Anna Dressed in Blood / Page 59

Page 59

Fucking pervert, Thomas thinks inside of our heads. I clench my fists. The urge to run at the man is overwhelming, even though I know I’m watching something that happened sixty years ago. I’m watching it like it’s playing on a projector. I can’t change any of it.

Time shifts ahead; the light changes. The lamps seem to get brighter and figures flash by in dark blurry clumps. I can hear things, muffled conversations and arguments. My senses struggle to keep up.

There’s a woman at the foot of the stairs. She’s wearing a severe black dress that looks like it must be scratchy as hell, and her hair is pulled back in a tight bun. She’s looking up at the second floor, so I can’t see her face. But I can see that she’s holding Anna’s white dress in one hand and shaking it up and down. In the other, she’s clutching a string of rosary beads.

I feel more than hear Thomas sniff. His cheeks twitch—he’s caught wind of something.

Power, he thinks. Power from the black.

I don’t know what he means. I don’t have time to wonder.

“Anna!” the woman shouts, and Anna appears, coming out from the hall at the top of the stairs.

“Yes, Mama?”

Her mother holds up the dress in her fist. “What is this?”

Anna seems stricken. Her hand flies to the rail. “Where did you get that? How did you find that?”

“It was in her room.” It’s him again, walking out of the kitchen. “I heard her say she was working on it. I found it for her own good.”

“Is it true?” her mother demands. “What is the meaning of it?”

“It’s for a dance, Mama,” Anna says angrily. “A dance at school.”

“This?” Her mother holds the dress up and spreads it out with both hands. “This is for dancing?” She shakes it in the air. “Whore! You will not go dancing! Spoiled girl. You will not leave this house!”

At the top of the stairs, I hear a softer, sweeter voice. An olive-skinned woman with long black hair in a braid takes Anna by the shoulders. This must be Maria, the seamstress who was Anna’s friend, who left her own daughter behind in Spain.

“Do not be angry, Mrs. Korlov,” Maria says quickly. “I help her. It was my idea. Something pretty.”

“You,” Mrs. Korlov spits. “You’ve made it worse. Whispering your Spanish filth into my daughter’s ears. She has become willful since you came. Proud. I won’t have you whispering to her anymore. I want you out of this house!”

“No!” Anna shouts.

The man takes a step closer to his fiancée. “Malvina,” he says. “We do not need to lose boarders.”

“Hush, Elias,” Malvina snaps. I’m beginning to understand why Anna couldn’t just tell her mother what Elias was after.

The scene speeds up. I can feel more than see what’s happening. Malvina throws the dress at Anna and orders her to burn it. She slaps her across the face when she tries to convince her to let Maria stay. Anna is crying, but only the Anna in the memory. The real Anna is hissing as she watches, black blood boiling. I feel like doing a mixture of the two.

Time moves ahead, and my eyes and ears strain to follow Maria as she goes, leaving with only one suitcase. I hear Anna ask what she’s going to do, begging her to stay close by. And then all but one of the lamps goes out, and the windows outside are dark.

Malvina and Elias are in the sitting room. Malvina is knitting something out of dark blue yarn and Elias is reading the newspaper, smoking a pipe. They look miserable, even in their evening routines of pleasure. Their faces are slack and bored, mouths drawn in thin, grim lines. I have no idea how this courtship went, but it had to be about as interesting as watching bowling on TV. My mind moves to Anna—all of our minds move to Anna—and as if we summoned her, she comes down the stairs.

I have the strange sensation of wanting to squeeze my eyes shut while not being able to take them off something. She’s wearing the white dress. It’s the dress that she’ll die in, but it doesn’t look the same on her now as it did then.

This girl, standing at the foot of the staircase, holding a cloth bag and watching the surprised and increasingly furious expressions of Malvina and Elias, is incredibly alive. Her shoulders are square and strong, and her dark hair hangs in still waves down her back. She lifts her chin. I wish I could see her eyes, because I know that they’re sad and triumphant.

“What do you think you are doing?” Malvina demands. She’s looking at her daughter in horror, like she doesn’t know who she is. The air around her seems to ripple, and I get a whiff of the power Thomas was talking about.

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