“Good morning, sweetie.” His mom smiled kindly at him as she placed his breakfast down on the table. “I hope you had a wonderful sleep.” She turned around, pouring a glass of milk for the boy. “Since you woke up late, you won’t be able to have your hour of play time. Only just twenty minutes. After that, you will need to come to the library for your usual schooling. Is that understood?” She stated in a stern tone. The boy sheepishly nodded, not knowing what else to say. He did not want to further upset her, given how she was acting the day before. “Perfect.” She smiled as she walked off to clean the house. “Please wash your dishes before you come to the library. I will be waiting.” Her footsteps echoed through the room as she drifted further and further down the grand hall, making her way to the library. Quietly eating his breakfast, the boy shuddered at the thought of his father coming in. He was probably at his usual post, watching the bridge, since it was already later in the morning than usual. The boy was just relieved to be let back into the house, where he had warmth and shelter. Looking at the note again, he decided it would be best to hide it in his room. Fortunately, there were a couple loose floorboards where he would normally hide snacks, but he could stash the note away in there for safe keeping. Rinsing off and setting his dishes onto the drying rack, he quickly darted off to his room to do just that. There was no way that he would allow his parents to find these notes. Wherever Lacey currently is, she was safer there than here. It would be for the best that any details on her whereabouts stay hidden. At least until they could finally meet. Or reunite? He still doubted whether or not he had actually met this girl. He could not even recall what her face looked like, or what her voice sounded like.
Pressing his foot against the end of the wooden floorboard, Lionel managed to pry open a small gap. Quickly putting the letter away inside of the gap, he quietly closed the boards, trying not to draw any attention or noise to his actions, before running back down to the library from his bedroom. He needed to act like nothing was out of the ordinary, or else his parents might suspect something. Knowing his parents, if he were to let them on to believe that he knew something he was not supposed to, it would mean the fountains and the backyard, again. Walking into the library, he saw his mother, waiting to teach him the lessons for the day. “Sweetie, grab a chair. We’ll begin our history lessons shortly.” She nodded, gesturing the the table she was sitting at. “Okay, mom.” The boy nodded, still thinking about the contents of the note. There was definitely another note hidden somewhere in this library. After they finished another day’s worth of studies, Lionel continued to think about where the note could have been hidden. As his mother got up to leave, he decided to take a chance. “Mom, I was wondering if I could learn more about the history of Fangnis?” “Oh, of course, sweetie. All of those books are in the second floor of the library.” She pointed out. “Anything about Fangnis and how we took over the land, it would be up there. Happy studies, sweetie!” She smiled, walking out of the library. Little did she realize, Lionel’s mother had just given him the necessary hint to finding another note. Rummaging through the books in the second floor history section, he finally found something. A family photo album. Inside, towards the back, there were multiple pictures of a young girl, whose face was burnt off with cigarette ash. As Lionel began to close the book, another piece of folded paper slid out from inside of the cover, landing on the floor. It was a paper airplane.
“Pages and pages turn, and hopefully you are starting to see what monsters they really are. There is no love in this house. Dad was born into wealth. He keeps heaps of alexandrite in his bedroom. It was how he was able to buy this prison, far, far away from everyone else. He keeps us locked up here so that he can have his way with us. Only greed. You’ll need to learn to wipe the tears away. -Lacey”. Rereading the note, the boy was feeling confounded yet again. The last note, the hint was a bit more obvious. Pages, as in books. Here, she mentioned something about wiping away tears. Walking back to his room, paper in his pockets, Lionel continued to think about what the notes have said thus far. His whole life has been a lie. A facade. But he apparently did not know any better. His parents, they were allegedly monsters. It just dawned on the boy that perhaps the way they have been treating him, it was not normal after all. But how would he know? This was the only form of love he was ever exposed to. Slipping the note into his floor, the boy continued to think about where the next note could be. He was hoping to find Lacey soon. He wanted to meet her. His long lost older sister. He wanted to know who she was and where she had been this entire time. Drifting to sleep on his bed, the boy allowed the afternoon to slip into dusk, as he continued to think through where the next note could have been hidden. Tears. Maybe the garden? He had fallen and tripped a lot in there, so he would naturally cry as a child. Or perhaps the fountains? The water streaming from them, it resembled tears. Or maybe it would be his father’s bedroom? Since that was mentioned in the note already. She might have hidden the note in his alexandrite stash. Shaking his head, he would not know for certain, unless he tried each and every place. But he would never dare go into his father’s bedroom. Even his mother is prohibited from entering.
