Lacie Ch. 10byDancingwizard©
Chapter 10: Lacie's Decision
It had taken a long time. Almost the whole day, but finally, Lacie knew that in the end, she really didn't have any choice. She knew that she was still being manipulated, and it infuriated her, but Lacie knew that part of her anger sparked from her fear at what had almost happened to her. That same fear of what could have been, was a sad reality for unknown numbers of poor, suffering women. Lacie knew that if she didn't help, they would continue to suffer and possibly die simply because Lacie refused to get more involved. Lacie headed downstairs around seven, knowing that was usually when the household sat down to eat dinner. She knew she was being slightly petty, but she felt she had a good enough reason to feel hurt.
Sweeping into the dining hall, Lacie walked towards her place at the table. Everyone else, Master included, quieted when she walked in. Most of the girls looked at her with concerned or pitying expressions on their faces. Lacie gritted her teeth, taking deep breaths to avoid lashing out at them, neither wanting nor appreciating their pity. Claire refused to look up at Lacie. Lacie stopped at her place setting, noting the covered dish that was her dinner had been set out already, waiting for her. Lacie crossed her arms over her chest and spitted Master with a glare.
"Fine. I'll help, but only because we both know you didn't give me any other options. I'll go and be your pretty piece of eye candy. I'll let you show me off like a prize, like some pretty, mindless, worthless pet. I don't like it, I don't like you, and I don't want to have anything to do with you after this, ever." Lacie spat. She knew she was probably being more harsh and far more cruel than she needed to be. She could only think about how much his betrayal of her truly hurt. Looking at the agonized expression on his face, Lacie felt like her heart was literally being ripped to tiny pieces inside her chest. Every breath was torture, and her life seemed to be just grey, all enjoyment in her life having fled when she realized she was just a piece on his chessboard.
The pain in her heart was echoed by the agony written on his face, but he said nothing. Lacie hesitated, pausing for a moment. She realized she wanted him to yell at her, tell her she was wrong, make her sit down and force her to understand why he did what he did.
Master didn't move.
Lacie waited for him to respond, to yell, to stand, to argue with her. He didn't, he only looked at her, torment and pain deep in his eyes as he let Lacie say what he felt she had the right to say, what she needed to say.
Then, Lacie realized that he thought she was right, and her heart nearly broke all over again. The pain in his eyes was too much for her to bear looking at. Turning away, Lacie picked up her tray and stormed back out of the dining hall, slamming the massive doors behind her as she turned and fled back up to her room, tears streaming from her eyes. When she made it back to her room, Lacie threw herself back onto her bed and wept for over an hour. Finally, her tears stopped and Lacie moved back to her door, picking the tray of food off the top of her dresser, where she had placed it before her flight to the bed.
Lifting the lid off the tray, Lacie looked down at the wonderful, beautifully arranged food, sitting there, still warm, on the plate. Lacie almost threw the plate across her room when a wave of nausea swept through her at the sight of the food. Swiftly covering the tray again, Lacie crawled back into bed, fighting to keep from throwing up. The pain of Master's betrayal, and the disgust she felt for herself and her actions in the dining hall twisted her stomach into knots as Lacie closed her eyes, her tears threatening to overflow again at any moment. Soon, Lacie fell asleep, curled around a pillow, as her uneaten dinner grew cold.
The next morning, Lacie woke to a grey sky outside. She could see distant thunderheads drawing closer as cold drizzle pattered into her window, the rapid tapping noises setting Lacie's frayed nerves on edge. Getting out of bed, Lacie wrapped a towel around herself and slowly walked downstairs to take a shower. The steaming water felt good, massaging away some of the newly formed knots of stress in Lacie's back. Once she was finished, Lacie walked back to her room and dressed for her chores that day. She was slotted to work with Tara, simply doing laundry that day.
Normally it was a job she enjoyed, as both Tara and Lindsey usually worked with her and the girls chatted and gossiped as they worked, making the time pass quickly. Even when she was working by herself, Lacie enjoyed the solitude, as the simple work gave her time to let her mind wander. A wandering mind was not something that Lacie wanted that day, because she knew right where it would end up going, and she most definitely did not want to dwell on recent events.
