The shop wasn’t far and I ran there. I thought about sneaking past the front desk or using the back door, but nobody was there. All the way I kept thinking how I can ask how much the monster would need bandages without being reported.
“I-I need to fix lower ribs in place on a large man?” I blurted out the question to the middle aged woman behind the counter. She put the toothpaste she was holding slowly down.
“You should take him to ER, not try medicating him at home!”
“Uh? Um, no…” This was hard! “What I mean is, he was released today and I need to change the bandages. Not fix them myself!” She picked up on the pained laughter and nodded then. “I’m sorry,” I really didn’t mean to shout. “I’m a bit upset right now.”
She nodded, giving me few pitiful looks.
“He, um, he had boxing training…” I started, but shut up. I didn’t want to lie about what happened. Suddenly I wanted to tell the whole world that there was a gargoyle in my room right now – hopefully still there, when I returned – who had a big fight with a boxer to protect the unconscious tree spirit. And me.
Shit, he was protecting me…
“How large is his chest?” She asked, pulling at the large white drawer.
“What?” I woke from the revelation.
“Did you measure him?” She asked so matter of facktly I nearly grinned out of misery.
“No, I forgot.” I recalled the few minutes him in my arms, when I removed the harness and I pushed my hands out. “He is about this wide?” I offered the estimated size. She got me 10 meters wide soft fabric that by her understanding should go around him at least 4 times.
How was that to hold his chest from moving was beyond me, but I nodded, thanked her quickly and payed up.
I got up the front stairs and the card peeped on the door, but was then blocked away by Mya.
“Where are they?” she demanded.
I shrugged and tried to get past her, but she didn’t let me through that easily.
“Look, if you know where they are, tell me! Please!”
“He trusts you, but not us?” Her disappointment made me want to hug her and tell her it would be much easier if there weren’t that boss of theirs, but instead I squared my shoulders to look more determined. “It’s not about not trusting you. He’s hurt.” I couldn’t believe I’d told her that! “He needs time to recoup, that’s all.”
She didn’t protest that and I felt unease, wondering if she was part of Griffin’s plan, too.
“I saw what he did to the boxer guy.” She whispered, and pulled me out of a way of a girl, who tried to get past us. She waited until the girl closed the front door after herself. Mya’s eyes followed her until she was definitely out of earshot. “Tell him the guy will live.”
I snorted. “He doesn’t quite care right now about a guy, who attacked us!”
“You were there?” She snapped, back being pissed at me.
I took unwilling step back. “Somewhat.”
“That’s just great!” She let out a shout, but I didn’t have time for this anymore.
“Yes, yes it was! Now I at least know, where he hides! Excuse me!” And off I went.
She jumped in front of me. “Wait! Wait!” She gave me a strained smile. “Give him this, will you? They’ve called him twice already, but I don’t know his code. Tell him to call them back!” He pressed something round in my already filled lap. It was finely decorated egg-like thing I’d seen hanging around admin’s necks. Well, my eyes climbed between her breasts, hers was hanging there right now, too.
“He will be sent home?” I asked, slightly disappointed. I couldn’t understand, why I felt disappointed – I should be happy to get him back home, right? He’d get the help he’ll need there.
Shoot! I forgot the coffee!
“Do you have some coffee here?” I asked.
“Coffee won’t keep him awake if his body needs sleep to heal!” she argued back, but I shook my head. I had come to that conclusion already.
“Miloard is asleep. Thorwald can hardly stand, taking the log through will probably kill him on the spot!”
“Fine! Where will I bring it?” I gave her one long pointed stare. “I’m on your side, Selen.”
“I-” I was about to argue back that it hasn’t been quite the safe house they had been playing on so far, but restrained myself. “He is sure you are, but give him time to get his act back together.”
“Alright, but make it heavy.” She ran in their blinders hidden backroom and brought her half-used pack. “And don’t expect him to believe you didn’t tell me, where he is, because I think I figured it out!” she shouted after me.
First time in my life I felt like really putting my hands around someone’s neck and twisting it hard.
“Then keep it to yourself! That’s your job!” I shouted back from the first steps of the stairs, turned around and came face to face with a greenhorn student, her big eyes straight on my level. Her big painted eyelashes blinked in shock. “Hello?” I reminded her she was standing on my way. “Righty traffic, thank you?”
“Oh!” She pulled out of my way and I went, her stare following me all the way to third floor.
I stopped behind my own door, suddenly aware of the anger filling my chest that he was leaving. I felt so disappointed.
I heard him on the other side of the door, his clothes were scraping quietly against the wooden frame and I imagined his hand stretched over the uneven surface, like scanning.
I should give myself a new name, I thought, Twisted and Divided. That’s how I felt. Like just now I was angry both for him standing and happy that he hadn’t left.
The door opened and he was standing on the other side of the threshold, right hand around his chest and left holding the door. His eyes fell on the half empty package on top of the things.
His face flamed up and I saw the steel return in his eyes. “You told her!”
