That Sanity of Ours

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CHAPTER TWELVE

LIKE MOST PEOPLE, eventually, curiosity got the better of Violet. She began wondering what had gotten Maddox into such trouble in the first place. Was it truly as people said; that he was a cold-blooded murderer that had taken an innocent’s life, or was it something else?

Violet didn’t know how to ask. There was no proper way for her to bring up the topic, after all. It wasn’t a normal conversation starter to query about the reason behind one’s arrest.

Thankfully, there wasn’t a need for her to. It was as if Maddox could sense her curiosity radiating from her. He was the one that broke the silence, offering information she was too shy to ask on a silver platter.

“I didn’t do it,” he said.

When Violet turned back to look at him, she found out that his gaze wasn’t meeting hers. It was still on the road ahead. The horse had long slowed down into a mere trot, the sun beginning to rise across the horizon. They had been traveling for the entire night and the darkness was starting to melt away to give way to day. Time had become irrelevant to her ever since she had stepped into Diana’s quaint little cottage in the woods. Night blended into day and day into night. She wasn’t even sure how long of a time had passed by them ever since they had escaped from Steinfield Asylum.

“You mean?...”

“Whatever you saw on the paper. Whoever they said I had killed. I didn’t do it. I wasn’t the one,” he continued firmly.

Maddox had his jaw clenched tightly, his facial expression stoic and stern as he continued to navigate towards whatever destination he had in store for them. The grip he had on the reins was so tight that the veins on the back of his hands bulged green beneath the skin.

“You are claiming innocence?” Violet confirmed, her words leaving her lips as more of a question than a statement.

She still wasn’t sure if Maddox’s words could be trusted. After all, most murderers would deny it to the very end. Only the truly insane would admit to their wrongdoings for they might not see them as a wrong at all.

Or, in a rare case, they might seek repentance for once.

“I am innocent,” Maddox reiterated firmly. “The only reason why I even stayed in the country was to prove it. I have to prove it. Otherwise, I’ll never truly walk free.”

For a brief second, Maddox turned away from the road in front of them. His piercing green eyes glowed with the help of the rising sun, the dawn illuminating his features clearly. With his jaw clenched and eyebrows furrowed determinedly, Violet wasn’t able to find even a single trace of pretense in his expression. His words had indeed been spoken from his heart— he didn’t lie about his crimes.

“If you are truly innocent,” Violet started, her lips parted even as she paused to watch Maddox’s reaction to her words, “If you indeed are a good person, then I’ll help you.”

After hearing her words, Maddox no longer looked as fierce as Violet remembered him to look. In fact, his expression resembled that of a wounded puppy, eyes soft and clueless, eyebrows scrunched up so that the skin in between was wrinkled, and his lips were slightly parted in disbelief.

“Help me?” Maddox echoed, blinking dumbly. “Why would you do that?”

“We are partners, aren’t we? Your mother told us to take care of each other and I plan on keeping my promise to her,” she swiftly replied.

A bolt of bravery struck Violet, giving her the courage to place her hand on top of his on the reins. She could feel the warmth of his body under her touch despite the freezing cold of winter’s morning. It was a reminder that he was alive and so was she. They were no longer trapped within the glacial walls of Steinfield Asylum but rather they were out in the open world, free to roam and explore.

Not only that, but it also reminded Violet that they were all human. And no human was free from mistakes.

Whatever mistake Maddox had committed or was accused of committing, Violet was determined to help him set things right. If it were anything, it would be as compensation for giving her a taste of the world beyond Steinfield’s walls.

“There is no need for you to do that,” Maddox replied. Although his words were harsh, his tone betrayed his words and told Violet that he was at least a little unwilling to part. “It will be dangerous. We will always be running from the law. For a week, a month, a year, maybe even a lifetime.”

“A lifetime,” Violet laughed, “Actually, a lifetime with you doesn’t sound all too bad.”

She only realized what she had said after the words left her lips. However, spoken words could never be recalled once they were heard. Even after she had zipped her lips shut together with her cheeks flushed scarlet, the damage had already been done. Maddox had heard her loud and clear. He barked out in laughter, chortling as his voice danced with the wind that whipped at their faces, seemingly carefree.

“If you are sure,” he grinned, “I am more than happy to comply.”

The sparkle in his eyes merely grew, never dimming. From how closely they sat to one another, Violet could examine every detail on his face. He was beautiful, there was no doubt, but up close, she also realized that there never was any malice in his features. Whatever fear or doubt that she had plastered on his name was merely a label that she had unknowingly given him because of what she had heard about him. Maddox’s past had given him an ugly stain on his reputation. That was why he wanted to clean it so badly. It all made sense now.

“So, partners?” Violet asked, holding out a hand awkwardly for Maddox to shake.

He grinned, adjusting his grip on the reins before using his non-dominant hand to shake Violet’s. Although the angle was odd, the action was still completed and the deal was done.

“Partners,” he said.

The sun they were riding towards was glowing brightly. Dawn was beautiful during winter and Violet wondered why she had never looked at it in such a brilliant light before. Its allure was much more different than that in Steinfield. Maybe it was because she now bore hope for the new day and what it might bring or maybe it was just because of the company next to her. Regardless of whatever it was, she was just glad that the road she had to walk was no longer fogged up.

Nor would she be alone any longer.

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