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“Nothing is As it Seems” Chapter 9

Ingrid and Alice stood up in unison, Steve’s head tilting after Ingrid. Alice took the mugs to the sink, while Ingrid released the brakes on Steve’s wheelchair. Before she pulled the wheelchair away from the table she patted Steve’s hand, which he seemed to have readily placed on his shoulder for her to reach.

The noise died as Alice closed the door after Steve, Ingrid and herself.

Elizabeth cringed. The silence was deafening.

This is not how she imagined a family reunion.

Not that she expected one.

Elizabeth didn’t think she would find anyone from her family here. She actually didn’t know now what she had expected. Had she ever grasped her wish into words? Elizabeth wasn’t sure.

Her father told her about her mother’s death when she was small. But he never mentioned a son.

And now Patrick, the “mad” mad, was her brother.

Elizabeth stole a glance at him.

He stood at the same spot, which he occupied after letting Alice, Steve and Ingrid out.

When he gazed at them a minute ago, he looked so scared. So lost. Like a small boy. Although by now Elizabeth was sure that he was older than she was. And she now guessed, whose elbow was touching her shoulder on the photograph she showed to Alice and Ingrid.

Oh no, the photograph! Elizabeth glanced at the table. How could she take it back without Patrick noticing?

She glanced up and discovered that Patrick watched her but in the next moment he seemed to check where her gaze had been the moment before.

Patrick froze.

Too late, he saw it.

Patrick made a step to the table and took the picture.

He gripped it with both hands, his jaw moving from one side to another.

Then he did something strange. He looked closer at the photograph. But not this was strange. The way he did it was strange. He bowed his body above the picture instead of bringing it closer to his face.

Elizabeth couldn’t make out Patrick’s expression. She saw only his high forehead, dense brows, pressed together, and skulls moving.

Shiver ran along Elizabeth’s spine in spite of the warm air full of chocolate aroma filling the large kitchen, which Elizabeth recognized being the living room when she was small.

Can’t Patrick say something? Should I say something?

“Sorry”, she said.

Patrick look up, his eyes glazed. He squeezed his eyelids shut and then released them. “Why.” He paused. “Why did you come?”

“My…father died and I…”


“I wanted to find out…”


“What happened when I was small. I don’t remember anything from here. I mean…inside. I remember how the house looked from outside. But not exactly how it used to be inside. How…we lived here.” She looked at Patrick hoping to ignite at least a little compassion in him. “I must have been old enough to remember something. But I don’t.”

“Oh that’s simple.” Patrick’s cold gaze returned, however mixed with something undefinable, as he took a chair at the opposite side of the table. “You fell of the roof.”

Elizabeth felt her eyes opening as never before. “I fell…of the roof?”

“Yes. I pushed you.”

“What? You…” Elizabeth found all her face muscles gathering somewhere around her nose. “But why?”

“Because you were stupid and I hated you.”

Elizabeth took a deep breath and looked at Patrick in disbelief. His look was on the picture, which he still held in his hands.

“I don’t believe you,” Elizabeth said.

“That’s your problem.” Patrick shovelled the picture toward Elizabeth along the table top. “Now, that you know what happened, you can leave. You are not wished here.”

A lump of something appeared in her stomach and started to raise inside her. No, not tears. It was anger. And a very strong one.

No, dear brother, you won’t get rid of me so easily.” She crossed her hands in front of her. “What did I do as a child that made you hate me. And as it looks still make you hate me?”

“You were just stupid. That’s all. There is nothing more to that.”

“I don’t believe you.” Elizabeth drew a deep breath. “I don’t believe a word you said. And…I want to know more. About our parents. About our mother. You owe me this much.”

“Owe you? Since when? Since our dear father took you away from us…from here? You probably used to idolize him, right?”

Elizabeth drew another deep breath but didn’t manage to answer, because Patrick hit the table top with his forearms as he supported himself on the polished surface.

“And I bet you still do,” Patrick said. He leaned back in the chair. “So just go back to where you come from and live further in your fairy tale of a story. What was here is none of your business.”

“It is my business and I bet I have a right to this house as much as you do!” Oh-oh, this didn’t go out well.

“Is this is what your visit is about? To get money out of the house? Not the honourable”, Patrick grimaced, “finding and reconciling with the long lost family. Ha! You know what? Just go to the court and claim a part and let the lawyers do the talk.” Patrick stood up. “I’m done with you. I guess you will find your way out.”

“Patrick, wait! This is not what I meant.”

“It doesn’t matter.” He took a step to the door and was surprised as it almost hit him in the face.

