The Teal Gem, Kings Court, Tharia, 12:43 PM.
I opened the door to my room, surprised to see it empty with new sheets hugging the bed. Fantastic, no awkward goodbye. I removed my coat swiftly and placed it atop the new sheets. I rifled the coat's pockets for the bags of euphome and terria, the two herbs found in bones powder. Using a mortar and pestle kept in my cupboard I ground the herbs into a thin powder and placed them inside the metal shell of a new bomb I'd put together a few weeks before, including the gas-release mechanism and filter. I found the process of crafting therapeutic. It focused me. For the duration of the act I lost myself and everything I was, everything I'd done, meant nothing. Who I was wasn't important and I relished it whilst it lasted.
The time spent in my room was minimal. A stop-off before my journey to Huskway. I grabbed my coat from the bed and, to my surprise, saw Sara walking in from my bathroom. She was wearing nothing and her red hair was tied back, dripping wet, as was the rest of her pale, clean skin. Her piercing eyes were wide and alarmed, her lips parted with shock.
"Shit," I barked before averting my eyes. Always the gentleman. "I'm sorry, Sara, I thought you'd left."
"No, no! It's my fault, I-" she choked on her words as he grabbed the sheet from my bed, wrapping it around herself. "I was just using your bath, I'm sorry." I looked back now that she'd covered herself and saw the metal tub she'd used to carry in hot water next to my door, I'd missed it upon my return.
"I should've noticed. I apologise." I looked back to her, as if seeing her face for the first time, the dirt and grime from the street washed away. She was beautiful, there was no denying it. Her stance appeared shy, more than likely due to the nature of our meeting. "I'll be outside. Call me in once you've gotten dressed." I smiled in an attempt to be reassuring, though probably looked awkward, before exiting the room, clutching my coat and closing the door behind me.
I rested my forearms against the barrier of the landing overlooking the ground floor of the inn. I was there for no longer than three or four minutes before I heard the door open behind me. I span around to see Sara wearing a clean tunic that ran down just above her knees with black tights beneath and leather boots. Automatically my brow raised as my eyes scanned her attire, then locked with hers, smiling back at me.
"You found new clothes?"
"Bertha offered me some when she saw my rags. Lovely woman."
"Bertha? Aye, she's great," I lied, "and you look-"
"Great?" she said, finishing my sentence perfectly. She showed me a playful grin that I'd not seen on her lips before. It stole a breath from me. I brushed myself down in an effort to retain some composure.
"Aye, great." I nodded calmly. "So, where will you go now?"
"The streets." she whispered, a frown crossing her expression.
"I see." I gritted my teeth together. It was a shame that she'd be back in the alleyways of King's Court.
"Unless... I come with you?"
The question came out of nowhere and took me by complete surprise. "Sara, I don't take companions. You don't know anything about me, not even my name."
"Then tell me it." she was going to fight this until the end, I could feel it.
"Doc Carlisle." I lied again.
"No, it's not." she tilted her head to one side and placed her hands onto her hips. She'd traded in her shy vulnerability for a commanding stance and, honestly, she'd caught me off-guard. "Doc Carlisle is the name of the king's doctor. I'm no idiot."
"You can call me what you want, it doesn't matter, you're not coming with me."
"Bertha calls you Leech because you're a freeloader. She also told me you're a bounty hunter."
Fuck you, Bertha.
"That's exactly why I'm not taking you with me, you'll get yourself killed and I can't be dealing with distractions." I said, forcefully. I took a step forward as I contemplated allowing her to stay in my room whilst I was away for a few days. Was I crazy? I'd only just met this woman and I'd saved her life, now I was offering her my accommodation? She could be a murdering psychopath for all I knew and I didn't seem to care. Was it just sympathy because I'd seen her at her lowest? Whatever part of my mind was causing me to think like this was winning, I couldn't shove Sara back into the cruel reality of poverty.
"No, Sara. My offer is that you use this room until I return in a few days." I looked down into her emerald eyes. Nothing but silence ensued, grappling the air inseparably.
"Fine." she answered, bowing her head and covering her torso by hugging herself, her vulnerable self returning as though I'd flipped a switch. "I'm sorry I even asked, it's stupid."
"Thank-you. I owed you everything and now this? I just felt the need to help."
"You'd be more helpful to me alive. Just don't steal anything." I smiled whilst throwing my coat on. I offered her a hand to shake, ready to take my leave. Instead, she dove in and wrapped her arms around me, holding me tightly. I placed my hands on her back and sighed heavily.
"Thank-you." she whispered into my chest, her voice quivering as though she were about to cry. It didn't need a retort, the silence spoke for me.
After her arms dropped and she returned to hugging herself she looked up at me, green eyes shimmering in the dim light as her bottom lip trembled, wearing a solemn smile. I brushed my thumb along her cheek endearingly, my expression, cold by nature, harbouring a subtle smile.
"Be safe, Sara." I said softly before walking away. When I looked back, my door was closed and Sara was gone.
I had something to return to but I couldn't help but question myself. Was I falling for a stranger?