Several days had passed since I started my training, and it was the most tiring days I had ever had to put up with. The first few days, each day I felt like I was closer to death, but the training continued and I was starting to be more resilient each passing day. I could run ten minutes without feeling like my lungs were ready to explode and the workout didn’t feel like my muscles were ripping. The fatigue and tiredness weren’t avoidable, but at least I wasn’t feeling like dying.
Cassius was stonehearted while training me. He took it more seriously than I thought he was going to and he practically didn’t care if I was on the floor without being able to breathe, he thought everything was psychological.
“Psychological my ass!” I once shouted while doing pushups. That didn’t end well. I was forced to do 100 more pushups. I almost fainted that time.
The only perk of all that was that my body changed. My abdomen was harder, my arms and legs muscles were starting to show more and were also harder and more importantly, I had lost weight. It wasn’t like before I was fat or overweight, but it felt good to had those extra pounds off.
Oh, and I finally got shoes. Cassius got them one day after he returned from the forest. He came back with the boots and a black eye. I was tempted to ask, but I shut my mouth. I didn’t have to ask him to know that the boots belonged then to a dead man.
Finally, the day had arrived. The day I would examine Lucy’s injuries. I woke up in the morning feeling tired from all the exercise of the day before but got up pretty quickly to start the day. I went to the woods looking for a nice branch with leaves for Lucy and then went to the back of the cabin to give it to her.
I pet her while she ate and sang Killer Queen from Queen. She ignored me and I kept singing trying to remember the lyrics as much as I could. I missed music a lot, so I sang quite a lot when I had free time, or usually when I was hanging around Lucy. I never liked to sing in public, or in front of anyone to be honest. Not even Hannah, my best friend. My sister heard me sang secretly, but as soon as I caught her, I would shut my mouth. I don’t know why I was so apprehensive about it, but it was nice to know that I had that one thing only to myself.
I finished the song, and Lucy was almost finished eating.
“Lucy, I think it’s time to check your injuries. I’m quite worried about them.” I stood up and walked slowly to her broken leg. The leg was swollen and you could see the bone wasn’t in the right place. How she hadn’t been neighing in pain or complaining of the pain is a mystery. I just knew I had to snap it back to place.
“Uhm, Lucy, this is probably going to hurt a lot, so try to be steady and not kill me.” I said with a sweet voice, trying to relax her before all hell broke loose. I let out a breath and tried to dry my sweaty hands in my clothes. I kneeled in front of the broken leg and touched it, to see her reaction. She didn’t even flinch.
“That’s strange...” I said my thoughts out loud.
I decided it was now or never, and with a strong movement downwards, I put the bone back in its place. Lucy neighed in pain and, unexpectedly, with a kick in the guts I was thrown to the floor.
My back hit the floor hard, knocking the air out of me for a few seconds. I groaned in pain and sat up. Lucy was taking deep breaths and looked in pain.
“I’m sorry...I thought you didn’t feel pain.” I said to Lucy keeping my arms around my waist, trying to ignore the pain from the kick. It was pretty obvious she didn’t use all her force in the kick. That would have probably killed me. I think it was involuntary.
I stood up with difficulty and suddenly Cassius arrived. His breathing was ragged and he was panting. A worried expression was on his handsome face and he looked all over me for injuries. He saw me clutching my abdomen and he frowned.
“What happened? I heard the pegasus neighing.” He said looking in between Lucy and me.
“Uhm...technical problems.” I said with a groan. He narrowed his eyes at Lucy and didn’t say anything.
He suddenly grabbed my wrist and started walking away from Lucy. I huffed at the sudden movement and the pain in my abdomen got worst. I decided to ignore that.
“What are you doing? I haven’t finished!” I exasperatedly at the man in front of me.
“That thing is going to keep hurting you. I shouldn’t have let you take care of it in the first place. You were stupid thinking that it wouldn’t do something to hurt you.” He said in an angry voice that surprised me. I wasn’t angry at his outburst because I knew he didn’t understand the connection I had with Lucy.
I stopped my feet from walking, tugged my wrist from his hold and stood my place. He turned around with a deathly glare but it dissolved when he saw my expression. I grabbed both of his hands and gave him a small smile.
“Cassius, you don’t need to worry about me. I can take care of myself...and Lucy is not a threat. I had snapped her broken leg back to place, that’s why she kicked me, but it was involuntary. Please, let me show you she is anything but a threat. I just need to examine one more thing.” I said with a pleading tone.
He was having a battle with his conscience and had a cute frown on his face. Finally, he nodded and I hugged him. “Thank you for trusting me. And please, don’t stress yourself with this things, I feel bad that I’m the cause of it. I have already caused you enough stress. Any other person would have killed me by now.” I said with a guilty smile on my lips. He returned a handsome smile and neared his mouth to my ear.
“You are too kind for anyone.” he whispered. I blushed at the compliment and just smiled in return.
I went back to Lucy, and she had calmed herself, which it was going to ease the job of examining her again. I kneeled in front of her and hugged her long neck. “Forgive me, Lucy, I should have been more delicate.” I said whispering to her ear. She rested her head on my back, signalizing that I was forgiven. I moved my head to look at her directly in the eye and pressed my forehead against hers. “You’re amazing, you know that?”
