THE GOTHIC GIRL WHO DIDN'T LIKE GHOSTS|
Alongside with Giulia Moon
Translated by Karim Siebeneicher Brito
SESI-SP Publishing House
Backcover by Fabiana Shizue
Recommended for young readers up to 13
The bird which was standing at the window flew away, scared. The angry voice echoed around the house, hitting the walls and souring the passages. It spread upstairs and burst against Viviane's bedroom door.
The girl, who was lying on the bed, jumped up. She had switched off the world around her by reading her favorite author's book, the researcher and megawitch Victoria Vollmond, while listening to the beautiful and wonderful Kenshin, the Japanese rockstar, screaming loud on her earphones. She had just taken the earphones off, in anxiety, because she had realized it was about time to meet her friends, at Liberdade. At this point she heard the scream, coming from somewhere downstairs, from the living room or the hallway. What a cruel world! Did it have to happen right now? Why couldn't a poor modern girl, who loved animes and the supernatural, have a little peace? She picked up the intercom and dialed a number.
- Hum!- a woman's voice groaned something that was meant to be human speech.
- Yes, cousin?- said Viviane. – Have you called?
The Creature liked respect and demanded to be called “Madam”. The girl obeyed, but made her take lots of sarcasm.
- I've been calling you for half an hour! Where have you been? – brayed the woman.
- I'm in my room, as usual. Why didn't you use the intercom? It's way more practical.
Viviane laughed inside, feeling victorious. She knew how much appearing to be calm made the other angry.
- Come here. Now!- was the answer.
- Sure, cousin Graziela – said the girl, politely.
- What's that tone? – growled the nasty woman. – You seem to be dying.
- On the contrary – she replied. I'm alive, pretty much alive. That's why my mom named me Viviane. From alive, from full of life!
The sound of the phone being hung up spoke for itself.
The girl sighed. What now?
She quickly wore a black T-shirt and pants in the same color, spread some dark eyeshadow onto her eyelids, and outlined in black her green eyes, her pride. Upset, she thought she should have left earlier, without being noticed. Now she was late. And she would get even later if she went to talk with the awful woman.
She left for the corridor, ruffling her hair with her hands. In her way to the living room, where she was awaited, she thought of what to do.
The house where they lived had once been beautiful and elegant, a mansion with huge rooms, expensive furniture, Persian carpets, Bohemian chandeliers, and objects of art from all over the world, which evidenced the good taste and class, typical of her mother. But that had changed… Now, Cruela was in charge. And that torture had been lasting for almost three years!
Viviane walked slowly and softly, not to make noise, trying to delay the encounter. What was it she wanted now? The guardian, her mother's cousin, used to call her for nothing, just to show up her power. As she went down the stairs and crossed the hallway, she noticed the entrance door had been left wide open.
Out there, the sun. Inside here, the shadows. Viviane turned her head, looking twice, inside and out. Then her green eyes met other eyes, which duplicated them in the hall. It was her own image, reflected in the big mirror at the entrance. There was much pain in her face, the suffering of someone who knows she's been abandoned and left to her own fate. She missed her late parents, and worried about her little sister's well-being… Sometimes, it's true, Veri acted like a spoiled annoying child, but it wasn't easy at all for a ten-year-old girl to put up with life in a wheelchair. Viviane sighed. The sister was the only real family she had left. It was mainly because of Veri that she tolerated their repulsive cousin and the dark world her life had become.
Talking about dark world… Damn, she had to return to reality and face Hideous, who called her. She had to. Or… not? A flash of determination sparkled. She took a new look at the day outside and compared the bright and merry sun, the trees in the garden, the flowerbeds, the diverse flowers, the plants and the stones, once again to the shadows inside the mansion: that horrible woman waiting for her, trying to command her.
Viviane examined her pockets: there was some money in them. She counted the bills. It wasn't much, but it was enough. She breathed in the afternoon air slowly as if she were in the mountains, and smiled. She was not going to waste time with that witch. She could yell as much as she wanted.
- I don't have to do whatever you want. I'm going!- she said loudly, while she walked out the door.
Viviane rushed down the streets to get to the Consolação subway station, the closest to her house in Higienópolis, São Paulo. She held her anxiety during the ride, changed trains once, and ran off at Liberdade station. She went up the escalator on the left side, almost running.
On her way, she glanced at the several people passing by. Many boys her age, little old ladies with traces of Asian ancestry carrying bags full of clothes, men who looked like retired grandpas, workers in a hurry, office-boys, clerks, and, of course, many people waiting by the baffle gate, a usual meeting point for those who visited the most famous oriental district in Brazil.
