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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Steampunk · #2282710
A storm approaches the villa bringing more than just rain for Clara and her family.
Annabelle came racing down the marble staircase, she launched herself over the last 3 and her shoulder barged into Clara sending Teddy Brown to the ground. Blonde hair flicked around as Annabelle looked back while she continued the race down the hall to the parlour.

Clara retrieved Teddy Brown and hugged him as she followed her sister into the room. Father was standing by the large window looking up at the darkening sky, his brow furrowed. Annabelle jumped and twisted, landing on the settee with a flump.

“Annie, can you please treat the furniture with a little respect.” Her smile beamed up at him and he tussled her hair.

Clara hoisted herself up onto the far end of the sofa feeling like a mountain climbing as she pulled herself onto her stomach and then rolled over onto her back. She hugged Teddy Brown even closer. She did not like storms, and Father had been worried about this one all day.

Mother walked in, an elegant long white dress seemed to float around her and golden hair cascaded down in perfect waves. She glided across the floor as if on wheels rather than walking. She sat down between the girls and they both pressed against her, enveloping her in a cuddle.

“Girls, we will be in the summer house hosting some drinks and it looks like the storm will breach before we will finish. But there is nothing to worry about, and your father’s secretary will be on hand.” With her arms around them, she pulled them tight against her, delicate perfume surrounding them.

“Come now girls, a kiss before bedtime,” Father announced, but they clung to Mother a little longer before begrudgingly releasing her and standing before him. He bent and kissed each on the forehead, Annabelle first. “Now run along.”

Annabelle skipped out through the door while Clara shuffled slowly looking back over her shoulder at Mother. Mother blew her a kiss, she could feel the soft stained lips finding their home on her cheek and she smiled as she pushed through the heavy door.

She trudged up the stairs to their room. Annabelle was already in bed, the curtains onto the balcony were open wide, the dark clouds covered the sky, she could see them tumbling, whipped by the winds ushering the storm. She left Teddy Brown in her bed and walked over to the curtains.

“Leave them open, I want to watch the storm.” Annabelle pushed her pillow up so she could sit and look out the window.

Briefly, Clara thought about defying her and closing them anyway, but Annabelle would just complain until she gave in and then she would have to get back out of bed and open them again, or worse she would call until Martha would come in, Father’s secretary.

With the curtains still open, she climbed into bed. The thin covers would normally be appropriate for the island’s climate, but the storm brought a chill that Clara wanted more protection from. She tugged them in tightly, wrapping herself and Teddy Brown. Squeezing her eyes closed she hoped in the morning the sky would be blue again.

A strong gust of wind pulled at the thin covers and plucked Clara from sleep. The balcony doors were open, the curtains billowing in the wind. On the balcony, Annabelle was staring up at the sky. Something was falling outside, at first she thought they were giant snowflakes, she had always wanted to see snow, then she thought a meteor shower. Before she could conclude what they were the room filled with noise.

Bangs, far louder than the gun salutes, sounded like they were in the room. An explosion of water from the pond beneath the balcony rose up behind Annabelle as she turned back to face her sister.

And then the balcony seemed to burst, the thick stone edge flying outwards. Everything stopped, Annabelle’s mouth was open in shock, her cheek streaked with blood from a stone chip, her eyes wide and full of panic. And then she was gone, she dropped from sight, her blonde hair trailing her down.

Clara jumped out of bed, glass from the balcony door cut into her feet as she hurried to where the balcony had been. Beneath was rubble, she caught a glimpse of her blue satin nightie amongst the stone. She was yanked backwards, two arms encircled her waist. She screamed, a scream louder than any she had heard, fuelled by the horror of seeing her sister fall and being dragged away from her.

It wasn’t until she was being carried through the hall that she turned to look at who held her. Martha was holding her tightly as she ran through the villa. They headed towards the back of the house as they heard more explosions from the front.

The house shook and a blast of dust was thrown towards them and Martha changed course. Through the kitchen, they reached the small grocery door. Dropping Clara on the floor Martha grabbed at the handle, but the door wouldn’t open. Clara pointed at the key hanging from a hook, too high for her to reach, but Martha just kept shaking the door as she yanked and pushed at the handle gripped in both hands.

Suddenly the door flew open, beyond it a guard stood with the remnants of the handle. He shouted something that Clara couldn’t hear against the backdrop of crumbling stone. Martha grabbed Clara’s hand and pulled her out of the house running down the lawn.

The lawn ended at the cliff, the old wooden stairs wound their way down but Clara had never braved them, Annabelle had many times. She looked back over her shoulder, the guard had tripped and was lying in the middle of the lawn. As she waited for him to get up Martha pulled her onto the stairs and she lost sight of him.

The creaking of the stairs was hidden by the sounds behind them, explosions and the crackle of gunfire like on the shooting range. The worn steps were uneven, some tipped forwards, some back, it took all of Clara’s concentration to keep from stumbling.

As they reached the halfway point Martha grabbed her again, lifting her over the handrail and before she could say anything she was plummeting down to the water. She landed in the cold sea, her arms flailing. Then it felt as if a boulder had landed in the water beside her, the water bulged pushing her sideways.

Martha pushed her up onto the pier, and she clambered as best she could. And then Mother was holding her hand pulling her to her feet. At first, Clara thought that Mother had gotten confused and was calling her Annabelle until she realised she was asking where Annabelle was. Martha was shouting, trying to explain, but Clara couldn’t understand anything amongst the din which made her ears ring.

Father scooped Clara up and pulled Mother to a waiting aeroplane. He practically threw Clara inside before hauling himself up. He grabbed Mother’s hand trying to pull her inside but she was shaking her head, “I can’t leave her.” Clara could just make out the words. And then Mother stopped, she no longer pulled against Father, her mouth fell open and her eyes seemed to look nowhere. The front of the white silk dress began to turn red, it started in the middle of her chest and spread.

Mother collapsed, father screamed, Martha shouted at the pilot as she pulled herself in. The engine spluttered and chugged and smoke poured from the exhausts as it started to move, leaving Mother face down on the end of the pier, the back of her white dress crimson.

Clara cried for Mother and Annabelle. Father hugged her tightly. The plane began to rise from the water, the sounds of gunfire slowly fading behind them.
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