The question "What have I done?" flashed through my mind as I looked down at the body of my father sprawled on the straw—he still had the gun in his hand. My father had been trying to kill 'Thor, God of War', the horse that was presently going crazy beside me.
I had surprised Dad in the act of killing the prized jumper. I just managed to kick the gun up away from the horse but ... the gun still went off. The bullet had entered under his chin and exited through the top of his head, taking a large chunk of skull and the better part of his brain with it. Blood and brains spattered the ceiling, the walls, the horse, me, and everything else in the stall.
That thought lasted only a microsecond because the horse was going berserk with terror. Horses don't like loud noises or the smell of blood—and there certainly was a lot of blood. I reached for the animal's lead that was now free of my father's grip, as I called for help.
People began to arrive and after the initial shock managed to help me get the big gelding out of the stall. We needed to wash off the gore that had spattered on the animal and move it to another stall. Billy, the groom that cared for this particular horse was able to calm him down as I washed the blood off.
Once the horse was settled I sagged onto a nearby bale of hay and called Max my lead groom over, "Max, call the police for me, oh and have one of the lads close the door to Thor's stall and stand guard. No one is to go into that stall."
"But, Miss? What about your father?"
"He's dead, Max. Please, just do as I ask."
"Yes, Miss," said Max as he turned and barked orders to the gathering crowd.
"How the hell did we get here?" I thought.
My past began to flow through my mind like a river ... There were five of us, my Mom (Glory), Dad (Thomas), big sister (Peggy), big brother (Alex), and me (Lacie). We were rich, very rich. Not Rockefeller rich, but still up there on the social and financial registers.
Our money is old and so we don't flaunt it like those that have come into wealth in their own lifetime. No, we wear our wealth like an old flannel shirt, comfortably. However, we do expect certain things ... and, I guess, those expectations could be misconstrued as arrogance by some. Believe me when I say that that type of behavior is not intentional ... at least, not by me.
That said, my mother is from an old southern family and there are certain standards that she expects from her children, particularly the females. Women in our family are sent to finishing school before college. In fact we are packed off to certain prep/high schools that have deportment classes as a major part of the regular curriculum.
I think that my mother was worried about me very early on, as she didn't send me to the normal school that her family had attended for generations. Noooooo! She lobbied my father to send me to a school in Italy. It was an extremely strict school run by Nuns and women of royal birth. To his credit, Daddy resisted for a time, but she soon wore him down. By their behavior I think that she denied him his conjugal rights. My father, being a lusty man, conceded defeat. Ok, ok he's a horny old goat, and when she denied sex he caved like a house of cards.
Since there are rolling admissions at the school my mother picked I was packed off the very next month!
I HATED IT! I still hate it, to this very day.
That was my family's first big mistake! I'm NOT the boarding school type. NO WAY, NO HOW, PERIOD!
Up to that point I had been a sweet obedient member of the family, a tomboy yes, but still obedient. All that ended when they sent me away! I felt betrayed, abandoned, isolated... and that I was really flawed. Why else would I be exiled in such a way?
It's funny how life is. People do things to avoid problems, only to cause the very problem they are trying to avoid. That's what happened to us. It was a perfect example of the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Sending me to boarding school was a knife in my heart! That knife caused a permanent schism between me and my parents, and eventually my siblings. Over the four years that I was forced to endure the tyrannical teachers I became a sharp-mouthed, morose young woman capable of inflicting very precise poisonous barbs into the hearts of those that I didn't like. I, for some unknown reason, could see the weaknesses of people. I used that insight to inflict pain.
The shy, sweet girl was gone! I had become a brassy, hard, offensive young woman!
As tough as my mother was, I brought her to tears every time we were together. My sister just stopped talking to me, altogether. When I entered the room, Peggy would silently leave, with all of the dignity of a Queen leaving court.
The men of the family were just the opposite. We fought constantly.
My relationship with my family became so strained, that I returned to school in the middle of the summer vacation between my sophomore and junior years. After that I no longer returned home for any reason.
First it was my mother that got angry at my refusal to "help" the family climb the social ladder. As time went on my father began to really rage at me. I wasn't his 'little pet', anymore. "After all, it is your duty," he kept saying. Several times he even sent someone to fetch me, only to find I was not at school.
I had a friend from home send me the social calendar. I would leave school whenever there was an event that I even remotely suspected they 'needed' me to attend. I drove the Nuns crazy. They even tried to lock me up in a nun's cell, so that I would be at hand for one of the 'pick-ups'.
