8. I Don’t Want to Be There

Soundtrack: Pixies, I Bleed (Demo 2)

Everyone — family, servants guests — starts combing the grounds, knocking on the doors of nearby houses, searching the streets and alleys and parks. In such a wealthy neighborhood, everything is accounted for and children are seldom lost. Sieia’s disappearance raises fears of murder, abduction and kidnapping. Inglorion has his own private terrors. Sieia is ingenious and simple for an 11-year-old. He’s all too aware of the harm that can come to a girl of her age, even in an orderly city like Liamelia. He thinks of the awful atmosphere in the house that night, and wonders what she saw or heard that drove her into the night without food or money or a change of clothes. 

Inglorion is assigned to a search party covering an industrial area a few blocks from the house. After a morning of frantically looking under stairwells and peering into lofts and cellars, they return to check in with the butler. When they get back, two grooms are marching a mutinous Sieia up the 50-foot, semicircular stone staircase leading up to the portico. She’s putting up an admirable fight, squirming and kicking. Inglorion arrives in time to see her deliver a hearty bite to an under-groom, who yelps and recoils, releasing one of her arms. Overwhelmed with relief, Inglorion calls out from the foot of the stairs, “Sieia, honey!” She looks back, sees him, shakes off the second groom briskly, and runs down the steps towards Inglorion. She makes impact, burrows up against him. He crouches down, takes her into his arms, pets her and soothes her.

She’s hot, dirty and crying. He doesn’t even try to get sense out of her, just strokes her hair and lets her cry. “Oh, honey, I’m so glad you’re OK. Shhh. It’s OK, sweetie.” As she sobs out her terror and frustration, Inglorion looks over her head at the grooms. They’ve advanced halfway down the steps. Now that she’s not trying to escape, they’ve halted, irresolute. Inglorion says curtly, “It’s OK. I’ve got her.” They retreat back up the steps and linger in the portico. Meanwhile the footmen who made up Inglorion’s search party stand uncomfortably in the street. 

He whispers to Sieia, “Honey, are you OK? You didn’t get hurt out there, did you?”

She swallows her tears down. “I’m OK. I was in the park. There are gophers there.”

“I’m so glad you’re safe.” He’s swallowing back tears, too. “No matter what happens, please, please, please promise me you’ll never run away like that again. I was so scared for you.”

A fresh gust of sobs wracks her little body. “I don’t want to go back. I can’t stand it.” She burrows her tear-stained face into his shirtfront. 

“Promise me you won’t run away, OK? Please.”

“No. I don’t want to be there.”

Now Lavinia and Tereus appear at the top of the stairs, waiting to greet their rescued daughter. They’re the very picture of distraught parents whose terror has suddenly been relieved. “Sieia, your mother and father are there. Please, sweetheart.” He captures her chin, forces her to meet his gaze. “I will take you away from here. It won’t be right away, but I’ll figure out how and I’ll do it. You have to promise you’ll never, ever run away again on your own.” 

At first he’s not sure she’s understood what he said, but after a moment she nods in her sensible fashion. “Promise?” she says.

“Yeah, I promise. Now you have to promise me.” As he says it, his eyes are on her parents. He knows the moment is stretching out too long — they’re on the verge of coming down.

She nods again. “OK. I promise.”

“OK, baby. Give me one more hug, then I have to take you up to them.” They hug, and he kisses the top of her head, her tangled red hair. “Come on, now. They’re waiting.” Despite her fear and anger, she understands what she has to do. She wipes away her tears, takes his hand, and advances up the stairs to greet her parents. 

Sieia clearly feels that she should hug them, but they’re standing straight and stiff. She lets go of Inglorion’s hand reluctantly, walks over to them, stands looking up at them. 

“Thank God you’re back,” says Lavinia. Tereus is silent.

Sieia glances back at Inglorion. He keeps his eyes lowered. She reaches up to take her mother’s hand, and the three of them turn to enter the portico. Inglorion hears Lavinia say, “How did you get so dirty? I’ll send Nurse to you. She can bathe you and re-plait your hair.”

Once they’re inside, and the other servants have withdrawn or scattered, Inglorion is alone in the empty portico. He sits down heavily on a marble step. A Corinthian pillar shields him from the street. In that very slight privacy, he drops his face into his hands, gives way to tears.

Later, when Inglorion reflects on that scene, he speculates that they may have intended to hug her, welcome her back, pet her and soothe her. Lavinia, in particular, must have been shocked to see her daughter clinging to the bastard Drow footman. His presence rekindled all of their mutual rage and humiliation, provided a living reminder of the household’s failure and discord.  And that’s painful, too — thinking that they might have been more gentle with her if he hadn’t been there. 

This is almost certainly an illusion — the idea that they could have been a happy family. Inglorion can’t make them happy or condemn them to misery through his presence or absence. Neither he nor Sieia matters. This is the most painful truth of all.

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