Chapter I: Ingwer Tee
Common, it's alright."
I pathetically squirmed away from the man, Farlan. For the last several hours I had been poked, scrubbed, and handled endlessly. I was tired and bordering on crabbiness. Why wouldn't they just let me rest?
A damp-cold-rag was pressed against the rim of my right eye. The throbbing intensified. Again, I hissed and wormed away. The chills crept inside of me like venomous ants. Farlan held me tighter as he tried once more to hold the fabric on my face. I wanted no part in this treatment.
He let out a sigh, "I give too. Guess it wasn't just Isabel. " I sat there on his lap wrapped in oversize clothes that they gave me after my bath. My arms were tucked around my sides for warmth and security. Everything was scary. I wasn't the least convinced these people weren't dangerous. Daddy said, don't trust anyone…especially men.
"Ugh-" Isabel groaned, "raising kids is hard!" I looked at her quietly with a busted face. Was I really that much trouble? I didn't want to cause problems-they led to punishments. But still I remained tight lipped. "Maybe she's deaf- a mute?"
Farlan laughed, "Nah-just a little nervous is all. She'll talk when she's ready. Common let's see that eye-" He came at me with the cloth. I held up my hand and drifted my head away while coughs erupted from my chest. "Stubborn."
"She and Levi-bro would get along great!" Isabel cracked up at her joke and eventually Farlan joined her. Levi strolled into the room unaware that he was the center of the commotion.
"Ah Levi just in time-" Farlan stood up with me in his arms. I lightly clung to his shirt. What was he going to do with me? "Here-you're on duty." I was shuffled into the hesitant limbs of the shorter man. His stiffness only fed into my fears.
"Tch, no way-I'm not apart of child sitting." My heart raced with anxiety. I wasn't going to get punished right? My body slightly tensed. Farlan tossed the rag to Levi.
"Just give it a try. Once that swelling is down then she can lie down and rest. But until then, we can't have that fluid filling around there." Farlan rubbed my head softly before walking off.
"Isabel come over here-" Levi was cut off.
"No way Levi-bro. It's your turn. Besides she's like a copy of you." The girl let out a giggle before dancing off with her other friend.
"Hey-Isabel! Farlan-!" Levi called. But no answer was returned other than the sound of my mucus filled lungs breathing near his ear. With a heavy sigh, the man holding me walked toward an empty chair and took a seat. I was consumed with the feeling of pins and needles. His robotic actions and unwelcoming tone kept me on edge.
Without a word and without resistance from me, the cloth pressed around my eye. I let out a light cry as the pain sizzled under the busted skin. Levi gently blotted the area before again applying pressure.
"Tch. She's nothing like me." Levi whispered as he rotated the cloth to the colder side. "Her eyes haven't seen everything, yet." He talked at me as if I wasn't there. His words were low and subtle.
My body relaxed against his. I let my head be cradled under his collarbone and his heartbeat soon became my lullaby. I hadn't realized how comforting it was to be close to someone. To an individual that was calm and reassuring.
"Dad-" I muttered unexpectedly.
After a while, my eyes grew heavy enough to let myself drift into a light sleep.
"Shhh, its ok! It was just a dream-just a bad dream!" Isabel was frantic as she tried to figure out what to do. Not even the bribe of going outside was going to settle me down.
"Daddy-! Dad-" I sobbed uncontrollably. My lungs chocked on the dry air and my body swelled with heat. Even my forehead and back was damp with sweat. I felt a hand touch my skin above my brows. My eyes rapidly blinked as I tried to adjust my vision. It was painful opening them, the swelling; the bubbling stove inside me was putting a heavy amount of pressure on the lids. My cracked lips cried for my dad again. I just wanted him.
The hand jerked away from my skin.
"She's burning up. Wow, that's a horrendous fever." Farlan sat on the edge of the bed. The tears spilled as he tried to wrestle me from out of the blankets. I whined, pleaded for the warmth to come back. My insides were shivering up like frosted windows.
