It was getting harder and harder to sneak out now that Rey was no longer a little girl, but a young woman as everybody kept reminding her.
“You should start to learn how to act like a proper young lady and not like a wild child who runs around all day” and her personal favourite “Who is going to marry you like this?” were a regular occurrence in her life.
But she was fifteen years old, for heaven’s sake. She didn’t want to think about her future husband, she wanted to live in the moment. She wanted to do only things that made her feel alive. And was it her fault that she felt most like herself when she was hidden under the trees with Talon by her side?
It was already painful enough that she couldn’t see him half as much as she wanted, and they wanted to ban her outings completely?
Hell no! She needed to see him like she needed the air she breathed, and no one was going to stay in her way. Not even her own family. After all, the bond, the two of them shared, was almost as strong as the one she shared with her parents.
He was her best friend.
The only person she could share her deepest fears and greatest desires with without the fear of being judged, and she hoped he felt the same way about her.
That’s why even under the threat of punishment if she sneaked out again, the young woman made her way through the woods in hopes of seeing him again.
It had been seven days since her eyes last settled on the familiar features of his face, and Rey couldn’t wait.
She ran around the fallen tree, her mind not even paying attention to the significance of her action as her legs leapt into the enemy’s territory.
But she didn’t care about that. She only cared about the man that waited for her there. It wouldn’t be fair to address him as the little boy any longer, same as Rey was no longer the little girl. Sometimes she still felt like one. Like she was still the little girl that loved to chase the butterflies around. But a lot has changed since then.
Her body was no longer that of a little girl since puberty made her gain prompter feminine features, and he was also no longer the scrawny kid due to all the muscles he gained.
Gone was the little girl and the little boy. But some things remained the same.
He waited for her in the same spot, she met him for the first time. Sitting on the grass with his back turned to her. Rey was a lot bolder this time around. She didn’t sneak behind his back, trying to figure out whether he was a monster. Instead, she ran towards him and squeezed him into a tight hug from behind, which she regretted almost immediately after.
“Hey,” Rey greeted him, her face stretched into a huge smile.
“Hi,” he returned, but it came out more like a grunt. Rey’s smile disappeared immediately after, and worry replaced the happiness she felt in her veins not long ago.
“Are you okay?” She asked as she loosened her grip around his shoulders and took a step forward to get a better look at his face.
A gasp escaped her mouth at the same time as he said: “I would say, I am fine. But is there even point?”
Rey’s body ignited with anger: “I am going to kill him!”
Her words held resolution, but her plans were ruined as Talon grabbed her hand and pulled her to the grass with him. He caged her with his own body and said: “No, you are not.”
He was practically lying on top of her and there were a lot of people that would find their proximity weird, but Rey didn’t. They were almost always close to each other when they were play-fighting each other during their meetings.
There wasn’t going to be any play-fighting on this day. That much was for sure.
“What happened today?” She asked as her fingers gently traced a large bruise covering most of his left cheek. She hated that she had to ask what happened today instead of what happened to you, but those things were a regular occurrence throughout the years they spent together.
“Nothing much,” Talon said evasively, “my opponent was a lot stronger than I anticipated.”
If Rey hated anything more than the bruises on Talon’s body, it would be his father. He led his pack in quite a gruesome way. One Rey didn’t understand a bit but could do little to change.
He believed his men would only get stronger by constantly fighting each other. Maybe it was a good strategy in theory, but he always made sure to pair up the strongest members of his pack with the weakest one. He wouldn’t allow the fight to end until one of the members was completely drained out, and he genuinely believed it was helping them grow.
Kind of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger principle. And Rey despised him for it.
“You would tell me, if he were the one hurting you, right?”
Talon answered the way she expected him too, but she didn’t know if she believed him. If it was her father’s head, that was on the stake, would she confide in Talon? Or wouldn’t she? At the end of the day, it was still her father.
There was no point in interrogating him any longer: “Does it hurt a lot?”
“Why? Are you going to kiss it better like the first time we met?” He grinned at her and wiggled his eyebrows.
She smacked him playfully as her whole face heated up: “No, you idiot. I have better means now.”
She used a bit of her strength to push him off her and stood up, cleaning the pieces of grass that got stuck on her clothes in the process.
She then proceeded to one of the threes surrounding them. It had a hole inside made by mother nature and Rey deemed it a perfect spot to hide her treasures in.
She pushed her hand inside, felt around in the darkness for a bit and pulled out a leather bag when her fingers finally clutched around it.
As their visits grew more frequent and the bruises on the little boy’s body seemed to increase, Rey understood she needed a stronger weapon than her breath. She started sneaking in medical supplies like bandages and healing ointments, but she was always very careful to take away only the bare minimum. She didn’t want to get caught.
So far, so good.
She unscrewed the lid on the ointment and scooped up a rich amount of it before she gently rubbed it on his cheek. He stood up as well, so they were now standing face to face. Rey wondered: “Does it feel better?”
Talon shrugged and said: “A bit. But I still do think your initial methods were stronger.”
Rey almost smacked him again, but she didn’t know what shape the rest of his body was in and the last thing she wanted to do was hurt him.
He guessed the train of her thoughts because the cheeky grin on his face disappeared and he looked her in the eyes before saying: “Thank you for doing this.”
Rey smiled at him and replied with: “Anytime. Now proceed with taking your shirt down!”
Rey’s mood was visibly worse as she made her way through the woods to get back home. Her face held a grim expression as she thought about Talon.
His opponent wasn’t just a bit stronger than him as Talon claimed, he practically crushed him. There were so many bruises and bite marks on the upper half of his body, Rey didn’t know how he was still standing.
Thank the heavens for his healing abilities because she didn’t know what she would do otherwise. Something needed to be done to stop this madness! But what?
Her thoughts were interrupted by the loud voice of her mother: “What do you think you are doing, young lady?”