“Kyriea” — Chapters 4&5
It had been weeks since Kyriea had seen her grandparents last. Weeks since she left the only town she had called home. In those weeks she had been smuggled from one safe house to another, from one town to the other. She had slept in barns, cellars, a few actual beds and even a tree house or two. Sometimes for a few nights at a time in one place, but most places were just for the night.
Meals were meager at best and usually just one meal a day. Her hosts, if you could call them that, were friendly and understanding for the most part. But Kyriea never forgot how much sacrifice and money had been spent to get her from one place to the other, undercover.
At one house she had the chance to watch the news. All was normal until a small blurb mentioned her home town. Her father’ death had been considered an accident and Matthew was chosen to take his place. The youngest to hold the office her father had held. The last line froze her soul.
“And the one thing that still haunts Matthew Ellison is the disappearance of his sister, Kyriea Ellison. After tragically losing both his mother and father in just a few short months, Matthew Ellison grieves for the loss of his sister. No one knows her whereabouts and if anyone has any news or idea where she might be they are encouraged to contact Matthew Ellison or his office.”
The couple housing Kyriea had planned to have her stay a few nights, but after the news cast they rushed her out of their home and on to the next safe house the next day.
Now, after weeks on the run, Kyriea found herself waiting at a shipping yard in a metal shipping container with about a dozen other women also on the run. Two nights had passed so far and the container was getting rank with the smell of body sweat and rotting scrap food. They were only let out three times a day to relieve themselves and then hustled back into the container so they wouldn’t be noticed.
On the third day they were told they would be shipping out that evening. Food stores were given to them, as well as a few more blankets and a several covered buckets. They weren’t to leave the container until they reached their destination. Not even the crew of the ship knew they were going to be on board. Strict instructions to stay quiet and hidden drove home the fear of being caught. They were told over and over again that the crew wouldn’t care who they were or who they were running from. There wasn’t enough money to pay the whole crew off to buy their silence and compliance. They would be sold either back to those they were running from or worse, to slave traders who would sell them to the highest bidder, to live a life potentially worse than the one they were leaving.
So it was that twelve women began the long ride on a big ship to an unknown destination. All they knew about the end of the trip was someone would claim the container and they would go their separate ways from there.
At first the trip was harsh. The constant swaying of the ship had most of them vomiting the first day. But by the third day they had acclimated to the up and down motion. They talked little, knowing that a metal container would echo their words and any passing crew member could get suspicious and open the container.
Three long, uneventful weeks later the ship stopped swaying. Voices outside the container were shouting. The container was lifted by what the women could only imagine was a large crane and unceremoniously dropped. Battered and bruised, all the women could do was wait for what came next. The scant light that seeped through the cracks of the container told them it was still daylight.
Darkness approached and still there was no indication of what was to come next. Every slight noise had them all on edge. Every voice that passed raised the level of anxiety. As daylight crept into the container once again the women dared whisper that they had been forgotten and would probably die in that small, metal box. It took everything Kyriea had in her to not succumb to the fear that permeated the space.
As darkness started to fall once again voices were heard just outside the container. Then the container was lifted again and dropped again. Then they were moving. It wasn’t until dawn started to show its morning light that they finally stopped moving. The only sound from outside was some scuffling and then the big doors at the end of container opened.
An elderly man stood there staring at the women. After a brief moment he motioned for them to come out of the container, also motioning them to move as silently as possible and to not talk. Kyriea and the other women grabbed what few things they had brought with them and hurried out of the container into the back of a running truck. It was another small, metal box but it didn’t have the smell of the one they had just left. And there were fresh blankets and food waiting for them.
An hour later they stopped once again and were motioned out of the back of the truck into a small house. Once in the house they were shown the basement. There they found cots for beds, fresh food, and were shown where the toilet and makeshift shower was. Fresh shifts were on the bed for them to change into and the shower had shampoo and soap so they could clean up.
After each women had showered and changed they dug into the food and laid down on the cots. They were given about an hour to nap. After about an hour the elderly man came back downstairs, followed by an elderly woman.
“I am Marcos,” the man said in stuttered English. “And this is my wife, Maria. You will stay here for a few days so as to give your benefactors time to come get you. Here you are safe. And we welcome you.”
Maria, his wife, nodded behind him.
“Thank you,” each woman answered in reply.
“You sleep now. Rest. More food later. Then we talk.” With that, Marcos and his wife left them alone.
As she lay there Kyriea finally allowed herself to relax a little. It had been a long, trying journey to get this far. She had no idea what was ahead of her but she knew what lay behind her. The future had to be better than her past, she reassured herself.
