26: The Gentleman
I watched the light leave her eyes as she finally fell asleep. She’d been fighting it the whole time. Her struggle was obvious; it was written all over her face, her entire body and demeanor. But it had to be done. She now knew almost everything. I stepped close to her, delicately lifting her from the chair to carry her to her room. Her long black hair was clumped with drying blood, her forehead had a knot the size and color of a small plum, complete with a large cut in the center. It was still bleeding slightly, but it looked like it would be okay. The bottom of her shirt was torn, exposing her midriff when she moved. She had used the strip of cloth as a makeshift bandage but had pushed it back over top of the injury inadvertently. It held back some of her hair from falling into her cut, thankfully, but it wasn’t doing much else.
I picked her up and her head lolled back into the crook of my elbow, supported. She turned into my chest, but when her injury grazed my shirt, she moaned quietly. It broke my heart, to hear that sound – it was so pitiful, like a small kitten, mewling after it’d been beaten. I looked up to see The Raven and Liss watching me carefully. I straightened my face and walked out of the room, not giving either of them a second look.
I carried her slowly, careful not to jar her, back to my room. All I wanted was to return to whatever sense of normalcy that we had, the comfortable companionship we had fallen into. We had both been lying to each other, there’s no doubt about that, but I couldn’t help but worry that her feelings had changed. Would she still even want to be friendly with me? How hurt would she be, knowing that I was trying to use her as well? Did that sort of thing cancel itself out? I supposed I would have to wait to find out. It wasn’t like I could ask her right now.
She probably shouldn’t be asleep, now that I thought of it, but I couldn’t bear to wake her. I didn’t know much about medical procedures, but I think I’d heard somewhere that they shouldn’t lose consciousness for a certain period of time. Whatever – it was too late now. I decided that I would let her sleep and wake up on her own time. The peaceful expression on her face showed that her slumber was surely mercy, and I couldn’t bring myself to take that from her.
We reached my room, and I set her softly onto my bed. She didn’t so much as twitch when I adjusted her legs to straighten them out. I stopped for a moment – should I change her clothes? She was covered in blood, whether it was entirely her own, I wasn’t sure. But I didn’t want to undress her while she was unconscious, that wasn’t right. I settled for wetting a rag with clean water and dabbing away the blood from around her face and neck. She remained asleep, her breathing light, her lips barely parted.
I was able to clean most of the blood from her skin – there wasn’t much I could do for her hair while she was asleep – and I extracted a bandage from my nightstand. I always kept a first aid kit in my room; I’d often had need of a bandage, a sling, or some herbal salves. I applied a generous amount of salve onto the bandage and laid it carefully over her head. At the touch of the medicine to her cut, she let out the lightest, softest, sigh of contentment I’d ever heard. It had a fabulous cooling and numbing property that felt wonderful on broken skin. It also had some sort of magic in it that promoted healing, which I’d relied on many times before. Careful not to move her head too much, I secured the bandage around her, and tied a knot just above her right ear where I could reach. I made sure not to tie it too tight, but I didn’t want it to fall off.
I pulled up a chair, one that had previously been tucked in the corner near the small, horizontal window, up next to the bed. It made a loud, scraping noise that I feared would wake Larke, but there was no cause for alarm; she was still out cold. And now, I would wait.