Waiting for Marie was unnerving. Getting into the compound had been relatively easy for Sarah, but confronting the leader of this group again was unpredictable, especially after her previous visit. However, she wasn’t sure how much choice she had. Julia would almost certainly find Bailey, but they might not talk or even not know the answers Sarah needed. As risky as this visit seemed, waiting felt riskier.
When Marie entered the room, Sarah studied her closely from where she sat. The woman looked the same, but something was different about her demeanor; she was less confident, carried less authority.
“Hello, again. I’m sorry for coming . . .” Sarah stopped talking when she realized Marie wasn’t looking at her, hadn’t even acknowledged her. This woman, who had exuded power at their last encounter, simply stood inside the door, her whole body turned toward the entrance. She almost certainly could see Sarah in her peripheral vision, but she merely stared straight ahead.
Her confusion grew and mixed with shock when Rebecca walked into the room. Marie nodded in deference to her, but Rebecca ignored the gesture, instead rushing over to Sarah and embracing her.
“Rebecca! Are you okay?”
Rebecca released her and took a step back. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
That was not the response Sarah expected. “Well . . . you . . . you just disappeared so suddenly. We had no idea where you went. Or even how.”
“Oh. I would have thought Bailey would have told you.”
“No. She said she had no idea.”
“Hmm…” Rebecca looked over her shoulder at Marie, who gave a quick nod. “Perhaps she didn’t understand that I wanted all of this explained.”
“Wanted what explained?” All of Sarah’s assumption were melting beneath her. “What is going on, Rebecca?”
“I’ll tell you what I can. Some of it is private. Family matters. I’m sure you understand.”
Sarah was not at all sure she understood, but she nodded anyway.
“You already know that Marie had been left to take over when I ran away. When you described things to me, I didn’t realize how overwhelmed she really was. Bailey brought me a letter that made things clearer. With Peter gone, I came to realize how much I was needed. So I returned to help.”
Marie still wasn’t looking at them, but Sarah couldn’t ignore her presence. “Could we talk alone?”
Without turning around, Rebecca said, “Marie? Would you give us some privacy, please?”
Marie said nothing as she left. After the door closed again, Rebecca’s expression broke into a big grin.
“It’s so great being back!”
“Rebecca. It’s just us now. Tell me what’s really going on.”
“I already did. I just didn’t want to act too happy in front of Marie. My return has displaced her some, and I think she resents it. I don’t want to rub it in her face.”
“So you really do want to be here?”
“Of course. I told you before, this is my family. It’s good to be back home.”
“Why did you disappear from the cafe?”
“The letter contained a transport spell. Bailey should have explained all of this to you.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“You’re not being held against your will? You’re not afraid of Peter?”
“Peter was exiled shortly after I ran away. He wouldn’t dare show up here now. This is probably the safest place for me.”
Sarah studied her, trying to read her body language. It seemed as though she was telling the truth, but nothing about this felt right. Still, Rebecca insisted she was here because she wanted to be. Sarah had no reason – other than an uneasy feeling – to contradict her.
“So you’re going to stay here?”
“This is my home.”
“Will you visit us?”
Rebecca smiled. “I don’t know if that will be possible any time soon. I’m very busy here.”
“Well, then, can I come visit you?”
“Of course! You are welcome here whenever you like.”
Sarah tried to think of something else to say, some way to draw Rebecca out, but nothing came to mind. She hadn’t expected to see Rebecca here, and hadn’t properly prepared. The best she could do was leave without arousing suspicion so that she might return later.
“I’m glad to have found you safe and happy.”
“Again, I’m sorry I worried you.”
“I suppose I’ve taken up enough of your time. Please reach out if you need anything.”
“I will. Thank you, Sarah.”
The entire way back to the car, Sarah braced herself for something to happen, but she was allowed to leave without incident. It was only after she passed through the gate when she heard an explosion back in the compound.