The woman in the cot next to Kyriea laid there with her eyes open. Kyriea only knew her first name, Angie. That’s all that any of them had shared on the long ride on the ocean. That and their brief, whispered fears. Kyriea now wondered what had driven them all to take such a journey as herself.
Rolling over on her side towards Angie, Kyriea tried to get to know the other woman a bit.
“Angie,” Kyriea whispered, “are you okay?”
Angie turned her head towards Kyriea and nodded. “You?” she asked.
“I think so. At least for now. It’s nice to be in a bed again.”
“I suppose it is.”
“Do you have any idea where you are going from here?”
Angie shook her head.
After a long pause Kyriea asked a question she had been wanting to ask for a while.
“Angie, if you don’t mind me asking, what brought you here? Why were you traveling in that metal crate like the rest of us?”
Angie stared at the ceiling for a few moments before answering.
“I suppose I thought it was better to take a chance and run than live the way I was living. You have no idea what I have done and gone through to get here.”
Kyriea propped herself up on one elbow. “Tell me. It seems we have a lot of time on our hands, at least for a while.”
“It’s not something I relish remembering.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to pry.”
“No, it’s okay I guess. I’ll have to deal with it sooner or later. I was the second child, and second daughter, to a farmer, and there were three more daughters born after I was. We worked the farm and kept the house after our mother died in childbirth. So there we were, our father and five daughters and no son to inherit the farm. Father was ashamed. He blamed our mother, and us, that we weren’t sons. My older sister was married off about a year ago to a horrible man. The agreement was that he would marry my sister if he got custody of the farm when our father died. About a month ago this horrible man killed my sister in a fit of anger. No remorse. No sorrow. But he wanted to still maintain the agreement and inherit the house. Father said, no wife that was his daughter, no farm. So they worked out an agreement that I would marry this man and he would be able to get the house when father died. I was terrified. I didn’t want to marry this man and end up like my sister. Luckily for me our father hated banks too and kept all his money hidden in the barn. And there was a lot. Enough, believe it or not, to get not just myself but also my other three sisters away from that place. I sent them out in different directions with the intent that we would meet up eventually, here, in Spain. I have no idea if any of them have made it this far. I hope and pray they did or will soon. And then, once we are all back together, we will figure out where to go and what to do with ourselves.”
Kyriea was struck silent. She couldn’t imagine such a life. Being married to a man that only wanted a piece of land and didn’t care who he had to kill to get it. Then she remembered Matthew. Hadn’t he done basically the same thing? Kyriea had no proof that he had had anything to do with her father’s death, but she knew, in that knowing way without proof, that he had.
Angie’s story had drawn the interest of the other women. They all had similar stories. Abusive father, abusive brother, abusive husband, uncle, grandfather, son. Men with the mindset that a woman was only property, only a slave, to be used and treated as they saw fit. Women with no voice, no opportunity, no chance.
“My grandparents would tell me about a time when women had rights,” Kyriea began when the silence went on too long. “A time when women went to school, held jobs, lived alone, came and went as they pleased. It wasn’t that long ago. I wish I had been born then instead of now.”
All the women nodded in agreement.
“I’ve heard of those times too,” Opal chimed in. “My mother spoke of such a time. Until my father overheard her telling me about them. He beat her within an inch of her life. She never spoke of it again. But before he caught her, she would talk about the downfall of civilization as she knew it. You all know the stories, right?”
Everyone else shook their heads.
“Well, I’ll tell it as best as I can. It’s been such a long time since my mother told me,” Opal began telling of a time right before the civil war. “People were divided. On everything. Skin color, gender, who had more money, even who you could marry. Guns were everywhere. Women could even get rid of a baby if they didn’t want it. And there were hospitals with women and men in them that would help them do it. And it was legal. But the greatest dividing factor was religion. There once were many, many religions in the United American Federation, before it was the UAF, of course. But even then Jesus and God were the most popular. But being the biggest wasn’t good enough. Having the most people wasn’t good enough. They wanted everything their way. Did you know there was a time when prayer wasn’t allowed in school? Or anywhere that was considered a public forum? It was called something like… what was it… separate church and state… or something like that. It basically meant that religion had no place in anything government, or schools, or businesses. It was meant to be in churches and homes. But the Christians, that’s what they called them at that time, wanted to pray and rule in all aspects of people’s lives. Even people that didn’t believe what they believed. They wanted life as it was described in the Bible. God’s Word. Everything and everyone.”
