Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chapter 23 Part 1

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
Alexis awoke to a dull ache in her shoulder and the strange sensation of sleeping in a different place. "Oh, heavens, why?" She cursed herself, remembering all that had transpired the night before and realizing that sooner or later, she would have to go out there and face Will. He certainly hated her now, if he hadn't before. Once again, she felt the intense urge to run. And why not? She'd done it before. Maybe no one was awake yet. Perhaps she could just slip out again. After all, who would be surprised? Who would miss her? Nobody. She could be free again.

Standing up carefully, she stepped on something soft. Picking it up, she realized it was a thin cotton tunic, and beneath that a slim pair of wool trousers, enfolded in a heavy green cloak. "Oh, right." Alexis fondled the soft, clean fabric with longing, shivering involuntarily as a morning draft danced across her bare arm and she looked down at the last tattered shreds that made up her dress. She recalled the icy stroke of the knife all along her arm as it sliced the sleeve. He'd brought her these, she realized, pressing the warm new clothes to her face and breathing a silent thank you into them.

She undressed quickly, her dress falling to the floor in a dirty pile at her ankles. The cold air twined about her bare, white frame and her teeth chattered as she stepped into the leggings. She sighed audibly as they settled thick and warm about her legs. She took a few hesitant steps and laughed softly. Never had she felt so much freedom. This was true luxury.

Alexis nearly leapt out of her skin when the door opened behind her. Whipping about, she saw Will standing dumb-founded in the doorway. He  blushed bright red and lowered his eyes. She cowered before him and turned away, her hands clutching the still folded shirt across her chest. Her bony, porcelain back stretched before him, deformed by terrible scars and bruises. A canvas of blue, yellow and red. He glanced at it in spite of himself, and his heart ached to think of how much pain she must be in.

Alexis's mouth hung open, but, try as she might, no sound would come out. Furiously she tried to pull on the shirt, and biting a cry as she realized it was impossible to dress with her wounded arm.

"You were going to run again, weren't you?" The question burned like a hot coal in both their hearts. Will set his jaw as he firmly took the fabric from her hands and settled it about her, waiting to be answered.

Her mind raced as she realized how much worse she had just made matters. "Will—"

"After all of this. All I've done, I only wanted to help you. I wanted..." His voice faltered to a stop. "Why? Why do you do this?" He was desperate to know now, and, having adjusted the shirt over her neck, he whipped her about to face him, catching a glimpse of the terror in her eyes before it dissolved into anger.

"Who are you to control me? So, you saved my life. Well, I seem to recall a pack of well-armed soldiers that would have torn you to shreds if I hadn't been there. So we're even. You have no obligation towards me! Just let me leave." The words meant almost nothing to her now. She had no plan, no valid objection to doing as he asked, all that spurred her on was the only instinct she had left: retreat.

"Let me look at your arm."

"No! You've done enough, now let me go! I'm not going to be anyone's prisoner. Not again. Not ever again." The tears burned and slipped through her weakened defenses. She turned away, ashamed of them.

"I don't want you to be a prisoner. I'm not trying to control you; all I want is to help you! Why can't you accept that and let me?" He pulled her back to him and searched her tear-stained face.

She saw then. She saw now, in his frightened, worried, gentle gaze, that he didn't hate her. That try as he might, he never could. "Because I don't deserve your help."

He straightened and stepped back, releasing her. "What?" His voice quivered with pained fury, and she saw that she had hurt him in a way she never had before. "You have no idea— You have no right to decide what a person does and doesn't deserve."  The look in his eyes hardened from soft concern to tortured, raw heartache. "Please, I need to take care of your arm, or it will never heal properly." He voiced his request in a heartless, cold tone.

Speechless in the realization of her wrong, of how awful she had made things, all Alexis could do now was nod, eyes cast down, shoulders hunched in defeat. "What have I done?" She groaned inwardly.

Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chapter 22 Part 2

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
Alexis watched Adam leave, confused and dismayed, faced with the idea of being alone with Will again. The silence in the room was oppressive, weighing on her chest till she could hardly breathe.

"Well, he's a supportive one." Will scoffed, resuming his bloody task.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Alexis asked, too quickly and too loudly. She knew exactly what he meant, but wasn't about to admit that she had been abandoned by the one person she'd expected to understand.

"Look, I'm in no position to judge whatever sort of a relationship you two have, but one would assume that he might be a little more concerned about your welfare than that." Will talked as he carefully cleaned the wound, feeling her muscles tense each time he touched her, knowing it was more a reaction of hostility than pain.

"He trusts you." She grimaced, bracing herself against the sting of the wet rag and the soft movements of his fingers.

"Oh, that's a good one." Will laughed unpleasantly. "He has no reason to trust me. Though, to be fair, he has even less reason to trust you." The last words were black with bitterness.

"What I said back there, before he woke up—" Alexis began, rising quickly to her defense.

"Was a mistake, right? You don't need to explain yourself." Will cut her off quickly, pressing the rag a little too deep into the gash and making her cry out.

"Fine then, I won't." She hissed, becoming increasingly annoyed with his attitude and the sharp pain now throbbing through her shoulder.

"The cut is infected and your arm is broken. I'll need to clean this again tomorrow, and then I'll sew it up. For now, do not sleep on this or attempt to move it in any way." He said curtly, wrapping the limb in a strip of white cloth and loosely tying it across her neck. "We're done here, yes?"

"Of course, if you're going to be such an ass about it!" Alexis spat at him. She was sick and tired of being made to feel guilty.

Will stopped in his tracks, straightening. The last straw snapped. "I'm... The ass?" He whipped about and advanced until his breath and the heat of his anger was all she could feel. But she refused to fear him. "I'm the ass?"

"Yes," She returned, meeting his burning glare and pushing aside the thick waves of pain spreading farther and farther across her body. "You're the one who couldn't leave me alone. You simply had to meddle. To bring me here and try to hold me against my will, to drag out secrets that were meant to stay in the past, and now you hate me for them. You hate me for things you had no right to know about me, things that I tried to protect you from, and still you brought me back. Why? Is this all really just a way to feed your ego? You want to chain me up here and pet me like some pathetic animal to make you feel good about yourself?" Her voice shook, spread thin to the breaking point, cracking into a spider web of glass.

The words fell on Will like an avalanche, but the cold didn't reach his heart before he declared, "Your safety became my business when I saved your life, and I was not the one who pulled your sins out into the light. You were the one who refused your only chance of survival, your last chance of being accepted and respected like a human being, and for what? So that you could run and hide, skulking in the dirt, alone with your lies. You made yourself into the animal, not me!" His eyes glistened in the last shreds of sunset peeking through the cracks in the wall, and his voice dropped, weighed down by the defeat in his words as he looked at his lost cause, seeing her shrink further inside herself even as he spoke. She would never allow herself to be loved; he saw that now. He backed off, blinking at the ground.

"If I am so despicable, so horrid and weak in your eyes, then why did you save me? Why couldn't you just let me die?" Her voice broke, the spider web shattering into a million fragments, but she furiously blinked back the tears she could not let him see, and held her ground even as she felt it crumbling beneath her feet.

"You don't get to ask that question." Will whispered, his anger gone. He backed off, feeling exhausted and hollow, letting her have her empty victory. "Get some sleep. Please, just stay here for tonight." He begged now as he made his way out, all the while wanting nothing more than to take her in his arms, to hold her close and whisper the answer to the question in her ear until it made its way into her heart, until she dreamt about it and accepted it as truth. Instead, he turned away and shut the door.

Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1