I destroyed that cell! I got out by making a hole in the wall!
I finally put Mother Superior in the hospital. She tried to cane me! I took her cane and used it ... on her! I guess you could say I put the fear of God into the old bitch. That was the day I left school, forever, to be on my own.
I never did let my family see the pain that they had caused me, though.
I'm not saying that I didn't have some good times during those years at school. I did. But those times were not at home or anywhere near my family, whom I now detested and considered my enemies. No, I developed some fine friendships at school, but not with other students. I had become very egalitarian during those four years, and it was the school support staff and the people of the town with whom I spent my time.
I did relent just prior to graduation, however. Graduation was scheduled in the middle of July, at the end of my senior year. Thinking that it had been a long time since I had seen any of my family and wishing to, sort of, offer an olive branch I called home.
When I told my parents of the date mom said, "Oh dear, there is a function that weekend and we quite simply can not miss it, Darling. You do understand don't you Sweetheart? If it wasn't your Graduation we would have you come home to attend with us."
Instantly my blood went to a boil and I slammed down the phone without another word. I refused to answer the phone though it immediately began to ring. Further, I told my roommate, Lucia Ricci that I would not be taking any calls from my family ever again.
"But what shall I tell them when they ring up again?"
"Tell them ... tell them that I said for them to go to HELL!"
"Oh, I couldn't do that," she said with alarm.
"Well then tell them whatever you like. Just keep me out of it."
Lucia was a sweet homely girl ... well, more plain than homely, really. She had few friends at school, even though she was very rich, and titled too boot. Like schools the world over there were the 'in' cliques. For all of her royal blood and money, Lucia was still on the outside looking in.
Since I was to turn eighteen the first week of July, just a few days hence, I already considered myself emancipated. Therefore, I decided to just leave school and travel, without informing anyone of my itinerary. If their charity/social functions were of more importance than the graduation of their own flesh and blood then screw them and the graduation!
I was young, healthy and strong. Plus, I had plenty of money. Each year my father sent me an allowance to the school bursar. But here's the thing, I didn't do any of the things my classmates did. I saved, while they spent. They went to the Alps skiing or to Paris and Rome to shop. All of their activities cost a great deal of money.
I, on the other hand, spent my free time in the local cafes and at friend's homes. Thus, I had amassed a considerable sum of money. As soon as the money arrived from home, I withdrew it from my school account, and placed it into traveler's checks that I hid in the lining of my raincoat.
I was good to go!
My last call home had been the last week in June, a little over two weeks before graduation. It was then that I decided that it was time to 'get out of Dodge.' I packed my bags that night. Lucia asked me what I was doing and I told her that I planned on bumming around Europe for the summer.
"But what about graduation?"
"What about it? I never wanted to come to this miserable school in the first place. Screw it!"
Lucia looked thoughtful for a couple of minutes. You know I'm not going to graduation either. I must be home for Il Palio."
"Oh it is a most wonderful festival!" she said, lighting up with pride. "People come from all over the world to see it! There is a magnificent horse race and the Corteo Storico, where people dress in sixteenth century clothes and walk in a procession, and ... and then there is the throwing of the flags. Oh, oh and there is the mounted swordplay of a squad of Carabinierie. Lacie, it is all so wonderful!"
I stood in open-mouthed shock! Not at what Lucia said but at the transformation that took place in my roommate! She glowed with an inner light of pride. This was not the shy girl that hardly said a word! No, she not only was bubbly and animated, she became beautiful! I had never seen her so excited!
Lucia waxed eloquent for the rest of the evening about the festival. Finally she suggested that since I wanted to run away, why not run to Siena, to her home. She suggested that I leave a day or two before she was scheduled to leave. If I traveled by train and made a few stops to sightsee no one would suspect where I was bound. I would just be another young tourist.
Without a moments delay, I agreed. I agreed for two reasons. Firstly, it gave me a place to go. Secondly, I had to learn more of the enigma that was Lucia.
Mother Superior caught me as I was leaving that evening and attempted to stop me. She took a couple of swipes at me with her cane, that's when I put her in the hospital. I knew all too well that they would not call the police, for fear of scandal. It would cost them too much money. I didn't do any real damage, but I sure scared the piss out of the old bird, literally. I'm sure that they put her in the hospital just for my parent's benefit. They could milk more money out of them that way.
I left her lying on the floor, and walked out of the front door taking the cane with me.