Betsy, another woman in the room, shook her head. “That’s always how it’s been. God is in everything, everywhere. He created everything. How can there be anyone who denies that? Why would they do that?”
“Because,” answered Opal, “people back then had the freedom to choose. They, men AND women, could read other things, think for themselves, decided what they wanted to believe, or not believe. And it made those who were gaining power, and wanted a world run by God’s Law, furious. My mother said that it took less than ten years for those who held such extreme views to start gaining true power in the government. It started small. Denying health care. Berating and legislating women out of the work force and public office. Reversing laws that made women equal in the eyes of the law. Making food and necessities out-of-reach expensive. Poisoning food and water to the point that only the wealthy could afford to eat and drink anything that wasn’t toxic or tainted. Destroying the land and animals. Arming their armies of citizens and making laws that made guns readily available and encouraging vigilante style communities. Selling lies as undeniable truth. Owning the news. Discrimination against anyone who didn’t think their way all the while moaning and whining that they were the ones being discriminated against. Fixing elections to meet their goals. Bribing those in power they could buy and blackmailing the ones they couldn’t. It was a slow process. Feed the masses misinformation and lies and then show them how to fight an enemy that didn’t exist. Arm those same people with guns, telling them that they needed them for their own protection against the ‘enemy’. Create a culture war that didn’t exist. Fear and oppression slowly poured into the minds of people who trusted what they were told and never took the time to actually check on facts. Never took the time to think. Molded millions into a zombie army of misinformed grunts who voted against their best interests. And then one day everyone woke up to a civil war of those who said they fought for God and those who fought for their freedoms. Those who fought for their version of God said they were protecting the exact liberties they wanted to deny those who didn’t believe as they did. And suddenly there was an armed, dangerous, mass of citizens, who, through blind faith and lies, mounted a civil, religious war. By then it was too late to mount any kind of counter-attack. The religious zealots, as my mom called them, took control and in just a few short years stripped the laws of anything that didn’t suit their agenda, putting laws into place that ensured their rules and ideals. The first thing to go was freedom of religion. Many people died who refused to convert. Many more ‘disappeared’. The next to go were rights of women. Stripped completely of all personhood and freedoms. Then the war of the Americas. Canada and Mexico fell quickly against such an army. And that brings us to where we are now.”
The room was silent. Most of the women there had no idea how their lives had become what they had. No idea of the history that led them to this place. Kyriea had some idea. She knew women had many more freedoms and rights in her grandparent’s time. But she had grown up under the current dynamic her whole life. It was in place and established as normal by the time she was born.
Without much else to say everyone laid back down to rest. Knowing what they now knew didn’t help them in what was coming in their future. It only made what they were doing make much more sense.
Over the course of the next week people came to collect the women they had agreed to protect and shelter. By the end of the week only Kyriea was left. Loneliness and depression set in quickly. Her hosts were more than accommodating. She was fed and sheltered the best she knew they knew how. Their English was stuttered and halting but it wasn’t a barrier in communicating.
As the next week progressed, Kyriea wondered if she had been forgotten. Every vehicle that passed by caught her attention. Every vehicle that kept on going dropped her spirit down another notch. Then one day a car didn’t drive past.
Kyriea was sitting outside enjoying the beautiful morning when a sleek, black car drove up to the house. Marcos was at the door before the occupants of the car could get out. Standing at the door of the vehicle, Marcos talked to whoever was in the driver’s seat through a rolled down window. Kyriea couldn’t’ hear what they were saying but her gut told her it was about her.
Then Marcos stepped back and the door opened. Out stepped a tall man wearing a dark suit. He was richly dressed, the suit fitting his body like a glove. His hair was black in the sunlight and he wore sunglasses that kept Kyriea from seeing all of his shaven, chiseled face. A crisp, white shirt and polished black shoes rounded out the stranger’s attire.
Marcos and the strange man approached where Kyriea sat. She stood instantly, as she had been taught to from birth, acknowledging the men above any comfort or concern for herself.
“Miss Kyriea,” Marcos started, “this is Raheem. He is the one who comes to pick you up.”
Kyriea looked down, as was proper when being introduced to a man she had not met before.
The stranger walked up to Kyriea, removing his sunglasses so he could see her better. He stopped right in front of her and lifted one hand. Without knowing what she was doing, Kyriea flinched, ready for him to slap her.
The stranger muttered a word Kyriea didn’t understand and then tucked a finger under her chin and lifted up her face. Kyriea found herself looking into chocolate brown eyes full of concern.
“Kyriea,” he tested her name on his lips. “You are Kyriea Ellison?”