A couple days had passed, but Lionel had been too preoccupied with his studies to think about where the note was. After another day of lessons, he decided to take a risk. “Mom, was I the only child you have ever had?” He looked at her, feigning innocence. “What do you mean, sweetie? Of course. You’re my one and only precious baby.” She smiled. “Are you sure? I feel like I have been having these dreams lately. I am recalling having an older sister.” He continued pressing, knowing that if she were to suspect that him knowing was because of anything beyond a dream, he would be in trouble. He was desperate to take that risk, if it meant getting more answers. “Oh, dear. You’re silly.” She started to sweat a little as her demeanor grew more frantic and erratic. “I have to go clean the house now. But please, you never bring up having a sister again. You do not have a sister. You do not have a brother. You are an only child.” She insisted, getting up and leaving in a hurry. Frowning to himself, Lionel sighed in disappointment. Doing that did not solve anything. If anything, the moment his mother tells his father about their exchange, he could probably expect to face another punishment. And most likely, it would be being held under the fountains again. The fountains. Thinking more about them, it would make sense that the note would be stashed there. He would often spend almost a fifth of his childhood being held under that water, sobbing as the numbing sensation took over. He had to wipe away his tears quite often in that area, which is why he tends to avoid playing there. It brought up bad memories that he tries very much so to blot out. It was a very strange way of coming to this conclusion, but Lionel smiled to himself. He was able to make some sense about where he needed to look next.
“Sweetie, dinner will be ready in 15 minutes!” Lionel’s mother chanted before withdrawing to the house. The boy was in the fountain area, trying to figure out where the note could have been hidden. Looking at the different fountains, and shuddering at the traumatic childhood events he was involved in with each of them, Lionel finally came across a statue of a mermaid with tears streaming from face, through her cupped fingers. He distinctly remembered the time he broke an alexandrite vase, and his dad forced him to undress and stand underneath this particular fountain for four hours in the dark. That sort of numbness enrobing his body as he heaved cold water, it was hard to forget about, no matter how much Lionel tried to erase that memory. He could never quite feel with his right pinkie again after that incident. But the thing about this particular fountain that did stand out was the fact that she had tears. The last airplane mentioned something about wiping away tears, and this matched that description. It was a convoluted method of deduction, but the boy had no other ideas on where else he could look at this time. Prying around the marble surface, he was trying to figure out where one would hide a paper note in a fountain without getting it wet. Towards the nape of the mermaid’s neck, he noticed something: a small compartment, where the switches to the valves were. Opening the door, he found what he was seeking: another paper airplane.
“Mom only married him for the money. She tried to love us, but she never even knew how to love herself or anybody else. She might seem like a selfless person, but she is a rose. Delicate at first, but full of thorns. She will do whatever she can to have the last laugh, as you will one day learn. I hope these letters continue to grow your curiosity, my dear brother. I intend to continue planting these seeds towards freedom with each and every letter. -Lacey”. Neatly folding up the letter, Lionel tucked the paper into his pockets. Thorns. He thought to himself. It seemed like a really obvious hint, compared to the previous one. Closing up the compartment door, and trying his best to cover all of his tracks, he quickly made his way to the rose garden. Walking around, peering through the shrubs, trying to avoid poking himself with the thorns, the boy was desperately looking for the letter. He felt like they were getting easier to find. With each one, he was getting closer to Lacey. “Lionel, dinner!” He could hear his mother call from the distance. “Lionel? Sweetie? Dinner!” She continued to shout, while the boy was too transfixed on finding the airplane. He chose to ignore her pleas. Finding the letter was his priority. He finally came to the clearing in the garden, where a wrought-iron gazebo, covered in roses stood. In the very center was a small marble bench. It had to be there. This is where the vast majority of the roses were. And to his relief, there it was, beneath the bench. An airplane, taped to the underside. Peeling the airplane out from beneath the white surface, he quickly unfolded the paper. But he could not read it right away. “I AM DONE WITH THIS! GOODBYE, LEON!” Hearing a bloodcurdling scream, he flinched. That was his mother’s voice. Stuffing the note into his pocket, Lionel quickly darted back to his house.