was one, too.

A show for the neighbors.

Another demonstration of how fucked up our world really was.

All of this is to celebrate my birthday.

The big eighteen.

But the funny thing was, I didn’t know any of them. The only person I knew was my brother.

The brother who rarely spoke to me and preferred his privacy. His video games were far more entertaining than talking with me. I was just his boring big sister.

We usually passed each other in the hallways of this mansion—two children ushered here and there by our strict nannies and, as we got older, private tutors.

They had fired the last one for letting me use her iPad to scour the Internet. We were still interviewing for a new one for Archie. Sucks, because I liked Elizabeth. She was kind and patient, always sneaking in books for me to read and comics for Archie.

That time I’d downed too much of my dad’s gin, she had pretended the bottle broke. Then made sure I had enough water to drink and painkillers to hide my hangover. She’d hug us in the kitchen while making cookies. She was funny and made us laugh, brightening this place.

We really liked her, and that, apparently, put a target on her head, and she had to go.

We didn’t do fun in this house.

I made my own entertainment. Devouring every book I got my hands on, including all the ones Elizabeth had snuck in. She had given me everything from the classics to modern-day fantasies, novels by Jane Austen to Sarah J. Maas.

Late in the evening, after my parents were in bed and the house was silent, I’d sneak into the poorly stocked library and take whatever caught my interest, bringing it back to my room and reading late into the night.

When I was feeling brave and was sure my parents were out, I’d sit in the living room and watch old movies. Sometimes, Archie would join me; sometimes we’d even talk.

Now that we were older, you’d think my brother and I would be close, but we weren’t.

I hated to admit it to myself, but I had no one.

This loneliness was again messing with my brain because those nightmares were back. The same ones that haunted me years ago. Elizabeth said it was stress-induced, but from what?

Sending a burst of breath onto the windowpane, I ran a finger through the condensation to spell Anya in cursive across the glass.

Walking hand in hand with someone the same age—I’m four, I think. My socks soaked from the snow. We made our way along a river. Peering over a snowcapped railing into the distance at ornate towers that lauded over a city.

It was always the same dream.

Later, while using Elizabeth’s iPad, I had recognized the spiked towers of the Kremlin.

Now, what the hell did that mean?

I’d never lived in a place where it snowed. Yet, I could swear I knew the coldness of snow between my fingers, the way it melted to the touch and pooled in my palm.

Elizabeth had told me it was probably something I picked up from a TV show I had watched. That it was probably because a part of me was yearning to go somewhere. As far away as Russia, apparently.

Peering down some more, I marveled at the spectacle my parents had conjured up of suburbia. We assimilated with the neighborhood as if what happened within these walls was ordinary. Even though my parents were hardly here.

The reality of my life made me sad.

The same routine. Same confinement. Same meals.

This feeling I didn’t belong.

That something was off.

Maybe it was the fact that I knew our family was in shambles. That they left Archie and me too many nights to sleep in this big house alone. If that wasn’t weird enough, they also wouldn’t allow me to mention it—forbade me to discuss what happened in this house with anyone.

They wanted everyone to believe we were happy and perfect, trying desperately to portray us as a white-picket-fence family. Even our teachers who homeschooled us didn’t see the truth. They’d never known what occurred in this house when the door shut behind them and they left to live their own lives.

They didn’t know that my parents were rarely home. That when they were, they didn’t speak to us. And if we confronted them about their neglect, they would punish us. Either locked in our rooms, all luxuries removed, or worse, by my father’s hand.

One day, I hoped to get away, but I knew the scars would linger for a long time.

My memories were too rich and too real.

The strictness overflowed. Yet the love you’d expect from a family who seemed to have everything didn’t.

Escaping the compound was impossible. Fleur de Lis-shaped spikes decorated the iron fence surrounding the front of the house. I could see it from here. It looked pretty but deadly. Along the sides and back of the property, ivy stretched the length of the high brick walls, creeping its way as if masking what those walls really meant.

The gate in the garden only opened for deliveries. The one at the front was merely for people my parents deemed worthy. That slim door to the side wall secured with a large padlock and reserved only for god knows what. No one used that one.

I never understood it. Why the security? I knew my father was a powerful man, but this made no sense.

Often, I sat at my bedroom window, looking out at the world and wondering if I’d ever escape. It’s ironic since most people would dream of living like this. The luxury around me was reserved for fantasies, not nightmares. But even the velvet drapes and lavish marble couldn’t hold back the echoes of solitude.

All I had to do was buy that plane ticket and make my dream of escaping a reality.

It wouldn’t be easy to leave, considering they monitored our every move. Guards were always present. They wouldn’t even let us go to school, instead, they homeschooled us.

Our parents knew how to fake affection.

It made me wonder why they’d wanted me.

Stephen—as my brother liked to call him—was always busy, and Mom was just as distracted with her social life. Too involved with her committees and parties. Often having to go away on business of her own.

The truth is, my parents were strangers to me. They didn’t feel like parents.

Through the window, I saw my mother looking over the crowd, and I knew without a doubt that she was searching for me, wanting to introduce me to her friends as her beloved daughter. Showing a brightness off to them that came off as creepy if you knew the truth—that she was one way with me in public and another when alone.

My avoidance had been discovered, and if I didn’t appear soon, there’d be hell to pay.

It’s time to get fake.

I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and headed out of the sanctuary of my room. The only place I could let my dreams run wild and believe in more. In a life where I could run wild and free.

Where I could visit coffee shops or head out to the movies with friends or alone. Maybe even dare to go to a club.

In my dreams, there would be a Billie Eilish concert to see. Maybe see Harry Styles live. And if I was really lost in my thoughts, I would go to dinner without my parents, maybe even visit Café Du Monde in the French Market and eat my weight in beignets and drink enough coffee to keep me up for a week.

When I stepped outside onto the lawn, I glanced around to decide what path to take, where I could hide and not have to play the game and pretend that we all liked each other.

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