A large ikebana, which is a flower arrangement in Japanese style, decorated the station and, next to it, two girls and two boys waited for her.
- Vivi! – one of the girls waved.
Viviane opened a large smile. There were her friends. Sheila, the blue-eyed blonde, was the first to spot her. Soon afterwards, the others approached her and kissed her: Yumi, the quiet and shy nisei, with long black hair; Noel, the chubby boy who wore glasses and was always willing to eat; and Thales, her dear friend, whom she never stopped seeing since elementary school.
- Wow, what happened? – said Noel, pushing back the red hair from his forehead. Because of his extremely strong lenses, his eyes looked wide open behind the red-rimmed glasses. Have you forgotten us?
- Sorry! –said Viviane, with a grin. – I forgot about life listening to Kenshin. And that nasty woman wanted to lecture me right when I was leaving.
- What a pain, uh? – noted Sheila. My mother picks at me, but that guardian of yours…
- Uh-oh! - interrupted Vivi, covering her ears with her hands. – I don't want to talk about her, ok? I want to talk only about good things with you. So, where are we going?
- Let's go to the manga shop? – suggested Yumi, with her gentle voice. We can ask them to let Vanda play on TV the whole time.
Chubby Noel raised his hand, cheerful.
- I'm in! And we can order…
- Choux almond cream! – yelled the girls in chorus.
Choux almond cream was Vivi's and her friends' favorite pastry, a kind of a giant profiterole, with a delicious vanilla cream filling, and covered in crunchy caramelized almond splinters. They had found out about the pastry in one of the Japanese cartoons they followed, and had turned the Liberdade district upside down to find it. Now they were fanatic customers for the delicacy.
- You act just like children. You could make some variation from time to time, and order something else… - said Thales.
- Nah, and miss the opportunity to eat the choux? – argued Sheila. – I can eat other stuff at home. Here, I wanna die eating choux cream! And melon ice cream, green grape juice, curry bread…
Viviane agreed. Yes, at home she had usual and boring things. This was a different, special world, where almost everything was possible… Even eating authentic Japanese treats, which she knew only because she saw them in mangas and animes. Only Thales could be so serious and sensible at a time like that. He was the voice of reason that brought her back to reality – which was not so nice, at least for Viviane. That's why she argued with him, and called him a bore. But even so she loved him. Besides, he was hot. Thin, tall, with dark brown hair and big honey-colored eyes. The simple T-shirt with a rock band print he wore suited him very well.
While they talked, the friends walked to the manga shop, a mixture of café and magazine shop, specialized in mangas, and located inside one of the galleries at Galvão Bueno Street. They talked about the final chapters of the second season of Vanda, the anime they had elected the best of the year, and whose characters they planned to cosplay.
Thanks to Haruo, the owner's son, the TV on the manga shop wall showed exactly the final chapter of Vanda. Everybody knew that Haruo liked Sheila, the blonde, who showed the cruelty typical of beautiful girls who are becoming aware of their seduction power, and did not give him much attention. Which didn't stop her from taking advantage of the boy's interest and asking for special favors, like keeping Vanda on screen during all the time she and her friends were at the café. It was surely not one of the worst sins. Like Noel's, who stuffed himself with the café's cream choux, pushing them down his throat with a sigh of satisfaction.
- There should be an anime just for cream choux… - he said, his eyes closed with pleasure. Who created this delight must be a genius!
- Shhhhhhh!!! – Vivane scolded him, pointing to the TV. – Look, this part is awesome! I loved it, guys, I loved it!
The episode was at its climax, with Vanda, the phantom girl, surrounded by exterminators from a secret organization led by a crazy scientist, who wanted to destroy every supernatural creature in the world. Vivi knew the episode by heart, she had seen it sixteen times; so, just when Vanda was about to launch her devastating blow, she stood up, incapable of holding back. She made Vanda's attack sign, an inclined “V” with her left hand, the forefinger and the middle finger around her eye.
- “Black roses, come!” – she sang along with the character.
Sheila and Yumi were also standing and made the “V” sign.
- “We will rule over the light!” – the girls cried out together, in chorus.
The other boys who crowded the manga shop started whistling at them. On the screen, millions of roses appeared, surrounding the villains and turning them into black smoke. That was the end of the anime. Viviane, Sheila and Yumi sang the song, while the people at the café applauded and whistled.
- Yeeeaah – cried Sheila, clapping her hands. – That was so cool!
- What an embarrassment! – said Noel in turn, pretending to hide his face in his hands. – We don't even know these nutties, right, Thales?
- I don't think it will stick, Noel – said the other boy, laughing. - We'll have to admit our friendship. Together, till the end!
