Author’s Note: It’s short. I’m incredibly dissatisfied with this installment. 9.4 will be better, I hope. Blah.
I wanted to blame her.
So intensely, I wanted to push all of the blame for our capture onto Phae; for bringing us to the capital, for booking a single room with a single bed, for not knowing of this threat in the first place. I’m selfish. I know that. All of those things, she did for me without even having to be asked. I could have died, and it’s because of Phae that I didn’t.
Now, standing naked in the center of the compound, I could only focus on this hardship. The waves of freezing cold water hit me over and over, and the girls around me created a chorus of high-pitched squeals and yelps with very bucket thrown. I was screaming, hugging myself against the cold, my skin pale and tight as gooseflesh raised along every inch of me. All this suffering…. and yet I felt detached, a ghost outside my body as they tortured it.
Never-ending torrents of water pelted us, and we were not permitted to move from where we stood. I watched a woman crouch to the ground, curling in on herself, only to be yanked up by the hair by one of the guards. She screamed and I could do nothing.
Phaedra would have done something.
Perhaps that’s the reason I feel such animosity toward my best friend, my love…. She takes action where I step back in fear. I don’t know where that part of me went, but I do remember there were days once when I could stand up for what I loved or be willing to die making my point.
I miss that part of me.
And in that field of filth and mud-spatter, I missed Phae.
They had tied her up when they took me; shackled her to the bed frame, and with much incredible effort, at that. Phaedra terrified me with her strength and will to fight, impressing me constantly since we arrived. The woman I had met in the bakery had been so docile and kind, caring for me in the darkest days of that sickness. The Phaedra I knew here, in this awful detention camp, was filled with fury and willfulness. When others bowed and cowered, she stood in defiance—and was always beaten for it, but never before she got her shots in on a few of the guards. They were growing weary of her, and that was oddly satisfying to me.
It seemed like forever until the water stopped, and a guard pointed back to our barracks. Aching and shivering, we hobbled along to each of our bunk houses. It was becoming routine, with these sessions always serving as my time to contemplate… always feeling just outside myself enough to link my thoughts together.
Once inside, I knelt beside Phae and let out a sob, her free arm coming to slide around me and pull me into her warmth without a word. She may have been shackled to the bed, but her affection was far from lacking.
How could I have ever blamed her…?