Vice and Memory Grip - Part 3
When it was lunchtime, Eletha had her lunch that was given to her by Eileen. She had chosen to stay in her room for it as Eileen wanted to make sure she got all the rest she could. Seeing the care the woman had for her, guilty began to riddle the elf girl once again. She would leave as soon as possible and she was sure it would hurt them very much. That morning she had already written them a letter, hoping it would ease the effect her rudeness would have on them. She had written about how kind they had been and she would cherish it forever, but how she desperately needed to find the man who helped her and that she didn’t want to burden them any longer. Maybe these words would be enough for them to leave her be.
Gareth wanted to speak to her about the thief that afternoon so she knew she had to move quickly. Eileen wasn’t letting him near her in the meantime in case he tried to pry while she was trying to catch up on her rest.
When Eileen finally took the tray an empty plates and cup for Eletha, she grabbed the clothes she had stashed under the bed. She had used a laundry bag for her things and kept them under the bed as well. She dressed as quick as she could, wearing black trousers and a white halter top that flowed gently to her hips. Eileen had given her the clothes early that morning so that she had nicer things to wear. That made her feel even worse.
She hurriedly left the note she had written on her pillow and made her way out the back way. It was fairly easy as everyone was so busy out front. She had to walk through the small back garden with the bins and climb the fence that was a bit taller than her bit being a dancer made her more nimbler.
Dancing…she would give that up. Just the thought of it brought back memories of her performances and practices with her mother. The proud smile of her family watching. Her friends that cheered her on.
As she landed the other side of the fence, she felt her lips tremble but she forced herself not to cry. She was done with crying. She was going to try her hardest to be strong. She knew crying wasn’t weak, but she just couldn’t face the breakdowns she would have if she let it overwhelm her.
On her way to meet Kane, she picked up a few items that she would need. Just essentials to get her by. If she needed anything else, she would have to endure it until the next village. It didn’t take her too long to get to the edge of town. Kane didn’t seem to be there. She looked back and forth around her. Had she missed him?
“I thought you weren’t coming because you took so long,” she heard the familiar voice behind her, “I’ve aged five years already.” She turned around to see Kane with a smirk on his face as he looked down at her. She scowled at him, her hand on her hip as she snapped, “It was difficult! They kept checking up on me and wanted to interrogate me about you! You’re lucky I never said a word.”
“Hey hey,” he chuckled, holding his hands up in defence before patting her on the head like a child, “There, there. No need to have a tantrum. I get it.”
“Ugh!” she slapped his hand away with a pout on her face. He was really annoying! But she knew he was just trying to wind her up. Without waiting for him to pick on her some more, she asked, “So, shall we go then?”
“Yes, yes,” Kane sighed dramatically, shifting his small bag onto his back into a more comfortable position, “Let’s go then. Don’t want to keep your hero waiting now, do we?” He smirked a bit at her over his shoulder as he wandered away, and the elf girl just frowned at him a bit as she began to follow, but internally she felt excited and nervous. She desperately wanted to see the stranger.
After a while of walking, Kane hadn’t spoken much. He just pointed out the odd thing here and there about things he knew, like certain healing plants he had used when he’d gotten himself into some sticky situations. Eletha seemed to be the chatty type and had been chatting to him at first, just about unimportant things, but as they had been walking, she had become quieter and quieter. The thief eventually glanced down at her and saw her gaze was staring at nothing. She was gradually drawing into her own little world again and the cheerful, vibrant expression she had had was completely gone. Her eyes were glazed and she was almost expressionless.
“Eletha?” he called gently. The girl snapped out of it instantly and looked up at him as she asked, “What is it?” Kane didn’t answer at first before he smiled slightly, “How are you feeling? About everything. I mean…” He didn’t know all the details of what had happened to her of course, but he had gotten the idea from the bits and pieces of information townspeople and Eletha had let slip.
Eletha didn’t respond at first as she mulled things over. Her voice came out but it was quieter; weaker than before, “I…don’t know. I know it happened…but it doesn’t feel real. Like it’s a lie. Like if I go back there, they will still be there. I just…can’t accept it.” Her head started to pound as she thought about it and she held her head in her hand, her brow furrowed as she tried to bear the pain. Her memories began to overwhelm her and she felt tears prickle her eyes, but rather than let them fall she forced them back and put on a big smile, “But I’m alright. Really! I’ll move on.”