Cassius was watching the interaction from behind, his hand grasping the sword. I turned around to look at him with a smile to reassure him everything was fine. I stood up and walked to Lucy’s injured wing. It was swollen like the leg, but it wasn’t broken. Maybe the bone had returned to its place alone. In that case, I just needed bandages and strong branches to keep the wing and the leg bound. I looked at Cassius, who was watching me intently, never taking his gaze from me.
The last days he had been doing that a lot and it made me nervous as hell. It was as if he could look straight through me, seeing my every thought and feeling. I felt weird, and kind of exposed, and there was this tingly sensation that would always accompany me when that happened. An involuntary blush crept up to my cheeks and I tried to cover it with a cough.
“So, I’m going to look for some branches...want to join me?” I asked him with the courage to look him in the eyes. Those hazel eyes held something, a spark, a glint that made his eyes shine. That spark started to appear not from long ago, and I secretly wished that I had something to do with it.
He nodded and we walked side by side to the woods.
“How do you know so much about injuries?” he asked curiously.
“My mother was a veterinarian.” I explained what a veterinarian was, knowing he wouldn’t understand. “That’s why I have a strong love for animals. Since I have memory I have been around them.”
He nodded, never leaving his intense gaze from me. I started looking for strong branches to keep the leg and wing bound so it will create a “homemade wooden cast”, so the healing would take less. Of course, if I had all the medicine and anti-inflammatory pills my mom had in the clinic, I bet the healing would have taken just days.
Cassius started helping me looking for branches, and the both of us were engulfed in a comfortable silence. Unconsciously, I started humming to a random song and making little movements like dancing. I heard a chuckle from behind and I turned around just to see an amused Cassius, watching this with a lot of humor.
“What?” I asked him with an arched brow, daring him to laugh.
“You are quite humorous.” he chuckled again and I narrowed my eyes in a playful manner.
“I’m dancing! Let me be.” I said not looking at him, so he couldn’t notice the smile on my lips.
I kept dancing, despite his laugh.
“That is not dancing!” he said laughing.
I turned around to look at him and arched an eyebrow.
“So what’s dancing for you?” I asked with a challenging tone.
He took steps towards me and shook his head.
“This is dancing.”
Suddenly, he was close to me. He grabbed my waist with his hand and with the other asked for my right hand. I eyed him suspiciously, biting my lip to prevent smiling. I gave him my right hand and with the other y grabbed gently his shoulder. He took two steps forward, and I took two steps back. He took one step to the side, and I followed him.
I couldn’t help the laugh that escaped my lips, thinking about the two of us, dancing waltz in the middle of the forest, to an imaginary song. He smiled and chuckled probably thinking the same as me.
He turned me around unexpectedly, and I almost fell face to the floor, if it wasn’t because he grabbed my waist just in time. My back was against his chest and I let out a breath of relief. I turned around to see his face, to see him smiling, almost laughing.
“You are too awkward.”
I gasped and put a hand over my chest. “That’s so not true! You didn’t even warn me of that turn. Besides, I’m an amazing dancer.”
“You can’t even turn without falling!” he exclaimed, trying not to laugh at my fake resentful expression.
“Fine. Then I won’t dance with you anymore.” I said nonchalantly. I made an attempt to get away from his grip, but he gripped his hold around my waist.
“I never said I did not like it.” he said with a playful smirk.
I rolled my eyes, but a smile made it’s way to my lips anyway. The butterflies in my stomach were almost unbearable and I had to fight with all my will to not put my arms around his neck.
“Anyways, Mister Dancer, we definitely didn’t come here to dance. I had an important task to complete. So...” I looked at the arm he had around my waist so he could get the message.
“Alright, but you owe me a dance.” He winked at me and I rolled my eyes again to avoid blushing.
We collected what I needed and went back to the back of the cabin. Lucy was waiting for me, and she looked better somehow, probably because she didn’t have that unbearable pain of her leg nagging her.
I started making the improvised wooden cast with the things Cassius and I could find in the woods, focusing in not hurting her again. Another kick in the guts and I would have probably threw up.
I finished the wooden cast in her leg and bandaging her wing, and I was pretty proud of myself. Maybe in two weeks or less, she was going to be back on her feet again. I guess all those “take your kid to work” days my mom took me had their use after all.
I stood up and turned around to see Cassius a few meters away from me (always as far away as possible from Lucy), looking impressed with my work.
I brushed off the imaginary dust on my shoulder and gave him an air of superiority. He cocked an eyebrow and chuckle.
“It’s just a bandage, I do not see much reason to be proud.” he said with a teasing tone in his voice.
I scowled. “Try bandaging a 7-foot tall horse and then we can talk.”
“It is a Pegasus, not a horse.”
I rolled my eyes again for the tenth time that day and walked to the front of the cabin. “Whatever.” I muttered under my breath.
“Are we going to keep talking or are we going to train?” I asked him in a challenging tone.
It was his turn to roll his eyes.
