Friday, June 12, 2015

Chapter 24 Part 1

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
Alexis struggled up the hill as Will yanked her behind him, his grip biting into her wrist, restricting circulation. She watched in silence as he helplessly flailed his arms in anger, wanting to strike at something, but, seeing his cousin's blood on his knuckles, realizing the horrible thing he'd done. Controlling himself, he turned back to where she stood breathless and worried. "Will..."

"I need to fix your arm. Let me finish." His voice creaked as he walked back to her, and she could see the tears falling fast and bright down his twisted face. Picking up the needle which dangled painfully from the string in her wound, he tried to continue what he had been doing, but his hand trembled visibly, shaking and crashing about despite all his efforts to control it. His breathing was haggard and choked by sobs.

"Will, stop!' She pulled away, feeling the anger boil beneath his skin. Her heart raced, and, for a brief instant, he saw the fear flash in her eyes.

"Let me help you!" He screamed, grabbing her arm. "Just let me help!" He ran a hand through his hair as the words tripped over sobs. "I-I'm so tired of people getting hurt for my benefit..." His voice faded and he dropped his hand. But it wasn't over yet.

He walked up to a tree and began beating it again and again and again, screaming, the tears falling faster, until the skin of his knuckles pulled back to the bone and he doubled over, falling to his knees in the snow, shutting his eyes as his anger began to melt and he could feel the cold snow sinking into his skin.

Alexis watched with wide eyes. What should she do? His broken cries made her heart quiver and ache. He was supposed to be the strong one. She was so weak; how could she possibly help? He lay motionless, exhausted and drained, tears slipping down the bridge of his nose.

His passion was gone, and all that was left was the throbbing pain, which, after reaching fever pitch, had receded back to its endless, dull ache. Alexis. Robin. His parents. Through the iciness chilling the hot trails of his tears, he felt a hand on his shoulder and heard a distant, gentle voice in his ear.

He had never seen such softness in her eyes. "You need to stop."

 His shoulders shook as he wiped his eyes and low, moaning cries filled the silent winter morning.

"Tell me about it." Alexis knelt beside him in the snow, slowly, hesitantly stroking his back, nervously twining her fingers in his hair, remembering how her mother used to sooth her own frequent fits of rage. "Tell me why you're angry."

"I am a terrible person." Will whispered, staring at the white blanket draped across his knees.

"No, you're not."

"I am. After all I did, to them, to you... All Robin ever did was try to help me, and now look what I've done."

"But that's not the reason." Why was she doing this? How was she doing this? Why was it permitted? He should hate her, should slap her away or beat her, not the tree. But he knelt there, accepting her presence, after all she'd done. This was what he'd wanted, she supposed. Here she was, staying by his side when she could have run, but why? Why did he want her when all she did was hurt him?

"No, it's not." He breathed, feeling her light touch on his cold skin. He wondered if this was a dream. "Alexis..." He turned to her, eyes shattered and pleading, his bloody hand resting on hers. "Please, stay. Please."

She felt his gaze in hers, his hand in hers, his heart in hers. Taking a shaky breath, she pushed aside all the voices crying inside her to not be a fool, telling her that this was the path to ruin. All the voices ceaselessly crying why, why, why? Because right now, it wasn't about her. Will was hurt and it was her fault, and she couldn't live with another weight on her conscience, certainly not one so unbearably heavy. This was his request, and, though she couldn't understand it, she had been the cause of enough disappointment. "Alright." Her lips trembled as she spoke. "Alright, I'll stay. For now, for as long as you need."

Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chapter 23 Part 2

photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing
Adam stumbled into the icy morning sunshine, blinking against the gleam of the snow. His head ached, partly from the still-tender bump growing on it, and partly because he hadn't slept well the night before. He'd squirmed in and out of the covers, too hot, too cold, too scared, too guilt-ridden.

Had he been right to leave Alexis alone in there with Will last night? Seeing her hurt had filled him with a wave of nausea. Her ragged face and empty eyes had held him back, even as they begged him to stay, staring into his soul, telling him that this was all his fault. And the worst part? The worst part was he knew that she didn't blame him.

Why was he doing this to himself? It wasn't his fault. He hadn't known. He'd spent all night trying to convince himself of this, but, no matter how he tried, his heart would not let him forget.

Now he found the fire blazing happily, a stark contrast to the sullen pair crouched on a log beside it. Alexis was huddled as far from Will as possible, biting her lip against the pain whilst he ran a thin, hot needle through her shoulder, stitching up the wound with a look of indifference clouding the hurt in his eyes.

Another stab of guilt. Smothering a groan and realizing it was too late to turn back and hide, since they had already seen him, Adam sidled up awkwardly and watched as Will worked. "Doesn't that hurt?"

"No." Alexis said quickly.

"Yes." Will replied simultaneously. They shared a brief glare and went back to sulking.

"Alright then..." He scratched his head and looked about, hoping desperately for the presence of another person to ease the palpable tension in the air. His wish was granted, in a fashion, when the icy crunching of footsteps brought into view a tired, dirty Robin. "Damn." Adam winced, seeing the annoyed look in the man's eye as he approached. "Morning." He ventured hesitantly. He should have stayed in bed.

Robin nodded a curt acknowledgement. His eyes were red and heavy, his lips twitched with agitation. "Ah. She's still here." He noted, glancing at Alexis.

"Is there a problem?" Will asked, an edge to his voice as he looked up.

"Evidently not." The answer was less than satisfactory.

"Good." With that said, Will turned back to his work, jabbing the needle too deep and making Alexis break her vow of silence. "Sorry."

"So, where's my breakfast then?" Robin asked, determined not to be ignored. "Surely she can cook, right?"

Will stiffened. Alexis drooped. "Excuse me?" He rose to his feet in an instant as she buried her face in her good hand.

"Everyone in this camp must earn their keep. We've been needing someone to do the woman's work around here. Surely she can handle that?" Robin watched with sick pleasure as his cousin's eyes brightened and his nostrils flared.

"She doesn't have to do a thing unless I say so!" Will pushed his cousin back with more force than he knew he possessed.

"Oh, really? I'm sorry, I didn't know you suddenly held so much control. Last I checked, I made the decisions around here. My mistake, your highness." Robin sneered this remark, dropping low in a mocking bow. His mistake indeed. In a second, he was on his back, nose broken and bleeding from the punch that Will had hurled.

"Stop!" Alexis rushed towards them, but Adam held her back. You'll only make things worse." He whispered, locking his arms tightly about her waist.

"I'm sick of it!" Will screamed, chest heaving. "I'm sick of everyone telling me what to do, of making my decisions for me. I'm sick of being told to step aside, to trust you, of being made to feel like a child! I'm not a child anymore." He yanked Robin by the collar till they were face to face. "You want to take all of it from me, to punish me and make me miserable, saying it's for my own good, but the truth is, you simply can't handle the fact that I am a free human being, not some slave you can order around, not some infant for you to protect."

Robin allowed himself to be punched again, feeling his head spin as he fell a second time, blood smeared across his whole face. The ground rolled beneath him, and his bottom lip was split deep to his chin. He could have had Will on the ground in his stead, beaten to a pulp, begging for mercy through a toothless mouth, but Robin simply lay there, flinching more at the words than the blows. "Are you through?" He asked, spitting out a mouthful of blood.

Will drew back his fist to attack again, but after a moment of deliberation, lowered it, all the while cursing his own weakness. Biting back a scream, he turned away and stormed off into the woods, grabbing Alexis's wrist and dragging her behind him.

"Hey—" Adam began to protest, but a look from Alexis silenced him.

Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1