In Red (Chapter 1, page 1 of 2)

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IN THE STILLNESS OF THE NIGHT, THE SWISH OF THEIR DRESSES sounded like a menacing informer of their escape. Even the thumping of their hearts seemed to echo every step while they descended the stone staircase.

They glanced at each other. Could they really do this? But the time for dilemmas had passed, and now it was time for quick thinking and bravery. Never repentance. Never. They couldn't go into the world weakened by doubt.

They ran across the hall. Had it always been so huge? And they reached the semicircular wooden door, with its also enormous bolt. Heavy as it was, they drew it back with ease, since it wasn't meant to prevent them from going out - a less tangible device saw to that -, but to protect them. Nor did anyone try to stop the two girls when, once in the open air, they rushed off down the lane, heading for the village. A village. Any village.

"How do you know this is the right way to go?"

"I don't. But I've observed it's the path almost everyone follows."

"Which could be dangerous for us. We'll end up in a place where we will be recognized."

"That's not very likely," gasped Roxanne, while she strode to keep pace with her younger sister.

"Well, maybe not. But the further we go, the better."

Roxanne looked at Celeste with a mixture of admiration and relief - practically gratitude. From the moment she'd counted on her to run away together, merely sensing a shared need, Celeste had turned out to be much more supportive than she had expected, which never ceased to surprise her.

They walked for quite a long time. Their apparel wasn't very appropriate, despite having chosen the shabbiest and most comfortable garments they had. A renovation of their wardrobes had been their father's latest present, announcing that they were soon to be introduced to their future husbands. So, everything was new, beautiful and rather stiff - especially the footwear.

"I need to sit down," Celeste finally declared.

The night was perfect: moonlit and warm. Had it not been for their elegant shoes, they wouldn't have felt the urge to stop in still a while, since they were used to strolling and running in the vast plot of land walled for them behind the castle.

Their cheeks had not yet the blush of fatigue, but their feet were already a hindrance.

"We'd never seen so many stars, had we?"

"No, never," answered Roxanne pensively.

"It seems we were right: the curse doesn't exist," said Celeste, while she attempted to alleviate the bleeding wounds with some leaves, by placing them between her shoes and her stockings. "We're out in the open… At night! And we haven't been struck by no bolt of lightning. What's the matter? Aren't you happy? This is our first night out! Doesn't it feel wonderful?"

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