Testing Faith ~ Chapter 15

Not as it Seems

As the sun rose the next morning, Bella stood on the balcony of their hotel room and watched as the massive red ball of fire crested the horizon. This brought back happy memories of when she didn’t know that she was living in a cult. 

Her family would be up before dawn, starting their daily chores and devotions. The work was hard; however, the time spent with her family was priceless. Renee not only taught her how to cook, clean, and sew, but also how to love unconditionally. Charlie was always the leader of the house, governing not by strength but with a steady belief in treating others like you would want to be treated. 

“Good morning,” Angela said as she walked from the room with a steamy cup of coffee in both hands. Handing one to Bella who took it and drank a bit, savoring the hot creamy goodness. “How are you feeling?”

Bella shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve been better.”

Angela reached out and grasped her hand. “I will be with you every step of the way.”

“I know,” Bella whispered but turned back to the rising sun. “But they won’t be there.”

“No they won’t, however, we both know that they are looking down from heaven on us. You are giving them a voice and just maybe giving some insight into the workings of a cult that would help authorities help others who have been trapped by a snake charmer,” Angela explained.

Bella turned tears in her eyes. “Really?” She asked, hoping that Angela was right. Bella never wanted another family torn apart because they were tricked into a bogus religion. 

“Yes, really.”

Bella squeezed Angela’s hand and gave her a weak smile. 

An hour later, they were both dressed and in their vehicle following Detective Johnson and the other officers to the Solar Temple Compound. Pulling through the gate, Bella saw that nothing had changed since she had left, well except as she looked towards the middle of town on the hill where the chapel once stood and seeing the charred remains. 

The vehicles came to a stop and Detective Johnson got out and walked back to the vehicle where Ms. Swan was sitting. “Bella are you ready?”

Bella looked at Angela, who gave her a small nod of reassurance. “Yes, I am.” She got out of the vehicle and began walking down the street, telling Detective Johnson and the other officers about everyone who lived in the community. She gave a detailed account of each family and where they lived. When she reached the home that she had once shared with her parents, her heart skipped a beat.

“This was my home with my parents Charlie and Renee Swan. May I take you inside?” Bella asked, hoping to go inside and find her parents sitting around the kitchen table drinking their morning coffee.

“Not now, but after we tour the entire compound, I will allow you to go in,” Detective Johnson advised. She didn’t feel that there was any danger, but she would make sure that Ms. Swan would be accompanied by an officer.

Bella took another long look at the house before starting back down the street and continued her detailed accounting of the residents who lived in each home. They neared the remains of the temple and the home of the self-proclaimed leader of the Solar Temple. Unlike the other homes in the community, Aro’s home was lavish and stately. He had told his followers that because he was pure of heart and a true believer that he was awarded vast riches. After Bella left and got her head clear of the brainwashing that Aro had imposed all those years, she realized that Aro was nothing but a crook. However, she also knew that there was no way to convince all his followers to that fact. 

“Ms. Swan, who’s home is this?” Detective Johnson asked. 

“This is Aro Volturi’s house,” Bella answered.

The detective scrolled through her tablet and once finding a picture she turned to show it to Bella. “Is this Aro Volturi?”

Bella looked at the photo. The man looked like he was in his twenties or early thirties. As long as she could remember, Aro was older, but maybe that was just a disguise. “Yes, but he was much older looking.”

“This is Albert Valentino, aka Archie Venice, aka Andrew Vanpelt, and it seems likely Aro Volturi. He has been charged with bank fraud, identity theft, credit card theft, insurance fraud, confidence tricks, sexual battery, and many other offensives. He disappeared around twenty-five years ago and never showed up on any police radar until the fire,” Detective Johnson explained.

“Oh, my God!” Angela gasped. She knew that Aro was evil; however, she didn’t realize how depraved he had indeed been. What if Charlie hadn’t sent Bella away?

“Thank God he is dead!” Bella murmured as she thought back at the girls that had been made to become his wives. Aro had commanded that his wives we’re not to be spoken to unless he was present. 

Bella then recalled a spring day when she was hanging a load laundry she looked up and saw Bree walking down the road and without another thought she waved and said hello. Bree looked shocked, but a small smile broke out on her face.

“Hi, Bella,” Bree said happily. It had been so long since someone said anything to her. She missed the interaction between others. Aro never spoke to her in a friendly matter. Her life had been a living hell since the moment that Aro announced that she was a chosen one, the one whom the Almighty has blessed to be the wife of the spiritual leader. Her parents had been so delighted that their daughter was going to be the wife of the leader. It didn’t matter that she was only fifteen. She had been dressed in a pure white gown and given to Aro in a ceremony before the entire community. During this time, Aro was kind and gracious, however, that all changed when they were alone in his home. As soon as they walked across the threshold, Aro’s real personality came out.

