A copy of The Alternative Medicine lay open before Fred; but, as of late, his thoughts were elsewhere. Beside him, Paolo was writing notes on a blueprint of race car for an international racing competition. Across, Fred, James read The Da Vinci Code; while, at the side, Michael wrote poetry with Fred as the subject.
Fred flipped the pages of the magazine and closed it.
“Bored?” James looked up from his book.
“When are you going to put that book down?”
“Give me thirty minutes.”
“You’re read it like a million times.”
“This one’s in Cyrillic.”
“First, English then French, Spanish, Italian…” He counted off with his fingers. “You never fail to impress us, do you?” Fred said drily.
“Why don’t you try reading it?” James offered, not taking offence.
“No, thanks. I’ve read it twice this month. I’m going to take a walk.”
They watched Fred sling the backpack on his shoulder and leave the common room.
“He’s in a hurry,” Michael muttered, returning to his writing.
“What do you think he’s up to?” Paolo rolled up the blueprint.
“I saw him with Louis earlier. Fred looked concerned after he left,” James said.
“Is he going there?”
“Probably. He was carrying the same bag when he dropped by the pharmacy. My guess is she’s sick.”
“Let’s hope they make up once and for all,” Paolo said.
Fred headed directly to the upper floor and met Louis in the landing. “Is she asleep?” the older boy asked.
“She’s awake. Our aunt’s inside.” Louis would have knocked then if he hadn’t seen Fred hesitate. “Ready?”
Fred nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
The door opened. He saw the academy’s head librarian Ms. Tildy seated beside the bed. The woman was apparently surprised in seeing him but when her eyes rested on Louis, she thought better not to question Fred.
“He’s here to see Electra,” Louis said.
“Of course,” the aunt said and left with her nephew.
Fred came closer to Electra’s bed. Her face was flushed. He didn’t need a thermometer to know she was running a high fever when he placed his hand on her forehead. Electra’s hand closed on his and said, “Take me outside.”
“You’re sick, Electra.”
A few minutes later, Fred had bundled Electra in a blanket and carried her out while Ms. Tildy and Louis followed their progress from the kitchen window.
“When did they meet?” the aunt asked while they waited for the pair to return.
“December 23. He saw her at the park.” Louis poured coffee for his aunt.
“She never ventures to the academy alone.” They knew Louis’s father would be displeased if he hears what Electra had done. Mr. Roucan had taken pains to make sure Victoria and Electra would never meet.
“I suppose she got curious when I told her about him.”
“I always thought him arrogant because of his pretty face and intelligence. But to be friends with you and Electra, he must be special.”
“I think so, too. He got lost in the labyrinth in his first visit though after Electra caught him and her…friends talking about the past. Fred was lucky Electra found him.”
“She kissed him?” the aunt’s eyes widened. Electra wouldn’t save just any one’s life, she thought. But then again…. her eyes fell on Louis.
“It’s nothing, dear. I have to inform your father about your sister’s condition.” She kissed his cheek and made to leave.
“Does he even care?”
The aunt paused. “Of course, he does,” she said, taking Louis’s face in her hands. “He loves you both.”
“What do you want now?” Mr. Roucan didn’t bother to take his eyes away from the report he was reading. He had heard his secretary unsuccessful attempts to stop Ms. Tildy from barging into his office.
“Your daughter is terribly ill, Alfred,” Ms. Tildy said.
“Is Williams with her?”
“Cassandra?” she frowned. The last she had heard, Dr. Williams was in Moscow.
“Her son Frederick Williams,” he said impatiently.
“Umm – yes.” Ms. Tildy was stunned that her cousin knew about his daughter’s friendship with Fred.
“She’s in good hands.”
“But – he’s just a child—”
“I know what’s best for my daughter.” Mr. Roucan could see his cousin working on an argument to counter his statement. “Believe it or not. Fred carries his mother’s legacy. He can help her. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have business to attend to.”
Ms. Tildy left in a huff.