Lacie pulled her hair back into a ponytail, cursing in pain when a few strands got caught on the clip of her choker. In a sudden flash of anger, Lacie tugged on the caught strands sharply, accidentally pulling them out of her scalp, rather than freeing them from the choker. The sharp spike of pain caused Lacie to scream as her anger and frustration boiled over. She reached up to her neck, grasping the oval of ivory on her choker. Lacie yanked sharply, pulling with all her strength. The thin lace parted, and with a soft ripping sound, Lacie tore her choker free.
Lacie looked down into her hand, a moment of apprehension flitted through her, making her second guess her reasons for pulling the choker free. The moment was quick to pass, though, once Lacie looked at the destroyed piece of jewelry again. She had been so happy to put it on, to receive the promises that had come with it, the promises of protection, of safety. The promises that had been built on a foundation of lies. Lacie threw the choker into the farthest corner of her room. It had once been such a point of happiness and pride for her, now it was just a reminder of how she had been duped, and it only served to make her more furious than ever.
Stalking out of her room, Lacie stormed downstairs. Lacie was about to enter the dining hall, when she realized she already knew her job for the day. The thought of talking to Bridget quickly caused Lacie to lose what little appetite she had. So, Lacie spun around and headed for the laundry rooms. Pushing the doors open, Lacie started her work, stuffing clothes and sheets into the massive machines. For most of the morning, Lacie worked alone, Tara only popping in and out, delivering more clothes for Lacie to wash. Part of her felt lonely, as she had gotten used to spending her days with at least one other person around to talk to. Another part of Lacie, however, was glad for her solitude, as it made it easy for her to keep from snapping at someone who didn't deserve it.
As far as Lacie knew, the only three people who were aware of the true reasons that Lacie had been dragged into Master's scheme were Master himself, Bridget, and Claire. Lacie couldn't really be angry at Claire. Since Lacie found out what the other girl had been forced to endure, she felt a strange kinship with the raven haired woman. Lacie didn't blame Claire at all, really. It wasn't her plan. She just happened to be there when Master decided he would use her as justification to play God with other people's lives.
It wasn't until around two in the afternoon that Lacie heard a knock at the doors of the laundry room. Lacie didn't answer, not knowing who it was, and not really caring. A second, then third tapping sound echoed against the door. Finally, the door cracked open and out of the corner of her eye, Lacie saw Ana poke her head into the laundry room.
"Lace?" the Russian girl tentatively moved inside the room, a covered tray of food in her hands. "I are having hard time for the finding you. Cannot be seeing you on scans. Is choker being broken?"
"No." Lacie responded curtly, not looking up from her work. "I took it off."
"Oh." Ana's eyes widened in surprise. "Was not thinking they could be taking off. I thought were permanent clipped on."
"That would be why I ripped it, Ana. I tore it off and threw it in the garbage where it belongs, okay?" Lacie said harshly. Realizing she was snapping at her friend, Lacie took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. Slowly exhaling, Lacie turned back to the tiny foreign girl, still standing by the doors. Ana was fidgeting awkwardly, looking like she was torn between wanting to say something, and opening the door to flee.
"I'm sorry, Ana. I'm not angry at you. I just couldn't wear it anymore. It hurt too much to think about it." Without even thinking, Lacie's fingers began to drift up to her neck, habitually moving to stroke the ivory on her now-absent choker. Realizing what she was doing, Lacie quickly snatched her hand back.
"Is ok." Ana responded quietly, looking down at the tray in her hands.
"No, Ana. No, it's not ok. I'm trying not to be angry at the people who don't deserve it, but it's hard. I shouldn't have acted like that. I'm sorry."
A brief smile ghosted across Tatiana's face, and she moved forward to set the tray down on the nearest folding table, which at the moment, was unoccupied by laundry.
"I made some you lunchings. Not sure if you hungry, but I know you missing breakfast and were not for eating dinner last night. Here. Is good, I promising."
The mention of promises sent a knife straight into Lacie's chest. Despite the fresh reminder of her pain, Lacie smiled as best she could, thanking Ana for thinking of her. Although she put forth her best effort, Lacie suspected that Ana knew something that had been said had stung Lacie. Ana didn't hang around much longer before slipping back out of the room and vanishing down the hall. Sighing, trying to ignore the heartache she felt, Lacie walked over to the tray, lifting the lid off her belated lunch.
