As I opened my eyes, I became overly aware of how breathing hurt. I took the smallest of breaths. My entire body was clenched in an effort not to breathe, but even that created a deep ache. Tears prickled my eyes, and they were warm as they coated the pillow I was laying on.
I tried to raise my head, but even that hurt. The pain was deep, stemming not only from the outmost layer of skin, but also from a deep ache in my bones. My body had never experienced such a pain, and I cried out. The sound was muffled, but I became aware of movement at my side.
“Don’t move yet. I called the doctor. He’ll be here to check up on you.” He stopped near me, casting a small shadow over my body. It was him.
An overwhelming sense of panic started to loom over me, and I fought the urge to choke. It was him. He was the reason for this pain. Something was reaching into my lungs. I couldn’t help it. I gasped for air. Every shudder, every shiver, any movement. It all caused the pain, but now, all I wanted was to get as far away from him as possible.
I barely managed to lift my torso up, before my arms collapsed in on themselves. Before I could fall onto myself, his arms swooped in and caught me. That was when I started to scream. My skin was crawling, and every part of me was screaming to get away from him. I shoved at his arms with a strength I didn’t know I had, and I pushed myself to the side.
I landed on my back, causing a new pain, but I barely noticed in my panic. At this point, I was scrambling, crawling on my hands and knees, and I almost tripped off the bed. I was in his room. With every bit of strength left in my legs, I ran towards the furthest corner of the room.
Far from the bed where we had slept together, far from the desk where he had worked at with me in his arms, far from the door where he had buttoned up my shirt, far from him. I wanted to be as far away from him as possible. My skin still burned where he had touched me, and now all I wanted was to scrub my skin clean.
My hands slammed against the wall as I practically collapsed on it, and I clawed at it in pain. My back reminded me that the pain was still there, but I forced myself to turn around and watch out for him. Holding each side of the wall, I carefully turned my screaming body to face him.
He hadn’t moved from the other side of the bed. Instead, he watched me quietly. There was no expression on his face as he stared at me, but my entire being was shaking violently in fear. He was most terrifying when he was silent.
The screams had abandoned me, so now, all I could do was cry. The tears trickling down my cheeks became sobs, and the sobs racked my entire body. My hands, I realized, were clawing at the corner I was leaning against, to keep me up, to keep the pain at bay. My legs felt so weak, and all at once, the rush escaped me. My legs gave way beneath me. The shock made a cry escape my lips.
I collapsed on the floor, sobbing violently, as my back cried out in protest. My back was warm again. Was I bleeding again? Sounds I had never made before left me as I cried out desperately. I felt so weak, and I felt dirty.
I didn’t even notice the door opening as a man walked in. I only noticed the footsteps approaching me by the shadow. The air escaped my lungs, and I looked up mid-sob. My breath slowly released in shudders.
The doctor was a surprisingly young man. He looked around the same age as the captain, but he had the same fidgety expression as Fig used to have around Beth. He looked incredibly nervous as he cautiously approached me, and he, for some reason, looked like he was uncertain of who to be more afraid of.
Captain was releasing a terrifying aura that loomed over the doctor, who looked afraid of turning back. He glared down the doctor, and it was making the doctor sweat. The doctor smiled cautiously at me. When he got too close for comfort, I scrambled back, pressing myself further into the corner. He panicked, immediately taking a large step back.
“Please, don’t move too much.” His voice was surprisingly low, but his voice cracked at the end. He flushed, clearing his throat before continuing. “Your wounds might split open more.” I was shaking, but so was he. At the moment, there was a common enemy.
“You can call me Graham. I’m the new doctor on board.” He leaned down, crouching to match my height. He did look like a Graham.
“New?” I asked. My voice shocked even me. The sound that came out of me barely sounded like me. It was scratchy and low, cracking through the single word, and I felt vaguely embarrassed,
“Uh,” Graham looked even more nervous. He glanced back at the captain, who had taken his eyes off the doctor to meet my eyes. I looked away immediately, a violent shudder passing through me. “Well, there was another doctor, but he, erm, he met an untimely death with the sharks. It happened rather unfortunately, I’m told, after the doctor claimed you wouldn’t make it back alive. Then, I was, erm, politely escorted onto this ship shortly after the previous doctor’s, erm, unfortunate situation.”
Clearly, he had been kidnapped. This young man didn’t look like he belonged on this ship, but he was making the best of it. He crouched in front of me, a respectable distance away, and he held a hand out to me. Did he expect me to take it? My entire body hurt. I felt so limp. Where could I find the strength to lift my arm, much less myself?
Graham noticed. He stared at me, clearly making some kind of evaluation, before he stood up suddenly. I flinched involuntarily.
“If you don’t mind, Lady Grace, could I carry you back to the bed? Any movement may open more wounds, and I believe you’re bleeding right now. Also, your body seems weak at the moment, so perhaps I could help.” Now, he sounded determined. Perhaps he was a talented doctor. “If you bleed too much, you may lose consciousness again.”
I couldn’t breathe right. He continued to speak, yet it was becoming increasingly difficult to pay attention. Slowly, I nodded my head. His blurry figure approached me and began to tuck his arms under my torso, the way that the captain had before. A shudder ran through me at the thought, and Graham flinched.
“I’m sorry. I’ll do this as quickly as possible.” He had misunderstood, but I couldn’t muster the strength to explain. I simply nodded once more. Once again, he leaned in and pushed his arms under me, until suddenly, he was rather violently pulled back. I raised my head to see Graham’s startled expression as the captain weaved his arms under me and pulled me up.
It all happened much too quickly, but before I knew it, I was screaming. Still, all I could hear was my heart thumping in my ears. I was sweating and it was hot, but my body ached as it shivered. Goosebumps trickled down my arms. It was so cold but so hot. My shaking arms pushed at him, clawing at him in fear, but he wouldn’t budge.
His hold was too gentle that it hurt. I was gasping for air, barely able to breathe, but every breath went into screaming. It was a raw shriek that tore at my throat, but I couldn’t stop the sound. It came from deeper than my bones, as every inch of my body attempted to get away from him. My skin was crawling where he cradled me in his arms.
He was careful as he placed me down on his bed, and he easily ducked my flailing limbs. The doctor was quick to take his place, gently pushing peeling the back of my shirt open. It was wet, and it was too warm to be sweat. Graham mumbled under his breath quietly, but I couldn’t hear him over my cries.
“I’m so sorry if this hurts.” Graham’s nervous voice was close to my ear. I wanted to apologize, but I couldn’t breathe beyond the sobs that racked my entire body. I didn’t realize he had been applying a cold salve until I felt the tingles across my back. This pain was nothing compared to the scars that had initially exposed me to the true meaning of pain. Still, I clenched the pillow until my knuckles were white.
A warmth enveloped my hand. I looked up, and through the blur of my tears, I could see the man who had started this all. He had wrapped his hand around my fist. I immediately snatched my hand away, ignoring the rush of heat around my shoulder.
“Get away from me.” My voice was a bare croak, but my pain was clear. He took his hand away too, slowly. The remnants of a sob were left in my breath as I whispered. “Stay away from me.”
I didn’t want the gentle side of him. He couldn’t hold my hand like that and expect me to blush and smile back as I once had. It was strange how the blurry curtain of tears in my eyes and the fresh waves of pain in my back suddenly made my vision so clear. I was scared of him.
I didn’t want the side of him that held me gently at night, and I definitely didn’t want the man who had roguishly grinned as he reeled me in. I couldn’t handle the man who insisted he needed Grace. Not after the same man had engraved my skin with sins that weren’t mine.