- Right on, Thales! – approved Yumi. – And Noel, you don't need to pretend, I bet you can't wait to dance with us.
- Well, I was really willing to! – admitted chubby Noel. – This anime is awesome. It's a pitty it's a girls' thing…
- Well, you can get ready to see us dancing and singing Vanda's song at All Anime, next week – reminded Viviane. – We will stand out at the cosplay contest!
- That's right! My Scarlet costume is wonderful! – agreed Sheila, who would portray a cursed Victorian doll.
- My mother has already sewed Yuurei-chan's white kimono to me – joined Yumi, who was representing a Japanese ghost.
- And my Vanda costume is almost ready – added Viviane. – I am only waiting for the wig to arrive.
- Wow!- said Noel. – If it's like the anime you will be very hot!
All Anime was the largest anime fan gathering in Brazil. Tens of thousands participated in an eight-day event which was the right stage for stardom. Winning the All Anime contest was every cosplayer's dream. And that year's edition had a more than special attraction: Kenshin, the Japanese rockstar, would come to Brazil to interpret Vanda's theme live.
- Aahhh… - sighed Sheila. – If Kenshin-sama looks at me just once I will be satisfied!
- Who says we'll be satisfied with only one look? – said Viviane. – I want an autograph! Maybe even a kiss…
- Oh, what a dream! – said Yumi. Her Asian eyes got even smaller. – He is amazing…
The day got dark slowly. Although it was winter, it hadn't been cold yet that month of June. It had been a while since Sheila, Yumi and Noel had said goodbye and disappeared behind the subway baffle gate. Viviane was still sitting on the low wall at Liberdade Square stairway, her elbow on her knee, her chin in her hand, low eyes. She did not seem to be the same happy and lively girl who talked to friends at the manga shop. Beside her, Thales looked to the skyline, in silence.
- It's time we went home too, Vivi – he said.
The girl answered in a low voice:
- Do you think there's a hidden passage around here, Thales? A door to take me out of this world so I don't have to go back home?
- You know there isn't – he smiled, sympathetic – I know it's hard, but you have to go home, Vivi.
- Why can't we be happy all the time, Thales?
- Because life is not good all the time for anyone, I guess.
- But you can at least go back to a normal house, to parents who love you, and I…
- You have a mean woman waiting for you. I understand you, Vivi. – The boy looked at her, compassionate. – I would do anything to help you.
- Why did all this happen to me? I know it's not worth asking this kind of thing, but I can't just accept it, you know? Couldn't it have been anybody else?
- I don't know, Vivi. No one knows – he took her hand. – Life is so strange, and does things we do not understand.
- I want an answer, Thales. I just want to understand it. But I can't.
- Vivi – he said. – If I could, I would switch places with you.
He put his arm around his friend's shoulders, bringing her closer to him. Viviane felt, that moment, that all her defenses fell apart. The tears came, but she swallowed hard and held them.
- Stop that, Thales! – she said, moving away from his arm. – You would not want your parents dead like mine!
The boy seemed a bit shocked.
- Of course not! It's just a figure of speech.
- Well, don't say such a nonsense not even joking, ok?
- Let's go now – she decided, wiping away the traces of the tears at the corners of her eyes with her fingertips.
- I'll have to face that woman at one time or another. So… here I go! – She made Vanda's “V” sign, and whispered: - “Black roses, come!”
Thales smiled in understanding. The two said goodbye. She turned a bit abruptly and walked steady to the baffle gate, before she felt like crying again.
Built more than fifty years ago by Viviane's grandfather, the beautiful mansion in Higienópolis still kept its majestic appearance, impressing who looked at it from the street, amidst the bars of the great iron gate. It was a European style two story house, with white walls partly covered with ivy and arranged with caramel-colored slope roofs. The windows were long and had wooden shutters painted in dark green. There was a wooded garden alongside a curved stone path which led to the big entrance gate. Over the gate, an ornate arch displayed an emblem with a big golden “B”, signaling to everyone that that was the Biancos' home.
Inside, the house had a simple structure. Right in the center there was a hall with the stairs to the upper floor, as well as the accesses to the living rooms, the study and the library on one side, and the kitchen and the dining rooms on the other, next to the pantry and the storeroom. In the back there were the party and game rooms, the swimming pool and the sport court. There were also changing rooms, the staff quarters, and extra rooms, the storeroom for the pool equipment and spare furniture. The parking lot was in the front and the garage was underground.
Upstairs, the north wing accommodated Graziela's quarters: living room, study, bedroom, bathroom and closet, as well as other three rooms, where she kept what she called “my stuff”, which in Viviane's perception were not more than “pathetic reminders of a broken socialite”.