The food was simple, a trio of small bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, a handful of chips and a small dish full of glistening black olives. There was a small carton of milk on the tray as well, reminding Lacie of grade school. Lacie tried to smile, Ana knew that Lacie preferred light lunches, and had probably made the food specifically for her. Biting into one of the sandwiches, Lacie got back to work. Despite the small size of her meal, Lacie wasn't able to work up enough of an appetite to finish, leaving most of the olives and one of the sandwiches untouched. Lacie sighed, in her current mood, she barely even tasted the meal, and what she did taste seemed bland and flavorless.
It was late evening by the time she finished her daily tasks, and Lacie headed back to her room. Walking back up the main third floor staircase, Lacie literally ran straight into Lindsey and Heather. The two girls had been talking, laughing about something. Lacie was so distracted, she bumped into the pair and lost her balance on the stairs. Tumbling to the ground, Lacie fell and banged her knee on the corner of one of the steps. Grimacing in pain, Lacie pushed past the other girls, both of whom had managed to remain on their feet. Lacie ignored their calls and apologies, storming into her room. Lacie sat on her bed and let her face sink into her hands. She had never felt so angry or so frustrated in her life. Everything was turning on her. Lacie heard yet more laughter coming from the hallway, Tara's and Callie's giggles drifting under Lacie's door as her two friends shared a moment of levity.
Unable to stand it one moment further, Lacie stood up and ran into her closet, tossing random clothes into the basket she usually used to carry down her laundry. Having done all the laundry already, the wicker was empty. Picking up the basket once she had filled it, Lacie paused only to grab her stuffed rabbit before marching out into the hall. Lacie shut her door quietly, not wanting to have one of the other girls see or hear her and ask what she was doing. A flash of gold caught her eye as she closed the door however, and Lacie looked up.
There, hanging right at eye level, was a beautiful round disk on her door. The oak of the wood was polished and stained, the deep, rich colors blending together, throwing the gilded letters on it's surface into sharp relief. The plaque only had one word stenciled on it. Lacie. The beautiful disk had just arrived to declare which room was hers, where she belonged, and it had gotten there right as Lacie reached the decision to abandon her room. Flushing with shame and frustration, Lacie picked up her basket and fled, dashing through the mansion until she reached the second floor of the south wing. Opening one of the guest room doors, Lacie set her basket down on the floor, shutting the door behind her. Lacie slumped to the floor behind the doorframe, hugging her stuffed animal to her chest as she stared at the opposite wall. She felt empty, tired. Lacie wanted to cry, but it felt like she had simply run out of tears.
Despite her unwillingness to be around the rest of the household, Lacie knew she couldn't avoid them forever. Lacie's stomach began to rumble, churning uncomfortably. Lacie flopped down on the unfamiliar bed, letting her thoughts swirl. Finally, she knew she had to eat. Leaving her new room behind, Lacie walked downstairs, realizing that dinner had already begun without her. Quietly pushing the doors open, Lacie stepped into the dining hall. The diners looked up at her in surprise, but Lacie couldn't meet their gazes. Picking up her plate, Lacie stepped outside, sitting down in one of the chairs on the patio. Fortunately, the earlier rain hadn't been coming from the right direction to get on any of the furniture, and Lacie was saved from having to sit in a wet chair.
Lacie ate alone, barely tasting the food. Just as Lacie was about to finish and head back inside, Lacie heard the sliding glass doors shift aside as someone joined her on the patio. Setting her silverware down, Lacie stared straight ahead as Bridget sat down in the chair next to her.
"You can't be mad at him forever, you know." She said softly, looking out over the grounds. Something in Bridget's tone, and the fact that she was intruding on Lacie when she obviously wanted to be left alone, irritated Lacie. The anger she'd been trying to hold in all day exploded, surprising both girls with it's intensity.
"Try me." Lacie spat furiously, narrowing her eyes, still not looking at the older girl. "It's not just him I'm angry at."
Bridget's eyes flicked to Lacie before the blonde woman turned back away from her.
"I wasn't sure whether to believe Ana when she said you ripped your choker off. I thought I had misunderstood her. Can I ask why?"
"No. It's not relevant at the moment, so I won't bother going into it." Lacie quipped snidely, echoing the first conversation that Bridget and Lacie had out on that very same patio, the morning of Lacie's first full day at the mansion. "Why would you care anyway? You just want me around so I can help with your plans. It's not like you did anything for me because either you or Master actually cared about me. You just did it because you needed me to be your trump card." Lacie hissed, finally turning to glare at Bridget.