Kyriea nodded. His voice was rich and mellow and had a hint of an accent that Kyriea couldn’t place.
The stranger chuckled. Kyriea tried to look down again, his finger stopping the attempt. “I am sorry, my dear Kyriea, I was not laughing at you by any means. I was chuckling at the irony of your name is all.”
Kyriea didn’t understand. Her name wasn’t ironic or humor worthy that she was aware of. A frown swept the corners of her mouth downward.
“No, my dear, no frown. It was not meant to be insulting. I will explain later. Your name is beautiful. A well fitted name for a beautiful woman literally and figuratively.”
Marcos stepped up and motioned that they should go inside. Once they were settled in the kitchen, and Maria had offered food and drink, Kyriea was told who this stranger was.
“I am Raheem Alistair. My family has many businesses throughout the world, the free world. We are wealthy, as you would say. My grandfather made many trips to what was called the United States of America before your country fell into disgrace. He knew your grandfather many years ago. When your grandfather contacted my grandfather to ask this favor of him he agreed without question. With us you will be safe. I’m sorry it took so long to come get you, my dear. I was… delayed. But I am here now, and I am ready to take you to your new home, if you are ready.”
Kyriea nodded she was. This stranger had mesmerized her from the moment she had looked into his eyes. Even if he had said he was taking her back to Matthew, Kyriea didn’t know if she could have disagreed. His voice, his mannerisms, his all-around charm, disarmed all Kyriea’s fears. In less than an hour she found herself sitting in Raheem’s car, headed away from Marcos’ home, headed for somewhere unknown. And at that moment Kyriea didn’t care where that was.
Many hours later, after a long car ride and private jet flight, Kyriea found herself in a limousine that was now pulling into what could only be called a castle. Raheem had been the most gracious of hosts, making sure any and all of Kyriea’s needs were fulfilled instantly. But he hadn’t said much more about who he was or where they were going.
He had asked Kyriea many questions about her life. It was so out of the norm for someone to be interested in what she had to say and who she was that it took a lot of prodding by Raheem to get Kyriea to open up about her life. Even then, Kyriea didn’t say too much about her personal life. She didn’t know how much anyone knew about her parents and Matthew so she kept all of that to herself.
She spoke about the town she lived in, her grandparents, normal, everyday life happenings and things in general. Raheem seemed genuinely interested in what she had to say. It was a surreal experience for Kyriea. One she had never had before outside of her grandparents.
The building that the limousine stopped in front of looked more impressive and intimidating to Kyriea once she had gotten out of the car. It stood at least five stories high and went on forever on each side. As they climbed the steps leading up to the massive front doors Kyriea was struck with a sense of awe. Raheem had told her his family lived in this house. Mansion. Castle. Not just his mother, father, siblings and himself. But his aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents from both sides. Kyriea could imagine many people living here and rarely running into them. She wasn’t sure how she was going to be able to get around the structure without getting lost.
The entrance was nothing short of spectacular. Kyriea had never seen anything like it before. Never seen anything like it in any book she had read. Never even imagined anything so beautiful and breathtaking.
The entry was as big as the entire floor plan of her house. The marble tiled floor gleamed as if it was newly polished and never walked on. To the left and right of the double doors they had just walked in long, ornate hallways led to other parts of the mansion. Directly across from the doors was a wall with a larger than life size piece of artwork depicting a scene of trees and a pond nestled in a sea of sand. On either side of the wall were two staircases going up to the next level. The ceiling went up two stories high and had a chandelier the size of a small car hanging from it. Artworks of various types were placed on pedestals around the entryway. Everything was luxurious and expensive and spoke of authenticity. Kyriea couldn’t guess how much just the artwork in this room alone cost but she knew it was more than she was ever likely to see in her life, had she stayed in her home town. She guessed that no one she knew had ever seen, or dreamt, of anything like this in their lives.
And now she was here to see it.
Raheem was instructing their driver what to do with Kyriea’s meager belongings while she stood there in awe of her surroundings. Knowing that this was just the entry way was intimidating.
Raheem walked up behind Kyriea. “What do you think, my dear Kyriea?”
Kyriea had no answer for him.
Raheem chuckled. “I know. It can be a bit… much, at first. Come, let me show you around.”
Raheem led Kyriea to the left down the hallway. They passed more artwork and many closed doors. While they walked Raheem explained what was behind some of the doors. Some were studies for himself and his father and brothers. One was a library. A few were rooms for the women of the household.
