We arrived at the cabin with me still in his arms. He delicately put me on his bed and put a blanket over me. He then went for bandages and bandaged my ankles carefully. They were still bleeding a little and if they got infected, that would have been just the cherry to complete the cake of disaster. He sat on the edge of the bed and put his head between his hand, probably exhausted by the situation. I looked at the ceiling, trying to think of anything to say. An excuse, or something that I could say to him. I felt guilty for not listening to him since the beginning and for making him worried.
“He shouldn’t even help me. I only asked for his hospitality, nothing else.”
Previously that day, I asked him at the river if he still had the magical and spicy potion that had cured me of my tree wounds, but he said I had drunk the last one. That made me feel worst. What if something happened to him and there is no magic potion?
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. If you want to leave me stranded in the forest like this I get it, and I’m not going to complain, I was stupid and selfish. I just...” I didn’t end the sentence, trying to find the words to describe what I felt.
He locked his eyes with mine, and I could see the tiredness and loneliness of all those years of being alone in those woods. And I was just a bargain.
“I feel like the world throws me down and deeper every time I want to stand up...is like it wants me to give up.” I said in almost a whisper. Silent tears rolled down my cheek and I wiped them.
“I’ll take my things as soon as I can walk well. I’m sorry for everything.” I said in a much stronger voice, but it sounded so weak when I heard it.
“Liberty, stop it. You know what you are doing? That’s self-pity, and that’s not going to help.”
He came over to my side and looked at me straight in the eyes, and in a soft voice, he spoke to me.
“I have been there, just where you are right now. Is shit, but you need to accept what comes your way and all the possible things that may happen. Embrace it, and move on.”
I processed every single word in my head, and he was right. I needed to get a grip on myself and move on. Next time, I’ll take the necessary precautions and of course, be prepared for anything.
“And no, even if you are very annoying, you can still stay.” he said while he stood up. I internally sighed in relief knowing he was not going to kick me out.
“Thank you. You definitely have a heart of gold, and I judged you very badly in the beginning.” I said with a guilty expression.
He turned around and gave me a smile.
“I judged you wrong too.”
I smiled and tried to move, but I ended up wincing in pain.
“Don’t move, it is going to be worst.” he said in a serious tone.
I smiled internally knowing that he cared, but then, why did I care that he cared?
Trying to change the subject I started asking him questions.
“So...If you’re bored, what do you do?
He looked at me with his eyebrows up, like saying "Really?"
“I train, go hunting...” he answered anyway and chuckled. “Are you bored?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah kind of. You should have Netflix.” I said teasing him. I put my arm under my head to tilt it.
“What is Netflix?” he said with a confused tone.
“It’s a thing you use to watch movies.”
Knowing he wouldn’t know what a movie is I tried to explain it as well.
“A movie is like a story where people act it. It’s like a play, but is recorded so you can watch it as many times as you like.”
The term “recorded” probably was alien to him, but he nodded understanding the concept.
“And how many movies have you seen?” He asked, switching his position to be looking at me.
“Pff. Countless of them. And I still had plenty more to see before I got here.”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “That much?”
“Yep. Plus all the times I have re-watch my favorite movies.”
“What are they about?”
I started to think of one of my favorite movies and one came into my mind that made me smile.
“Well...there is this one called Titanic. It’s actually based on a true story.”
So I spent the next half an hour telling him the movie, explaining in detail the whole romance between Jack and Rose that made me always swoon for. He was really interesting listening to the story, sometimes he would shake his head and laugh because it was too dramatic and cliche. He didn’t use that specific word but you get me. When I got to the part when the ship hits an iceberg he snorted.
“Don’t tell me they die.” he said rolling his eyes at the dramatic turn of events. I shushed him and continued with the story. When I finished telling him I started rambling about how Jack could have survived.
“I mean there was space for the two of them!” I said finishing my rambling.
“So both of them could have survived?”
“Yes! He died in vain.” I said pouting like a child.
He shrugged. “Maybe he wanted to die. Too much drama.”
I rolled my eyes and ignored the comment.
My stomach protested in hunger suddenly, making me realize I hadn’t eat since the previous day. Cassius being the gentleman, stood up and went to bring me food. He brought me a plate of food with dear meet from the previous day. He handed me the plate and waited until I finished, which it didn’t take long.
“Tell me another one.” He said. This time, the both of us were lying in his bed looking at the ceiling. I thought for a moment and a movie popped into my mind. I hesitated for some seconds but then I just went through and told him.
“There is this movie called The Hunger Games. It’s supposed to take place in the future, way more years than were I come from.”