Alice stood at the other side. “Oh, I didn’t see you. Sorry!” She measured him with a concerned look. “Are you all right? Did I hit you?”

Patrick grabbed the door knob. “No, no, I’m fine. I was just finished here and wanted to do some urgent things and—”

“Claire wants to talk to Liza.”

Blood left Patrick’s face.

Elizabeth frowned. “Who is Claire?”

Alice looked at Elizabeth, at Patrick, then back at Elizabeth. She put her left hand on Patrick’s covering the door knob and the right arm on his other arm. It was as if she knew what just happened here and as if she was trying to stop him from leaving. Then she said turning back to Elizabeth, “Claire is Patrick’s and…your mother.”


Picture: Snow in our garden.

P.S. Chapter 10 will be written and posted latest in two weeks time.

P.P.S. You can find the complete story written so far at the page “Free Online Books”.

P.P.P.S. If you think you have friends who could like this story, then let them know about it and forward it to them.

Everything except one paragraph  (1st paragraph in Chapter 1) of “Nothing is As it Seems” is under copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

“Nothing is As it Seems” Chapter 8

Elizabeth looked into Patrick’s eyes full of rage.

Yes, what am I actually doing here?

She felt her head spinning. She turned to Alice, trying to focus on her eyes. Please, Alice, help me!

Alice turned to her husband without granting even a slightest look Elizabeth. Instead, she slowly made herself comfortable by setting one of her forearms on the table and another on the back of her chair.

Patrick pushed and pulled the door toward and away from him as if not sure whether to stay or leave the kitchen and all the people inside it.

Alice finally said, “Don’t you think it’s time you talked to your sister?”

The door in Patrick’s hand stopped. The world spinning in front of Elizabeth a second ago froze as well. Sister?

Ingrid put her both elbows on the table, leaning deeply to look at Patrick and Elizabeth. “Sister?” she said Elizabeth’s thought out loud.

Patrick glanced at Alice, his face filling with colour. “So you guessed.” Patrick’s voice was not more than an audible whisper. He lowered his gaze to a spot somewhere under Alice’s chair.

All Elizabeth could do was watch this scene unfold. She dearly hoped that it would somehow resolve without her needing to say anything.

“But of course!” Ingrid exclaimed seeming to be oblivious to Elizabeth’s and Patrick’s confusion. “You two are like twins. How didn’t I see it before!? Only the hair colour is different.” She looked to Elizabeth, then at Patrick and then at Elizabeth again. “Liza, do you dye your hair?”

Elizabeth pushed her eyelids apart. “Um. No. Yes. I mean, I do only highlights.”

“Looks good.” Ingrid turned her head to Patrick without moving her shoulders. “Patrick, you could use some too.” She chuckled and winked at Steve, who sniggered inaudibly.

“Mum.” Alice stood up. “Let’s get Steve and Lily for a walk outside. The fresh air would do them good.”

Ingrid nodded. “Yes, a good idea. And an empty kitchen without witnesses would do Patrick and Liza good.” She winked at both.


Picture: A house on the outskirts of Aalborg.

P.S. Chapter 9 will be written and posted latest in two weeks time.

P.P.S. You can find the complete story written so far at the page “Free Online Books”.

P.P.P.S. If you think you have friends who could like this story, feel free to forward it to them.


Everything except one paragraph  (1st paragraph in Chapter 1) of “Nothing is As it Seems” is under copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

“Nothing is As it Seems” Chapter 7

Ingrid’s face brightened. “Are you that sleeping beauty, whom Patrick woke up two days ago?”

Alice shook her head. “Mum.” In spite of the admonishing tone, there was a smile on her face.

Elizabeth felt her face warming up as she noticed all eyes on her, except Alice’s, who smiled at an undefinable spot in front of her. Even Steve interrupted his constant stare at Ingrid.

Clearing her throat, Elizabeth said, “Sleeping beauty? Um … I guess I was. I don’t know what came upon me.” She blushed as she recalled waking up leaning on the fence in front of the house. She decided to search for the spot on the table, at which Alice was looking.

“What fish-wrapper are you working for?”

“Mum. Stop it.” Alice turned to her mother. Her smile disappeared.

“Oh right, you are not from here.” Ingrid waved her hand at Alice. “I’m sorry for using Chinese. What paper are you with?”

Elizabeth bounced back in her chair. “Paper?”

“Mmm.” Ingrid nodded, simultaneously sipping from her mug. “Newspaper. Or magazine. You’re a journalist, aren’t you?”