“Strip that fucking dress off,” he ordered.

Bree’s mouth fell open in complete surprise and when she didn’t do as he commanded, he hand came hard against the side of her face. The piercing pain caused her eyes to water and her face to burn. As she looked up into his eyes, she saw pure evil and her heart began beating rapidly, like the scared rabbit that she was.

Aro couldn’t believe she had not complied with his demand. No one denies him, ever. Grasping the neck of the dress, he ripped it from her body, leaving her only in a white cotton bra and panties. “You will never wear undergarments again. Do you understand?”

Bree nodded her head, as her body shook violently from the attack. Why was this happening to her? She had been a good girl, always obeying her parents. They were so proud that she had been chosen, but did they know what she was facing right now? No, her parents loved her, that she knew for sure and never would allow anyone to strike her as Aro had done. 

Aro was tired of waiting, he needed to take what was his and this body was his to do anything he saw fit. Grabbing a hand full of her long brown hair, he dragged her across the marble floor and toward his rec room. His dick came alive as she screamed out in pain. “Oh, what a sweet sound. I can’t wait to hear you as I claim every inch of your body as mine,” he thought. Opening the door, the automatic lights came on, illuminating the equipment that he used to find enjoyment and pleasure. 

Bree’s head was throbbing where Aro had drug her; however, when he stopped, she looked up where she was and gasped. There were chains and long leather straps hanging from the walls and ceiling. In the middle of the room was a sawhorse, yet it was covered in leather with buckle cuffs on all four corners. On the far wall was a giant cross made of wood beams with the same type of handcuffs. What did he use all of this stuff for? 

Aro had allowed her to look around, but that time was over and it was time for her first lesson in pleasing her husband.

Aro took not only her virginity but also her soul and spirit that night. Every day after that night was filled with more degradation and humiliation. He had been following Bree down the road when she said hello to Bella Swan. The demon roared to life. How dare her to speak to anyone, she knew the rules. However, she would never make that mistake again.

Bella never saw Bree again after that day. A few weeks later, Aro made an announcement that the Almighty had come to him and that Bree had tarnished her position as wife to the leader. She had been removed from the community to prevent someone else from being affected by her diseased soul. 

“Miss Swan, we have not found any evidence that he is alive,” Detective Johnson said but didn’t say that there wasn’t any evidence that he was dead either. There was something about the chapel where the fire had been that was suspicious. All the doors were locked from the outside with padlocks. All the doors. 

After Bella explained everything she knew about the community, she and Angela were escorted back to her old home. The officer made them wait outside as he went inside to make sure it was safe for her to enter. When he was sufficiently satisfied that it was safe, he opened the door and allowed them to enter. 

Angela walked in first and Bella took a deep breath before walking in. Stepping through the door, she noticed nothing had changed since she had left. All the furniture was the same as well as the smells. It had been against the rules for women to wear perfume; however, Renee always placed drops of vanilla behind her ears. Memories of the smell danced around her mind and for the first time since setting foot back in the community property, she smiled. 

Walking over to the kitchen table, she ran her hand across the shirt that was draped over the back of the chair. It was her father’s plaid shirt that he wore almost every day when he was doing his chores. Pulling the shirt from the chair, she cradled it close to her chest. 

“I want to take some things with me,” Bella said to the officer.

“I don’t think that is a problem, Miss.”

Bella and Angela walked through the house and collected items that had the most sentimental value and place them in a basket that they had found. The Swan’s never had anything of actual value but these were priceless to Bella. The last room that Bella went into was her parent’s bedroom. 

The room was neat and clean, as it always had been. Bella walked over to the dresser and looked down at the little dish which always sat there. In it was two simple gold bands. Why were they here? Charlie and Renee never removed them from the strings that hung below their clothing. Aro didn’t allow jewelry, but they couldn’t give him the bands that they gave to each other on the day of their marriage. 

Picking up the rings, she stared down at them and a distant memory came back. 

She was sitting in her room a few days before she had to leave. Renee and Charlie came into the room to kiss her goodnight. As they bent over, the strings fell out of their shirts, the gold rings glistened in the lamplight. 

Charlie put his hand around his band and smiled. “Bella, we follow the rules of our community in all things except with this. These simple bands are as much a part of our body as our legs and arms are.” Then his face became serious. “If one day something bad happens and you find these rings, know that everything is not as it seems.”

“Not as it seems,” Bella whispered out loud.

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