He just nodded and I started telling the story of the Girl on Fire. I explained the situation she was, the games and the revolution it had taken place years ago against The Capitol. At the end, I took more than an hour explaining the whole story because I ended up telling him the four movies. Plus the fact he didn’t understand most of the terms. He liked much more The Hunger Games than Titanic.
“Woah. That is one hell of a story.”
Night had fallen over us a long time ago and we were still lying on our backs facing the dark wooden ceiling with just darkness surrounding us. The pain in my legs was still there, but for some moments I forgot about it because I was so focused on telling the story that I just ignored it.
“Actually, that was four movies and each of them lasts around an hour and a half and two hours.”
He chuckled and turned his head to look at me.
“How can you memorize so much?”
“If it wasn’t because I read the books, I wouldn’t have.” I shrugged and kept looking at the ceiling.
“Now it’s your turn to tell a story.” I said turning my body this time to look at him, wincing a little at the pain od my aching muscles.
“Me?” he said almost laughing.
“No, the person over there.” I said sarcastically pointing a random place behind him.
He turned around in a nanosecond looking for the “dog”. I laughed at his reaction and tried to contain it, but it was difficult, especially when people didn’t understand sarcasm. He looked annoyed, but he looked like he was restraining himself from laughing also. That moment I realized he was always on guard for something. Always.
“Shut up.” he said rolling his eyes.
I took a few deep breaths to stop laughing before I talked.
“Okay. Now the story.” I said before I could start laughing again.
He thought for a while for a story worth to tell and when I almost fell asleep he talked.
“Well, this is a story my mother used to tell me when I was little.” he said sheepishly. I opened my eyes wide awake to show him I was paying my full attention and with my hand, I made a gesture for him to continue.
“There was this princess, whose father, the king, had to battle against the Wizards and with him, her fiance. This war had been going for a hundred years, and this battle was going to decide the winner. She was nervous and afraid for both of them, so she decided to go with them, without them noticing it, and witness the fight. If something happened, she wanted to be there to see it with her own eyes, but she did not know she was not prepared to see what would happen.”
Cassius talked with confidence, and the words came out of his mouth without even thinking twice, like he already knew the story by heart.
“When the battle came, she climbed one of the tallest trees that was near the battle to have a better view of his father and fiance. The battle carried on for a while, but it was clear the Wizards were victorious. The wizards were merciless, killing every human that survived in the most tortuous ways. This included her father and fiance. Their screams were the most horrible thing she had ever listened and before she could realize, her painful screams and cries froze the entire battlefield. Not even single soul moved at the heart ripping scream. The tree she had climbed suddenly exploded in millions of splinters and stakes that ripped the throats of all the wizards alive in the battlefield. Everyone was dead, including her, but the humans had won thanks to her. In one day, her loved ones died, she discovers she is a wizard and at the same time kills thousands of her own kind and herself.”
By the time he finished telling the story, my eyes were closed and I was drifting to the dream world. Not the kind of bedtime story I was used to when I was little, but right there it did its magic and just when I was about to lose contact with the physical world, I heard him loud and clear.
“Sometimes, some changes are for the best, even if we don’t want to accept them.”
I ignored it and drifted to the happy world of dreams.
The next day I woke up with my whole body throbbing. My muscles ached and the scratches with the wounds on my ankles stung more than I would care to admit. I forced my eyes to open and I found the cabin empty. I looked to my side to see no trace of Cassius. And then realization hit me.
“Holy shit. I slept on his bed. Did he sleep with me?”
I racked my mind to remember if he had stayed with me on the bed, but nothing came. And I knew better than to ask him. That would just be plain embarrassing.
I used my elbows to prop myself off the bed and sit at the edge of the bed with difficulty. I looked down at my bandaged ankles and decided to take the bandages. I took them slowly and looked at the wounds. My ankles were swollen and the claw wounds looked even deeper without all that blood over them. I flinched at the sight and took a deep breath.
“I’m going to need stitches.” I thought with a cringe imagining the pain it was going to be to without a single drop of anesthesia.
Just in that moment, Cassius opened the door and smile at me. His hair was messy and his face was covered in dirt.
“Good morning. You’re in a good mood apparently.” I said with a smile in return.
He shrugged but kept the smile on his face. I think it was the first time I saw him smile that much.
“So whats the cause of that smile of yours?” I said still looking at him, enjoying the moment. Something told me that this was very rare and probably it was going to be hard to get him smile like this.
“You’ll see.” he said with a wink.
I laughed and shook my head.
“Something definitely hit him hard in the head.” I thought.
I tried to stand up but fell back to the bed. I tried again but failed again. My legs felt like jelly every time I tried to stand up. I decided to give up at the third try. Irritation was clear on my face and the only thing I wanted was to punch something.