“Um.” Elizabeth grabbed her mug with both hands ignoring the heat. She unbent her arms on the table. She suddenly felt as if being of solid rock and not being able to move. “No,” she said without shaking head. “I’m not a journalist.”

“You’re not?”

Elizabeth drew a deep breath and found she could shake her head now. “No. Why …?”

“Well, Patrick said you were one of those green ones who forgot to do their homework and do the proper research on us and this house.”

Why did Patrick say that? “Research?”

Ingrid nodded again. “Yes.”

“Mum.” Alice shifted her hand on the table toward her mother. “Shouldn’t we start from the beginning?”

Lily jumped to her feet. “Is it OK, if I don’t listen to your adult stuff?” And without waiting for an answer she turned to Elizabeth, “Leeza, will you help me preparing my room for another girl?”

“Another girl?” Elizabeth felt her head spinning. At least Ingrid and Lily seemed to assume her knowing much more than she did. Steve had lost interest in her by now, since he reassumed his stare at Ingrid.

Elizabeth stole a glance at Alice. What was she thinking?

Without returning Elizabeth’s glance, Alice looked across the table and said, “Lily, let us first explain Liza who we are, and then she will decide whether she can help you. And Patrick will be here any minute. She’ll need to talk to him first.”

Elizabeth pressed her elbows tightly to the sides of her body. I don’t want to talk to Patrick!

She didn’t dare to reveal this scream inside her head out loud. She hoped nobody could read it in her eyes. How much she hoped that something kept Patrick, wherever he was, as long as possible, so that she could find out something about her past here, today, and then disappear. Before he came back.

Her reverie was interrupted by a loudly closing door. Lily escaped the room. She must have put her mug into the sink on the way, because the green mug disappeared from the table.

Elizabeth hid her hands under the table and pinched her thighs. I must listen better! Listen better.

“At some point, this house became a shelter for people who were not given a hope for recovery, but couldn’t or refused to stay at home or a hospice,” Alice said.

“Yes.” Ingrid chimed in. “It became public when David, a boy of seventeen, ran away from the Royal Hospital in the East Side and his family tracked him down here. Nobody knew how he made on his own and in his state through the half of London.” Ingrid looked into the depth of her mug. “He died of pancreatic cancer.” Her merriness from before disappeared. “It became public, because his father accused … “ She glanced at Alice who shook her head almost invisibly. “Accused Patrick, who … more or less runs the house, in manipulating the boy to come here.”

Goose bumps marched along Elizabeth’s arms. Patrick wasn’t as bad as he seemed. He was rather on the good side. But why did he treat her as if she was on the other? And why did he tell Ingrid and Alice she was a journalist?

“I only want to find out about my childhood.” She froze as she realized that she said these words out loud and noticed Alice and Ingrid looking at her.

Alice smiled approvingly, Ingrid curiously. “Your childhood?”

“Yes, um. I spent… I am sure I spent my early childhood here, in this house, before I moved with my father to Germany.”

Suddenly a panic came over her. Maybe they knew something. She had to find out. Quick!

Elizabeth bent down to her right and pulled her purse from under her chair, where she’d put it before, as they settled around the table. She pulled a photograph out of the back of it and put the picture on the table. She pushed it across the table toward Alice and Ingrid.

They bowed above it and Steve straightened in his wheel-chair trying to see more.

Ingrid frowned. “It seems like it’s been cut in two.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, I think so too. It looks like there is someone’s elbow next to me.”

She’d seen this photograph so many times. It never managed to give her the answers she was looking for.  But it was a trigger for her to come here. A picture of her, her father and someone else. In front of this house.

Alice asked quietly, “What did your father tell you?”

Elizabeth turned to her. Yes, Alice knew something. “He said that we lived with my mother here. That she became ill and died. After that we moved.” She sighed. “He used to say those times were too heavy for him to talk about.”

She searched Alice’s eyes, who smiled and then lowered her gaze to the untouched mug in front of her. How could she be so calm with all that was happening here?

As if reading her thoughts, Alice said, “My father died here.” She turned to her mother and smiled. “He was at a hospice, when we heard about David and the house in the news. My father suddenly started to feel much better and was eager to move in here.”

“Not to die, mind you.” Ingrid smiled at her daughter, who somehow nodded and shook her head simultaneously. “He wanted to fight for that boy. And for the house. This undertaking was his own miracle. He worked many years at the City Hall and called every single one of his former colleagues, he could get hold of, to get the press off the stairs of the house. He infected us two with his glee. After all this adventure we ended up in this house. He died happily here. The hospice guys came and picked him up in order to take care of all the official stuff. A year later, Alice and Patrick married.”

