Lucetta was dead.
Rin read the letter over and over again, hoping that it was only a dream, praying that her sister wasn’t truly gone. Mascara laden tears dripped from her cheeks, one after another. It simply couldn’t be.
“Well, we all knew it would happen eventually,” Elys said, a snide edge to her voice. “She was incredibly stupid, don’t you think? Running off to the city like that.”
“She wasn’t stupid at all. Lucetta had a dream, and she followed it,” Rin replied brusquely. “It was our fault for never trying to contact her.”
“I never wanted to contact her. She was an embarrassment of a sister.” Elys snapped her fan open to cover her smirk.
“The hell she was!” Rin exclaimed in anger.
Their mother, Bethandra, waltzed into the room. She was beautiful for a woman her age, but severely lacked in kindness. “What is all this commotion about? I expect better of you.”
“Lucetta’s dead,” Rin cried.
“She had it coming,” Elys added.
“Are you certain?” Bethandra snatched the parchment from Rin’s grip and skimmed it. She finished with a hearty chuckle. “Elys is right, Rin. She was an idiotic little thing, leaving our lavish lifestyle for Steamedge. To be an inventor, of all things! The least profitable career.”
“Lucetta did just fine!” Rin argued.
“Don’t spout such lies.” Bethandra crumpled the letter, and with it, Rin’s heart. She tossed it carelessly over her shoulder. “I suggest we put this matter behind us, girls. Our lives will be all the better if we do.”
The news numbed Rin. She recalled her sister’s charming smile, her laughter, her talent…words failed to describe how much Rin admired her, even if they hadn’t spoken in years.
Bethandra decided to throw a dinner party shortly after the letter arrived. She scoffed when Rin accused her of celebrating Lucetta’s death, but Rin had a sinking feeling that was the case. Besides, according to Bethandra and Elys, Lucetta had been tarnishing the Findlay reputation for years. Now that she was gone, perhaps they saw a chance to redeem it.
Isaac arrived earlier than expected. His crooked smile and bright eyes made the world seem so much better, but only for a moment. Rin ran to him in tears.
“Goodness! What’s the matter, love?” he asked gently, lifting his fiancé’s chin so their eyes could meet.
“Lucetta’s gone,” Rin whispered.
They strolled through the gardens to avoid the other guests. Rin explained everything about the letter, and described where Lucetta had gone after leaving home.
“She was ambitious, that’s for certain,” Isaac commented.
“I know. I just can’t believe she’s…”
“It’s all right, Rin. She died doing what she loved.”
“I know, but I wanted to see her again.”
“Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.”
Isaac pulled Rin closer to him, their lips meeting in a deep kiss. Usually Rin’s troubles would melt away at this. But now, they only grew as she thought of her sister. Did anyone care that she was gone?
“I have to go,” Rin murmured.
“Why? Your mother has put together quite the party.”
“It doesn’t feel right, Isaac. I don’t feel like having fun at the moment, anyway.”
“If that’s how you see it. I’ll be inside, awaiting your company.”
“No.” Rin took Isaac’s hand in hers. “I’m going to Steamedge. Tonight. I can’t sit here and do nothing.”
Isaac’s eyes went wide. “Rin, you can’t. The city isn’t fit for people like us.”
“I don’t care. I’ll go to the workshop, clean it up a bit, pay my respects. I’ll be back in three days’ time at the most.”
“This is insanity! What will your mother say?”
“I don’t plan on telling her. Look, just…keep quiet, will you?”
Isaac was quiet for a moment as he thought. “All right,” he sighed. “Anything for you, love. But please be careful.”
With a final kiss from Isaac, Rin hurried inside to prepare for her journey. Joyous music and extravagant refreshments decorated the small ballroom, invoking a burst of anger within Rin.
“What’s the matter, dear sister?” Elys asked, approaching Rin. Her hair was done up in an ugly little do, and she held a dainty glass of wine in her left hand. She swirled the red liquid before taking a sip. “You seem on edge.”
“You could say that,” Rin huffed. “Move over, please. I must get to my room.”
“Nonsense! It’s a party. Live a little.”
“Move out of my way, please. I won’t say it again.”
Rin bumped into her in an attempt to get away. The wine spilled all down the front of Elys’s dress, looking as if she’d just been shot. “You absolute ******** She screamed. Elys dropped the glass in her fit of rage, shards of it sweeping across the floor.
“I told you to get out of my way,” Rin snapped. She hoisted her skirts and hurried to the staircase, scaling at least three steps at a time. If Bethandra heard of this fiasco soon, Rin’s chances of escape would be ruined.
Rin abandoned her heels at the start of the corridor to pick up speed. She scurried to her quarters, threw an aging suitcase onto her bed, and began to toss clothes into it haphazardly. Oh, what would her mother say? Rin was dangerously close to becoming the next family disgrace.
As Rin hurried to leave her home, Isaac pulled her aside one last time. “Don’t do this,” he begged.
“I must,” Rin replied.
“Very well,” Isaac said tearfully “If I can’t stop you…I’ll await your return. I pray your journey is safe.”
“I won’t be gone long,” Rin promised.