The south wing belonged to the girls. Each one had her own section: a little apartment which consisted of living room, bedroom, closet and bathroom, as well as a second bedroom which was used to play and study, with a table, the laptop and the printer, the bookcase and the cabinets for the toys and games.
Between the girls' quarters was a third complete apartment, the “guest room”. In the good old days, that's where the two sisters spent time with their parents, when the family gathered to talk, play, and laugh.
In fact, since Graziela had moved in, they did not usually receive guests. Viviane and her sister Veri had no close relatives and the friends, when allowed to sleep over, would rather stay in the girls' bedrooms, of course. So the former guest room was now taken by Veri's caretakers, as well as the objects and therapy equipment the little wheelchair user needed.
The mansion had gone through several changes since Graziela stepped in. The guardian had redecorated a major part of the house, as if she wanted to leave a mark of her dominance. But she lacked good taste, and even hiring specialized personnel, each year the house was invaded by a more sinister and dreary atmosphere.
Despite all the comfort, for Viviane, who had to live with the guardian every day, that was no home, but hell itself! That's why the girl was not in a hurry to get there. She delayed her steps the most, but there was no way, the house was soon in front of her.
As she stopped before the gate, it opened with a clang to let her in. Somebody had started the electronic device. Viviane took a deep breath and headed along the stone path. If she had to face the beast, she wanted to do it soon! And it was really soon that she saw Graziela sitting on a bench, next to the main entrance door.
The guardian wore black pants and a red shirt, expensive and elegant clothes. She wore shoes decorated with stones, which sparkled when she crossed her legs. The gate remote control was on her lap. Between the fingers in her right hand she held a lit cigarette. Her huge fingernails, painted in bright red, shined like claws, next to her angular face with too much makeup. The strong and nauseating perfume was her trademark, and could be smelled from a distance.
She had surely been watching the street through the surveillance cameras, and when she saw Viviane in the corner, she had sat there to grab her prey right at the entrance. Her expression was of pure hatred, as if there was a crazy beast inside her, which she struggled to hold back. The moment she saw Viviane, she let it loose. She tossed the cigarette, stood up, took wide steps towards the girl and puffed like a steam engine. She grabbed Viviane by both her arms, and yelled:
- Where have you been? Who do you think you are to keep me waiting the whole afternoon?
Viviane tried to give her the coldest look, but the shaking made her close her eyes. Frightened, she did not answer. Her straight black hair fluttered at each push, unable to decide whether to stay to the front or the back of her head.
- Do not make me lose it – the woman threatened in an oppressive way, then finally let her go and walked away. – I can do things you would never imagine, girl…
- Do it! –Viviane laughed softly, mocking her. – And you will lose your money bottle, for I will return from wherever I am, I swear, to show everybody who you are!
- Shut up, you damn creature!
- Damn was the time my mother trusted you and put us under your care – said the girl, even softlier, unable to disguise her contempt. And laughed, repeating the word with irony: - Care… As if you can call it that!
- Go straight to your room! – said the woman, with clenched teeth, pointing with her arm as if she were the angel in paradise throwing out Adam and Eve. She took a deep breath, fluffed up her hair, and went on:- I'll be there soon so we can talk.
Viviane yelled, taking advantage of her apparent withdrawal:
- Why? Are you afraid the neighbors would hear it? Hey, guys! Look at this! My dear cousin Graziela doesn't want you to find out how she treats me! She wants to talk to me alone, but I won't accept it, and I invite you all in! - Her arms embraced the world and the imaginary people she spoke to. – Come! Everyone, come! Let's all go together to my room! Today I'll tell her a thing or two!
The employees had already gone or were in their quarters. Only Mercedes, the housekeeper, who lived in the house, came quietly to watch the quarrel. But when she realized that things were getting ugly, she left through the corridors. Even if she stayed there, nothing would change: she was a declared ally of Graziela. Therefore, Viviane's cries remained unheard. Better saying, they changed the guardian's attitude. Graziela calmed down, but her calm made the girl shiver.
- No, young lady, you are mistaken – said the cousing coldly. – You will hear a thing or two. And we can talk right here. Right now. What I want to tell you is very simple: I am the authority in this house. I administer all the money, so if you do not obey me I won't give you a cent, for nothing! You will have housing and food, school, courses, everything you should have and money can buy, but not a cent more. For nothing. Nothing. No movies, none of these Japanese comics you love so much, not even the ice cream I have not bought and brought with my own hands. If the driver takes you where he should not have, he will be immediately fired. And there's more: from now on you can only leave the house if I say so. – And reiterated proudly: - If “I” say so!
Viviane looked at the woman and could not believe what she heard.
- You can't do that! – she whined.