Alice grinned at Elizabeth. “Could you follow this? My mother is a master of compressing information.”

“And you still talk in those computer terms, whom no one understands. You aren’t studying programming anymore, sweet-one.”

This loving bickering between Alice and Ingrid calmed Elizabeth and at the same time opened something in her, she tried not to think of all those years, in order not to upset her father. But Ingrid and Alice made this question surface again. What kind of person was her mother? Was she a little like Alice’s?

The kitchen door opened and they all turned to see who it was.

Elizabeth froze.

Patrick, pale and with deepening frown, bounced the door several times against the edge of the wall. “Alice, what is she doing here?”

Picture: “Painted” sky above Aalborg.


P.S. Chapter 8 will be written and posted in two weeks time.

P.P.S. You can find the complete story written so far at the page “Free Online Books”.

P.P.P.S. If you think you have friends who could like this story, feel free to forward it to them.


Everything except one paragraph  (1st paragraph in Chapter 1) of “Nothing is As it Seems” is under copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

“Nothing is As it Seems” Chapter 6

“Dying?” Elizabeth looked at the small girl upstairs, then at Alice standing next to her.

Alice opened her mouth.

“Yes,” the bell-like voice said from the balcony above, not allowing Alice to say a word. “All who come here come whether to die soon or to get a better diagnosis.”

“You mean—?”

“Yes.” the corkscrew spiralled locks swung on the round head shining like a light bulb. “Just like me! I had brain tumour and now I am cured. So, I can leave. Now I stay a few days to prepare my room for another girl with cancer. But Grannie Sissy wasn’t so lucky.”

Was she talking about the woman, who was carried out two days before? So she was d—

“Lily, honey.” Alice fixed the girl with her gaze. Then she turned to Elizabeth. “Um …”

“Oh, I’m Elizabeth. My father used to call me Liza.”

Alice nodded. “Liza is new here, so we better take it slow.”

“Ah.” A knowing look shot from above. “Then she needs a hope chocolate.”

Elizabeth smiled. “I love hot chocolate.”

Lily hopped down the stairs and laughed. “Not hot chocolate. Well, it is hot. But it’s a special hope hot chocolate. You only can get it here.”

“Kitchen is over here,” Alice held her arm pointing into the hall leading into the left wing of the house.

Hm, thought Liza. Wasn’t the kitchen to the right when she was here last? When was the last time she was here?

They entered a large square room, the edges of which were smoothened by a large round table in the middle and the furniture arranged into a dashed bows around the table, hiding the corners of the room behind it.

A middle-aged woman with a face so much like Alice’s sat at the table and fed an old man with a pinkish mash.

“Mum, here’s someone who wants to talk to Patrick,” said Alice and unveiled the obvious relationship with the woman at the table.

The woman smiled, nodded to Elizabeth and turned back to the man she was feeding.

The man seemed to be very old, with several bushes of grey and white, straight and unwilling hair looking in all directions. He ignored Elizabeth and instead fixed his gaze on Alice’s mother. He smiled too. But the look was not of a friend. It was rather of a young man thinking what would be his next move to seduce the woman in front of him.

Lily hopped onto the chair next to the man. “Steve, now we have one more pretty girl in the house.” She turned to Elizabeth. “Steve is flirting with everyone here. Even with me! And I am not even ten.” Lily giggled.

“He avoids flirting with Patrick though.” Alice’s mother winked at Steve who put his right hand on his forehead raising his look to the ceiling, sighed and returned to his previous position hypnotizing Alice’s mother.

“Leeza,” said Lily. “You should sit here next to me. Alice will make hope chocolate for us.”

“Isn’t this the task of all healthy people in the house?” Alice grinned and headed to the counter behind her mother.

“Oh yes, I forgot!” Lily jumped onto her feet and grabbed Elizabeth’s arm. “What’s your favourite colour?”

“Um, red.”

“Oh, yes, we have red mugs.” Lily hopped with three steps to Alice’s side, took out a red and a green mugs out of the drawer in front of them and put them on the counter. With a small jump she landed behind Alice’s mother and wrapped her arms around the woman’s neck. “Ingrid, would you like some hope hot chocolate too?” Lily threw a sheepish look at Elizabeth.

Ingrid gently pressed one of Lily’s arms with her left ear. “Yes, sweetie, I’d love one. And make one for Steve too. But not so hot.” She winked at Steve again, whose grin widened.