It took me five days to get to Siena from Perugia, where the school was located. This was because I would get off the train whenever I saw something of interest and then board another train later. It was a lovely trip and I finally felt free!
I phoned Lucia whenever I stopped, so that I would not cause her any worry. When I finally did arrive in Siena, I found chaos. People were everywhere, and it was still two days before the festival. The place was a madhouse!
Fortunately, the Ricci family sent their car for me.
The family welcomed me with open arms. Lucia beamed with pleasure when I stepped into the great hall of their home. The place was what Americans picture in their mind's eye whenever they think of the homes of the Italian aristocracy. There were original paintings by the Masters hung on every wall and frescos on all of the ceilings.
The very building exuded class and a quality of timelessness. In my mind, I applied the personality of an old woman of high position and great dignity to the house. I picture the great house as a dowager Duchess in old black and white films. I don't know why, I just did. Once settled into the room that was to be mine during my stay, Lucia gave me the grand tour of the place. She was bubbling over with happiness and enthusiasm.
Palio di Siena ... or to be more accurate, the Palio di Provenzano ... was the first race of the season. It coincided with the local celebration honoring the Madonna of Provenzano and the Feast of the Visitation. It was everything that Lucia had said, and more ... much, much more. The people, a sea of them, just jammed the piazza, it looked like Times Square on New Year's Eve.
Mrs. Ricci surprised me the morning of the festivities with a marvelous sixteenth century medieval ceremonial gown, with all of the needed accoutrements.
I was to walk with the family in the procession!
They had listed me as a member of the family!
At first, I just stood there, awestruck. Then I did something girlie, girlie; something that I had never done in my entire life!
I screeched and jumped up and down with joy and excitement! These people, in just a few days, had treated me with more love and tenderness than my real family had ever done, for my entire life.
To me, the Riccis became my true family on that day!
The gown was made of the richest brocade that I had ever seen. The colors were so bright and vibrant as to hurt the eyes of the observer. There were seventeen city wards and each ward had their own set of colors. Lucia and her mom helped me with my hair and then into the unfamiliar clothes. We then made our way to the proper place for our ward and family.
After the procession came the horse race, with the riders wearing medieval garb and riding bareback on a track of trucked in dirt.
WHAT A RUSH! I was hooked on horse racing from that moment on.
The day after I left school, my cell phone began to ring, constantly! Apparently, the school had notified my family of my behavior, and my flight to freedom.
I found out, later, that my brother had been sent to bring me home.
My mother had planned my Debut for the end of August, and time was short.
Mom had a screaming hissy fit when Alex called home with the news that I had run away.
"HOW CAN SHE BE SO SELFISH? SHE HAS RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE FAMILY!" the woman screamed down the line at my poor brother.
I don't know where she got off thinking that I will ever follow that path of 'responsibility', after what was done to me.
Oh, I know what you're thinking, 'they fed, clothed and provided for me all of my life and it is my responsibility to the family to do what is asked of me. After all attending a social event can't be that bad.' Am I right?
Well, let me just explain to you, what a Debut is. It is a slave auction, pure and simple. The 'coming out' of a young woman in society is designed solely to find her a man. The right man! Usually the parents of both families arrange the marriage, well before the event. Businesses are saved, fortunes made, and movement up or down the social ladder transpires.
For me, my parents had arranged a match with business associate of my father. He was a man who was thirty-six years old, balding, and going to fat. He was a 'peer of the realm', an English Duke. That would have boosted the family's standing several rungs, on the aforementioned 'ladder'.
I had no intention of marrying the man.
Let's face facts, here. 'Two out of three ain't bad', as the song goes. Peggy married the man that she was told to, supplied the requisite grandkids, and then was very nearly beaten to death by her abusive husband. The poor woman was crippled for life and what happened? NOTHING HAPPENED! Well ... except that my family got controlling interest in a very profitable company in payment for closed mouths. All were well pleased, all except for Peggy, that is.
Now let's look at the deal that Alex got. He married the girl that mother wanted and she brought with her a horse farm ... a failing horse farm ... and a cocaine habit.
After five years of marital misery, the woman managed to kill herself, while driving under the influence of her drugs. At least Alex got a business that he liked. He, through his hard work, now has one of the best bloodstock farms in the country.
I must give my brother credit. His wife's family had brought the business to the edge of bankruptcy but Alex, by shear force of will and a lot of hard work, took the business over and then took it public. His wife's family no longer has any claim to the business. They are now employees, if that, and most of them became rabid enemies.
