She quickly walked over to the door and bolted it shut from inside.
"There, all done." She said, looking at it with satisfaction. This way, even if someone came to meet her in her absence, they'd leave, thinking that she's sleeping, she thought. Now there was only one thing left- she had to get out of the place. As she turned around, her eyes scanned the room to spot any point of exit that could help her reach her destination. Her only option was the window.
She peeped down the opening to the backyard. There was no one around- Anna observed with great delight. Now the only problem remaining was how she'd make the two-storeyed jump.
"If it were not for my books," Ana swore, gritting her teeth in irritation.
She slowly climbed out of her window and sat on the wooden sill. Her eyes were trained on the guava tree leaning towards her room. If she could make a jump wide enough to reach one of its strong branches, then she'd be safe. Thankfully, she had put on Peter's clothes. It was easy to move around in it. The thought of making the jump would be impossible if she were in her dress, Anna thought in relief.
Taking a long determined breath, she stood upon the sill. Leaning forward, she placed both her hands on either side of the window frame.
"Here goes nothing." She whispered as she jumped, propelling herself towards the nearest branch of the guava tree with all her strength.
As she flew through the air, a strange thought passed her mind. For some reason, she felt like someone was watching her. Did someone find out? What if it was one of her brothers? Or her mother? If one of the maids were to see it, they'd definitely misunderstand the situation. She didn't want them to suspect her of having an affair.
"Concentrate, Anna!" She screamed inside her mind as she reached out to the branch desperately.
She bit down on her lips to muffle a scream as she nearly lost the branch. But to her luck, her fingers tightened around it, saving her from the fall. Her heart was thumping loud in her chest, fear of a twisted neck gripping her mind. Although she knew she wouldn't die from it, the fall could easily paralyze her. She'd seen that happen to one of her mother's servants who had fallen from the terrace. She shook her head, clearing her mind of the thoughts.
Anna swung herself to a more steady-looking branch with ease and slowly started climbing down, keeping one step at a time while holding on to the tree for dear life. As she neared the ground, her confidence grew, as did her relief. Reaching almost three feet above the ground, Anna found that it was now safe for her to do as she pleased. With a triumphant smile, she jumped down, landing on the grass with a thud. As she was straightening her clothes, she heard a voice behind her.
"Who are you?" A tiny voice asked.
Anna cursed under her breath. She'd recognize that voice anywhere, she thought to herself. She turned to the little boy with an awkward smile.
"Tony, what are you doing here alone?" She asked, raising her brows.
She remembered that mother had instructed her maids to always be around Tony. There were reports of child abductions in their neighborhood. Seeing him alone in the back yard worried her. Where were all the maids? She thought, looking around.
"How do you know my name?" The little boy asked, his big brown eyes widening in surprise.
Anna slapped her forehead for the blunder that she had committed. In her concern for her little brother, she had forgotten that she was standing in a man's attire.
"I'm a friend of your brother's." Anna quickly replied, raising her chin, hoping that he wouldn't see through the lie.
The explanation didn't seem to get through to the boy. He narrowed his eyes, taking a step forward with his tiny feet. "Which one?" He asked, pointing a finger towards her face.
"Peter," Anna replied hastily.
"Is that why you're wearing his clothes?" Tony asked, looking her up and down with great interest.
Anna's mouth dropped open. For a three-year-old, her brother was too smart and observant. She had half a mind to pull his cheeks and tell him how much of a good boy he was. But she controlled herself. She had to protect her books. And if it meant fooling her little brother, then that's what she was planning to do.
"Well..." She trailed off, thinking for the best explanation. "These are my clothes. We both bought the outfit together."
"Why?" Tony asked, looking suspicious.
"Because that's how friends are." Anna lied with a shrug.
Tony didn't look convinced. "Why were you swinging on the tree?" He asked, pointing towards the guava tree.
"I was looking for some fruits on it," Anna replied, rolling her eyes.
"But I saw you jump from my sister's room," Tony said with a pout.
"You are wrong. I don't know Anna." She hastily replied.
She slapped her forehead once again, realizing her mistake. She shouldn't have taken her name. Anna looked at Tony warily. But for some reason, the little boy suddenly looked convinced.
"Are you here to take my sister away?" He asked, deviating the conversation in a much different direction.
"What?" Anna asked, raising her brows. Why would her brother think that? he was too young to know such things, she thought to herself.
Tony let out a sad sigh. "I heard mommy tell daddy that someone will come to take my sister away to his house." He said with a frown.
Anna was surprised by the information. She had always been the filial daughter. But she was only sixteen! Why would they think of sending her away now? She thought grudgingly. Anna now understood how her sister felt when their parents were forcing the marriage on her. Suddenly an idea flashed in her mind. It was high time that she used her brains to buy her some time, she thought, laughing inside.
"Oh, they did now, eh?" She asked with a smirk.
"I don't want you to take Anna away," Tony said, shaking his little hands at her in anger. "You can fight with the prince and take Rose if you want. Anna should stay with me."
Anna laughed at the statement. She was glad that she came across the little boy. She didn't know that he adored her as much.
"Hmm..." She said, smiling mischievously at Tony. "Why don't I tell you a secret?" She asked.
"What is it?" Tony asked while regarding her with suspicion.
"Do you want your sister to stay with you?" Anna asked, leaning towards his cute little face.
"Aahan," Tony replied, suddenly nodding his head enthusiastically.
"Then listen to me carefully." She said, leaning in to whisper her plan to his ears.