The last sentence struck Kane, his eyes widening in surprise at her words. Her body language as she hurried a few steps ahead of him confirmed his thoughts. The girl was in denial for sure, and she was going to block out the trauma as much as she could, whether she did it consciously or not. It would be a very bad idea for her to do that. She had to have time to grieve, time to thank her hero, and then come to terms with what happened. But with the way she was going about it, forcing a smile when she wanted to cry. She was only going to cause herself more pain.
He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed as he watched the ground before his feet. It wasn’t his business. He had made a deal and that was it. What she did with her trauma was her own problem. However, he felt a bit guilty for letting her do that to herself. After a moment’s hesitation, he shrugged it off. No. He had to forget it. He didn’t have time to help out others like that. Once he helped her a bit he would be out of there.
As the afternoon drew on, the sky became filled with dark clouds. Eletha glanced up at the skies and frowned a little, smelling the air.
“Hmm,” she mumbled, “Smells like rain.” She glanced at Kane who had rejoined her side. Even though they had been travelling for a few hours, they hadn’t really talked about themselves so their conversations were shallow. So he still felt like a stranger to her. It felt odd, to travel with such a man.
“What was that?” he asked without looking at her. She tucked her hair behind her ear as she replied, “Rain. I smell rain.” The man beside her looked at her before turning his own gaze up to the clouds above. He seemed to be thinking about something before he finally spoke, “We’ll keep going as long as it holds off. Hopefully it won’t hit us. If it does, let’s hope it’s a drizzle.” Eletha nodded and continued.
Their hopes were short lived. They had stopped for some food and water, with Kane making a fire and cooking a few fishes he had bought from the town. At least, he said that, but Eletha knew better. There was no way he had bought those fishes. And the ‘inverted commas’ he had done with his fingers had pretty much confessed it was a lie. Maybe he lied to give her an excuse to believe his lie and not feel bad about eating stolen goods. The rain had started to fall just after they had finished eating. They had discussed whether to travel some more but Kane had refused to. He preferred to wait to see how the rain turned out.
It was bad. Not only was it a full blown rain, it was a thunderstorm. The wind was strong and the rain was cold. It made Eletha shiver as she stood on the roadside, her arms tightly wrapped around herself.
“What do we do?” she called to Kane through the noise of the thunder and rain. A lightning bolt lit up the area before thunder crashed. It was almost above them. Kane was watching the sky again before saying to her, “We either go back or continue on until we find somewhere to set up camp. There’s no clear area here that is good to stop at. We need a more sheltered area.”
“But if we go back, you’ll be arrested won’t you?” Eletha asked. Kane grinned sheepishly, “Only if I get caught.” Eletha looked down at her feet. It didn’t take long to think about it. She couldn’t let him get arrested for theft seeing as he was helping her. It felt like it would be a betrayal to go back with him. But it was freezing and wet and horrid.
“…we’ll continue then,” Eletha said but had to repeat herself so Kane could hear. Kane asked, “You sure?” When Eletha nodded, he nodded back and they went on their way, having already gathered their things together as the rain had started.
It didn’t seem the thunderstorm would end. Even after half an hour of walking, which seemed to take forever, they finally found a suitable place to stop. It was a rocky area, with a large crack in between that had almost separated the rock. It would shelter them form the wind and most of the rain. They wouldn’t be able to stand. It was only tall enough for them to kneel or sit. Being in a woodland area was far too dangerous if lightning struck the trees. Rock was the best thing for it.
Kane sent Eletha in first. It was a decent enough size but barely had room for a fire. It had to be a small one. Kane set it up as soon as both were in while Eletha checked her bag. She scrunched up her face before wailing, “Ahhh! My stuff is soaked!” Kane looked at her bag which had changed colour from how much water it had soaked up and he burst out laughing, “With a bag like that, of course it’s going to get everything wet!”
“Well sorry I didn’t have a better one,” Eletha scowled at him, “I don’t have any money after all and no one to give me any.” Kane stopped laughing and winced a bit, “Ah. Sorry.” Eletha took a breath and looked away from him, her shoulders dropping, “…No. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped like that.” She began wringing some of the clothes inside out and shaking the water from anything else she could. Kane, on the other hand, had a waterproof bag. So his things were completely dry. He spent so much time outside that he knew what to have and do.