So here we are, again. My parents want another shot at the golden ring by getting me 'Debuted', and married off to some British Lord.
No thank you!
It's my life!
I will live it the way I want!
Anyway, I only have to worry until I'm twenty-one, then my trust fund from Grams (Dad's mother) kicks in. She was a smart old girl, and made sure that my parents couldn't get a finger on my money.
That means that I only have three years before I'm totally free of my family.
I knew that my brother was a smart and resourceful man, and so it was time to leave Siena for parts unknown.
There was one thing that I had learned during my visit to Siena ... well, two things, actually. The first was that horses are wonderful. The second was that Lucia is a great girl.
We had become good friends in just a few days. Even though we had shared a room at school, we had not bonded. However, for some reason, when we spent time together in Siena we just clicked.
"I told my mother that you are estranged from your family, Lacie. That way, if your brother ever calls here, she will cover for you."
The sound of Lucia's voice made me look up from my packing, to see tears trickling down Lucia's cheeks, she was crying.
"What's the matter Lucia?" I asked.
She slumped onto the bed and said, "I don't know! For some reason these last days with you made me feel ... different somehow. I think, that for me, you will be one of those special friends that lasts a lifetime."
I sat down beside her and said, "Huh, I feel the same way. Isn't that weird, we room together for years and nothing. Then we hang out here for a few days, and wham, BFFT! Totally weird!"
Lucia giggled through her tears, "Yes..."
"Say ... I just had a great idea! You don't have to be here until the next Il Palio in August, right? Why don't you come with me?"
Lucia smiled from ear to ear and nodded. "I shall go ask my parents right away!" she said as she quite nearly flew from the room.
Funny, I felt a warm feeling in my middle. It is nice to travel and see things ... BUT, it is so much nicer to share those things with a friend.
Lucia's Mama didn't really like the idea of her teenaged daughter gallivanting around Europe with me. In fact she didn't like the fact that her newly adopted daughter was doing it either! Papa, on the other hand, was of a more ambivalent attitude.
In the end it was agreed that we were to start out with a short trip to the Dalmatian coast but Mama and Papa would come too.
It wasn't the trip that we envisioned but it was a start, and Lucia's family would pick up the whole tab, thus saving my funds for later.
The trip went off without a hitch!
Lucia and I had a wonderful time on the beaches and in the cafes. We met other kids from all over the world: rich, poor and in between. I had to admit it was a great and safe way to 'get my feet wet', so to speak.
Lucia blossomed like a new flower. She got attention from the boys, and that gave her a newly found confidence. That confidence made her more attractive, somehow.
The only fly in the ointment, was that this holiday was to last only two weeks, because of Papa's business.
Once home (I now considered Siena my home), Lucia and I made many day trips around the region. Lucia was more of a sister to me than Peggy had ever been.
Moreover, Lucia was a friend. She was a friend in the truest and deepest meaning of the word.
Soon, it was time for me to roam further a field. Alas, without Lucia. She had duties connected to the August's 'Il Palio', and needed to stay close to home.
There were tears all around as I stood at the door of the first real home that I had ever known. Mama hugged me nearly to death, as Lucia wept profusely. Then they switched places. Even Papa gave me a big hug. He then presented me with a Europass. He didn't want me 'hitching rides like an American hobo', as he put it.
I kissed him. He blushed. I left.
I headed for Paris. I had had enough of Italy, for a while. The train ride was very enjoyable, though exhausting. When I arrived in the 'City of Lights', it was late afternoon.
Was I ever excited!
I caught a cab to the hotel that Papa had recommended ... well, really, he had reserved and paid for the room, but didn't want Mama to know (You know how that story goes! Hehe!). It was a beautiful old place with high ceilings and all the charm of the past combined with the efficiency of the modern era—they had Internet connections in the rooms.
When I entered the room there was a large bouquet of flowers and a note from Papa.
My Dear Lacie,
Welcome to Paris. I have paid the room for one week for you. After that, you are on your own. I will worry everyday that you are gone from the safety of our home. In the short time that I have known you, you have become as a second daughter to me.
We will all miss you.
This is a great adventure that you are about to take. BUT, remember that it is also a dangerous one for an unchaperoned young woman, such as yourself. Please be safe and careful.
Your new Papa
I fell on the bed clutching the note to my heart and wept for joy at the love shown to me by this wonderful new family. I wept for the cold lack of affection that I had endured from my natural family.
I settled in, and luxuriated in the tub with a ton of bubbles. My skin began to prune up. I then ordered room service and sat at my computer researching the sights of the 'City of Lights'.