Farlan tried to comfort me. His hand would rub my rosy cheek and then down my arm. Goosebumps would follow his touch.
"I-I want my Dad. Daddy-" I mumbled in despair. Though it seemed as though my desires were never to be answered. I tossed myself away from their direction. My ribs shrieked in agony, as the bruised bones weren't ready for any weight. Even my lungs reminded me of how drowned with mucus they were. Again, the relentless coughing began.
"I know kiddo-I know." Farlan slowly twisted my knotted self back onto my spine. I bit back the cries. Don't be troublesome, that's what dad always said. "Once we get you back on your legs, we will get you to you dad." Even over my raspy breathing I could hear those enlightening words.
My glassy eyes slightly widened, "Really?"
"Hey-nice to see those full eyes kid! No more tears-m'k?" Isabel sent me a huge smile followed by her usual laugh. I blinked a few times before looking at Farlan. Hope, still rested on my shoulders.
"You promise?" I asked with a horse tone. Farlan's blue orbs wouldn't tell a lie.
"I promise." He glanced at me, and then gently ruffled my hair before continuing. "We'll search high and low. And even venture where no one goes-until your with your dad again." Weakly I lifted up my small pinkie finger.
"Swear?" I questioned. It wasn't a done deal unless someone swears to the pinkie, dad had mentioned on a cloudy day. I waited. Farlan, was quicker and more brilliant, in my eyes, he held out his crossed arms with too pinkies.
"I'll double swear to it, kiddo." He and I, with crossed limbs, and locked fingers made the agreement. "On my life even."
And with that, I returned a small grin.
Those were the only muscles that weren't overly sore.
It was a chilling silence.
It seemed so long ago, when Isabel and Farlan had decided to retreat to their rooms. I couldn't blame them; they had spent hours with me. Between the doctoring, catering, and emotional healing, I was surprised they hadn't deserted me sooner. Now, I was beginning to feel that lonely solitude, I had endured on the streets.
The nightly shivers invaded me from the inside.
Farlan decided it would be better if my body lowered to its normal temp. And in doing, so required me to be bare for the remainder of the night. The baggy clothes weren't much to count on, when battling goosebumps.
My teeth began to chatter.
I tried to imagine the fun moments before they left. My mind was occupied while they were here, Farlan and Isabel. I was beginning to enjoy their company, their friendly conversations. I didn't voice much; instead, I simply listened. Honestly, it was the most blissful time. Lately, I couldn't recall, an interaction that didn't involve a scuffle or bickering.
However, these thoughts weren't scaring off the devils under my skin.
Oh, the chills.
My eyes scanned the area. It was a small bedroom, with undecorated walls, a musty smell, creaky floors, but still clean. My eyes peaked at the dim ceiling.
Yeah, still clean-
I let out sigh as the shiver coated my body. I squeezed myself tighter and practically blew hot puffs of breaths into my hands. It was useless.
Hesitantly, I uncoiled myself and listened for any detection of sounds. I waited, in silence and darkness while my ears were on radar. The seconds ticked by; and not a trace was heard. The only noise that tickled my senses was the light snores escaping the other resident's rooms. I twiddled my thumbs.
Was this a good idea?
I slowly, almost in a robotic fashion, shifted to the edge of the bed before I dangled my legs over the edge.
What if you get caught?
I pushed my weak body from the mattress. My tiny fingers nervously danced by my chest, as I contemplated over instincts v.s emotions. It was hard making choices. My mind felt like a broken record; its disk never seemed to come to a conclusion.
Around and around it spun.
And awkwardly I stood.
Finally, my stomach had turned enough to flush away all the built up fear. I had convinced myself that I was simply looking for warmth. There wasn't any harm in that, right?
"Get some sleep, kiddo. We'll be in the next room over. If you need anything just ask. Don't leave the room without one of us, alright?" Farlan ruffled my hair one last time before exiting the room.
