The following morning we woke up early. We quickly ate and drank some from the small amount we’d brought with us. Then we journeyed on again. We didn’t spoke much with each other, still worrying in the back of our minds that the Witch or some one else would get to us. But the path in the woods remained empty. The sun was at it’s highest point when we finally reached the end of the woods and found ourselves at a crossroads.
‘Now what?’ Julia asked, and she bit her lip.
‘There are some signs here.’ Lilly pointed out. There were indeed four signs. One pointed to the road we had come from. “Dromville, 15 km” it said. One pointing to the left had “Tomelle 10 km” on it, and the one on the right stated “Balouse 15 km”.
‘Let’s go left,’ Julia said hopefully.
‘No, lets go straight on. That road, according to the sign, leads to Perdice and Grotille. I’ve heard they are big cities with lots of opportunities.’ I insisted.
‘But that’s 50 km!’ It’ll take days to get there!’ cried Julia.
‘I know, but if they are looking for us, they’ll never expect us to go that far. They’ll probably go looking for us in the nearest villages first, which buys us more time to get there.’
‘Good point,’ agreed Lilly, ‘but we don’t have enough food and water to last that long.’ I sighed.
‘Well, then we just have to make sure we don’t eat it all in one go. And if that’s not enough, then let’s just hope we meet a nice stranger on our way. Shall we?’ I started walking. I heard a deep sigh and a snort. I knew they were angry, but this was our best shot. After a few seconds I heard some footsteps and I knew they had decided to follow me.
The next few days where hard. We couldn’t travel fast because of our empty stomaches and sore feet. We still didn’t talk much but I noticed that Lilly was energy was improving while Julia seemed to be more down with every step.
‘Do you think it was wrong to ask her with us?’ I whispered to Lilly who was walking next to me. Julia sang softly while she dragged herself along behind us.
‘Oh, let it go. It was her choice to make and she said yes. She knew what our path would be and she knew it would be hard. She’s just tired and a little homesick at the moment. You know what she is like.’ said Lilly. I looked over my shoulder at Julia. Her light blonde curls where messy and looked dirty. Her golden eyes where directed at the ground but didn’t really seem the notice what they where seeing. I did know what Julia was like. She was kind, worrisome, soft and gentle. I remembered when she dismantled a rattrap because she said she felt it was cruel to murder animals like that. When the Witch found out she had punished her by shaving off all of Julia’s hair. Julia had cried for days. Her hair was now just past her shoulders. Sweet Julia.
Julia had always been like a little sister to me. I was seven when she was brought in. She was only three. I remembered her crying for her father for days. Everybody resented her. At least she had a father, most of them had nothing or had never known them. Her crying broke my heart and I couldn’t help but love her and take care of her. It was said that her father would one day return for her, when he could take care of her. But after a year a letter came notifying that he had died. His inheritance went to the orphanage and the Witch spend it all before Julia was even informed about it.
The Witch. That Witch. My body filled itself with anger. I hated that woman. Well, hated was still to soft of an expression. The Witch was the owner of the orphanage. Her actual name was Miss Wirtch but because of her horrible character she was soon named the Witch among the orphans. That horrible woman. Oh the things I would’ve liked to do to her…
‘Look!’ called Julia suddenly. I awoke from my daydreams and looked at her.
‘What?’ Lilly asked, who also looked at her.
‘There! in the distance! Don’t you see it? Look!’ She jumped up and down of excitement. I followed her finger and squinted my eyes together to see what it was she was pointing at. Far away in the distance arose what seemed to be a large mansion.
‘So?’ Lilly asked. ‘So??? What do you mean; so? Don’t you know what this could mean?’ Julia almost shouted. She was wild with excitement but Lilly and I still didn’t know what it was she was so exited about. So what a large mansion on the side of the road. What could it mean to us.