Alone in his office, Mr. Roucan took out a picture from his drawer. It was taken eight years ago. It showed a happy family of four: a beautiful woman with hair the color of chocolate carrying a baby, a little girl with a crown of flowers in her head, and a younger version of himself standing behind the three people he dearly loved.
Electra to Fred to put her down under the thick shade of a tree. It was the same tree where he had watched her play the flute. Seated side by side, they watched the flow of water in the stream.
“Where does it go?” Fred asked.
“To the surface.
“That’s weird, but it makes sense.” Electra’s brow furrowed. “It seems like the natural laws of science doesn’t apply here,” he explained.
“That’s not true. Your scientists just don’t know how to explain it yet.”
Fred shrugged. “Okay. But where does all that water come from?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never gone that far. I think some of my friends have been there before. You’ll have to ask them.”
The conversation came to a lull.
After a while, Electra said, “I’m sorry. It isn’t your fault your friends are nosy.”
He laughed. “They were just curious.”
Fred couldn’t let her know that he hadn’t been himself ever since Christmas. It would be mortifying if she laughed at him. Instead of answering her question, he said: “I’m sorry, too – for getting lost in the labyrinth.”
“Sorry, I slapped you.”
“I deserved that. Thank you for saving me.”
Electra leaned her head on his shoulder. “Louis was five when he was stranded in the same place I found you. He was unconscious and his skin was ice cold. It was my intuition that told me to kiss him and discovered I could bring someone back to life.”
“How many have you saved in the tunnel?
“Just you and Louis. Why?”
“Just asking.” He wondered at the pace his pulse raced after hearing her answer.
They returned to the house a few hours later. He gave her herbal medicine which she accepted but gave it back after the first sip. “Take it away”. Electra said.
“It will make you well.”
“The medicine is bitter because you’re sick. The taste improves as you recover. So, drink up.”
“Is that how you and your mom make your patients drink this stuff?” She narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m not buying it.”
“Fine. Just drink it, for your brother.”
He saw her waver and… “Just this once.”
“You have my word.” Electra pinched her nose and downed the cup with eyes tightly shut. “That’s better. I have to go now before the guys start looking for me. I’ll see you again in a week.”
Downstairs, Fred gave instruction to Louis. “Make sure she rests for a couple of days. Give her something warmer than summer dresses – she’s vegetarian, right?”
“Yes.” Louis put out a hand when Fred opened his mouth. “Fred. I know.”
“But her temperature’s—”
“Thirty-nine degrees. I know. Your friends are looking for you.”
Fred looked outside. “It’s not evening, yet.”
“It’s six o’clock already at the surface. The sun sets at eight in these parts. You ought to remember this isn’t exactly what you’d call a normal place,” Louis said, bemused.
“I’ll keep that in mind. See you in the morning.”
Fred found his friends waiting outside the tunnel. No one spoke a word until after dinner.
“So, how is she?” Paolo asked.
“She’s okay.” Fred filled out an order slip, avoiding their eyes.
“Liar.” James tousled his hair and read the paper. “That order slip is for her.”
“Then, who is it for?” Paolo pressed.
“It’s…for a friend.”
“Do you know why you always get caught red-handed? It’s because you’re very bad at lying. Admit it. It’s for Victoria’s very ill twin.”
“She’s not her twin and Electra’s going to be okay.”
“Now we’re talking. What are you ordering?”
“Fruits and veggies,” James supplied.
“What, she’s vegetarian like you? Fantastic! Looks like you’re really meant for each other.”
Feeling his face warm, Fred bade them goodnight before they notice it and start teasing him.
Lights were out at nine. Fred tossed and turned in bed. He had given Electra the medicine his mother gave to patients who are gravely ill. Fred couldn’t identify Electra’s disease. It wasn’t an ordinary flu and he was sure of it. His mom had emailed two day ago that she would be visiting him tomorrow. He would ask her – he needed her guidance even more, now that he wanted to help someone.
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.
A/N: Sorry for the long wait. I had to take a really long break – actually, I’m cheating right now since I’m supposed to be resting ’til October. Enough about me.
What can you say about Fred and the Roucan family? Your opinion is most welcome. (^_^)