At the end of the hallway they took a right down another hallway. This was a bit shorter, but still had artwork randomly dispersed along the walls. At the end of the hallway were two double doors. Raheem opened the doors and they walked into a large dining room. In the middle of the room were two long tables positioned next to each other with about two feet separating the sides. There were ten chairs on each of the long sides of the tables that faced out and a chair each on the ends of the tables for a total of twenty four chairs in all.
“This is where we eat most of our evening meals. Women on one side, men on the other. My father and mother sit at the end on the far side. I sit on the other end.”
“Who sits next to you?”
“No one, yet. When I marry it will be where my wife sits.”
Where his wife will sit when he gets married, Kyriea thought to herself. Meaning he wasn’t yet married. For only the briefest of moments Kyriea tried to imagine what it would be like to be married to Raheem. It wasn’t easy. He was born of a lifestyle she hadn’t even known existed. She would never fit in to his life and he wouldn’t want someone as lowly as herself to try.
“Why are the tables separated like this?” Kyriea inquired.
“That way our servants can walk between the tables and serve our meals without having to reach over us,” he answered. “You will see.”
Then Raheem led her out of the room and back down the hallway they had just come from. The next hour was spent with him showing her where the kitchen was, the game room, the laundry room and out behind the house, the garden.
Once Kyriea saw the garden she knew she could live in this house forever. Every plant and color imaginable was there. Sculptures of water nymphs, ancient deities, strange animals and other shapes undiscernible were scattered everywhere. There were pools with small fish in them and water fountains. And winding paths in all directions. Trees were scattered among the plants and bushes, some ripe with in season fruit of various types.
Finally they both retreated back inside. Raheem lead Kyriea up one of the staircases and down another hallway. At the end of the hallway were a set of double doors.
“This is my wing. You will be staying, as my guest in a bedroom here,” he explained as he opened one of the doors. The hallway the doors opened into was short in comparison to some of the other hallways in the mansion and it ended in another set of double doors.
“Those doors,” Raheem pointed at the set of double doors, “lead to my room. This door,” he pointed to a door immediately on their left, “is your room.”
Raheem opened the door he had indicated was to Kyriea’s room and let her go in first.
All the hallways and rooms they had been in up until now had been tiled in marble of some type and color. The room that was to be Kyriea’s was covered in a deep piled, cream colored carpet. A four poster bed was positioned on the far side of the room that was so large Kyriea envisioned herself getting lost in it. A richly decorated bedspread in the colors of burgundy and gold covered the bed and draperies of the same design hung from the posts at the corners of the bed. There were windows on either side of the bed that started at the floor and ended at the ceiling, the draperies also the same as the bedspread. The room had two doors to the right of the main door. One was for a bathroom, Raheem explained, and the other was a closet. Many other pieces of furniture, including a vanity with a mirror and stool, a long dresser set and standing dresser, and a night stand with a lamp on it on either side of the bed.
Raheem lead Kyriea to the closet and opened the door. The closet was the size of Kyriea’s bedroom back home. Either side had clothes that had to cost more than her father made at work in ten year’s time hanging from racks. Under each rack were over two dozen different types of shoes neatly arranged. At the end of the closet was a full length mirror.
Kyriea looked at herself in the mirror standing next to Raheem. She looked small, insignificant. Plain. Out of place.
“I hope these fit you,” Raheem commented as he casually pointed into the closet.
“These are for me?” Kyriea asked with confusion and disbelief.
“Of course they are,” he answered. “You will need to wear something, won’t you? You didn’t seem to bring much of anything with you. If they don’t fit just let me know. I will make sure we purchase things that do. The bathroom is stocked with anything you might need in the way of toiletries. If there is anything else you can think of all you need to do is ask.”
Kyriea was struck with awe and gratitude. And humility. Never had anyone thought to think of her in such a thoughtful manner.
“Kyriea? Is everything to your liking?” Raheem asked, concern in his voice.
Kyriea nodded, fighting the tears that threatened to cascade down her cheeks.
“Yes,” she summoned after a moment. “Everything is perfect. Thank you. Thank you so much. I don’t know how to repay you for everything you have done for me.”
Raheem smiled. “Think nothing of it. It is the least we could do. I’ll leave you to settle in and freshen up. I’ll be back in about an hour and by then everyone should be home. You can meet my family. Would that be okay? Or would you like to wait and rest?”
“I can be ready in an hour. I would like to meet your grandfather and tell him thank you myself.”
Raheem nodded. “In an hour then, my dear Kyriea Ellison.” He reached for her hand and touched the back with his lips, ever so gently. Then he let her go and left the room, closing the door behind him.