‘Oh come one,’ Julia said inpatiently, ‘don’t you guys see? We could go there, ask if we can stay there. We’ll get warm soft beds and new dresses, good food and clean water. It will be amazing!’ Julia was still jumping around as if she had seen the future. I suddenly started laughing. I couldn’t help myself. Julia looked at me angrily.
‘I’m sorry Julia, but are you dehydrated or something? Didn’t we give you enough to drink?’ I said, still laughing. ‘You can’t seriously think that they’ll let us in do you? There are rich people who live in there. Probably some high ranked family or something who wants nothing to do with silly dirty orphans like us. We are nothing to them, they don’t care about us. Rich people don’t care about any ones but themselves.’ I shook my head. ‘No, we’re not going there.’ I looked at Julia. Tears of anger and frustration had welled up in her eyes.
‘Why do you always have to be so negative?! You’re always like that! We’ve been walking for four days now and we haven’t come across anyone at all. Luck has been on our side all this time, and it will with that mansion!’ Julia snapped at me. She seemed furious but sad at the same time. I had rarely seen her like this before. I looked at Lilly hoping for back up.
‘Well,’ she started carefully, ‘I have to agree that we’ve been lucky until now. But I doubt they will take us in Jule.’ Lilly bit her lip.
‘So you’re taking her side now?!’ Julia ranted on. Her hands where clenched to fists and her hole body was shaking. Lilly pressed her lips tightly together for a second and then said
‘Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try?’ She looked at me hopefully.
‘Heh, you’re serious? And what will we say? Oh, hi there, we are just three orphans who have run away from home and we’re hoping to find one here? You really think they would go with that? We could be thieves for all they know. Or worse, they could send us back! Is that what you want?’ I said angrily. Julia’s hands relaxed again but she was still shaking. She shook her head and a tear ran down her face.
‘Look,’ I said quietly while I took her hand, ‘I know you really want it to be that way. And I wish it could be that way too. But the world just doesn’t work like that. People are mean and selfish. We have to stick together and take care of each other. We have to be safe.’ Julia bowed her head and nodded softly while the tears still streamed down her face.
Silently we started walking again. Julia had let go of my hand but taken Lilly’s. I felt bad that I reacted the way I did to her. But I had to be rational. We had to be careful. We might have been four days away from that awful hell hole, but that didn’t mean we were safe now.
As the mansion came closer and became bigger, curiosity started to fill my brains. Who lived there? What would the house look like on the inside? Would they have maids? Are they nice people? Oh get yourself together. We are not going there. And that’s the end of it.
The sun was going down and filled the sky with an orange-red colour. I coughed. ‘Er, shall we, shall we walk around it? On the back side I mean. Maybe we can sleep in a shed or something, if they have one.’ I suggested carefully. Julia looked at me hopefully and Lilly smiled a bit. I frowned. ‘Just for the night though. We need a place to sleep anyway.’ I mumbled and turned my back to them.
We walked along the outlines of the garden. It was enclosed by high trees and perfectly shaped bushes. Here and there I got a glimpse of the display of the garden. Colorful flowers, gravel pathways, beautiful fountains and even a pond which seemed to be large enough to swim around in. It all looked stunning. I sighed.
When we were almost at the corner I spotted something that looked fairly much like a wooden structure. I stopped. Julia, who’s mind was apparently elsewhere occupied, almost bumped into me.
‘What?’ Lilly said. I pointed.
‘There. Through those trees.’ The girls followed my finger and spotted the building.
‘Do you think that it’s a shed?’ Julia asked hopefully.
‘Well, whatever it is, it seems to have walls and a roof, which is good enough for me.’ I grinned.
We made our way through the bushes into the garden. The sun had almost reached its lowest point. I kept checking if there was no one around who might see us but there seemed to be no one there.
‘Lots of stuff on shelves but seems to me that there is more than enough space for the three of us in there’. Lilly said while she peeked through the small and dusty window.
‘Okay then, let’s go in.’ Julia pulled the knob. ‘It’s locked!’ she whispered anxiously.
