Ellie fumbled with her money, and when she turned back she saw the boy staring into her apartment with a look of reverie on his face. She followed the trail of his eyes to where they rested. Ophelia had propped herself up against the couch and was watching them both with eager curiosity. His eyes were glued to the Ophelia’s pale exposed legs.
Heat rose up in Ellie’s cheeks, and a jealous itch formed in the pit of her stomach. Her mind was instantly muddled, and she handed the delivery boy more money than she needed before shutting the door in his face. She turned back to Ophelia, and the girl smiled in the all-accepting way which she had about her.
“Don’t pretend you aren’t pleased to be noticed.” Ellie narrowed her eyes at the girl.
“I would not pretend with you. Our bond would betray me, even if I tried.” Ophelia was careful not to think the word “master” at Ellie, but there was a marked sadness in the absence.
Ellie shook her head to clear the clutter in her mind. She placed the pizza box on the coffee table and retrieved two cans of soda from the kitchen. Ophelia was delighted with the fizzy beverage. Apparently, this was a treat she rarely experienced. As they settled on the sofa together, Ellie wondered how many luxuries the girl had been denied in her lifetime. That seemed a shameful way to treat someone with such talent.
Ellie picked up the remote and flipped absently through the hundred or so channels on the television. Ophelia giggled happily when she passed a cartoon program, so Ellie left it on that channel and dug into the pizza. By the time they were done, Ophelia had consumed two-thirds of the food, but she seemed to be sated finally. The girl curled against Ellie on the couch, her arms draped possessively over Ellie’s waist. Soon she was snoring peacefully.
Ellie untangled herself from the girl. Ophelia whimpered, and rolled over, but remained asleep. Her face was content and cherubic in her slumber. The investigator pulled a spare blanket out of the hall closet and draped it over the sleeping beauty. Then she readied herself for bed, leaving Ophelia to rest on the sofa.
Ellie tossed and turned, before finally falling asleep. While she slept, she was plagued with strange dreams. They involved fire and monsters and people she didn’t recognize. She woke in the dead of night and sat up straight. Her breath was heavy and ragged. She knew the dreams were frightening, and she was being chased by something horrible, but she couldn’t remember the details.
She caught her breath. In the darkness, two glowing orbs danced in the doorway. Ellie watched, mesmerized, but she wasn’t afraid. She knew those gleaming eyes belonged to Ophelia, just as sure as she knew her own heartbeat. She also knew that the girl was frightened and fighting conflicting emotions which were keeping her trapped in the doorway.
Ellie reached out to her. “What is it? Are you alright?”
“I had a bad dream, Master.” Ophelia was too distraught to cover her use of the moniker.
Ellie laughed out loud. “Is that all?”
The eyes nodded.
“Come here.” Ellie tapped the sheets beside her.
In an instant Ophelia dove into the bed next to Ellie. The girl shut her eyes tightly and threw her arms around Ellie’s waist. She sobbed into Ellie’s belly, hot tears wetting the modest cotton nightgown.