A Heart in Disguise

Chapter 8

I didn't have to turn around to hear the sound of clothing hitting the ground. There came shuffling followed by a similar noise of what was probably trousers, but I couldn't turn around. It was far warmer here than the surrounding area as if there was a little bubble of serenity enclosing us. I would have loved to bask in its glory; however, my mind was being preoccupied.

"What are you doing?" I asked warily without turning, for I knew if I did I would find an almost skin-clad woman staring back at me.

"Getting in?" she made it sound as if I had asked the most absurd thing in the world.

I turned abruptly to keep myself from taking even one curious look at the brunette when she glided past me. She proceeded then by dipping her foot into springs to test the warmth, a soft smile forming on her face. Once I heard the sound of water rippling, I spun back in place, catching a glimpse of pale shoulder blades before they were disguised by the water.

"Are you going to join?" the question was sincere, yet when I caught hold of her blue-green eyes there resided a glimmer of something more. I must have been imagining it, and I shook my head.

"I…no, I think I'm well right here, dear."

"Don't be that way," she frowned, meanwhile cupping her hands to fill them with water and splashing it onto her face, "When was the last time we got to actually unwind? The water is absolutely perfect."

"I'm very tired, Snow," my hand went to my head to emphasize an oncoming headache, "I'll go and set up camp."

I pivoted on my heels, but just as I was about to head back off to where our camp was, I heard her sigh. Alas, this wasn't a sigh of being pleased with the hot, calming waters. On the contrary, this one entwined with confusion and almost sadness. I knew if I were to look at her again, I would see an array of emotions that would cause my walls to crumble down to the ground below my feet, if not slip further into the Earth where I couldn't rebuild.

She cared for this woman far too much for my liking. This Wilma. This persona I had made up that was meant to gain me secrets, not feelings. I would come to regret this moment later on, or at least that is what I would make myself believe.

My slender hands pulled at the fur that covered my shoulders and slid it down, delicately folding the material before setting it only the ground. I went for my shirt next, yet when my hands hit the worn material I froze. I shouldn't have felt paranoid. I shouldn't have felt anxious to show my body on display, for I knew what I was. I was flawless. Yet at the same time I was worried that the disguise may have affected that part of myself as well and I felt vulnerable.

My beauty and power had always been my strengths and here I was without either.

Perhaps Snow sensed my worry in a way because she began to swim around in the opposite direction. I found myself staring at her for longer than necessary, studying the pale shoulders from afar as her arms stretched outward to pull herself forward.

I quickly discarded the rest of my clothes, folding them neatly, and made my way towards the hot springs. The odd aroma was still in the air, but fortunately I had grown used to it. I dipped my feet inside the water and a sudden shiver of temperature difference ran through me. It felt more amazing than I could have imagined. It had been over a month since I was able to bathe in such warmth. It was hot against my skin, yet not enough to burn. My eyelids closed and I completely submerged myself, allowing my raggedy hair to soak up as much of the water it could. It was when I finally finished combing my fingers through my hair that found each other's eyes once more.

Snow's lips pulled into a kind smile that seemed to depict more than kind words. It was meant to calm down the racing of my heart yet it only made it speed up. What was going on? I pursed my lips before diving into the watching, giving a much needed stretch to my tense muscles. Her eyes were following me; I felt them burning into my skin.

There was only the sound of the water splashing around and the silence of the mountain as we waded in the water, thanking whatever god that existed for this pleasant surprise. It was a much needed break from this endless journey. The sun was beginning to set in the sky casting a lovely hue against the misty water.

"I wish you would let me in."

At the sudden sound of her voice, my heart jumped to my throat and I looked at her from a few feet away.

"I beg your pardon?"

"What's going on inside that mind of yours?" she asked as she began to swim towards me. I tried to back up, yet was met by an edge.

I took a deep inhalation of breath while silently imploring with my eyes not to come any closer, yet she continued on. It wasn't until she was a little than a foot that she came to a halt. The same breath I had been taking in stopped within my lungs and I held it there, nearly begging my heart to stop pounding. I didn't understand why this was happening.

My eyes roamed over the exposed skin, everything below the shoulders being obscured by the shifting water, yet there was no denying we were both bare. Why was she so close to me? I swear if she came any closer I wouldn't be able to cope.

"Let me in," she whispered, "I can help you."

"No you can't," I shifted my gaze to a random tree in the distance, "If you knew the images in my mind, if you truly understood who I am, you would run as far away from me as you could, my dear Snow."

"That's not true."

I watched her pale hand rise from the water to set upon my cheek and I quickly grabbed it only to pull it away.

"You will once we reach your destination."

"What do you mean?"

"We'll part ways and go on with our lives."

The serene look that graced her beautiful face fell into the dark and I was almost the one to reach out and pull her chin up to eyes height. However, I remained still, yet my other hand was still clutching hers as if to prevent her from drawing closer.

"I had…I had the idea that maybe," she laughed bashfully as her cheeks turned rosy, "That maybe you'd accompany me well after our journey through the mountains ended."

It took quite a long time for the words to process through my brain. The wheels began to slowly turn, yet screeched with warnings of danger. I should have stopped her then with a typical reply.

Why on Earth would I ever do that? Are you out of your mind?

Nevertheless, I remained frozen in place regardless of how hot the water was that was resided in.

"I mean, why would I have dragged you all the way out here? To accompany me only to throw you away?"

I became away of my hand still pressed against hers and I drew back instantly as if it were a flame. Hazel eyes watched me sadly, but caught hold of something peculiar.

"Wilma, what happened?"

Her hand grabbed the same one I tried to pull away and pulled it close to study it. The hot springs may have been able to heal my tenseness, yet the bruise and scratches that still marred my knuckles remained.

"Nothing," I muttered, trying to rip away, but she held me by the wrist. It wasn't a tight restraint. If I truly wanted to I could break free.

"That is not nothing. What did you do?" I granted her silence while her finger slowly traced over the still slightly swollen skin. "You should have told me. These cuts could have gotten infected."

"They're just mere scrapes."

"It doesn't matter, Wilma. Little or not, an infection is an infection. As much as I like your company, I don't want sick company."

"You're right," I blatantly admitted for the first time looked down. It was slow, but her fingers entwined around mine.

"I wish you would trust me like I've come to trust you."

Slender fingers found my chin and tilted it up until I was looking into her eyes. My stomach was churning with her words. This wasn't right. None of this was right. As she pushed herself even closer to me, I couldn't think straight. There was an all-consuming warmth spreading throughout my body but it wasn't from the hot water. I tried to chase it away with ill thoughts, but the more I ran the more intense the heat grew, and before I knew it I felt soft lips pressing against mine.

I should have stopped it but I couldn't. The heat burned away every voice inside of my head and soon enough I found my own lips moving against hers in a gentle motion. Her lips were soft. Far softer than I ever imagined. And I couldn't stop. I hadn't been kissed like this in years and it was invigorating.

But then all of a sudden, as soon as her arms were beginning to draw me closer, I pulled away. I pushed her away with a sudden jolt as if Hades' very own hands had touched me with blistering fire. The world that had stopped spinning for the moment suddenly began to topple over and I was falling into a deep abyss that I had to escape.

I heard her calling after me as I pulled myself from the water, grabbing hold of my clothes and wrapping my jacket around me tightly. What had I just done?

"Wilma, wait!" I heard from behind me, yet I marched forward towards our camp. My mind was swirling with so many mixed emotions that I couldn't even begin to decipher.

I was confused. I was angry. This wasn't supposed to happen.

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