‘Let me.’ said Lilly. She searched through her bag and pulled out something small. She bend herself over the doorknob which prevented me from seeing what she was doing. A minute of silence, clicks and cracks and Lilly softly swearing passed. I started to get nervous.
‘You almost done yet?’
Lilly growled at me. Then I heard a soft and final click and Lilly opened the door for us.
‘All done!’ she said happily.
‘How did you…?’ I asked her with an astonished but relieved voice.
‘Some trick I learned a while back, but I’ll tell you all about it once we’re inside. Come on, you don’t want anyone to see us now do you?’ she said laughing.
We entered the shed. As Lilly already had said it was small, with lots of stuff packed in it, but big enough for us three to sit in. Lilly closed the door behind us and we looked around. It was mostly gardening stuff. Shovels, hoes, trimmers and brooms in all kinds of shapes and sizes where stalled all around us. In a corner sat a big sackcloth.
‘We can’t start a fire in here.’ Julia said. ‘Does anyone have candles?’ I shook my head but then realized that it was probably to dark for her to see so I told her I didn’t.
‘Me neither.’ Lilly sighed. We stood there for a while. Unable to see and scared to move because we might make some noise.
I coughed. ‘Shall we… Shall we sit down?’ I asked. I heard some movement from where I knew Lilly was standing so she must have gone to sit down. I followed her example and noticed that Julia did the same. We were all awfully quiet still. I was tired but too afraid to go to sleep yet. Apparently Julia felt the same because she whispered
‘So, what do we do if we arrive at Grotille?’ I bit my lip. I had been so consumed by the plan of getting out of that house and getting away from the Witch that I never actually thought about it. I had no plan.
‘Easy,’ Lilly suddenly said. ‘We hide as soon as we arrive until nightfall. Then, when it’s night, we will go out and get rid of these horrible uniforms and nick some new clothes somewhere else. It’s gonna be tricky though, because big cities have often more people wandering around at night. The next morning we will go to some shop and sell our stuff from the orphanage and…’
I snorted. ‘Which stuff? We barely have anything with us.’ I didn’t think our pyamas and old junk would be worth anything to them. Lilly searched through her bag and held up something high above her head so the moonlight through the tiny window could light it. It looked a lot like the small silver platter the Witch often used when she had visitors. Julia gasped. ‘Yup, and I have a lot more of these in here.’ She rattled her bag softly. ‘But how?’ I could only ask.
‘Simple,’ Lilly responded, ‘remember when I took so long to get out and Julia mentioned she heard some noise? That was me gathering all the fancy expensive stuff the Witch had in her possession. It was’t easy but…’
‘Lilly, you are a genius!’ I almost shouted.
‘Yeah, well, I just figured that when we would get out we would need money and since we don’t have any, this was kind of the only option. Plus the Witch will probably die when she finds out so that’s another plus side.’
I heard some movement and Lilly gasped. My eyes had almost gotten used to the darkness and I could see Julia hugging Lilly tightly. I smiled.
‘I’m so happy you are here with us! You are so smart!’ Julia said thankfully. ‘Now tell us more about your plan.’ she said and let go of Lilly.
‘Well we could use the money to get a coach to Perdice, but I’d rather not. I’d rather save it for when we really need it. I think it would be best if we would stay for a few days in Grotille. Find ourselves some place cheap, preferable free of course, to sleep. Get some food and drinks and rest until we feel better. Then gather some food and water for the journey to Perdice. In Perdice we will all try and find some sort of work were we can make some money and then, who knows. We’ll see how it goes from there I guess.’
We talked for another few hours of the plan and what we hoped to find in Perdice. My fear had faded and was replaced by enthusiasm. We could be anything! We could make our own money, and live together! Nobody would command us anymore. Nobody telling us what to do or who to be. Total freedom. After a while we all went to sleep. With a smile still on my face, I was quickly gone.