The older girl sighed.
"Fine, Lacie. I can see that you want nothing to do with us at the moment. I'll leave your tasks here in the mornings. They'll be written on a note by your food. Remember though, no matter what or how you feel, when you go to the party, you have to at least act happy there, or the whole thing falls apart. If Master looks unhappy, or you defy him and other people see you, it weakens our position, and everything will backfire. I can't pretend to know what this is doing to you, and I wish it hadn't been this way, but I can't change it now. For what it's worth, we're all sorry you had to go through this."
Lacie crossed her arms over she chest as she heard Bridget stand and move back to the house. Lacie couldn't resist throwing one last barb at Bridget.
"As far as I care, you being sorry isn't worth a damn thing."
Lacie heard a slight hesitation in the other woman's footsteps as Bridget walked away. The sliding doors whooshed aside and, wordlessly, Bridget retreated back into the house. Lacie hung her head. Pushing her chair back, Lacie stood up and walked off the patio, heading into the grounds. The sun began to dip over the horizon as Lacie walked out across the soft, wet grass. She wrapped her arms around herself as a chilly breeze swept by. Shivering slightly, Lacie began to wander, heading into the forests behind the mansion. Lacie didn't really have a plan or reason for why she was heading out onto the grounds, but she knew she didn't want to head back inside. Sighing, Lacie pushed deeper into the wild forests as the sun set.
The time alone gave her the opportunity to think about what Bridget had said. Lacie didn't want to admit it, but she knew her 'friend' was probably right. Lacie knew what Master was doing was a good thing, and that it was helping improve the lives of countless others. Lacie knew she didn't want to hate him, she didn't want to hate anyone. Master had betrayed her trust, and though he had asked for her forgiveness and Lacie knew he deserved it, his betrayal could very well have cost Lacie her very life. Even one distraction, one moment's hesitation, or one unforeseen hitch in the plan would have sent Lacie spiraling into a world of horrors she couldn't even imagine.
She knew she was being harsh to him and Bridget, and she wanted to forgive them, but Lacie's emotional wounds were still too raw. Lacie blinked in surprise as the forest suddenly stopped. Standing only a few feet before her was a razor wire topped fence, blinking lights adorning every steel post that was anchored into the ground. Lacie had wandered all the way to the edge of Master's property. Still not wanting to head back, Lacie turned along the fence and followed it away from the mansion.
'I should stop being so harsh on them.' Lacie thought. 'They're only doing what they feel they have to do.'
'Really?' Another voice in her head argued. 'They had to betray you and hang you out to dry? They had to use you as bait for those monsters? They used you. They used you!;
'They had to.' The first voice riposted. 'If not me, then they would have used someone else. I wouldn't wish that betrayal on anyone. If it had to be someone at least it's... me...'
Then, Lacie halted, instinctive fear locking her knees as adrenaline shot into her blood before her conscious mind could even comprehend the situation she faced. About forty feet in front of her, Lacie could see that a massive tree had fallen. The ancient oak had snapped off at it's base, age, weight and disease toppling the massive forest patriarch. While not unusual in a forest, it was where the tree had fallen that concerned Lacie. When the tree had died, it fell and landed straight across the fence that was supposed to keep poachers off Master's property. The tall metal fence never stood a chance. Ripped, torn and shredded lengths of steel and wire lay strewn everywhere, mixed with crushed branches and fallen leaves. Lacie's hands flew to her neck, checking that the tracker she knew was in her choker was still there. Belatedly, Lacie remembered she had torn it off in anger that morning.
If poachers had discovered the weakness, they could already be on the grounds.
Lacie's first thoughts were of the tortures Claire had suffered at the hands of her other owners. The revelation of that same possible danger, here, now, shocked Lacie into frenzied action. Turning, Lacie bolted down the length of the fence. Despite knowing it would take longer than if she tried to run straight through the forest, the benefit of following the fence was that Lacie knew it emerged from the trees only a half mile north of the house. She didn't want to risk losing time by getting lost in the dark trees. Lacie knew that her friends in the house had to be warned, and that there very well could be poachers right behind her. That terrifying thought spurred her on, encouraging Lacie in her headlong sprint beside the fence.