I admit, I didn’t think all the ‘getting there’ segments out very well. I have better pieces in store, I promise.
The wagon was full, packed wall to wall. Phaedra could make no pattern of them. A random assortment; men, women, rich, poor, it didn’t seem to make sense. Her fingers slid slowly through Tully’s hair, the blond making use of her lap as a pillow, soothing her the best she could. Her mind raced, eyes flicking from the doors to a barred window at the front, and then to the floor, littered with crying women and angry men.
“What do we do?” whispered Tully, cerulean eyes drifting open, settling on her companion in wait.
“Right now, we do nothing.” Phae’s fingers stroked gently over her cheek, Tully’s eyes slipping shut once again. “It doesn’t do us any good to jump out of a moving wagon. Besides, the door is barred from the outside.”
“But why are we here?” Tully asked, her voice breaking as she clamped her eyes shut on the tears.
“They’re taking people from all over the city,” a girl in the corner murmured, just loud enough to be heard over the dull hum of tears and whispers around her. She lifted her eyes, so dark blue they were almost violet.
“But why? What have we done?” Phaedra pressed, pulling her hand from Tully’s hair as the blond sat up.
The girl curled into herself, hugging her knees, the bonnet she wore slipping slightly to reveal a mop of ginger hair. Phae knew she couldn’t have been more than seventeen. “There have been rumors.”
Sliding off the narrow bench that lined the wagon walls, Tully settled beside her, tugging off the bonnet and stroking her hair. “What rumors?” she asked, her tone soft. “And what’s your name, dear?”
The girl glanced up at Tully and shifted her eyes to Phae. “It’s Fiona… And… Rumors… that people are getting taken right off the streets. I had never sen it until it happened to me.” She began to cry and Tully wrapped an arm around her, tugging her into a maternal huddle, wordlessly directing her to lay her head on her shoulder. “I was just buying flour,” she sobbed quietly, her face turning into Tully’s neck.
“So, what makes us all different? What do we have in common?” Phaedra looked around at everyone. Most of them seemed harmless, cowering and crying. Others looked angry, maybe dangerous, but certainly not pleasant company.
The girl lifted her head and scooted closer to Phae, pulling lightly at Tully’s sleeve to beckon her closer. Creating a tight little triangle, Phae knelt beside the pair as the girl leaned in to whisper.
“They take adulterers, rapists, and flesh-peddlers… people are always saying they take others, too.”
“Others?” Tully tucked a bit of hair from the redhead’s eyes, looping it behind her ear gently.
“Homosexuals,” Phae said resignedly.
Tully made a noise of disgust. That made sense. They were surrounded by men and women whose only crimes were being dissatisfied, poor, or just… different. For the most part, anyway.
“And what did you do?” asked Tully, glancing to Phae, their eyes meeting in mutual concern.
The girl’s head dipped a bit and that bouncy red hair tumbled back into a curtain beside her face. “I was unfaithful to my husband…” she swallowed hard, “with his daughter. We’re the same age.”
Phae shook her head a bit, puzzled. “Why isn’t she here then?”
“I think… she is the one who turned me in.”
A silence settled within their little triangle, the rocking and creaking of the wagon almost painfully loud behind it. A sob broke their pensive quiet, and the redheaded girl leaned into Tully who didn’t seem to have a choice in wrapping her arms around her. Casting a glance at Phaedra, she hushed the teen in her arms, rocking gently with her to quiet her tears.
“I feel like this is redundant, but… now what?” Tully ventured, blue eyes settled on Phae, intense and very barely containing the panic welling within.
Phaedra shook her head a little, and drew a deep, pensive breath. “I don’t know.”
“You have to know, Phae. You always know!” burst out of Tully’s mouth, breaking on tears. The blond rocked back and forth, and Phaedra slid off the bench, tucking a bit of Tully’s hair behind her ear, pressing a tender kiss to her forehead.
“You didn’t come this far to lose it now, did you? You beat that infection, and you can overcome this. We can overcome this.” Her eyes trailed down the younger girl’s face, and she leaned to brush their lips together.
Tully jerked back, pulling the girl with her. “That’s the whole reason we’re here, isn’t it?” Her glare bore into Phae so hard it almost burned to be under it.
Drawing back, she settled back on the bench, gaze fixed on her hands as she fiddled with her own fingers. It was unfathomable that she and Tully could have been so happy when the girl was all but dying, but now they were faced with imprisonment and that look—Phae closed her eyes and swallowed hard.
“You’re right.” Her voice was soft, all the strength and confidence that usually poured off of her had been stopped cold by Tully’s glare. “Of course you’re right, Tully…. I just–”
“Just? Just what?” Tully’s shoulders rose and fell in resignation and she released the girl in her arms, who scooted back, eyes wide as they flicked between the quarreling women. “I don’t even care what you ‘just’! How do we get out of this?”
Phaedra stared at her. In those few weeks they’d spent together, she had honestly thought they’d gotten to know one another and now… she didn’t even know Tully. How could the girl from the inn have possibly been the same person?
“I love you.”
Tully’s eyes snapped up yet again, and she shook her head. “Phae–”
“I’ll think of something.”
Tully let out a quaking sigh. “I certainly hope one of us does…”