My plan was to be a total tourist for the first week: Notre Dame, the Louvre, the west bank, the Eiffel tower, and so on. Then I planned to go native. I would find an area that I liked and get a job and really learn about the place and its people.
And I did just that for three days. I had a great time playing tourist. At the end of the fourth day I decided to stop at a small café on a side street. The place was busy, and the only seat left was at a table that was already occupied. I was seated at a table with two men and a woman. I ordered a coffee and a croissant with strawberry jam.
The four of us talked amiably until my order came. I can only surmise that one of the three put something in my coffee because immediately after my first sip I became terribly dizzy and that's the last thing that I remembered.
I woke up late the next morning in some flophouse. I was naked and sore as hell between my legs. It took me an hour to get up, because I also had the mother of all headaches. Every time I tried to move the room would spin and Thor's hammer would crash into my skull.
Finally, I was able to sit up. As I sat on the edge of the bed, I looked down. I was relieved to see that I still had my socks on. One of the few things of any use that my mother had taught me, was to put cab fare in my sock in case of emergencies.
This time there was money, and the keycard to my room there. At least the pigs couldn't get into my room and steal me blind.
I found my clothes, dressed and stumbled out into the grubby hallway. I then went to the even grubbier, if that is possible, lobby.
The man behind the desk said that my 'friends' had just stepped out, and would be back, and that I was to stay there. He tried to prevent me from leaving.
While at school, I had spent my free time in the town, and had made friends with the local people. One of those people was the owner/sensei of the local dojo. The man worshipped Bruce Lee, and taught Jeet Kune Do, Bruce's style of fighting. In the four years that I attended the school I rose to the level of second 'Dan' black belt. I was told that I had a natural grace and balance, and those qualities allowed me to attain that high ranking, so quickly.
When the hotel clerk came around the desk to stop me, I destroyed him. He would not be able to work for many months, if ever again.
I hailed a cab, and went to the center of the city. Then I got another cab to my hotel, just in case they tried to trace me.
I soaked in the tub for hours, trying to remove the violation by those people.
The funny thing was that I really wasn't upset with loosing my virginity. Oh, I would have preferred a more romantic way, of course, but the virginity itself didn't matter to me. What mattered was that my self-determination had been stolen.
THAT VIOLATION PISSED ME OFF, ROYALLY!
Now the old me would have been absolutely wrecked by this attack on my personal sanctity. But the new me wanted PAYBACK!
It took me a week to plan and gather the materials I needed. My only problems were: could I find them again, and who was it that molested me? I mean even the woman could be involved. She could be gay, or bi. Who knew?
Once I had a plan, and my disguises, I began to hunt the bastards. It took two days to find the café and another to find the hotel. I settled in to watch both the café and the hotel. Several of my disguises were of the male gender and those costumes allowed me to get close without drawing much attention.
One evening as I was leaving my observation post I saw the two men headed to the café. This time they each had a woman on their arm. Because I was dressed as a man I felt that I could risk entering the café with them. There was to be no sharing tonight since the place wasn't busy.
I was, however, close enough to hear the men talking and soon found out that they were human traffickers.
The first man said, "If it hadn't been for that cop giving us trouble that day, we would have a new good earner in the stable. Though I'm not sure I'd want someone that can fight like that. Jacques is still in hospital. I went to see him to find out if he could just sit behind the desk while he heals up. It's not going to happen! Among other things, the bitch broke his back!"
The other man said, "Maybe we were lucky that she woke up when we were gone. We could be the ones in hospital, right now. Let's just replace Jacques. It doesn't sound like he will ever be coming back to work. Anyway ... Let's get out of here, I'm sick of this place."
As the two men rose and pulled their reluctant whores to their feet I rose too. When the men turned toward me I pulled two flare pistols from the pockets of my overalls. I fired, point blank, into the groin of each man.
The smell of sulfur and burning flesh filled the café as I ran outside, with the rest of the patrons. The type of weapon that I had used, and its effect, caused such uproar that I was able to get away easily.
The news on the TV that night was filled with my deed. The bizarre manner in which I took my retribution had caught the attention of the nation. They were French, after all, and the mutilation ... or in this case, incineration ... of a man's privates was very big news.
I packed the disguises, and the flare guns, into a weighted bag. I then put all of my other belongings in my backpack, and signed out of my hotel. I headed for the train to London.
The evidences of my deed soon rested on the bottom of the Seine.
Edited By TeNderLoin