The instructions had been clear.
Don't leave the room-
Miraculously, I had floated across the uneven floorboards without as much as a squeak. My fingers hovered over the chipped door handle. Though, my head felt foggy, I continued onward. I held my breath, before I gently pushed open the heavy wooden frame. I nearly fainted.
The door wasn't in favor of my idea.
Its screeching hinges cried out against me. I stopped, and then tried again. Regardless, the door refused to cooperate. I heard stirring from the rooms next to me. Once the bed rustling settled, I went about leaving.
It took time however; I had managed to worm my way through opening. I glanced around. Since, the area wasn't large, I could easily make out the couch I had sat on when I first arrived. The table set was somewhat fuzzy, but visible within the shadows.
The snores echoed.
At that point, I assumedeveryone was in bed. With a bit more confidence, I headed towards the furniture in the main room. I recalled seeing my old clothes from before. Any extra fibers would be gracious, even if there were holes.
It was a struggle to walk, let alone be light footed. Let's not forget that holding back coughs was a difficult duty on its own. With burning lungs, I made my way into the room. It took some time to survey the area. For some reason, my vision was growing worse. My right eye throbbed horribly.
After snooping around, checking behind the couch, shuffling a few counter objects, and sighing in defeat, I figured it would be best if I headed back. I didn't want to get in trouble. Punishment wasn't something I wished for.
As my weary feet carried me to my room, a dense looming darkness caught my attention. My heart hammered as my eyes engaged the partly open door. The feeling wasn't settling well with my gut.
"Remember, curiosity killed the cat." Dad had looked at me with tired eyes, "That has to be one of your worst traits."
A cooler air brushed my pink cheeks. I stepped pasted the doorway. The room had the damp feeling of a crawlspace not of sleeping quarters.
"Is-is this someone's bedroom?" I whispered to myself. The dizziness was growing over me. I blindly gripped the edge of a hard surface. My nails scrapped the rough texture. "A desk?" I choked back a few aching coughs. My nerves were still on edge as I headed towards my left. The only light came from the streetlamps behind the cracks of the cement walls.
From what I could make out, the desk was worn but polished. It was bulky with multiple drawers. The chair was positioned just so within the open space. Everything was neatly put away. Upon closer examination, there didn't appear to be a single scratch anywhere.
My thoughts drifted and so did my line of sight. I looked around the room. Nothing seemed to peak my interests. The bed was well kept, sheets were smooth, corners tucked, and the pillow was well centered on the mattress. Did someone actually live here?
I heard a distant thud.
My adrenaline jolted.
The muscles in my limbs stiffened.Quickly, I slid underneath the desk's space. The chair's base nearly touched my chin, as my veins pulsed while the footsteps from the main room grew louder. My eyes went wide. I thought everyone was asleep? I clenched the tendons around my ribcage.
Don't make a noise.
The sound of boots shuffled back and forth. I heard a door creak followed by a few huffs. That didn't sound like Farlan. I could feel the stove within me ignite. Instantly, I was coated in a sweat. I forced myself to even cease breathing.
I told you, you would get caught-
Remember what dad said?
Remember, dear? Curiosity killed the-
The tension never left, even when I caught sight of small handle jutting out above my head. Cautiously, I let myself pull at the strange object. It took some effort and some wiggling, but eventually a small door slid open. The footsteps had stopped; for the moment figured I was safe.
With a twisted wrist, I reached up into the trap door. Normally, I would have told myself that digging a deeper hole for myself wouldn't be in my best interest. How could I resist though? I didn't feel anything at first. I had to keep fishing, eventually my fingers wrapped around a smooth plated item. Something fluttered to ground.
When brought into focus, I could see the lite glint of silver. My hand cradled the knife as my other finger traced the flat blade. I usually wasn't afraid of these sorts of tools. Daddy used them countless times.
Except this, this one was hidden.
"Wh-y?" I pinched my brows.
