Sunday, April 03, 2005

 

the child, forty-seven


Sleep fled her that night. Her leg was part of the reason. And the rest of the reason...

...was not hard to guess.

Tossing, turning - long after the others had fallen asleep. Till one particularly rough kick at her blanket pulled at the bandage on her leg hard enough to rupture the tender scab and start the wound to bleeding again.

Oh, great. She sat up then, pushing the blanket aside lest any blood get on it. Fumbling in the dark, she tried to wrap the bandage again. Suddenly, the frustrations of the day overboiled inside her, and she sprang up from her bedding entirely, thrust open the tent door, and bolted outside.

The moon peered down at her from overhead, stars studding the sky near the pale face of that silent watcher in the night sky. Starr walked. Out from the camp, out into the surrounding woods. Not blindly, as she had that time before. She kept glancing behind her, being sure not to get too far from the dim light of the still-burning campfire huddled in the midst of the three tents.

Her steps slowed now. She was getting to the distance from the camp where one of the men should be walking his watch. Keeping a close watch herself, she slipped behind a tree, waiting. She did not want to be spotted - not, at least, until after she had spotted the watchman first.

Especially if Stone was the one on watch - she did not want him to catch her out in the night.

Stone. She was still angry inside. To just walk away from her like that! What was he thinking? What was the matter with him!

A small crunch of foot on underbrush caught her attention. The watchman! She ducked - not too quickly, for a sudden motion could easily give her away. Furtively she watched.

Ah. It was James... no... Jack. Yes, Jack. Good. If it had been James, then Stone would have the next watch afterwards. But Jack's watch was nowhere near Stone's. Perfect.

She waited while the man made his slow turn round the camp and vanished into the darkness. It would take him maybe ten minutes to return to this spot, she figured. Plenty of time to herself. By herself.

Stone. Again she pictured it inside her head - him standing there as she lay bleeding on the ground. Him turning her over to Maccabees. Him walking away.

And he hadn't even asked her over supper how her leg was!

Fury welled up again inside her. Temporary - that was the word Maccabees had told her. But meaning what? That Stone's estrangement from her would be temporary, and then he would come back? Or that the brief spring of love they had shared was the temporary thing in her life, and now was over and gone forever?

Ohhhh... This was making her head hurt. What was she supposed to think? When the man who had confessed to love her, now spent so much time ignoring her - avoiding her, as far as she could tell? What was going on?

The Master had warned her of this...

What if I don't like it? she muttered inside her brain. What if I'd rather just... What if I...

'What if I want out?' And that she said aloud.

Not loudly. But aloud.

Out? As in - what?

'Out of this relationship. If there even is one.'

Out is out. Completely out. All or nothing.

'Well, maybe I want nothing! But this - what I have - this is not what I wanted! A man who ignores me?' She was gesturing now, talking to the thin air before her, the same intense hissing whispering she had done earlier that day towards Maccabees.

She pointed back towards the camp, where undoubtedly Stone was now sleeping soundly within his tent. 'He is not what I expected. And he is not what I wanted.'

What did you want?

'To...' Her voice broke, crying. 'To be loved...'

Softly, the answer came: Don't I love you?

She began to cry in earnest now. She felt them, the arms she could not see, encircling her, embracing her. Starr...

'Master...' she whispered back.

Don't expect too much. Or too soon. He is still becoming. And I am becoming in him.

'But this...!'

He loves you.

'He doesn't show it.'

Not at this time, no. But soon. You will see. He must go through this himself, to be sure. When he is sure, when he is ready - you will have his love. And you will have it all.

A hesitation. '...I hate this...'

Be at peace. You too are becoming. But 'out,' dear Starr - is out. Completely. That, my love, you do not want.

No... That was true. To be out completely - away from the Master. Alone from him - apart. No, that she did not want.

Better?

A sigh. A nod. 'Yes...'

'Hey! Who's there?'

Starr's heart sprang into her throat, as her hand sprang over her mouth.

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