The conversation stopped. It was replaced with kettle whistling, cocoa spoons counting, tea-spoons clinking on the mugs walls, wiping of Steve’s mouth and brining his bowl to the sink. Alice, Ingrid and Lily seemed to follow an unknown choreography, where they moved alongside each other, switching places at the stove, sink and counter-tops without much looking at and without disturbing each other. This dance accompanied with kitchen appliances music mesmerized not only Steve but Elizabeth too.

Mugs with steaming, thick liquid, warming the air with its sweet aroma, were set along the table’s circle, and a large plate with biscuits got its place in the centre. Lily, Ingrid and Alice took their places at the table, the latter leaving a large gap not quite filled out by the three empty chairs on Elizabeth’s left.

“Liza. Is it short for Elizabeth?” Ingrid asked as she held Steve’s mug to his lips. Steve sipped slowly, with his left eye squinted and the right one peering at Ingrid. He seemed oblivious of all the other present in the room.

Elizabeth nodded. “Yes, my father was from Ukraine and he shortened it in a way he knew from his youth.”

“I thought it was strange how you said it,” Lily chimed in. “Leeza.” She giggled.

“So, how do you know Patrick?”

“Mum,” Alice put a hand on her mother’s arm. “Liza doesn’t know Patrick, or about this house … and what we do here.”

“Oh. I thought we were famous.”

“I don’t think Liza is from here.”

Ingrid sat straight in her chair. “Now this is intriguing. Where are you from?”


Picture: The beautiful path I take everyday on the way to my daughter’s nursery.


P.S. Chapter 7 will be written and posted in two weeks time.

P.P.S. You can find the complete story written so far at the page “Free Online Books”.

P.P.P.S. If you think you have friends who could like this story, feel free to forward it to them.


Everything except one paragraph  (1st paragraph in Chapter 1) of “Nothing is As it Seems” is under copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

“Nothing is As it Seems” Chapter 5

Elizabeth hid behind the giant tree she surprised herself climbing up two days ago.

Now think. Think! How shall I get in there unnoticed?

She heard a door opening and peeked out of her hiding place.

The angry man, who’d sent her away, went down the stairs and disappeared around the corner. He made a lot of noise with what must have been a very old and screechy door.

Then he appeared again, with a bicycle.

Elizabeth bypassed her gladness about him living. If he was taking a bike, he would be back any moment.

As soon as he was out of site, she stepped out of her hiding space.

She needed to work out something fast, otherwise she would never get inside.

Elizabeth crossed the narrow road and stepped onto the broad brick way leading to the house.

She was stopped by the house door opening. Alice went out and froze. She gazed at Elizabeth. A large flower pot in her hands.

“Oh, let me help you with this.” Elizabeth hurried up the eleven steps with almost unexpected easiness, and supported the pot Alice was holding.

“Thanks.” Alice woke up from her surprised stare and tilted her head to point where she wanted to put the pot. To her right.

As they both unbent their backs, Elizabeth rushed to say. “Alice.” She stopped, suddenly conscious that she revealed herself sneaking after her first visit, then said, “Sorry, I overheard your name the other day. May I talk to you? May I … maybe … come in?”

“Um.” Alice took a long moment to gaze into Elizabeth’s eyes. This felt both confusing and comforting. Then she nodded. “Yes, you may come in. But you better talk to Patrick when he comes back. Not to me.”

Elizabeth frowned. Patrick? Was this the man’s name? Did she hear it before?

She was interrupted by the floorboards squeaking below Alice’s feet. Alice held the door open for Elizabeth.

They entered a large entrance hall with a wide staircase winding from the right side to the upper left corner of the hall. Elizabeth followed the stairs with her gaze and saw the balconies of two more floors arching above the opposite side of the hall.

A small head with short and densely packed brown curls appeared above the white plastered baluster of the first floor, topped with dark wooden railing.

Elizabeth recognized the girl she saw running out of a car into Alice’s arms two days before.

“Hi,” said Elizabeth with a wave to her.

“Hi,” said the girl. She looked at Alice. “You told me another girl was coming to take my room. But she is not a girl.” Then she turned her head to Elizabeth, her curls dancing in all directions on top of her head. “Are you also dying?”

Picture: Looking up helps discovering the sky and its limitlessness anew. This time through branches of a Rowan tree.


P.S. Chapter 6 will be written and posted in two weeks time.

P.P.S. You can find the complete story written so far at the page “Free Online Books”.

P.P.P.S. If you think you have friends who could like this story, feel free to forward it to them.


Everything except one paragraph  (1st paragraph in Chapter 1) of “Nothing is As it Seems” is under copyright © 2015-2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels