Do you guys remember Stitches? It was the first flash fiction I wrote involving Phaedra and Tully. A Letter from Count Malrais was the first, and together, they sparked Letters from Blackford Hill. I had to add and alter a bit, but here’s Stitches, revisited. Enjoy. <3
“You haven’t even flinched.”
Phaedra’s eyes flicked up to catch a dreamy smile on her friend’s lips, before glancing back down again. The gash on her forearm pinched together at the top when Tully pulled the thread taut, tying off the third in a series of stitches.
“Would you rather I were howling in pain?” asked Phaedra, her voice soft as it always was, though for once a light humor crept into her tone. The woman was always so severe, Tully couldn’t help but worry for her sometimes.
“Of course not,” replied Tully, pressing the point of the curved needle through the split flesh. Still, Phae didn’t react. “I just… admire your strength.”
She was still smiling. Phaedra gave her head a light shake. Tully baffled her sometimes. It was a long fight to get out of that colony, free from the fences and the locks, and rifles trained on them every second of every day; still, Tully smiled. Even when they were captured, bound and carted off to that awful place, Tully still managed to smile. Fiona was left at the edge of the woods, lifeless. Phae knew Tully was pushing back the pain that dwelt there; the pain that exploded from her love when Fiona took that bullet. There were tears, tantrums, fury from everyone else, dozens of others all desperate for answers….
Tully tried to stay on the bright side.
Phaedra wasn’t aware of any bright side.
Their lives had gone completely out of control, all because they had chosen to share an inn room while Phaedra helped Tully find a cure for that awful cough she’d had. Fortunately, the cough was alleviated, but they had hardly gotten their things packed to go back to work at the bakery, when the door came crashing off the hinges—
Phaedra shook her head and sighed. Going back to the bakery seemed useless now. Would they go so far as to wait for Phae and Tully where they worked?
The small town they’d stumbled across in their escape had no knowledge of the horrors of Blackford Hill. They knew only that the government had a compound there, but were left in the dark about what was held within it. The soldiers made it clear that they would shoot anyone on sight if they came snooping around. Now, huddled in yet another inn room, together, though this time accompanied by Silas and Felix—two married couples on holiday? Could they pull that off?—Phae submitted to Tully’s pleas to stitch the gash in her arm, and rub balm on the bruises and scrapes.
It killed Phae to see the blond’s arm wrapped up in blood-stained linen. Tully deserved so much better.
“Done.” Tully started packing up her first aid kit, and Phaedra lifted her arm to look over the other woman’s handy work. The stitches were clean, and the cut wasn’t even bleeding through the gaps.
“Thanks,” murmured Phaedra, and grabbed a strip of cloth that had been torn from Tully’s underskirt, starting to wrap the newly-sewn arm. Torn and used clothing was suddenly a luxury she’d never appreciated before. “Where did you learn to do that, anyway?”
A sad smile was cast over Tully’s shoulder as she tucked her things away. “I wasn’t always a baker, Phae. Somehow, I don’t expect you were, either.”
Their eyes met, and a silence passed between them, understanding and steadying. Something in that silence earned a smile from Tully, and Phaedra’s eyes fell to the fabric on her arm.
“No. Not always.”