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50-year-old escapes to mountain cabin to dream his fantasies.
"I cried for him too," she said softly. "But I am not weak, like my mum."
"Your mother-" Katie began, but hesitated.
"My mother, what?" the girl's dark eyes flashed challengingly, ready to debate a stranger's ignorant assessment of her family.
"I... I hope she knows you are alight," Katie finished lamely.
The girl glared at her very critically.
"There are things about your family that Marco shared with me, that you may not know," Katie explained in an attempt to appease her.
"How could that be?"
Katie shook her head tiredly. She wasn't a parent. She didn't have the strength to argue, and maybe the girl had a right to know.
"Fine. I will tell you. But first, what is your name?" Katie asked.
"Rosa," the girl replied a little warily.
"Rosa, the reason why your father wanted to help me, is because I was in the same position as your mother, when they first met."
"My parents met on a hike, when they were young," Rosa scoffed with narrowed eyes.
"Yes, he was a tour guide," Katie continued. "But your mother wasn't part of the group. She burst out of nowhere, injured, running from something terrible."
Rosa looked slightly stricken, but still shook her head stubbornly. "If that was true, why is it a secret?"
"Because the danger still exists," Katie answered. "Rosa, isn't it true that you, and your sisters, have never been allowed to the city?"
"Because my parents thought the culture would corrupt us," Rosa snapped, rolling her eyes as she remembered the screaming rows they had. Her posture stiffened as she recalled one terrible fight when all her classmates went on an excursion, but they wouldn't give their permission.
"But you have travelled elsewhere? You watch tv? Have a phone?" Katie gently reasoned.
Rosa didn't answer, but she turned pale and looked quite ill.
"Is that what killed him?" she whispered. "Cory said-"
"No," Katie said bitterly with downcast eyes. "He died helping me. But Rosa, when he met your mother, she was running from someone very powerful, with corrupting links to authority. Just like me."
Glancing up from the bedsheet, Katie realised the girl was crying. Somehow it was more comforting than awkward, two women sitting apart, quietly crying together.
"I had to pose as a slave!" Rosa suddenly wailed, startling Katie with this random piece of information. Completely losing her icy composure, Rosa burst into tears and covered her face with her hands.
After being around strange men for so long, Rosa's vulnerable need to confide in another female exploded through her cool exterior. She especially missed her mother, sisters and friends. She was tired of pretending to be a tough adult, worthy of the perilous adventure.
"It was horrible. I was so angry. I was angry I had to do it, because of you. But after..." she choked and took a shuddering breath, clawing her hands through her hair. "After that, I realised it was nothing to what you went through."
"And I knew you might never get out of it. And I didn't know," she sobbed, her face reddening as she cried harder. "I didn't know... those things... So many girls, like me-" Rosa broke off and buried her face in her hands. Finally, when she could breathe evenly enough to speak, Rosa lifted her head.
"My dad used to say," she sniffled wringing her hands with angst. "That one of t-the greatest sins in our lives, was to judge... to blame the victim. It was... he would say a person like that, is cursed with ignorance, and has no heart."
Katie was flabbergasted and didn't know what to say.
"And for so long, I blamed you. I felt like this was all your fault. I didn't mean to. And you are so, so beautiful," Rosa continued, mournfully looking at her as though it was a tragedy. "And I was so afraid that you would be, because I hoped Cory could be mine. I can see why he wants you."
The emotional release felt good, though it didn't help that she complained to the wrong person.