“Here,” he said, taking out a bundle that he unwrapped, to show it was a warm blanket, “Put this around you when you’re done.” He handed it to her with a smile. Eletha took it from him thankfully, inclining her head to him out of habit and squeezed all the water she could from her hair before wrapping the blanket around herself, her now bare feet near the fire.
“You should take your other clothes off too,” he said to her offhandedly.
“What?!” she cried, looking horrified. Kane smirked, “Like I’d look at you like that. You’re a kid and I’m nineteen for one thing. And you’ve got no sex appeal at all. I meant you’ll get a cold if you stay in those clothes.”
“Why, you…you…” she struggled not to swear at him and slapped him on the arm. Kane just laughed, rubbing the stinging area, “You’re so predictable.”
“What about you?” Eletha mumbled, her chin on her knees, “You’re soaked as well.” Kane looked down at his clothes, “Ah,” he pulled at them a bit, feeling how waterlogged the material was, “I’ll survive.” Eletha glanced at him and at his bag. It didn’t seem like he had another blanket or else he would have pulled it out already.
“Don’t look at me for a minute, okay?” she said to him. Kane raised an eyebrow before nodding, “Yeah, alright.” He turned his head away, “This okay?” Eletha replied, “Yes.” She then stripped herself of her clothes until she had only her underwear and a vest on that she wore underneath. She had made sure to squeeze the water out of that before wearing it again. It hadn’t gotten quite as damp as the rest of what she had worn. Now that she was done, she said, “You can share the blanket with me.” She held out her arm that held one end, inviting Kane to share it with her, “Can’t have you being ill and unable to take me to where I need to go.” She avoided looking at him, a blush spreading across her cheeks that she hoped the fire hid. Kane looked at her before grinning, “Alright. Thanks.” He took off his clothes and got rid of as much water as possible before staying in just his trousers. Eletha hadn’t seen a stranger topless before and it made her blush considerably more. She found it hard to even look in his direction. She felt him take the blanket from her hand before feeling him right next to her. Then the blanket was wrapped around them and she was surprised to find how much warmer they were.
“It really is true,” Eletha remarked. Kane watched the fire as he asked, “What is?”
“Sharing body warmth,” Eletha said, “Helps keep you from freezing and getting hypothermic.” Kane felt a grin spread across his face. This elf girl was so innocent it was ridiculous. He put his arm around her under the blanket and held her close, “Like this?” Eletha became so flustered she tried to shove him away as she cried, “Get off! Too close!” Kane just laughed as he was so much stronger than her but then he became more serious as he continued, “Nah, seriously. We should stay close and there’s not much room in here as it is.” Eletha didn’t respond, just staying called up as she leaned against him. They were quiet for a little while, watching the fire, before Kane said, “I have another blanket you know.”
“What?!” Eletha almost screeched, “Get it then!” She tried to pull away from him once more, “You’ve been teasing me!” The man beside her burst out laughing again and she frowned. He seemed to find her awfully funny. But she knew he wouldn’t move. They could get really sick if they didn’t stay warm and they couldn’t keep the fire going all night. It was the only way.
“I’m sorry for what happened to you,” Kane spoke quietly, “Really.” Eletha felt her body begin tremble as she felt herself remember, but she managed to croak out, “It’s okay. Thank you.” She waited a while before she began to speak, “My family are all dead. I have no one to go back to. It’s lonely. So this man I must find…I guess he’s my link to my family. I can’t lose him as well. Or else I’ll…” she felt tears stinging her eyes but then something distracted her. A gentle, rhythmic breathing. She looked up and saw Kane was fast asleep. Realising she was beginning to pour her heart out to someone fast asleep, she felt her cheeks flush and she wanted to shake him for dropping off like that. But instead, she sighed. Then she kicked out the fire before curling up with him again, listening to the rain pouring and the thunder crash. The air was so cold on her cheeks that she pulled the blanket up to cover her face up to her eyes. Then she realised they were so cold because she was starting to shed a few tears, so she quickly wiped her face and distracted herself by listening to Kane’s heartbeat. By focusing on that, she was able to gradually fall asleep.