Cassius meanwhile watched me with amusement clear on his face, probably trying not to laugh at my poor attempts to stand up.
“Enjoying watching me struggle?” I said with an eye roll.
“Very much.” he said with a chuckle.
He walked towards me and sat next to me.
“Don’t stand up. I think you are even worse than yesterday...” he said trailing off when he looked at my ankles. His beautiful smile had disappeared and was replaced by a worried look.
“They need stitches. And I can’t do it myself.” I said straight to the point.
He eyed me for a moment and then sighed.
“It will hurt. A lot.” He passed a hand through his hair, probably thinking it was a bad idea.
“I don’t care. I prefer that than cut my feet afterward because of an infection.”
He closed his eyes and let out a breath. He stood there watching me for a moment.
“Lay down on the bed.” he said, his voice becoming hard and cold.
He walked to the table at the other side of the room and started searching for something meanwhile I laid down on his bed. I let out a shaky breath and started preparing myself mentally for the upcoming pain. He came with a needle and a thread on his hand and sat at my feet.
He grabbed my right ankle with one hand and with the other started stitching without a warning. I suppressed the scream and shut my eyes at the pain. I gripped the edges of the bed, my nails digging into the mattress. I started taking deep breaths to control myself from shaking and Cassius grabbed my ankle harder to keep it steady. My heart rate started picking up as well as the pain while tears started streaming down my face and sob threaten to escape my mouth. I bit my tongue and a metallic flavor started flooding my mouth. The pain started to increase with each passing second and my legs started shaking.
“Stay still.” he said with a hard as steel voice. I took more deep breaths to calm myself and gripped the mattress with more force. I thanked Cassius silently for being hard and cold in this situation; being compassionate and empathic in this situation wasn’t going to be better. That would just have made me feel weak.
My shaky breaths filled the silence of the room and my body was having a hard time to be still. By then, my cheeks were wet in tears and my mind started to feel dizzy. Maybe passing out was a better option, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to show myself strong, not a wimpy damsel in distress who needed someone to comfort her.
“Done.” he said suddenly.
I opened my eyes to see him letting go gently of my now bloodied and stitched right ankle to grab the left one. This time he looked me in the eyes for approval and I just nodded my head quickly. He started quickly stitching the wounds and once again, I gripped the mattress, bit my tongue and closed my eyes. The pain started flooding again through my body and tears started streaming not long after that. The only thing in which I focused was on my breathing and my heart rate.
“H-how’d I like to have a b-bottle of Vodk-ka right-t now.” I said stuttering between my deep breaths to at least make me feel better about the situation. Cassius didn’t say anything and kept doing his job.
A minute passed and I felt my head spinning, to which I closed my eyes tighter to avoid the dizzy feeling taking over. My legs felt numb and for a moment I didn’t feel any pain nor my legs, but then the needle entering my skin was a reminder that the pain was still there and with it my legs.
“It is over.” I heard him say. I still couldn’t open my eyes but I opened my mouth to take a deep breath.
“It’s over.” I thought letting go slowly of the mattress. I opened my eyes to find a very concentrated Cassius bandaging the bloody ankles carefully.
With the back of my hand, I wiped away the tears left on my cheeks and let out a deep sigh.
“You are one of the bravest people I have ever met. Men three times bigger than you would have been shouting and screaming like a baby.” he said with a calmed voice still focused on bandaging. I let out a shaky laugh but said nothing in return. The pain was still there, but it was steady.
“I really need that Vodka.” I thought with a smile, remembering all the times I got drunk with it, and yet I was never tired of it. The same with tequila.
My thought got interrupted by his voice.
“Why are you smiling?” he asked with a tint of confusion in his voice.
“Drunk experiences.” I said shrugging.
He laughed and shook his head. He walked towards me and sat down on the edge of the bed. He looked at me with an indescribable emotion that I couldn’t quite figure it out.
“You are definitely something else.” he whispered.
I arched an eyebrow in question.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
He shook his head and said nothing. An amused smile made its way to my lips and I couldn’t help the chuckle that left my lips. I observed him a couple of seconds more, and something caught my attention. A silvery reflection caught my eye, and I realized it was a thin silver chain on Cassius’ neck.
It took me by surprise that after all that time with him I hadn’t realized he had that on.
“What is that?” I pointed with my finger to the silver chain.
His hand went to the part I was pointing and touched the silver chain.
“Uh, nothing. Just a stupid chain.” he said nonchalantly.
I looked at him suspiciously but decided not to ask. Something I hated was when people started to ask unnecessary things, and with unnecessary I mean personal stuff.
Better to keep my mouth shut. Curiosity did kill the cat after all.