With everyone in a panic searching for Odette, Jacqueline was able to slink around the hysteria and sneak to the main floor. Sure, it was worrisome that the young girl was gone – especially with so many dark beings lurking in the woods – but was the perfect opportunity for Jacqueline to sneak off. Working in the palace was an exhausting feat, and it was a job she had never wanted in the first place. The only thing keeping Jacqueline in the castle most days was her mother. She was the only thing Maude had left in this world, and she knew that her mother was growing more fatigued by the day, no matter how hard she tried to hide it. Still, that didn’t stop Jacqueline from sneaking out most nights to visit the cottage down by the beach, usually inhabited with travelers who need a break from moving from one city to the next.
Jacqueline started as she whipped her head around. A voice laughed lightheartedly from the stairs. She looked up to find Skyler descending with a violin bow in hand.
“Don’t do that!” She scolded him. “You nearly frightened the living daylights out of me!”
Skyler smiled mischievously. “You’re going out to look for Odette, right?”
Jacqueline shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Uh…Yes.”
“So you wouldn’t mind if I came with you?”
Jacqueline racked her brain for an excuse as Skyler tossed the bow onto a nearby couch.
“I’m kidding, Jaq. Can I walk you to the foyer? It’ll look much less suspicious.”
Jacqueline smiled in relief as Skyler offered an arm for her to wrap hers around. The two made idle small talk as they meandered down the hallways to finally get to the front doors.
On the cold, marble floor, a blonde was sprawled out, limbs sticking out every which way.
“Odette!” Skyler practically shouted. He raced down the stairs and knelt at her side, Jacqueline right behind him.
“Is she okay?” Jacqueline asked as Skyler felt Odette’s neck for a pulse. Both softened marginally as they noted the even rise and fall of her chest.
“She’s fine,” Skyler finally said. “Just sleeping.”
Jacqueline sighed in relief as Skyler scooped up the girl. Odette didn’t even stir as he turned around and went back the way he came. Jacqueline raced ahead and opened the doors for Skyler. She had forgotten her pursuit of the outdoors as she watched Odette’s eyelashes flutter from a dream.
Once they reached Odette’s room, Skyler laid her down on the bed and turned to Jacqueline. “I’ll go tell everyone she’s back.”
For the next many hours, Jacqueline paced the floors. Odette was still sleeping soundly, but would sometimes shout and scream intermittently. Jacqueline did whatever she could to pass the time – refresh the water on the bedside table, stoke the fireplace, wipe Odette’s forehead with a damp cloth – anything that would take her mind off things. Eventually she yawned and sank back into a chair, tipping her head back to rest.
Jacqueline had just begun to doze off when a knock sounded at the door. She lurched out of the chair and made her way to the door, smoothing her skirts as she went.
“How is she?”
Jacqueline held in her shock. The Master was leaning on the door frame, no mask in sight. His bare face revealed worried eyes and brows etched in concern. She shook her head lightly to regain some composure.
Jacqueline stifled a yawn as she spoke. “She’s fine, Master. Just resting.”
“You look like you could use a rest, too.” Casimir noted.
“I’m fine,” Jacqueline assured him.
As the two spoke softly, a scream erupted from behind them. Jacqueline whipped around to find Odette thrashing in bed, shrieking in terror. She continued on like that for a few moments. Then, as if nothing had happened, Odette grew still once more.
“Night terrors,” Jacqueline said to Casimir when he grew more concerned. “They come and go, but I don’t want to wake her.”
Both continued to look at the small form in the bed. Odette began to shiver viciously, teeth chattering even in sleep.
“I should get some more blankets for her,” Jacqueline said.
“I can watch over her while you do it.” Casimir offered.
Jacqueline tilted her head to one side and narrowed her eyes. “I don’t think Odette would take too kindly to waking up and seeing you. No offence.”
Casimir chuckled softly. “I suppose you’re right about that. Even so, I know she’d put up one hell of a fight – I wouldn’t dare get in her way.”