I didn’t even bother to answer that. If I’d try explain, he’d know without asking twice that I hadn’t actually told her, but she sort of figured it out herself, like everything else.
“It’s not like she has to play a guessing game here!” Tired of this who is loyal to who game, and I ordered, “Sit down!”
“This isn’t a game!” He yelled and I physically felt his voice on my back. “Next time he’ll send two instead of one!”
“Perhaps Griffin doesn’t get the chance.” I held the phone thing over the left shoulder and felt it being snapped away. “Mya tells you to call home!”
“How do you know it was Griffin?”
“As I said, this isn’t a guessing game.” I glanced at him opening the phone thing, but not using it. “Do you need privacy while you use it?”
“If you can keep quiet, then no.” He passed me and sat in the chair again, resting his hands on his knees.
I started pulling the packages open. I got the last one open when he dialed the phone and called. Until then he was pushing through names. He stopped at one of them for a longer before passing it by. I knelled before the chair and gently pushed his elbows higher before unbuttoning his shirt until fourth button from the top. The same woman picked up the phone and he raised it higher so his hand wasn’t on my way, but his eyes kept keen watch over my every move. He didn’t use it like a phone. Instead he held it out like a walky-talky and spoke to the woman on the other side.
I tried not to listen and concentrated on fixing the bandage around his side. He winched few times involuntarily, but I doubted the few rounds covering his lower chest would do the trick. He pushed the walky-talky higher, when I leaned over his feet to grab the harness.
“Who else is there?” she asked suddenly, after giving him direct instructions where to take the tree spirit. I saw him breath in harsh with his stomach while his chest, which was in her view remained calm and he denied having anyone else in the room.
The lady demanded he’d prove it and he shook his head, grunting before slowly turning the walky-talky around and scanning the entire room.
As if ordered, I rolled myself under the bed and was out of site for the time the light went over that side of the room. The moment it lit up his face again, I was out and closed in with the harness still in my hand.
He closed the walky-talky and eyed me, worrying. “I’m going home.” he said, relieved.
“Until then –” I raised the harness.
“I can go without it.”
“Mhmh.” I didn’t let his opinion distract me. “And with it you might even stand a chance.” I reached out my hand, steadying my hold, when he grabbed it and stood, holding his hands out of the way.
I put it down until I got the shirt in place between his wings. The soft bandage cover underneath had to do. I didn’t even have clean towel lying around. He let out a loud roar, when I pulled the first buckle shut and stepped back, lashing out, but restraining his movement only centimeters from me and turning away, covering his face. I gave him a minute before gently reaching for his middle and turning him around.
He took a deep breath, but when I reached out for the next buckle his palms came on top of mine and locked around my fingers, eyes closed, until he finally nodded again and let them go, pushing his hands reluctantly out.
I buckled the other five before walking around him and starting gently pushing his wings in place. I could see his knuckles had turned near white from the pressure his fists had on the fingers, but he didn’t attempt to push them away again.
His left wing was dark purple from the edge and around it I could see the bruise through the shirt. My stomach clenched hard, thinking what pain this must be causing and feeling guilty, because I had to cause him more pain.
This wasn’t the time to collapse on empathy!
He waited. I realized it, when his head turned slightly and he reached his hand over his shoulder for it.
I sighed and pushed the wing gently stronger against his back before pulling the belts over it and giving the ends for him to hold.
“It’s not broken.” I said, hoping dearly he wouldn’t turn this into a joke, because I wasn’t sure I could tolerate it much longer. He snorted, but winched with pain the second later and I felt the treaded tears starting quietly their way down my cheeks.
His head turned more than necessary and I quickly gave him the last two belts and swirled around, hastily drying the tears. Then I sprung around and choked, facing him straight on. I grabbed the belt ends from him and quickly fastened them to the rest of the harness. He winched and I used it to squeeze out a smile. I tried to look busy pulling the shirt straighter under the harness, when suddenly I felt his fingers grab hold of my arms and massaging them gently.
“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities.” He rewarded me with a warm smile and I let it dig through the fences I’d just managed to put up around my heart. The guy was leaving, for god’s sake! “You’ve done more than enough and now I want you to remember one more thing.” He leaned closer, touching his forehead against mine. “I meant what I said, we always keep our promises!”
“If it makes you feel better,” I nodded. I chuckled through the new burst of tears and felt his thumb clear them away.
He did well not trying to change my mind right now, but he pulled me in his embrace and pressed me against his chest. It was warm and I was pulled to his warmth like a moth to the light.
I wanted to remember every part of this moment as it was – the old scruffy room around us, his perfectly tailored white shirt shining yellow in the street lamp light pressing through the brown curtains from 1980s. His cheek resting on top of my right temple and his nails digging deeper in my favorite jacket.
“I could fall asleep on you.” I whispered after a long moment, where I let myself dream of better future. I could feel his face change, turn into a smile.
I broke his hold. “We need to get Miloard up.”
“I resent that.” He really sounded as if he’d rather chew on barbed wire than deal with him again.
