I knocked again.
When there was still no answer I opened the door. Rose’s bed was empty. I returned to the living room where Abby stood waiting. “She’s not there.”
“Okay,” Abby said. “Because Corrine checked here about half an hour ago and Rose hadn’t returned yet, so she’s becoming worried.”
I reached for my cloak near the door and pulled it on, fastening it around me. I rushed downstairs with Abby and we began hurrying through the woods.
“Where do you think she is?” Abby asked.
“She’ll be on the island somewhere,” I said confidently. In fact, I knew exactly where to look.
“I’m glad you’re back, Ben,” Abby said, casting me a sideways glance. “We were all worried about you.”
“I’m glad too,” I said.
We didn’t talk again until we had exited the woods and arrived at the clearing by the Port.
Abby was about to walk down to the Port’s control room to check for her there, but I shook my head.
“She won’t be down there,” I said.
We walked along the beach together until the soft sand ended and we reached the foot of a cliff. We both looked up at the lighthouse perched among the rocks.
Our parents asked everyone to stay away from it, but I knew Rose still snuck up there when she was upset about something. That was precisely why it made a good hiding place—people stayed away from it out of respect for our parents.
“Aha.” Abby smiled as I pointed up to the top of the lighthouse where candlelight flickered in the windows. “I should have thought to check here.”
Abby and I climbed over the rocks until we reached the entrance at the base of the lighthouse. We hurried up the steps toward the top. I placed my ear against the door and heard soft breathing. I pushed the door and it creaked open.
A few candles had been lit in the corner of the room and Rose lay curled up on the bed, her knees resting against her chest, sleeping in a fetal position.
I bent down over her and touched her shoulder. I was immediately struck by how wet her dress was. She’s going to catch a cold if she stays in these clothes for much longer. She might have even caught one already.
I brushed her hair away from her face and frowned. Although she appeared peaceful, something was wrong for her to fall asleep in this state. Rose wasn’t normally careless like this.
I leant down and kissed her forehead. “Rose,” I whispered, shaking her.
Her eyelids flickered open and she looked up at me, rubbing her eyes.
“Huh, where am I? What are you—” She sat up and looked around her, then sighed and buried her face in her hands.
“Corrine was worried about you,” I said. I reached down and scooped her up in my arms. “Come on, let’s go home.”
She reached her arms around my neck and buried her head against my chest, closing her eyes again. We made our way back down the lighthouse, over the rocks, and returned to the Port. Rose didn’t say anything throughout our walk, she just remained silent, her eyes closed. Once we reached the port, Abby parted ways with us.
“Well, I’ll tell Corrine she can stop worrying.”
“Thanks, Abby,” I said, glancing at her.
“Good night,” she said. Then she hurried off into the shadows of the trees.
Still holding Rose in my arms, I ascended in the elevator and entered the apartment. I carried her to her bedroom and then stopped in the middle of it. I attempted to stand her on her feet but her legs folded beneath her.
“Oh, come on, Rose,” I said impatiently, tugging at her to stand up. I remembered she used to do this as a game when we were children: insist that I gave her piggy-backs, and then when I set her down, she would pretend her legs had turned to jelly and I had to continue carrying her.
Only now, I was sure that she wasn’t playing any game.
She gripped hold of my arm and stood up. Her face was pale, her eyes bloodshot as though she’d been crying.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She shook her head, opening a drawer and retrieving some woolen pajamas. “I’m just feeling… restless.”
“We all are,” I said. “But they’ll return safely with Anna. I know they will. I don’t know what is holding them up… but remember they’re with Ibrahim and lots of other witches. Dad has brought with him the best fighters he has. For all we know, they’ll come back while we’re sleeping and we’ll find them here in the morning when we wake up.”
She gulped and nodded. “Yeah, I know.”
“Now just change into something dry and go to sleep,” I said, sighing and closing the door.
She walked to the door and caught it just before I closed it. She looked at me through the crack, offering me a weak smile. “Thanks, Ben,” she whispered. “I’m glad you’re up and about again.”
“Yeah,” I said, looking at her with mock disdain. “So you can use me as your manservant again. I bet you missed that.”
She chuckled and closed her door.
I returned to my room, shaking my head. We were all on the edge of our seats waiting for them to return. Rose wasn’t the only one.
We just need to sit tight and wait for them to return with Anna. And once they do, the island will be able to breathe again.
Chapter 12: Rose
My head was groggy when I woke the next morning, and my throat felt sore from the stupidity of falling asleep in the chilly lighthouse in damp clothes.