“Let me get you something for that pounding headache. What you do want me to do with this poor little orphan boy outfit? Throw it away?”
“No. Hang it in my closet, in the back, please. I might need it. I like the freedom of that little orphan boy outfit much more than all those puffy satin dresses with crinoline and yards of lace and bows I’m seeing around here.” Cora left the room. Isabella rested comfortably on her bed. Cora came back with headache medicine.
“Bella, um, Sam, here, this will help you feel better. I’ll pick out your dinner dress, and stay with you until you fall asleep. Are you afraid?”
“Me? No. Afraid of what?”
“Nightmares? Panic? Fear of being abducted by those dirty, murderous Galts again?”
“No. I have no recollection of being abducted. I’m not even sure that happened.”
“Rest now. We’ll catch up, later.”
“Thanks, Cora.” Cora nodded and picked out a dress for dinner, a pale green satin with bows and a very wide full hip skirt that tapered narrowly at the bottom. Then she sat in the chair and watched her sleep, wondering who this strange girl could possibly be.
“Ah, now you look like a princess and not a street waif! Are you hungry, My Dear?” gushed her father. A hearty soup and bread were served. Wine was poured. There was a file on the table with the official Robesson seal on the front.
“Yes, I am,” she smiled, smoothing down her giant bubble of a satin dress. “Father, I have so many questions.”
“I imagined you would. How is your head?”
“Better, thank you.”
“Tomorrow evening we will have a wonderful dinner party to welcome you home, with many guests and all your favorite dishes. But for now, it’s just you and me and soup and bread.”
“Oh, let’s skip the party for now. I really don’t feel much like a party. Maybe later.”
“Isabella? You never turn down a reason to have a party! Your head must still be hurting. Very well, I’ll postpone the festivities until you feel more like yourself.”
“Thank you, Father.”
“Tell me what you remember, my dear.”
“I remember working for a trucking company, in the office. I did some office work, but mostly worked out truck routes, like shortest distance plus highest speed limit, miles per hour times miles per gallon, lots of Math. It was a giant ever-changing puzzle with many variables. I liked my work. I lived in a tiny, sparse apartment. I was all by myself, Father. My co-workers were old, boring, married, forty-year old people. There was no one my age, no one to talk to and laugh with. It was a dull, lonely existence.”
“Yes, Bella, I hid you in Demby, Ohio, the most remote, isolated place I could find.”
“Alone? You couldn’t send someone with me? You stuck me in that cold, remote, dreary dirt hole all by myself? How could you?”
“They said they could dampen one signal, but two Robesson signals could have drawn our enemies directly to you. Cora cried, pleaded, and begged to go with you, and Justin, too. But I couldn’t. Why hide you and then attach a beacon signal to you? So, what happened after that?”