Jason took a deep breath, then got out of the car. The place looked almost exactly the same, not that he expected it to have changed. He was not looking forward to this visit but it had to be done. It fell within the agreements and as long as he didn’t break it, they would leave him alone for the most part. They all knew he hated visiting, but they didn’t want to upset the uneasy alliance. He had tried running from them once, he managed to go through three days without contact, three, desperate days in which he barely had time to rest, and they still found him easily enough.
As he approached the door it opened, his mother smiled, “Welcome home honey.” She didn’t look different either, maybe a few new wrinkles here and there, she had the same hairstyle, the same glasses, hell he was reasonably sure that they were still the same clothes she wore when he was a child. He hugged her, it was brief, mechanical. She stepped back, “let me look at you” she scanned over him, then tutted, “You’re not eating enough. I can tell.”
“I’m eating plenty mom.”
“Well, I’ve a few days to fatten you up anyway. Your father is in his study. Go so hi to him and your sister, then come down to the kitchen. I’ve some food on.”
He didn’t bother asking what food, he already knew it would be a chocolate cake, made from scratch along with a cup of coffee. He had stopped pointing out he wasn’t a huge fan of chocolate after the fifth cake. It had become easier to just eat a slice rather than endure that scowl he always hated.
He climbed the stairs, skipping over the one that creaked out of habit, then knocked gently on the door to his fathers study. “Come in.”
“Ah, Jason, did you just get in?”
Jason swallowed his retort and smiled,
“Yeah, just wanted to pop up and say hi.”
“I’m almost done here anyway, go find your sister and say hello. I’d also wager that your mother has some coffee on too.”
“I’d say you’d win. I’ll see you later dad.”
Jason closed the door over again. He never knew what his father actually did in his study. He didn’t have a job after all, and never seemed to be doing much of anything when anyone went in. Jason theorised that perhaps he just went up there to sit and be away from his wife.
Annalisa was in her bedroom, he knocked gently, “Hello Jason.”
“Hey Anna. How’s things?”
“Good. Mom has some coffee and cake on.”
“I know. I’ll be down when it’s ready.”
Annalisa’s room always freaked him out, she was twenty five and it was still painted the same pastel pink as in her childhood, bright childish flowers dotted the walls, hell even her vanity was just a larger version of the one she had as a child. She had changed her duvet, which was something. No longer was it pink with cartoon characters playing about, it was instead a white with a black design. It clashed with the rest of the room but he was glad to see the change regardless.
Jason went back down to the kitchen, where everything was clean and always smelled faintly of disinfectant. “Sit, sit, coffee will be done in a moment. Did you say hello to your father and sister?”
“Yes, I did.”
Jason sat at the table, already there were three plates set out. He knew, as did his mother, that his father wouldn’t actually come down for coffee and cake, no matter how many reassurances he gave. His mother busied herself about the kitchen, seemingly moving things from one place to another with no real goal other than to fuss. When the coffee was finished she brought over the pot and poured it into the mugs, she added cream and sugar to her own and Annalisa’s cup, she didn’t try to add any to Jason’s. He added a splash of cream to his coffee and took a sip. His mother went to the oven and pulled out a chocolate cake which was sitting on a plate. No doubt being kept warm in the oven until his arrival. She cut slices, thick wedges of course, and carefully put them on the plates. Jason picked up his fork and took a bite before quickly washing it down with the scalding coffee. He should have waited a few minutes, but she would get huffy if he didn’t eat some straight away. “It tastes great mom.”
She smiled at him, “Thank you, I know how much you love chocolate.” She turned to put something in the sink, Jason took the opportunity to roll his eyes.
His mother turned back, “Oh, Annalisa, just in time, as always!” Annalisa sat beside Jason and took a sip of her own coffee before eating some of the cake. “Mmm, amazing as always mom.”
She sat down across from them, “So, Jason, how has everything been?”
“Great, just started a new job, got a good bump in my pay, working less hours too.”
“Ooh, so does that mean you’ll get more chances to come for a visit.”
“I’m not sure, maybe. What about you? What have you guys been up to?”
“Well, your sister is planning on getting her drivers license, though I don’t know why she’d bother, after all she has myself or your father to drive her anywhere.”
Annalisa shrugged, “I don’t like bothering you guys for that stuff. Besides, it makes thing easier for everyone.”
“I guess. I still don’t think it’s the greatest idea, but it’s what she wants, so we’re letting her.”
Jason was surprised his mother didn’t add a “For now.”
“Have you started taking lessons yet?”
“Well, just one so far. It went pretty well I think. I mean, I didn’t crash or anything. Not that that was a real worry of course.”
Jason took a sip of his coffee, then another bite of cake. If he didn’t choke down at least half of the damn thing he wouldn’t hear the end of it.