I hadn't heard the footsteps. Had I, I wouldn't have been caught dead with this secret weapon in my hand. Nor would I have been seen outside the room. I couldn't control the fear that was pooling through my body.
A blood stained cloth lay at my feet.
"Wha-wha-tt" I shuttered as my eyes watered. Who were these people? Thugs? Killers? My mind was swirling with confusion. They weren't planning on killing me, were they? The imagination exploded within me. I wanted to scream but instead, I found myself only able to tremble.
Daddy warned you not to trust others.
You disobedient little girl-
The burning sensation was brewing in my chest.
"What do you think you're doing?" A low voice growled. The panic snaked under my skin; it crept around the organs, and strangled my throat. "Get out of there-now." His tone wasn't one to argue with.
Reluctantly, I crawled out with shaking arms. My stomach twisted in knots. What was to come of me? I hung my head low. I couldn't meet his gaze, those cold eyes. The knife was pressed under my palm. There was no hiding the truth.
"Admit your crimes, child!" Dad said in a raised voice.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, brat?" His tone was no less furious.
I whimpered uncontrollably.
I felt strong hands squeeze my shoulders. Instantly, I was hoisted to my feet. There was no denying the anger on the man's face. His thin tight lip was snarled. His brows pushed on his narrow eyes. All I could do was shake in his hold.
"I-I" But I couldn't get the words out. My mouth was too dry. I found myself subjected to tear stain cheeks. The sockets of my eyes pounded with pain. My congested lungs fired like cannons. "I-I'm so-sorry. Sorry-I didn't mean-I was just-"
My leaky eyes turned into soft cries.
"Tch." Eventually, his grip loosened. "Hand it over." His voice gradually relaxed as he held out his hand. Without question, I passed the blade to him. Still the fears of the unknown danced within me. Levi bent over and retrieved the bloody cloth as well.
"So-sorry-" I said with an aching heart. I knew I was in the wrong; and even more so, I was sorry I was caught. The sweat dripped from around my neck. The sickness was consuming me. "I-"
"Forget it." The man slammed a desk door next to me. I flinched. Levi let out another sigh. "Don't let me catch you in here again. We clear?" I nodded frantically."Yes-yes Sir." I replied with bouts of sniffles. I watched Levi's expression somewhat soften. Still I remained, tense with worry. If I could have hid in the sleeves of my clothes, I would have.
"What are you doing out of bed?" He asked bluntly. I swallowed a lump.
"I-I was cold, Sir."
"Look at me-" The tips of his fingers raised my chin to his view. I looked anywhere but directly into his gaze. I didn't want him to think I was a threat. "That swelling is back. You knock it on something, brat?" I looked away from him.
"No, Sir." I felt a hand rest on my back. I sucked in a mouthful of air.
"Common, let's get you fixed up."
Levi led me toward the sitting area.
Again, I sat on Levi's lap while he applied another cloth to my eye. He had wrapped me in one of his used jackets and several blankets. A steaming cup of Ingwer Tee rested warmly in my hands. Its sweet aroma filled my aching airway and was additive to my taste buds.
"Better to sweat that fever out."
My limbs no longer left numb. I nodded in agreement.
I did as I was told. The tea was delicious; it wasn't difficult task. My lips met the hot liquid before taking a huge gulp. The spice sizzled down my throat.
"Tha-Thank you- Sir." I said shyly. The cloth rotated around my eye. The pressure made my skin sore, but the surprisingly, the coolness of the fabric felt good.
"Tch. Just don't spill any of my clothes. Otherwise, you'll be washing it." I took another sip, hoping to avoid the topic. The rag was pulled away from my face. Levi's thumb rubbed around the rim of my eye. I looked at him with uncertainty.
"Who did this to you?" The man asked rather quickly. I wasn't sure what he meant. Hesitantly, I asked.
"What do you mean, Sir?" I blinked.
"Who caused you to go blind in that eye-?"
Again apologies for not editing.
I write these chapters late at night.