A Heart in Disguise

Chapter 19

Red

The tavern was dimly lit by surrounding lanterns and candles as several drunken men drank their way into heavy bosoms. Some had the decency to continue their affairs in borrowed rooms upstairs while others neglected watchful eyes. One scruffy man had pulled a barmaid into his lap meanwhile continuing to gamble away whatever possessions he had with the rest of the men at the round table. Men could be pigs with or without alcohol.

The crimson clad brunette rolled her eyes and turned her attention to the ale in her mug that sat almost untouched. It had been quite some time since the woman had ventured outside of her comfort zone, but ever since her companions had departed, she felt an overwhelming feeling of loneliness.

With the waning of the moon now in play, it was safe for her to venture out to the nearest village if not to simply find comfort in passing strangers, but to explore.

Footsteps from behind were heard before an approaching shadow caught her eye. She did her best not to glance upward, but whoever this fellow was wanted her attention as he lingered beside her.

"You look lonely love," the dark haired man noted. The rum on his breath was beyond revolting and she began to question why she came out here. A floozy woman with a heavily exposed chest, with help from a rather tight corset, ventured over to his side.

"Care to join us?" he inquired with an insinuating raise of his eyebrow. A gleam from his hand caught her gaze as he threw his arm over the drunken woman.

"I think I'll pass, Captain."

She had easily gathered that he and his companions were sailors of the sea easily by their words. Out of all the men to stay away from, a pirate was on the top of the list.

"Your loss," he chuckled before motioning his companion along, disappearing into the night.

I could have gone with them, she sighed to herself. Snow and Wilma that is. But she hadn't trusted herself. Besides, Snow deserved a chance to be happy and all Red would be was a third wheel. She had held a secret love for the woman long before she ever realized it and the last thing she wanted to do was get in the way of her happiness.

They were probably off the mountain by now, she hopes at least, and finding comfort in a place far from the Evil Queen's grip.

Sighing, she indulged herself with the poisonous liquid in her mug and allowed her mind to drift. Her eyes closed, though, a few minutes later her ears perked to what sounded like interesting chitchat.

"What do you mean the Evil Queen has been acting strange?" one asked the bartender who was known for picking up rumors from passing travelers.

"I heard that she let a thief go with his life last week in court. Now you know that never happens."

"A few actually," another chimed in.

"That doesn't make any sense. Not that I'm complaining though. That bitch has already stolen more from us than we could ever try to recover with a mountain of gold."

"You know what's even stranger? All of the wanted signs for Snow White have been taken down."

Red nearly choked on her ale, causing the babbling group of villagers to look at her. She gave them an awkward smile that barely masked the dreadful fear that was starting to encase her before adding her two cents to the conversation.

"They caught her?"

The middle-aged bartender took out a rag with a grunt and began wiping down the counter where a man had splashed his mug.

"Watch it, Sylvester. I'm tired of cleaning up your mess tonight," he turned his attention to Red, "No one knows. There hasn't been any sign of her as far as I know. Not even a rumor of an execution or capital punishment."

"I see," was all the she could reply.

What did that even mean? Did they catch on to Snow's plan and trap her at the bottom of the mountain? Oh God, I knew I should have gone with them!

Not that she didn't trust Wilma to take care of her, but two women could only do so much against a group of the Evil Queen's knights. Red, on the other hand, could have easily snapped their necks.

Pushing herself up from her seat, she dropped a few extra coins on the table before shrouding her face with her hood. Without another word she briskly escaped into the cool night.


Snow

"What are you doing?" Wilma asked breathlessly with a chuckle as pale hands began to work at the string holding her coat together.

Hazel eyes darted upward into brown without a reply. Snow was searching for a all hazard signs, waiting for Wilma to push her away, except she found nothing of the likes. Instead she founded a possessing warmth in amber eyes burning with such a roaring fire that had been locked behind fearful pride for so long.

The electricity of the night danced off their fingertips. Lips connected and very soon they were falling onto the ground within the confines of the tent, free from all eyes, free from all judgment.

There was nothing but the sound of rustling wind against the tent and the long hours of the night that awaited them.

The air had become warm laced with the aroma of bright flowers. There was no longer a crude wind that would freeze one to the bone, and when there was a breeze it was absent of howling. However, the frozen memory of her forsaken friend had been forced into the very center of her heart which was draining the princess bandit of all life, a known consequence of sleepless, tormented nights.

Time was of little significance now ever since what happened, but even now she could hardly embrace it. She would wake up to the sound of chirping birds and turn to look at her companion sleeping soundly only to find that she was alone.

On nights that would grant her a few hours of rest she would be engulfed by nightmares…or were they recollections?

With the days growing warmer much of the food they had acquired spoiled when it could have been consumed, but she could hardly even make a fire without doing something stupid like getting a splinter. All the more, her stomach probably wouldn't have kept it down in the first place.

"I hate you…" she growled weakly under her breath as if the woman was responsible for taking away an innocent life, but there had never been one. How was she to accept that the woman she so deeply cared had vanished in the blink of an eye? Her heart felt like mourning, but how do you grieve over someone who never existed?

As she had done many times before, Snow arose from her slumber feeling more rejuvenated than she had ever felt. Quietly, not to disturb the other woman, she slid on her clothing that had been discarded the night before and took a quick glance at her companion. Her face was turned away from her and she wanted to reach out and touch her; however, she let Wilma sleep.

Departing from the tent, an ill feeling ghosted across her causing her to glance back towards her brunette company. Something felt off, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. It would only be moments later, after she finished boiling water for their tea, that she would find out why.

The next few hours passed with discontent silence. Without someone to talk to, the sense of loneliness was unbounded, free to snake around her limbs to pull her to her knees, but she couldn't stop. She hadn't come all this way just to give up.

The nearest town was only another day or two of hiking and all she had to do was think of this as simply a test of the mountain. Perhaps she could make herself believe that Wilma had simply been an illusion of her mind to keep her sane. At times she almost felt as if that were true, but then the memories would dance across her mind. There was no denying the ghostly imprint of a lover's touch. There was no way that her mind was capable of pulling such a feat.

Maybe there had been a fatal accident after they left the cabin and Snow had simply repressed what had happened to forget the pain of burying a lover. Out of all the events that she had been through, she begged herself to believe that one, yet the sting, the sense of betrayal, never ceased.

Up ahead the trail forked into two different paths. It was absent of a sign, yet the one to the right seemed more traveled. If it had been any other time, she would have taken the left out of curiosity and sense of adventure, but all she wanted to do was end this god forsaken journey.

And so she traveled down the path that showed signs of travel. It even looked as if a carriage or two had been through recently as well. The town she saw overhead a week ago shouldn't be far.

Once the sun began to color the sky with fiery colors, she drew out the supplies for camp. This would be the last night she would have to camp in these mountains. Once she found the village she would trade the game she had hunted for gold, hopefully enough to fetch a horse or at least a ride to the next kingdom. She could forget this entire journey; demand that her mind repress all that had happened so she could start a new life away from all this madness.

A faint smile formed across her pale lips, a weak one, but a smile nonetheless as she began her attempt at a fire. It was the sound of a horse not far away that stole her attention.

"That's her!"

Before she had a chance to catch the approaching visitor, something from behind smacked her in the back of the head and her vision faded black.


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