- Yes, I can, and I will. Try to challenge me now.
- I'll talk to the counselor!
- Go! Talk to him! But I should warn you that I've already talked to him. I told him about your behavior, and he has the most exact … hmm … idea of what happens in this house – she said ironically.
- I bet you told him only lies! Because that's the only thing you can do!
- Honey, don't be so childish and try to understand… - the creature whispered the sentence, hissing like a poisonous snake. She even showed her teeth, as if it were a smile, tossing her head. – I do it for your own good.
Viviane had the impression she was going to cackle like the witches in the movies. The guardian's neat hair danced and glowed. The light hit her teeth, causing their varnish to sparkle.
- I will tell him how you treat me! – Viviane still tried, in a weak voice.
- Just try! He will love it! Especially now that he already knows how you treat me!
- He will order you to give me the money that's mine!- she risked.
- We will see – said the woman, in triumph.
- When I am eighteen, I will…
The creature interrupted:
- Then you will do whatever you like, I don't care. That's the law. But while that day doesn't come, you should be obedient, or you will see that our life together will tend to become… hmm, let's say… difficult.
Viviane wanted to cry, but she didn't want to give the other that pleasure. She swallowed hard and, turning around, headed to her bedroom.
Viviane breathed in relief. Whew! Being in her own environment was like changing dimensions. She was glad she still had that little piece of world which kept her away from the rest of the house!
When her mother was alive, those quarters were more dolly style, with lots of cute details. But Viviane was already sixteen years old, and the decoration appealed more to a teenager's taste. A gothic girl, to be clear.
The heavy, dark furniture, in hardwood, was very old, and belonged to her grandparents. Viviane had changed the old pink and bows bedspread for a shiny black one, trimmed with English laces; the carpet, formerly light and bright, was now black with purple details, like the curtains, however these had some white in them, which smoothed it out.
At first, when things between her and cousin Graziela had not yet become so dramatic, the two of them had made a deal: each one would choose her things according to her own taste. So, Viviane would go shopping and choose what pleased her, have it delivered and charged for, and that was it.
- Jesus, this looks like a mausoleum! – criticized the guardian, when she entered the redecorated room for the first time.
Viviane did not care. And she didn't even notice when Graziela left. The girl smiled, ecstatic. Yes, everything was exactly as she wanted. She could add some spiderwebs, but she thought that kind of detail would only last until the annoying housekeeper's next inspection, so she let it go. She loved her bedroom, her private haven, and felt extremely proud of all that darkness.
At that time the cruel woman didn't dare to show her true colors yet, and reveal her real personality. But as months went by the relationship between Viviane and her guardian got worse and worse… Until it reached this declaration of war.
Deep inside, the girl would rather have an open conflict than the former falsehood, with poisoned hugs and kisses, which made her sick. But every time the fight was for real, she lost.
Viviane threw herself onto the bed and nervously hugged her pillow.
What if the creature kept her prisoner in her own house? That meant she could not take part in All Anime's cosplay contest. The more she thought, the more desperate she got. What would she do?
Then somebody knocked on the door. “Oh, not again!”, thought Viviane, thinking the woman was back to torment her a bit more.
- Come in! You'll come in anyway… - she answered in a dry tone.
- Hey, hey! – A cheerful voice made Viviane turn, and she was happy. - That's how you invite me in?
It was a pleasant-looking woman, with dark skin and straight long hair, just like her slim figure. Even before taking off the light coat she wore over the light blue dress, she opened her arms and walked towards Viviane.
- Jan! – the girl jumped to hug the newly arrived.
She couldn't think of anyone better to cheer her up!
When she was hired as the newborn Viviane´s nanny, Janete had just turned eighteen, but came to love the little girl as she was her own child. Some years later Veri was born, and Janete also took care of her with the same affection.
Since that blessed day when Janete was admitted into the house, she had been encouraged by Viviane´s mother to resume her studies, which she insisted on paying for. Despite all the limitations of the schools where she had studied before, the young woman managed to graduate in Psychology. She was now married to Joaquim, a nice man, and had two little children; the former nanny was the owner of a clinic, together with two college friends. But as she ran her own business, she was able to keep visiting the two girls whenever she could, to be sure they were ok.
- So, little one, how are things going? – said Jan, kissing the girl's face.
She had always called them “little”, and kept doing so after they grew up. They hugged each other tight. Viviane regarded her as a kind of stepmother, and tenderly called her extramother.
- Between the two of us, this bedroom of yours is gloomy, Viviane Bianco! – Janete stated, looking around and pretending to be scared. – You know what Bianco means, young lady, so why so much darkness?
The girl shrugged her shoulders.
