A Family Affair – February 2016

Tap tap tap


Bethany sat on the small single bed, staring at the wall as she had been for the past hour. Thoughts whirred in her head, fleeting emotions dancing here and there, fluttering away before she could catch any of them.


She didn’t mind. To think was to feel, and she wasn’t in any hurry to do either.


Tap…tap tap tap.


She glanced across the way at the window of her Oakleaf room, her heart seizing for a moment at the dark shadow looming behind the curtains. For a brief moment in her darkest of hearts, her subconscious gnawed at a possibility too terrifying to voice. But then, the form took on a comforting and familiar shape, the grinning face of her fiancé, Grigori Katorga, peeking through the sheer white shades at her.


He stood holding a flask in one hand, using the metal receptacle to tap on the window a third time. Bethany raised an eyebrow and slid off the bed, moving to pull back the curtains and stare at the man outside, her lips quirking in a slight smile.


"Want to let me in, little one?" he asked with an impertinent smirk and slight slur, his body swaying so that he had to catch himself against the ledge.


Bethany sighed softly, watching him for a moment longer before unlocking the window to let the smirking Russian climb through. She regarded him coolly as he stumbled inside, one hand gripping the flask like a lifeline, the other holding down his ever present hat.


When he straightened and grinned at her, she merely stared, her delicate features drawn into what her father would call 'judgy face.’


Unperturbed, Grigori held the flask out to her.


"Want some tequila, Bethy? Guessing you've built up a thirst by now…”


Bethany tilted her head and regarded the offering, that ghost of a smile creeping further across her lips, fondness for the mess of a man before her washing away the deeper unease at his uninvited invasion.


After a moment longer, Bethany snatched the flask from his hand with a grin.


“About time!” she scolded him, feigning annoyance and offering a pout.


Grigori shrugged then bowed his head in apology, his eyes glimmering with mischief.


“Better late than never…now what do you say we get out of here and get married?" The huge smile on his face was contagious, and Bethany allowed herself to fall into his infectious enthusiasm.


“I'll grab my bag," she whirled about to face her closet and, pausing to regard the bottle, pushed it back into Grigori’s hands gingerly.


"Maybe hold this...while I pack."


A huge breath of relief that he hadn't realised he’d been holding escaped Grigori as he took the flask and watched his bride-to-be. He hadn't seen Bethany in nearly two months, not since his last visit, and he’d had no idea how she would take his sudden appearance after so long. Visibly relaxing to know that she didn't hold it against him, he studied her in silence.


His time away had been well spent...building a modern Manor house for them on the outskirts of the Yarra Valley…and planning this ‘rescue.’ He’d memorised the layout of Oakleaf many years before, when he’d originally planned to break Belladonna out during one of her therapy sessions outside Braidleigh. Thankfully, the changes since then had not been too major…the security had kept up with the times but their main focus had always been keeping people in, not out.


Grigori smiled and turned towards the armchair beside the bed, freezing mid-step as he felt the cold steel of a scalpel rest against his throat.


"What part of rehabilitation do you not understand, Katorga?" the exasperated voice with its familiar French undertone murmured gently in his ear, “Hand over the flask."


Turning his head slowly so as to not carelessly cut himself on the scalpel, Grigori frowned.


"Claudia."


He looked into the familiar green eyes, his expression darkening.


"Care to explain why you're in my fiancés room in the middle of the night?"


Lyra Monėre gave him a malicious look, "I’m assuming you are also here without her father's permission, otherwise you would use the door...in fact, I’m guessing no one knows your current whereabouts or destination."


Lyra’s emerald eyes narrowed, the scalpel pressing harder against his throat as she assessed him carefully. After a long moment she began to slowly lower the scalpel, holding her hand out for the flask.


Grigori sighed and deposited it in her outstretched hand as all at once Bethany stomped her foot.


"Seriously Aunty L, sometimes you're a bit of a drag," she looked at Grigori before moving to sit on the edge of her bed, "Fiancé, Aunty L is my doctor, she’s been helping me get better. We can't tell Daddy, because he doesn't trust her."


"I wonder why," Grigori sniffed, touching his neck gingerly, "But. Wait…” he turned to Lyra, “How did you manage to become a doctor here without Baelian knowing about it?”


“I am currently running the hospital you just recklessly broke into,” Lyra replied flatly, “It was my graduation present from its previous owner."


She let the implication of her words sink in, the possibilities of the history of Oakleaf no doubt running through his head in a whirlwind.


Any moment now.


Grigori’s face twisted in surprise, then horror and disgust.


"How long have you known ?" he demanded finally, "And why didn't you SAY something?!"


Lyra laughed then, suddenly and genuinely.


"Don't be ridiculous, Grigori. No one listens to crazy little Lyra. I needed to fix it myself. Like dear Bethany. No one can help her like I can."


Grigori held up a hand, his lip curling in a sneer as he stepped closer.


"They said she was under the care of one of the best psychiatric doctors in the..."


“She is,” Lyra smirked, “’Doctor Claudia Lyra Monère is a widely published, and highly respected, ground breaking researcher in the psychiatric field,’" she recited.


Grigori glanced at Bethany, who’d moved back to the closet and was rummaging through her clothes.


"Aunty L, we're going to need a wedding dress, do you think we can pick that up on the way?" Bethany paused and glanced at Grigori, "Where are we going anyway?"


Faced with those wide dark eyes, her fiancé softened almost immediately.


"I'm thinking India...hey, what do you mean we!?" Grigori exclaimed.


Bethany stared at him, perplexed.


"Well of course Aunty L has to come! I’m going to need a bridesmaid aren’t I? And I still haven't finished my treatment…so we'll just take her with us. Duh."


"Finished your..." Katorga was dumbfounded. Bethany smiled and nodded, explaining slowly.


"Doctor L is working me through a recovery program and teaching me some stuff, and, oh....I like photography now! Isn't that neat? My sleep is getting better...and I can think of you without thinking of Daddy more..."


Grigori winced.


Ouch.


Lyra hushed her niece and laughed, moving to stand by Bethany at the closet, drawing out a dress that she had already picked out for the next day. A moment passed as Bethany obediently took the dress, moving to pack a few choice items into her bag. Finally, Lyra fixed her eyes on Grigori.


"She’s doing well…she’s developing in ways that will not be able to be achieved if she is withdrawn from my care."


The young woman stared pointedly at the Russian. Grigori stood there, shock painted across his features, a glance at Bethany followed by a longer look at the blonde woman beside her.


It was obvious by the way that Lyra regarded him with a tight, small smile that she was enjoying his discomfort. After a few more seconds she held out the flask to him. He snatched it up, quickly opening it and taking a generous swig.


"What the hell just happened?" Grigori muttered to himself.


"What happened is we’re going on a trip, Grigori," Lyra smirked at him as Bethany laughed and clapped her hands.


“All three of us.”


Written by Adam Grant, Luna Madness and Pippy Scream.


Edited by Natalie Ristovski.



All characters and story lines remain the property of N.Ristovski and the Underground. All character writings within the Underground are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2016. Natalie Ristovski.

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