“We can always log him around like piece of wood?” I offered, patting him gently on his chest.
“Alright, alright!” He pushed my hands away.
“I’ll go get some water. You get his eyes open and then we’ll test the coffee.” I promised with heavy heart. I sure hoped it wouldn’t be poisonous to him.
When I returned with the boiling kettle, I walked on Thorwald leaning over Miloard and slapping him repeatedly. He wasn’t yelling, just staring him tensely in his eyes and slapping and snipping his fingers. He was losing his patience and so was I.
I poured the water over previously set cup of five spoonfuls and then reached the kettle out for Thorwald. “Show me, how cold can you get this water?”
His grin was diabolic, when his hands set against the metal and after few seconds thin layer of ice began spreading beneath his fingertips. It soon got too cold to hold it and I nudged it closer to him.
“I’ll get your bed wet.” He warned. I grabbed the spirit’s legs and pulled him off the bed.
Moment later he poured the water straight on his face.
“I’m suing you both for this!”
It was actually nice to hear Miloard scream. That meant he was alive.
“You can’t.” I said above his head and went for the coffee. “Different court system.”
“Not for long!” he grinned.
I was impressed how sick this one tiny fragment of emotion made me. I had an eerie feeling this wasn’t as empty threat as I would have liked. Thorwald didn’t let me think on it much though, but pulled him to his feet before putting him back down on the bed, tree spirit’s hair still dripping from the water.
Thorwald took the cup from me and pressed it between his fingers. “Drink your coffee!”
“Na-ah! You’re not being nice! I lost my arm because of you!”
Thorwald’s face clouded up. “I snapped it, you yourself chewed it off!”
“And weren’t you suppose to help me escape, girl?” he locked his eyes in mine, but I was too tired to react. Besides, what did it matter? They went back in their world and then I only had one court case to handle. Bitter sweet victory.
“She has nothing to do with you.” I was kind of disappointed to hear Thorwald so calm. I wanted him to rage for me, burn with hatred towards that little worm, who had cost me enough time and space to be worth the death penalty I began now sincerely hope he’d miss. But instead Thorwald’s voice kept even and I envied it in him. “Praise, we’re going back home!”
I enjoyed thoroughly how his face lost all the color and the cup in his hand began to wobble. Good life over, I cheered in my head, but then felt sick for enjoying his suffering. His eyes turned down and he hid his good arm between his knees. I doubt he’d ever felt so alive as sitting right now on my bed and realizing this was probably one of his last hours in this life.
Thorwald checked the walky-talky for time and pulled him to his feet. “Time to go!”
“I-I don’t want to!” he babbled.
“Should have thought about that before you organized the vigilante groups!” Thorwald murmured, pushing him on.
I watched them go and my heart broke. I hadn’t realized, but until that moment I had quietly wished for him to do what I so desperately needed – stay behind and really hold my hand while I was battling my own wars.
But then again, they were not his wars. That small revelation made my heart ache even more.
Then he turned and looked me straight in the eyes and reached his hand out to take hold of it and pulled me along, through the opened door and down the corridor towards the empty study room next to the stairs. The dirty glass doors were left partly open, but so far nobody had dared to move them. They were heavy doors with glass panels, one cracked from god knows what times and so gentle looking we were sure it’d break should we try to move either of the doors. Slight push and the jolt would bring it down.
It felt strange to walk behind him, his one hand on the back of Miloard, who had given up any hopes of escaping, and the other holding mine.
“Next time I’ll introduce you ice cream.” I whispered, dreading the upcoming doors. He gulped hard. “There won’t be a next time.” My fingers numbed in the attempt to hurt him, for robbing that small illusion.
We got in the room and he began pushing away the mattresses and chairs until we came face to face with a large wall painting of a mirror. He took the walky-talky and pressed it against the small copy of its face in the middle of it. It turned milky white before turning into hexagon patterned door.
He let go of my hand and I let him go, giving in to the feelings of loss. Moment more and he’ll be gone. I betrayed myself. That’s how I felt. He didn’t look back. I had all the opportunities in the world and I decided to do the right thing.
All of a sudden, Miloard turned, reached out and grabbed me from the front of my jacket and pulled me through with them. I found myself in a large room that looked like somebody’s living room. I had time to take in the light wooden floors and walls and that the ceiling was nothing more than tree branches with fresh leaves, because it suddenly smelled like standing on top of a maple tree.
There was the blond administrator I’d seen Thorwald speak with earlier. She let out a sharp gasp, before Thorwald turned around and his eyes widened, seeing me in Miloard’s clutches. I saw from the corner of my eyes Mya catapulting from the sofa in the middle of the room.
My ears were still ringing from Miloard’s scream, when I felt Thorwald’s hand on my chest, and landed on my butt. I staggered to my feet, turned and had to move fast backwards by a pointy shiny end pressing me eagerly to my nose pushed me back through the gate into the dark field. Out came the same girl I’d seen wash her toes butt naked in the girl’s bathroom. Mya…