- Bianco. White. So what, my surname can be whatever color. But my favorite color is black. I like it this way, Jan.
- If your mother saw this, I don't think she would like it… - she went on. – But I am sure she would respect your taste.
- Yes, that's what my mother was like. – Viviane was nervous again, and her eyes were watering.
Noticing how her protégé felt, Janete sat down and embraced her.
- I want my mother to be here so badly! Not only to get rid of that nasty woman, but to stay with me, that's all… - the girl broke down.
Janete comforted her with affectionate words, and Viviane slowly calmed down. She even told her friend about her next adventure: how she was going to cosplay Vanda and her hope of winning the All Anime contest. Then they started talking about nice things from the past.
- Do you remember when you and mommy spent the night up making my clothes for the June party, Jan?
- Oh, I do! – the woman laughed. – Your mother was good in so many things, but she was very busy! She had forgotten to prepare your outfit, and you cried when she got home at night, without having bought your dress. But your Janete here made a dress full of colorful rags from old clothes, with laces and ribbons. And your mother decorated the straw hat with cloth flowers she took from a purse she had brought from Hawaii! So fancy! And that got her some blisters on her fingers…
- It was all so beautiful, Jan! More than any other girl's dress!
- It's because you were the prettiest – said Janete, taking the girl in her arms. – You were the prettiest girl in that school!
That was when they heard a light cough at the door. It was Mercedes, the housekeeper, a small, round woman who looked older than her forty-five years because of the rigid bun and the grave-looking face. She always wore a uniform, even at night: a dark dress with white laces collar and cuffs; and she only changed clothes when she went to church, on Sunday, her only day off. But then she wore clothes which resembled that uniform so much, that it looked like she would just take off or put on the apron around her waist.
- Good evening, Janete – she greeted, with her usual no-friends face. – I have to ask you to leave. Madam has forbidden the girl to receive visitors.
- This is insane! – Janete was outraged. – She is no criminal to be imprisoned! What happened?
- She was disrespectful to Ms. Graziela – said the housekeeper, looking at the girl with contempt. – And therefore she's grounded.
- Disrespectful? Is that true, Vivi?
- If telling the truth is being disrespectful, then yes, I was! – The girl nervously bit her lips, and burst out: - She picks on me about everything I do!
Janete hugged her, while she told the housekeeper:
- Just give us a little more time, Mercedes, please.
With a nod of her head, the woman left, leaving the door open. Janete stood up to close it, while she asked with a soft voice:
- Now, tell your extramother everything…
Viviane described their latest quarrel, without much excitement. She felt exhausted, and if she could choose, she would not speak at all. Even so, she could not resist to immitate the guardian, which caused her former nanny to giggle.
For her surprise, after hearing the story, Janete said:
- Little one, you should't listen to your heart at a time like that, but your reason.
- How so, Jan? I'm right, am I not? Or you disagree with me? – her eyes watered at the possibility.
- I didn't mean that, baby. Of course you are right. I mean reason… - The young woman pointed her finger to the girl's head: - Your brain. If you insist on showing you're rebellious, you will only incite your guardian's anger. Do you realize the hell your life will become if you still have to face an enemy inside the house? You have to be rational at times like these. If there is no way of talking with these people, let's use other weapons…
- But I will have to humiliate myself? Let that woman brag and think she controls me? – Viviane mumbled, not believing what she had heard. – Oh, Jan, I never thought you were going to ask me that!
- I have been through a lot, my little one, and I have suffered many things. And I will tell you something: it has made me stronger. Because the real strength is not in those who push and hit, but it is, in fact, in those who manage to remain firm and calm in tough times. So don't let anger control you. Wait. Things change, and people too. Try to live in peace with your cousin until you are eighteen. Then you can lead your life the way you find right.
She stroke the girl's hair, while she kept talking:
- Right now, she is stronger than you. If she's challenged, she will react even harsher… She has to be softened.
Running through Viviane's face like down a mountain, the tears fell on her T-shirt, one after the other.
- But she is crazy! She's making things up! And she can't command me like this!
- She is your guardian, Viviane. Yes, she can tell you what to do. Unfortunately. You will have to settle it somehow, so make it the best way for yourself. Talk to her, try to make peace.
The girl started sobbing loudly:
- No! I'll never do that! You don't know her, Jan. No one can understand how bad this woman is. I'd rather die!
Janete smiled lightly, without mocking the girl's feelings. Deep inside she couldn't believe Graziela was so mean. The guardian had a strong personality, that's right, but her little one too. She had to guide her into not fighting her cousin, she thought. So she said in a loud voice:
- Don't be so dramatic! You don't want to die! Dying would mean not participating in the cosplay contest, after everything is ready, right? Disappointing your friends. Missing the show… Who's that Japanese singer you love? Oh, yes, Kenshin. So… - She interrupted herself and, waving her hand as if she wanted to draw away such a terrible idea, she added emphatically: - Don't even think about it!