Jason splashed water onto his face, he would be fine he had already gotten through family dinner, dessert and now there was just two more days and then he would be done for another year. Hell, it wasn’t even a stressful holiday, thank god he had gotten Christmas and Thanksgiving off the table. He patted his face dry then grabbed his bag of toiletries and went to his room. It was a little creepy how it was the same way he left it when he moved out. Usually at night he ended up going on a few trips down memory lane, but he could deal with it, he always had before.
Jason was about to turn off the light when there was a gentle knock at his door. He opened it to find Annalisa standing here.
“Is everything ok?”
“Yeah, um, could we…talk?”
“…yeah…sure.” Jason stepped back and gestured for her to enter. Gently, she closed the door behind herself.
“Don’t worry, they’re asleep and they’re not going to wake up, just seems like a good precaution to take. I’ve gotten better about that stuff. I hope it makes me seem normal.”
“Well, that’s sort of what I wanted to talk to you about. I want to leave here. I want to get out and live my own life, but I know they’re not going to let me. I need your help. I know I don’t deserve it, at all, not after how I treated you when we were kids, but I’m sorry. I honestly am. I’ve wanted to tell you that for so long but I just didn’t know how to begin to say it. I’m sorry for everything I ever told them, for all the shit they put you through. That was all my fault and I’m sorry for it.”
Annalisa was crying, tears streaming down her face, Jason wasn’t sure how to react. After a second, he hugged her, she grabbed onto him, gripping him tightly as she sobbed. He rubbed her back gently, “it’s ok, there’s no need to cry. Look, you’ve nothing to apologise for, really. I don’t blame you anymore, it’s their fault and I know that now. I know I haven’t been the nicest to you and that I’ve never really made much of an effort but, well, there’s no nice way to say it, I never really trusted you.”
She pulled out of the hug, “That’s ok, you never had any reason to. If I was you I’d be the last person I’d trust.” She wiped at her eyes, “I really would like your help getting out, but if you can’t or won’t I understand. Either way I’m going to stop helping them. I’ve already decided if you want to go you can. I won’t help them find you ever again.”
Jason sat onto his bed. That was a huge offer. He could finally get away from them. He could just go right now and if she kept her word he’d never hear from them. After all, who could blame him? Even if he didn’t help her, she had made his life an absolute hell. No. It wasn’t her fault. It was theirs. “I’m sorry. I, I need a minute to think.”
“That’s ok, I’m going to go back to my room, I’ll wait there until you’re ready. If you don’t come I’ll know the answer. No pressure either way. I’m not using it, so I won’t know, I only used it to make sure that Christine and Tom didn’t wake up.” It took Jason a few seconds to figure out who she was referring to, he couldn’t remember the last time he had heard their parents names. He nodded and she left.
First thing he needed to figure out was if she was being sincere. He didn’t think she was lying, but then who knew? But if she was, what did she have to gain? Nothing he could think of. Ok, so assuming she was being honest with him, how could they begin to work this out? She could leave with him, they could both sneak out and just drive away. They wouldn’t know until the morning, but they’d probably call the cops and try to say he kidnapped her. What if she caved when the cops came? His parents didn’t know where he lived, not really, but the cops would find out quick enough. Of course, she would know what would happen with the cops, which would be a huge help, she’d know if they’d need to run again.
When he finally forgave her, he had tried to look at things from her point of view, after all their parents basically kept her locked up. They homeschooled them both after it became apparent she had her abilities, rewarding her for telling the future, no matter what it was. He still remembered the burning anger of being punished for something he hadn’t done, something that was apparently going to be an accident anyway, but that wasn’t really her fault. Despite the praise and rewards she had always been a quiet girl, never demanding. She had tried to be friends with him, play with him. Occasionally they did, but most of the time he was still angry of what ever punishment his parents had decided to hand out. He had no privacy, he couldn’t sneak out, couldn’t even have a journal. The only reason he returned for these visits was to stop the harassment that always occurred when he stopped talking to them. But if he helped Annalisa escape, he would be taking their most powerful, if not their only, weapon. She could become her own person, she could live her life however she wanted rather than trapped in her pink room with her pink dresses. He always suspected that in their parents eyes, she was still a ten year old.
He knocked on her door gently, “Come in.”
“Ok, we’re going to do it. Pack your things, we’re going to leave tonight. You can come live with me, I’ve a spare room in my apartment and enough saved to look after you until you get onto your feet. They don’t know where I live so we should be safe. We’ll leave a note saying that we’re both safe and if you want you can ring them tomorrow morning, to prove that it was you, but after that you should keep it brief, one phone call a week at most.”
Annalisa had already started packing, “Don’t worry, once we’re gone I don’t think I ever want to talk to them again.”