Sunlight streamed through the rectangular window above the door, revealing the dust in the air and the faded colors of the Turkish carpet. The stairs looked creaky and the walls were a little dulled, stained by who knows what. But what really caught Rita’s breath was the destruction.
Furniture was smashed and part of the stair railing was sunk in, splintered. Cloth hangings were slashed and bits of paintings ripped out of their frames were lying scattered about. What had they done to her home? And what had they done to her parents?
To be sure, they were looking for it. For what she had come for.
She stood up and looked back at the door. No wonder her key wouldn’t fit– there was a new door! They must have completely smashed the old one. You never knew you could miss an old door until you lost it. Rita turned back around and slowly walked up the old stairs, past smashed portraits to the second floor.
In her parents’ former bedroom, Rita let the cloak fall away from her face and approached the dresser slowly. In a curiously untouched glass frame was a portrait of her father. Next to that was a little colored glass dish and the little maroon jewel case that had held her mothers’ pearl necklace. Rita tremblingly opened the case– it was still there! They must have been in such a hurry that they had no time to plunder thoroughly. The milky lustrous pearls dangled from her fingers. She stood looking at it for a moment and then quickly slipped it into the little maroon case and that into her cloak pocket. She also took the little colored glass dish, a gift from her grandmother. On second thought, they could swing against something and get broken…..She slid them into the satchel strung over her chest under the cloak.
Rita closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Slowly, surely, she took the wooden mirror off the wall, revealing a small metal panel with a keyhole. Out of her pocket came another key, this one smaller than the one for the front door. She turned it, heard a click, and the panel swung open.
Rita grasped the golden hilt of the sword and drew it out of the compartment and out of its scabbard. She drew in a breath sharply in awe, turning it this way and that as it glinted in the dim light. It still held the same fairytale charm it had held when she was a child and her father had first shown it to her…..he had told her how it had been awarded to her great-grandfather by the Emperor for his brave and daring service in the marine corps…..
She didn’t want to think about her father! She rested her cheek against the blade. All her emotions were tangled in a tight knot, and she didn't know how to untie them. Maybe she didn't even want to.
Suddenly-- shouts in the street below! Crashes! Instantly back in survival mode, and too scared to do anything but act fast, Rita slid the sword skillfully back into the leather scabbard and into her belt. As she looked frantically around for a way to escape, she heard the door downstairs being broken down and someone rushing into the house.
The window! But…. Rita stopped short and snatched her father’s photo from its frame, slicing her fingers on the glass, and ran for the window, to do what she knew not.