Janete went on describing all the tragedy it would be to remain grounded, while she lulled Viviane, until the girl was calm. Then she gave her the final stroke:
- You have to talk to your cousin, Vivi. No aggression. Just talk.
- I will not lower myself for that bully! – argued Viviane, in a low voice. But there wasn't so much confidence in it anymore.
Janete smiled, noticing the change.
- I only ask you to think about what I told you, Vivi – said the former nanny, getting up. – Now I'm going to give Veri a kiss. Do you think she's awake?
- Oh, sure, Veri – said Viviane in disappointment. – Yes, she must be awake.
Janete looked at the girl with a questioning eye.
- Have I noticed a sign of jealousy, my little one? We've talked a lot about it, remember?
Viviane laid on her bed and looked at the ceiling.
- I know. Veri needs our support. Veri is vulnerable. We can't let Veri alone. Don't you know I also need all that?
Janete laid down beside Viviane, taking the same position.
“She wears such a good perfume”, thought the girl.
- Of course I do – Jan assured her. – And you can count on me, little one. Always!
At that time, the door opened again and Mercedes informed, with her head at the door casing:
- Janete, Madam is saying she will call the police if you don't leave immediately.
The former nanny didn't even respond. She stood up slowly, took her purse and coat, gave Viviane a last kiss on her hair before leaving the room, and whispered:
- Stay well, little one. Tell Veri I call her later.
The girl threw herself on the bed, frustrated. She felt guilty for having taken all of Janete's time, and in the end she couldn't see her sister. But the greater anguish was caused by Jan's opinion on her fight with that woman. The extramother couldn't realize how evil Graziela was. Only a person who lived day by day in that troublesome house would know. But Jan was right about one thing. It was no use to fight on an equal footing with the guardian…
She was so mad! She felt like throwing anything she could grab against the wall! And she just didn't do it because the objects at hand were her own. She sighed deeply, depressed.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Mercedes, who returned, knocked on the door, and announced with her dissimulated voice:
- Viviane, Madam wants to talk to you. Right now.
There was no more time to think. She had to make a decision. In fact, there was no decision, no way out, but one. That one. And it would demand all of her calmness and self-control – of which Viviane had very little, since she was sixteen.
She was going to talk to the repulsive one. She was trying and change her fate, turning it in her favor. She took a deep breath one more time. Made Vanda's “V” sign and whispered, in a low voice:
- “Black roses, come!” – her face looked pale in the dressing table's mirror. – “We shall reign over the light!”- she concluded.
She rose her chin and walked resolutely to the door. It was going to be hard, but it was not, after all, the end of the world. She was going to lose a battle, but not the war!
After the most predictable conversation with the guardian, Viviane went to Veri´s bedroom. She was exhausted. It seemed a vacuum cleaner had drained all of her energy, leaving emptiness instead. Even so, talking to her younger sister every day was a routine she had promised herself never to neglect. But sometimes it was so hard… At that moment, for example, everything she wanted was to go back to her room in order to control her emotions.
Veri was the princess type, probably because of her special condition of overprotected girl. Her favorite color was pink (yuck!), and her room was decorated with ruffles, flowers, animals, dolls, and all that kind of stuff (yuck, yuck, yuck) cute girls like.
Viviane stopped at her sister's bedroom's door and hesitated. She smiled at the memories of her own childhood, when she played there with Veri, and thought the world was a safe and pleasant place. But that had changed suddenly with their parents' death. She had to take the role of the mother, who wasn't there anymore, for her little sister. Comfort her, keep her company… She took a deep breath, and knocked softly to warn her she was there, before opening the door.
Veri was flicking through a book, looking bored, but showed a great smile when she saw her sister. Noticing Viviane's apprehensive face, she asked:
- What's up, Vivi? Did anything happen?
- I was… uhmm… talking to our guardian – said Viviane.
- Oh, the usual. She doesn't understand me. And I don't accept her commanding me.
- But did you do anything wrong? – the little girl wanted to know. The wide open eyes could not hide her concern.
Vivi answered, shrugging her shoulders in irony, as if she were indifferent to everything:
- Do I need to? She always thinks everything I do is wrong.
For a moment, Vivi reviewed the terrible scene as a silent movie.
To make her point, the nasty woman had demanded her to formally apologize for her behavior. The girl did what she wanted, but closed her eyes not to see the sarcastic smile in the air. It was impossible. The hateful victory face was still there when she reopened them.
