Dreams and Memories
Louis lay asleep on his bed dreaming. A woman with wavy brown hair in a blue silk robe hummed a lullaby to the infant in her arms and to the little girl on the bed. The scene vanished. Covered in darkness, the girl held her baby brother protectively; one hand covered his mouth to muffle his cries. She could hear angry voices from below. Then, gunshots…
“No!” Louis screamed. He sat up, panting heavily. The memory of his mother’s death haunted his dreams. He was only a year old back then; yet, he had been aware of his surroundings.
Louis could still remember his sister trembled with fear that night while she was with him inside a cabinet. After what seemed to be an eternity, help finally arrived. The shooter was apprehended and their parents were taken to the hospital. The police found them a while later, but his sister wouldn’t let him go until their aunt came.
It was after their mother’s funeral that his sister withdrew from the outside world and her relationship with their father turned sour.
“Wake up, wake up,” a soft familiar voice whispered in his ear.
Cracking an eye open, he saw Victoria hovering over him. Louis looked at the clock on his bedside table. “Isn’t it a little early? It’s only five in the morning and it’s Saturday. No classes,” he said.
“I know. But I thought we could have a bit of fun before we go down for breakfast,” Victoria said, happily.
“Right.” He turned his back on her, burying his head in a pillow.
“Don’t you want to talk to Anna right now?” She paused.
Louis faced her again.
“She’s online. Well?”
“Umm.” He ran his fingers in his hair. “Sure.”
“Morning glory,” she mouthed.
Victoria twisted behind her and reached for a laptop. A girl with olive skin and dark hair appeared on the monitor. “Hi,” she said, shyly.
Weekends were reserved for family visits. Fred’s family never came, even on special holidays. He shrugged off questions about his family’s non-appearances as easily as he did with Victoria’s barbed comments. Anyway, what was there to look forward to? His parents’ work was important and when they’re together they always ended up at each other’s throats. The last year was worse than the others. They kept on arguing for months that Fred was thankful when school started until he lashed out at his teacher from hell.
Emails from his mom though were significant to him. It had nothing special in the messages. Every month was the same; she apologized for not visiting and asked him how he was doing in school. Still, it meant he wasn’t entirely forgotten. The last message Fred received explained why they couldn’t be with him for Christmas. He had duly replied with an ‘okay’ – a word which had the power to annoy his mom – his payback for being stuck boarding school.
The academy was almost empty save for a number of employees and students who stayed behind for Christmas break. Fred spent his time wandering the huge empty halls of the academy. It was the third day that he came across Louis, a skinny nine-year old with eyes which looked like it had seen everything. It was easy to talk to the boy that Fred began to open up to the boy.
“How come your parents didn’t come?” Louis asked offhandedly.
“My dad’s a businessman and my mom’s a doctor.” Fred would have left it at that but Louis’s gaze persuaded him to say more. “Dad’s responsible for thousands of men working for him while mom’s job is to save lives. Their work is more important than me, I guess – easier to just dump in a boarding school and be free from one more responsibility.” Inwardly, he was surprised at the bitterness in his voice. “But, you know, this setup kind of works for me, too – no parents… What about you? Where’s your family?
“Mother died when I was still a baby. My sis takes care of me, especially when Father’s in a business trip, which is always the case.”
“Does she go to this school?”
“That’s her real name?” Fred smiled.
“Mother’s fond of Greek Mythology.” Louis ran ahead to a narrow corridor. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
“To a secret passage,” Louis stage whispered. Fred grinned and followed the boy through the dark hallways. “Sis told me to always think positively when I’m here.”
“Why, are you afraid of the dark?” Fred teased.
“Just because… There it is!” Louis pointed at a blank wall. He slipped a pair of glasses on. Through its lens, a hair-thin vertical line appeared. His hand touched the wall, when a voice behind them called, “Louis.”
A man with wisps of greying hair emerged from the shadows. “I’d advise you not to proceed on what you are planning. You might scare your friend away.”
“Father? What are you doing here?”
“You forgot it’s almost time for lunch. My dear boy, how many times must I remind you that time is of the essence?” The man patted Louis’s shoulder. He turned to Fred, saying: “I believe you are Frederick Williams. I’ve heard a great deal about you.” The man extended his hand to him.
“I hope most of them are good, sir…” Fred shook hands with Louis’s father.
At the mention of the name, Fred looked from father to son. They’re Victoria’s family?! he realized.
Louis smiled sheepishly and shrugged.
“Would you care to join us for lunch? We’ll be delighted to have your company.”
“But you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Louis interjected. The downward tilt of his mouth became the deciding factor for Fred.
“I’d love to.”
The Roucans led him to the mansion beside the academy. It wasn’t the building’s façade and the manicured lawns that amazed him. Fred was impressed at the flooring of the house. It was a continuing trend to have holographic floor tiles with a natural theme to it. He was sure that the idea originated from the Roucan’s home. The hologram projected an aerial view of a forest teeming with life; he detected movement underneath the canopy of trees. It looked very real until he saw a girl dressed in a flowing white dress. She played a flute which seemed to mesmerize the animals into following her about even as rain began to pour. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Fred thought. To his surprise, the girl lowered her flute and met his gaze.
“Fred,” Louis called.
“Did you…?” Fred spun to the boy.
When he looked back, the girl had vanished.
“Nothing,” Fred said.
Victoria wasn’t present at lunch to Fred’s relief. Mr. Roucan had explained that she had gone to stay with a friend. It was after the main course was served that Fred asked about Electra.
“That’s Louis’s nickname for Victoria,” Mr. Roucan said. Fred, however, saw the looked that passed between father and son. They were hiding something from him. “I noticed your interest with the theme of our floor.”
“The hologram? It was pretty neat. I would’ve thought the whole thing was authentic, especially the girl.”
“The girl.” Mr. Roucan’s fork stopped inches from his mouth.
“She looked like Victoria, but I couldn’t really be sure if it really was her.”
“Lovely, isn’t she? I had specifically requested the programmer to include her.”
“Yes.” Fred gazed at Louis who had gone unnaturally quiet during the conversation.
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.