One must be thankful, even ashamed, for being spared from the punishment, but it felt strange. Sal was expecting the darkness and stifling heat of the storeroom but instead she is stil resigned in her room on the upper storey of the house. It should not be different anyway. The room is a prison enough.
It was still the same, filthy room she had been for the past years. The walls have always been drab. White walls turning gray from the absence of sunshine. The room is starting to smell moldy. Something, the maids must have ignored. Sal stared at her legs, cold from hours of sitting bare on floor and papers. Feeling has left her. How many days has it been? Ren’s voice used to ring in that mansion.
The sketches he left are still there, sitting forlorn on the floor. She traced a long line on her face where she was told a scar existed. Even Oleon turned away from her, the stranger, the ungrateful child. “ You don’t deserve to be my child, “ Sal whispered to herself. Seeing if it will hurt.
Her heart sank a little. The Signor has always been the one who kept order in the house. Everyday, men in coats would come to their mansion and she would peek from the small window to see them in the garden. They didn’t even know she was there. She traced Oleon’s name on the floor. He must have been ashamed of her too. The people in his school? They must have laughed at her letter.
Ren’s laughter was the only laugh she remembers. She picked up one sketch of her face. They were portraits of Sal’s face Ren spent drawing. The details of her face were painted with such gentleness It was Ren who showed her what she looked like. He was her mirror.
He wanted to hear him laugh again.
SHE inserted a white kerchief in the ***** of the window a few days ago. It was a signal she used to send when she wants Ren to come. It has been days since the Lidelse’s visit. Today, he took her signal. It was a siesta afternoon. Quiet and calm. Ren was there on the roof of the upper storey of the Casa like before.
Thumping. Something is thumping again inside Sal. Like before, Ren was seated near the cistern, peaceful and quiet as a cat. On Sal’s neck hung the locket he gave her. She touched a finger on its metal lid. Not now, she will not give it up now. He stood.
“ Ren,” she called. It was only then that he walked to her window. Like he was waiting again for her sign. His feet walked on the roof like a bird on land. His gaze was heavy. It must be full of words and hurts she caused him. But when he was a breath away, Sal felt her heart jump again.
It felt wrong to react that way. She took his hand and placed it on the locket on her palm. In respone, he lightly patted his left hand on Sal’s hand. He gave it a long look.
“ Do you want to hear a story?” he asked. Sal fought the urge to say yes. He used to tell her stories for comfort, the way a mother does to a child.
“ I missed your voice.” Sal said with bated breath.
It was only the window that separated them. Ren did not mind the steepness of the roof he was standing in.
“ Close your eyes, “ He was holding both of her hands.
“The little sparrow never knew flight, or the sun or even the clouds. For she was imprisoned in a small and dirty cage. Suddenly, a bright sound pierced the silence. It was from a bird with hite and black fathers, dancing with the wind. It was beautiful, oh so beautiful. The little sparrow never knew flight, or the sun or even the clouds until that moment. She flapped her wings.They do have strength! She flapped her wings, again and again. Upon opening her eyes, the little sparrow was dancing with the clouds.”
It was finished. He still held tightly to her hands. “ You can open your eyes now.”
And when she did, it was a surprise. Sal’s bare feet was freely stepping on the roof of their Casa. It must have been impossible! To walk outside her room on her own.
Ren smiled so bright that it wrinkled. He removed his shoes and wiggled his toes. Why, he must have been imitating her. He then guided her sight to the city beyond them, onto the neverending sky.
“ I thought I will never see this.” Sal exclaimed. The world outside was beautiful. The air was free and birds chirped and flitted on one side of the house. From the view above, she can see a handful of people below. All busy in their own goings about. They looked like ants in their smallness as seen from above. It was wonderful.
“ Free. You are more free when you are like this.” Ren’s feet shamelessly dangled. Sal imitated him. It seemed like it was only yesterday when she would steal glances at him during his family’s visits. They were not allowed to see each other until the wedding ceremony. To the knowledge of the Cuore, only the yellowing veil is the face Duren knows of Sal. Their meeting was by chance. A chance Sal was forever thankful.
“Can we stay like this forever?”Sal asked. Her head was nestled onto his shoulder. Ren even adjusted himself for her.Sal pressed her hand on the locket still on her hand. ‘Should you stay with me?’ must have been the right question. Many times, she questioned if she should still own the locket.
She straightened herself and traced a line on Ren’s cheeks, going to the tip of his nose, to the little wrinkles bside his brown eyes, down to his nape with few premature graying hair. It was like dying if she did not memorize him.
For a few moments from now, she would need to come back. The Signor personally checks on her. Forever watched. Ren only stared at her whispering a few words she could not process at the moment. He would tell her to lay off her burden. All of them.
Ren still held her hand. Sal closed her eyes and angled her head a closer to his face. Little by little. Freedom. Ren. Only her Ren.
It was wrong! Sal heard the Signor’s words in her mind. ‘You don’t deserve to be my child’. He will not like this. He would be angry.
She wrestled herself away from him leaving him with the locket without a word. Restraining herself from looking back, Sal headed straight to her room.
It was Duren.
“SORRY”. Sal mouthed holding the veil as she watched the carriage carrying him leave.
For the next few days, all her maids and teachers stopped visiting her. Even the teacher who taught her on being a wife. No soul was allowed to come inside her room. All her needs were answered through a bell. Food was left on the hallway outside her door. Boredom has seemed to be the thing that will keep her going. It was the Signor’s voice that briefly wakes her.
His presence was enough to send her silently cowering in the corner of her room. There were no words, no attempt to look at him. All there was is the pain. But he was present, at last.
It must have been funny that Sal can still see Ren. He was the gallant prince saving a damsel. The little peace she has is slipping away. No carriage has stopped in the house for the pat days.
It came one day. Upon her window, she can see a tall gentleman with his back to her. He was in every inch, a comely gentleman, except for he was holding a cane. Like the Signor.
When the gentleman shot a look at the Casa, Sal’s heart sank.
It was Oleon leaving for the University.
He said he wanted to see her. He said he wanted to stay. Why cannot he do it? Even just for her? He seemed to say goodbye as he trudged, almost limped towards the carriage. Oleon resembled the Signor, too much.