When she left the woman's study, dragging her feet, she felt violated, devastated. The movie ended without the traditional “The End” sign. But it was done. The guardian had what she wanted. And so did she. She just didn't know yet if it was worth it…
Veri's innocent question interrupted her thoughts:
- Are you all right, Vivi?
- I'm fine. It's over – Viviane was impatient to close the matter.
Veridiane also had some concerns of her own and did not insist.
- I had a vision – the sister told her. – Just now…
- Veri, please! – Viviane complained. – How many times do I have to tell you there are no such things? Ghosts are things we have fun with, don't you understand? They are not for real!
Veri was hurt and lowered her head for a while. When she lifted it again, however, there was a challenge sparkling in her eyes.
- Do you know what I think? You are afraid of them!
Curiously Viviane admitted it, also slowly:
- Yeah… You might be right. I'm really scared, you know? I like ghosts in books, or animes. The ones you see, I want them away from me…
Since Viviane could remember, the younger sister could see things. When she was two or three years old, Veri played with an imaginary girl all the time, whom she later said she'd sent away because she had turned ugly and mean. Viviane could still remember how their parents had been concerned. They talked to friends, but each one said something different, which made them more confused. Not knowing how to deal with it, they took advice from doctors and psychologists, who told them to leave their daughter alone.
- In her age, this kind of behavior is normal – they explained. – Children usually have imaginary friends.
But Veri had grown up and she kept seeing strange people. As time went by, it became obvious that all of them were dead. An endless number of unidentified people only she could see. Most of them didn't say a thing, but some sent messages.
This had become so frequent that the girl didn't care to tell the family anymore every time it happened. And when she did, it was always like this, in a casual way, amidst talks, as if it were natural.
That day Veri insisted, which she didn't usually do:
- I have to tell you. It was not any ghost who came to see me! – the girl seemed sad. - It was Mom! Oh, Vivi, it was so nice… She came very slowly, and stood beside my chair. Then she came down and hugged me, saying: “One day, you'll get out of this chair!”. Then she kissed me and left, walking as if she floated.
Vivi felt sorry for her sister and decided not to argue any longer. She hugged her.
- If she said so, I'm sure it will happen, Veri… - then she changed the subject by asking: - Have you been doing all your exercises?
- I have. But I don't like this caretaker.
- Yes. She doesn't do the exercises right, Vivi. I know I could try harder, but she won't let me. She says it's not good for me. How can it not be good for me if I leave the chair soon? – her eyes were filled with tears.
- She's a professional, Veri. If she says so, then it's true.
- I don't think so! Vivi, please, talk to her! She must be coming back!
Viviane looked like she hated the idea, but felt sorry for her sister when she repeated:
- Ok, Veri. Next time you see the doctor, I'll go with you. I want to talk to him, listen to what he will say.
- It won't help, Vivi. Graziela will not let you. She always talks to the doctor away from me. I know she tells him I do not try hard, that I am a spoiled child, and so on. But Vivi, I've been making some research on the internet and I swear to you: I have no problem in my spine, just my legs. I should already have left this chair!
Viviane went down next to the chair to be closer to her sister, and looked at her with a broken heart.
- Veri, please… Don't cry.
But Vivi also wanted to cry. She wanted to cry for her sister, for her own impotence, for what the two of them had to go through. She felt so helpless… She didn't know how to comfort her sister.
The caretaker walked in without knocking, thus ending the girls' intimate moment. Viviane realized how difficult it was to be alone with her sister. There was always one of the caretakers with her. Or Mercedes. Somebody. It was even harder to get appropriate answers to the countless questions they made. Like now:
- Moema, Veri thinks she could try harder – started Viviane, earnestly. - Why don't you practice more with her?
- Madam Graziela made it very clear: the girl should not get tired. She said…
Viviane didn't want to hear anymore. She knew it by heart. So she interrupted her:
- I know what she said.
The woman was quiet. The girl looked at her sister. Veri's eyes seemed to say: “Didn't I say so?"?
Viviane was taken by anger. She suspected Graziela made everything she could to delay Veri's treatment, because the longer the two of them depended on her, more power she would have over the family's money. On the other hand, the professionals the guardian hired were also interested in keeping it the way it was in order to keep their own jobs.
“Everyone here has been bought off”, she thought, in revolt. “I have no idea how to fight this. But I will find out, oh yeah!”
Viviane stood up and kissed her sister. It was a mechanical, automatic goodbye, with no expression. She closed the door behind her. Her thoughts were with her parents. On how they were missed. The cold wind that swept the hall brought back that distant day, which was so much alive in her memory.
A week's holiday in October. Three years ago.