Jacqueline paused before nodding. “Alright. I’ll be back soon.”
Casimir walked as lightly as he could towards the bed, stopping halfway. Odette had grown quiet, only shivering slightly now. Instead of invading her space, Casimir made his way over to the lounge instead and fiddled with the fireplace.
“You have looong haairr.”
Casimir jumped at the light, airy voice. Odette was facing him, eyes looking but not seeing. She giggled for a second, and then grew solemn.
“You…cut it,” she whispered before falling back into a deep sleep.
Casimir’s brows knitted together as he watched her roll onto her other side. He laughed to himself at the randomness of it all. There’s no way Odette would remember that once she woke up, and it would definitely make for a good story.
Jacqueline came back a few minutes later and thanked Casimir before shooing him out of the room with a promise to let him know the moment Odette wakes up.
And wake up, she did.
Odette jerked awake and placed a hand over her heart to try and calm it’s rapid rhythm.
“Good morning, sleepy head!” Jacqueline laughed. “Welcome back to the land of the living.
“What happened?” Odette croaked.
“I don’t know,” Jacqueline answered honestly. She held out a thick, terrycloth robe and helped Odette into it as she stumbled off the bed. Odette pulled her ponytail out and massaged her scalp as she kicked off her heels, relishing the feeling of free feet. Fuzzy slippers were perched under her bed, and she slid them on gratefully.
“Here,” Jacqueline said, offering Odette a small mug of steaming tea. “Come sit and try to relax.”
The two sat together in the lounge and stared at the fire in silence. Odette sipped her tea and let the warmth fill her from the inside out.
“Do you remember anything?” Jacqueline probed.
Odette clasped both hands around her mug and looked into it. “I…was outside.”
“How did you manage that?”
Odette shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. I just remember the fresh air. I was outside, and…free.”
Jacqueline nodded in acknowledgement.
“I’d forgotten what the air out there was like. Salty from the sea, and fresh. Nothing like the stale air in here.”
As Odette went on to explain her elation at being outside, Jacqueline’s eyes widened as the Master watched.
“Here, Odette – I’ve got a lavender bath drawn for you. Why don’t you go now?”
Odette nodded and shakily got to her feet as Casimir cleared his throat to let her know he was there.
She yelped and backed up, bumping into the arm of the couch. Casimir put his hands up in innocence. “I’m not here to yell at you.”
“Well that’s a first,” Odette said under her breath as she made her way to the bathroom.
“I see a long nap hasn’t dulled your mind,” Casimir said sarcastically.
Jacqueline stifled her laughter as she picked up Odette’s empty mug. Before she could collect the other dishes around the room, Casimir cleared his throat again.
“Will you help me with something?”
Jacqueline’s eyes widened marginally. “Of course, Master.”
Casimir led Jacqueline over to the large curtains by the bed and gestured to the tops. The two ripped down the curtains and folded them hastily as they went. Eventually, light spilled in through the glass door and illuminated the ground in a soft morning glow.
The pair turned to see Odette emerge from the bathroom dressed in the dress Jacqueline had hung in there.
“I’ll go,” Jacqueline said with a quick bow, taking the dishes as she went.
Casimir backed up a few steps and gestured to the door. “Why don’t you go find out?”
Odette walked to the door, giving Casimir a wide berth as she went. She looked at him suspiciously before opening the door. As soon as she was out on the large balcony, she gasped. Casimir followed behind her and watched as Odette peered over the edge. A large courtyard was below, brimming with flowers, bubbling fountains, and comfy furniture.
Odette raced down the stairs as Casimir watched, a slight smile playing on his lips. She turned in a full circle, taking everything in. The air was fresh, the breeze welcoming, and the space new.
It wasn’t escape in the full sense of the word, but it was a small luxury regardless.
“You like it?” Casimir called out.
Odette stared up at him and shielded her eyes against the bright sun. “I love it!”