Free at last.
Today was the day. The day Rey would finally be free.
After day five of bed torture, Rey started to feel extremely desperate. Brynn was relentless, and it seemed she would never see sunshine again.
Until she found an unexpected ally in Lia. The woman agreed with Brynn wholeheartedly, but even she noticed how lifeless Rey became, and her heart softened.
It took a while, but she managed to convince Brynn to let Rey go on a short walk, and today was finally the day.
S took it upon his shoulders to keep an eye on her. They encountered their first obstacle when Rey was getting out of the bed. She did take all the necessary bathroom breaks and did as many strolls around her room as Brynn allowed, but even all that didn’t prevent her legs from becoming lazy.
It wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but in the end, they managed to get them to work, even though Rey needed to use S as a personal armrest.
And when he opened the door and Rey finally stepped over the threshold, she breathed in the light mid-summer air and the pieces of her soul bloomed.
It wasn’t the first thing a surprise visitor would notice, but there were still visible traces. The burned-out places where grass once used to be. The not yet cleared parts of the roof that was set on fire. The vigilant glances of people that now kept looking behind them every few steps they took.
But as the village slowly healed, so would they.
Speaking of villagers, Rey was more than sure she would end up with a headache by the end of her walk.
Most of the people saw her for the first time since the accident, and they would not look away once they recognised her.
Rey tried to return the honest smiles sent her way, but there was still something convulsive behind hers.
The last time she was in the centre of this much attention, it was for a whole another reason. And this whole situation was bringing out bitter memories.
And as always, the situations had to get worse.
“Do you want to turn around?” S whispered close to her ear.
He was uncharacteristically quiet, probably letting Rey soak in all the changes.
“No,” Rey shook her head, “it is not like we did anything bad.”
If so, they should be the ones leaving.
Of course, they didn’t, and Rey held her breath all the way, she and S walked around them.
She held her breath in fear they would come closer to them, but they didn’t.
Her mother wanted to. She even made the first move, but the resolute grip of Rey’s father on her arm stopped her.
Rey’s mother didn’t appreciate his efforts a bit and as Rey walked away from them, she heard a sound that very much resembled a slap.
S heard it too because his whole body flinched, but he went over it without comment.
By the time they got to the other side of the village, Rey’s legs protested so much, S helped her sit down on the ground. He took a spot right next to her.
“Are you happy to be finally outside?” He asked.
“You know I am,” she gifted him with a blissful smile.
He returned it with a: “Me too.”
A sudden wave of guilt hit her heart and Rey said: “You don’t have to spend so much time with me. I promise nothing is going to happen to me.”
The silly boy still refused to move away from her for more than a couple minutes, and Rey didn’t know how to convince him it was okay.
“There is no place, I would rather be,” he said, his words final. There was no point in negotiating.
Rey quieted down for a while. She was too busy enjoying the sunlight glistening on her skin and the chirping of the birds around.
But S soon interrupted her seance by saying: “You never said anything. Why?”
“What do you mean?” Rey asked, but she had a hunch she knew exactly what he was hinting at.
She turned around to scan their surroundings. Did he want to do this now? In front of all these people?
He noticed her actions and said: “It is not like they don’t know. Most of them knew long before I even had a clue something bad was going on.”
He had a point.
“I -” Rey started, but it wasn’t easy to get her thoughts out.
“You guys were the closest thing, I had to a family,” she confessed.
But she didn’t get back the usual sparkles in his eyes, just a: “Don’t really feel like it now.”
Wow. Rey thought nothing could make her feel like shit more than her parents and Talon did. But S managed to overcome them all.
“That’s not ... I ....”
She wanted to share with him how wrong he was. How all three of them meant the world to her. But the words betrayed her.
S sighed and stopped her rambling with an apology: “I am sorry. That came out wrong. It’s just I feel like such a failure. Every time I felt bad about something, you were there. Every time I was hurt, you were there. Even every time I got sick. You with your kind smile and reassuring whispers made me feel like everything was fine because I had you by my side. And all the while, I had no idea of the pain, you went through.”
Rey wanted to stop him from saying anything else, but he wouldn’t let her: “I know, I am only thirteen years old and that might be a huge reason why you never said anything. After all, I am only now learning properly what having a mate really feels like. And I would probably not be much of a help, but I still wished I knew you were in pain. So that I could tell you everything was going to be fine, just like you told me.”
“You told me,” Rey said and continued as he stared her down sceptically, “maybe not with words, but with your gestures. I was half dead when I stumbled upon you. A piece of me was ripped out, and all I wanted to do was to die with it. But with every smile you gave to me, with every person we saved along the way, with every kind word, every meal, every good morning and good night, you all gave me a reason to stay alive. You still do.”
It had been years since she last saw him cry, and even then he claimed it was only because something fell into his eyes. But the wet drops falling from them now were unmistakeably tears.
“Oh, come on,” Rey said and wrapped her hands around his tiny body, “I did not mean to make you cry.”
“Am not,” he said stubbornly, “something fell into my eyes.”
Rey giggled: “Of course, it did. Of course.”
She gently stroke his hair as she thought about her past. It was not that she didn’t tell Lia and S anything because she didn’t want to.
She didn’t tell them because she wasn’t ready. And a part of her was scared to death, they would look at her differently once they knew. Even though Brynn assured her a thousand times that wouldn’t happen. The doubt’s in her mind were a thousand and one times stronger.
So would she make the same choices even now?
S’s shoulders stopped shaking at the same time as a branch cracked behind them and a woman’s voice called Rey’s name.