Micah was my brother. I couldn’t believe that Mr. Isoli would really just kill him. But I knew, from the cold look on his face that he wouldn’t hear any more of my pleas to release him. Micah had embarrassed Mr. Isoli with his “Robin Hood” campaign. Micah’s good-hearted endeavors to save people was really his downfall. Even I knew the trial was a sham.
A ray of sunshine seemed to fall on me when Mrs. Isoli came down to dinner for the first time since the family moved to the East Wing. When I watched Mr. Isoli gently take her arm from the servant who helped her to the dining room and tenderly escort her to her chair, I knew his heart wasn’t completely untouchable
I ignored Becky’s offer to take Mrs. Isoli her evening medications that night so I could get some extra rest--“You look almost haggard,” she insisted.
I just shook my head and headed out of the kitchen with the tray. Seeing Mrs. Isoli sitting up in her chair made me smile. It felt like a gift from heaven; her good health was a sign that Micah would be okay.
“You look good this evening, Mrs. Isoli.”
She looked up from her book and smiled, lighting up her pale features. “I feel very well, thank you.”
“I’m glad.” I set the tray down on the table next to her. She grimaced, but took the medication willingly. I waited until she finished her glass of water before broaching to subject of my brother. “Mrs. Isoli? Can I ask you something?”
“Of course, dear. What is it?”
My heart raced. The words I’d prepared in my head drummed against my brain, but struggled to reach my lips. “The boy that goes on trial tomorrow....”
Mrs. Isoli’s thin brows came together. “What about him, Eve?”
“He’s my brother.” The words whistled through my lips, so quiet I didn’t know if she’d be able to hear.
“Your brother.” She studied me with narrowed eyes, probably doubting if she’d heard right.
I nodded, gulping back emotion.
She reached out and took my hand in hers. “Oh, dear,” she whispered, rubbing her thumb across my skin. The movement, meant to comfort me, reminded me of my mom. My chest burned. Mom would’ve never allowed it to come to this for Micah. She would’ve fought so much harder than I had She wouldn’t have waited hopefully through a trial for show for a miracle. Today was my last chance.
“How awful...how awful to have such a relative.” She sighed, continuing the rhythmic motion of her thumb. I blinked, surprised, but she went on before I replied. “It really is lucky Joseph brought you here. Think how his reputation might have tainted you.”
“He’s not like what they say, Mrs. Isoli,” I said in a rush. “He had to raise himself after--after I left. He’s a good boy. He can be better if we give him the chance.”
I watched Mrs. Isoli’s entire frame stiffen. Her thumb froze, then slipped off my hand. Her grip relaxed, leaving my hand resting, unwelcome on top of hers. “He’s a thief.”
The cold tone she used should’ve frozen my attempts, but convincing her seemed like Micah’s last hope. “Please, Mrs. Isoli. I would take personal responsibility for him. I’m begging you to convince Mr. Isoli to give him a second chance. You’re the only one he’ll listen to.”
Mrs. Isoli slipped her hand out and patted my arm. It felt like a slap. Her expression, still tight, shifted into an uneasy smile. “I’m sorry, Eve. There’s nothing I can do for you.”
I drew my hand back slowly. Without replying I turned and left the room.
My main responsibility for the past three years had been the care of Mrs. Isoli. Mr. Isoli took me to present as a gift to her. Under my watch her health improved--perhaps because of Dr. Braga as well--because of my constant devotion. I’d asked for a big favor, but I didn’t think it was too much.
Comfort started to slip away. The soft carpet felt like cold cement under my feet. The walls around me seemed to dissolve into the prison. The East Wing matched it’s hard exterior.
If Mrs. Isoli, a woman I’d given my life to the last three years, wouldn’t protect me, no one would. Micah was as good as dead, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.
Tears swam in my eyes, blurring my view. I pushed forward, trying to get to my room, knowing that it wouldn’t hold the safety I craved. The soft bed, clean linens, and a crisp uniform were part of my prison, meant to keep me comfortable and harmless. When I reached the room, I sank into the bed. I pushed up my sleeve and stared at the black lines on my wrist. I rubbed my finger across them, lightly at first and then harder as the helplessness built up. Before long it almost glowed red.
I fell sideways against the pillows, wishing the clean scent from the detergent would poison me.
Tap, tap, tap. I turned my head slowly and watched the door open. Mr. Isoli stood between the frame. He smiled. I shuddered.
“I think you’d better come with me, Eve.”