We trained the rest of the day, with a few minutes to eat in between. The training again it consisted only of running, exercises such as planks, crunches, punches, high kicks, push-ups, and beyond. And like every day, my whole body ached at the end of the day. I asked Cassius when did the training with weapons started, but he like always was an ass, so he kept his mouth shut.
Night fell upon us fast, and the cold breeze signalizing the closing winter made me shiver. We were sat around the fire, like almost every other night, watching the dancing flames get higher and higher into the night. The warmth on my face was comforting, and I closed my eyes as I enjoyed the calm night. My feet were cold since I still didn’t have shoes, so I tried to put them as close as I could to the fire. Cassius was next to me, closer than usual, but I didn’t care. Not at all.
In fact, I took advantage of this to rest my head on his shoulder. I sighed in contentment and opened my eyes to see him watching me with his piercing eyes. He put an arm around me and put me closer to him, never breaking the eye contact.
I maintained a calm facade, so he wouldn’t realize how much a small action like that could make me nervous as hell. My heart skipped a beat and started beating faster in delight. A sigh escaped my lips before I could stop it.
I bit my lip and turned my focus to the fire.
“You always do that.” he said out of nowhere.
“What?” I asked not looking at him.
“Avoid looking at me at any cost when you’re nervous.” he stated matter of factly.
I froze at the statement, realizing that he did watch me a lot, and not just looking, analyzing too.
“Eye contact makes me more nervous.” I said shrugging like it wasn’t a big deal.
“Do I make you nervous?” he said with a touch of intrigue, but at the same time cockiness.
I rose an eyebrow and looked at him. He was watching me intently and he looked eager for an answer.
I smirked. “You wish.”
He didn’t believe my answer anyways, but I kept watching the fire in his embrace, enjoying the feeling of his touch, and the butterflies that left me light headed.
“It’s this how drugs feel?” I thought in that moment. “Because if they do, I might become an addict.”
The silence embraced us, and I realized he was surely a man of few words. And I liked that. He only talked when it was necessary, he didn’t put an effort to make conversation when it wasn’t needed, and he always listened. And that’s something difficult to find.
I snuggled closer to him and a yawn escaped my lips. My eyelids were drooping and I was having a hard time trying to keep myself awake.
“Let’s go to sleep. Shall we?” he murmured near my ear, and I nodded sleepily. We stood up and I stretched myself. He put out the fire, and we walked side by side to the cabin.
We entered the cabin which was pitch dark. The both of us muttered our goodbyes and I went straight to my improvised bed and Cassius did the same with his bed. I muffled up with the blankets and tried to sleep, but I found myself with no sleepiness or tiredness in my system. Which meant I couldn’t fall asleep.
I turned around in between the blankets trying to find some will to sleep, but I simply couldn’t force my eyelids to close and to not open them. I sighed in frustration and looked at the ceiling. It always happened to me that in the middle of the night the wildest and craziest ideas came to my mind, and that kept me awake for hours almost always.
I heard a chuckle from the dark and smiled unconsciously knowing I wasn’t the only one with that problem.
“Having problems to sleep I see.” His deep British accent making me sigh internally.
“I’m starting to think that I’m a cat. I prefer to sleep during the day and do everything at night.” I said with a nod, which Cassius probably didn’t see since the cabin was pitch black.
Silence enveloped us, and I had this sudden need to talk with him about everything or anything.
“What do you miss the most from your home?”
There was a moment of silence where I thought he wasn’t going to respond, but his voice made its way through the dark.
“I guess I miss those evenings where I played with my brothers, or those long walks through the castle garden with my mother. Or horseback riding with my father and going to the weekly hunts into the woods with him and my friends.” He said, the nostalgia making its presence in his voice.
I smiled at the idea of Cassius doing all these different activities with his family and being a relaxed care-free teenager.
“How is living in a castle? I mean, I’ve never seen one in real life, less living in one.” I said turning around in his direction, even though I couldn’t see him.
“It is...I do not know how to express it. There’s just a lot of space everywhere and there’s always some secret room or place that you discover just by walking through those long hallways.”
“Really? That big?” I asked in amazement.
“I think I didn’t get to know every single corner of that palace until I was fourteen.” He chuckled. “I was constantly punished for wandering too much through the hallways. But my favorite part was definitely the garden. It was so beautiful and full of colors. There was a pond where I used to swim in summer and a rose garden that was just...amazing.”
I didn’t say anything, imagining everything he said. From the long endless corridors to the rose garden.
“Maybe someday we could go and make a visit.” I said leaving in question the possibility of going to said place.
The silence took over us, clearly showing that topic was delicate and an “out of bounds” place.
I had this sudden urge to hug him and just make him know that I could be always there to support him and that he didn’t need to go through his pain or suffering alone.
He cleared his voice quickly. “Good night Liberty.”
After that, all I could think about was my own pain and sadness of everything that had happened in my life. The frustration and betrayal of my dad’s treason. The sadness and that empty hole in my heart everytime I thought about my sister and my mom.
The wetness below my eyes caught my attention and I quickly swiped it away with the back of my hand.
I fell asleep with an ache in my heart that maybe only someone could repair it. And maybe that someone was on the other bed inside that room.