Quincy paused, her hands holding the medical box.
Lethia looked at her, chagrined. “You’re right. About me. I lose sight of that.” She shrugged awkwardly. “I’m waiting to heal so that I can do what I have to. I feel like I’m going mad, waiting to resume my life, that I can’t help but get overly involved with everyone else’s. That… that doesn’t mean I don’t actually care.”
She ran her hand through her hair, her forehead wrinkling. “And what I said earlier… about your playing den mother being a charade…”
Lethia shook her head and placed a hand on Quincy’s wrist, making the woman’s eyes grow a little. “It’s true that we’re not a real family. But thanks to what you’ve done to make everyone feel comfortable here… We’ve all started to get along! That means something! It could even make the difference between us surviving what’s to come or not!”
Lethia took her hand away and stood. She looked steady on her feet. “So, please. I hope you won’t pull away. And know that I’ve already forgiven you. I’m sure the others will be swift to do the same.”
She squinted one eye and held up her hand. “When it’s all said and done, we’ve all almost killed each other several times now!”
Hakeem laughed suddenly at that, and Quincy was startled enough to allow for a grin.
Lethia started for the front door. “I’m going to rest in the barn if you need me,” she said over her shoulder.
Quincy watched the girl leave before rising and putting the medical box back onto its shelf. “She’s hard to keep up with, that one,” she mumbled.
“Yes,” Hakeem said, taking a seat.
He leaned his cheek on a fist and asked, “Now… about what happened below?”
Quincy turned to regard him.
The man before her looked so much like her Taika. He moved like him. Smelled like him. Tasted like him.
“Of course I’ll tell you what happened,” Quincy said, making herself smile. She sat down at the table, but frowned like something had occurred to her. “Though I fear the elf should have been back by now…”
She looked at Hakeem. “Taika, could you tell me how long it’s been since he’s left? Perhaps it’s all in my mind.”
Her husband frowned hard in thought. Quincy’s heart lifted with hope.
But then the man pushed back his chair, stood up, and went to the window. He looked out at the suns. Quincy felt her throat clench as a fierce ice seized her heart.
“Hmm…” He looked back at her. “Judging by the suns movement, I’d say it’s been… nearly ten hours? It’s hard to say,” he chuckled. “Seems we should have asked Nyx to bring back a clock!”
Quincy conjured the spirit of her smile back onto her face, but it was a ghost. Dead and lifeless–
For now she knew that Hakeem was truly gone, and this thing in front of her needed to be destroyed.
After everyone had gone, and Elmiryn’s tears had subsided, I finally dared to lift my eyes from the floor.
Elmiryn was now lying on her side, back to me, curled up into a fetal position.
Nyx’s anger was so thick, I could feel it bleeding into my thoughts. The growing heat in my veins spurred me to confront my sister.
I did what I had to do, Nyx.
No, she hissed in my head. You didn’t have to use my pain as a weapon against her!
“Our pain,” I snarled aloud.
In my head, I continued, You know as well as I do that just because one of us sinks out of sight from the world, that doesn’t mean we do not experience some of it!
Izma put you to sleep! You weren’t even there for it!
I pressed my hand to my heart and ground the heel of my palm into my breast till it hurt. Tears clouded my eyes. You think I didn’t hurt, going over the memories?
My eyes squeezed shut.
I may as well have been present for every awful moment!
That didn’t give you the right to use it against Elmiryn! My experiences are not your weapon to wield!
I covered my face with my hands and exhaled harshly into my palms.
Against her? AGAINST her? Nyx, remembering your rape was the only thing that got THROUGH to her!
I dropped my hands and looked up at the ceiling, a pleading expression on my face. You’re right. I wasn’t there. I didn’t suffer through it, as you did. But if there is one thing I understand, it’s that Elmiryn cares for you!
No matter how far gone she is, she will ALWAYS respond to your suffering! And right now? We are far past the point of polite decorum!
My eyes turned back to Elmiryn, still curled up on the floor.
I am trying to keep the one you love alive, Nyx. Please forgive me if I resort to uncomfortable measures.
Nyx said nothing to this. I waited a long time for her to respond, but she never did. She felt distant. Her feelings and thoughts were hidden from me.
I chewed my inner lip and leaned back on my hands, my eyes roving over Elmiryn’s form.
This woman… My history with her was fraught. She’d cursed me and hurt me. Her opinion of me had never been high, and neither had mine been for her.
But she had returned me to my sister. We were whole thanks to her. And whatever my thoughts, Nyx loved Elmiryn. She was just too foolish to say it aloud.
So I had to keep the woman safe and alive until she could.