|Photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing|
Every strike and screaming yell from the previous day crashed in Alexis's ears like a tidal wave, crushing her body before receding again, leaving her breathless and shivering. She had felt pain before, she had gotten through, but this was different. It's hard to be strong, impossible to be brave, when you no longer have anything to live for. She had seen a lot of suffering, had borne most of it, but now she faltered, she collapsed.
She was afraid.
The minutes fell like bricks upon her as she waited, knowing that each passing second brought her closer to even more brutal beatings and questionings from the sheriff, terrible looks from Guy and the merciless guilt that plagued her soul. After pacing back and forth for what seemed like hours, clutching at her head and screaming at herself, worrying herself sick, she finally clasped her hands and fell to her knees without thinking about it.
After Alexis's mother had died, God had become nothing more than a cruel tyrant who had taken away the only person she couldn't live without. She avoided church, and tried to pretend that God didn't exist, but she had always felt a chilling sensation that He was watching her, that He saw all, and now she realized He knew the pain she was going through. She was alone in the world, and in desperate terror she cried out,"Oh, God, help me. God, help me, I'll do anything, but get me out of this. I don't want to die..." She whispered now, shocked at her own words.
But it was true, she realized. As rotten as it was, she liked living too much to accept death and she had nothing left to do but fight. She wasn't going to let Gisborne kill her. He wasn't going to win. She'd cheated him before, she could do it again. She sat up, wiped her eyes, and began to make a plan.
The sun was now just breaking free from the horizon and the only people awake in the castle were the guards and servants in the kitchen, preparing breakfast. With soldiers keeping watch there was no way she could sneak out, so she'd have to make them want to throw her out. But that wasn't the immediate complication. The problem at hand was finding a way out of her handcuffs and cell.
At that moment, she heard the chinking of keys against the prison warden's hip as he stumbled back and forth, making his rounds while warbling a slurred tune about a lusty wench from York. Every few steps he would lift a half-empty bottle of rum to his unshaven mouth. "Oh, God, why me?" Alexis asked, gritting her teeth and searching in vain for another option.
She let out a sigh and whispered, "This had better work." As quietly as possible, she brushed her face with the sleeve of her dress and combed her hair with her fingers. Clearing her throat and clutching a large, broken-off piece of brick gingerly in her hand and hiding it in the folds of her skirt, she got to her feet and crept up behind him.
"Hello there," She whispered slowly in his ear, laying her voice on thick and sweet like honey. He turned clumsily to meet her with a smirk.
"Well, ain't you the ugliest little cur the sheriff's dragged in." He muttered. His breath landed warm and rank on her face, and she resisted the urge to gag.
"Perhaps I am, but you are certainly the handsomest fellow I've ever laid eyes on." She cooed, rubbing her hand up and down his arm and leaning in closer. Her voice sunk low and her eyes challenged him. "It must be so hard watching us prisoners day and night. Surely such a valiant, noble man like you deserves a gift for his faithful service to the king."
He laughed again and was all too eager to comply to her unspoken request. In a moment, her lips were against his and he was lost in her spell. The next moment, she had clubbed him over the head with the brick. Down he went, rolling in a dirt heap on the floor. His keys were ready for the taking as they hung in his belt loop.
"Thank you very much, my friend." She grinned as she unlocked the chains on her wrists and turned the key in the door. Stepping over his unconscious form, she was out of the cell. Carefully, she lifted the jailer's cloak from it's peg on the wall, and crept towards the door, shielding her face in the hood. She slipped past the guards with some forced tears and a story about being a prisoner's sister.