The sound of her breath was the only thing she could hear. Panic coursed through her temples as she ran as fast as she could, her vision a blur; but no matter, she had to run. She had to get away, before they caught up with her. Already she could hear the sounds of the ones chasing her and, without thinking, she went to these familiar roads she walked everyday as a postman.
She knew every street by heart, where the dead ends were, where the ladders leading to the roofs were. And while she was completely in her element in the streets, she knew very well that the ones in pursuit weren’t. She didn’t dare look back, but she could hear them try to catch on and stumble on each other. She turned a tight corner, gripping it to help get by faster and through the corner of her eyes spotted a dark shape, following the best she could, eyes full of determination, yet obviously starting to be breathless.
She, too, was starting to feel her lungs burn her throat, but she wasn’t ready to give up. She was going to lose them, and she would not rest until she could be certain that they had lost her trail. She had already been caught by surprise earlier when she had come face to face with Beatrice, who had stared at her with surprised and confused eyes, but hadn’t lost a second to grip her arm firmly. She had been careful, and only when someone had bumped into her did she loosen her grip. Rosa hadn’t needed to be told twice before making a run for it and she hadn’t stopped since.
Only, she had been laying around for the past few days, had barely eaten and still had some of her pain to the head left. She felt weak, but desperate. Her right eye wasn’t exactly blind, but now she barely saw more than blurry shapes, leaving her with a huge dead angle. Before she knew it, she ran into someone she hadn’t seen coming and they both fell down on the ground. She searched for words to apologize, but her throat was burning and she found herself on her knees gasping for air.
-Rosa, goddamn it, would you watch where you’re going?!
She only knew one person who spoke like this and she smiled, suddenly not feeling like apologizing anymore. Voices were heard from behind and she lifted her head and looked back in panic to see Beatrice coming her way. Greg saw it, too.
-Aw, shit, what did you do this time?
-I followed your suggestions, that’s what!
She got up and started running, not waiting for an answer, but the answer came from beside her, the young man following her.
-What’s that supposed to mean! I told you to go warn your stupid friends, didn’t I? Explain to me why you now have the nobles running after your tail! That doesn’t make in fucking sense!
-Well, looks like they’ve been searching for me, too!
He gave her a confused look that she missed since she wasn’t exactly looking at him and turned the next corner, spotted the entrance to the sewers that she had used to escape Greg on their first encounter and jumped in. She took a few seconds to recover and started running again, hearing someone else land pretty nicely, meaning he had followed her. She frowned in annoyance.
-Why are you following me?
-So I can beat you up for ruining my nice day!
Suddenly she felt him grab her arm and pull her over towards him, leading her to a small dark corner that was easy to miss. Before she knew it she was halfway in his arms, his hand over her mouth as he watched to see if they’d run past without seeing them. Having no strength to fight back, she decided to simply trust him as she tried to catch her breath.
Sure enough they had been followed and the clumsy footsteps and voices of the servants went pass them, not without taking their time as they tried to find their way and spot any clue. For a moment Rosa thought they were going to spot them and come back as they stopped not too far from them and she could feel Greg tense up as well. For what seemed like an eternity everyone stood in silence, ears perched up to see who would betray the first sound. Neither she nor the thug dared breathe too loudly and maybe because he was just as nervous as she was about being caught, but he pulled her closer to him, hiding her in his shadow. He wasn’t exactly soft and now she only had one more reason why she couldn’t wait until the others would leave, which they finally did after hearing someone else run into the sewers.
Luck? For a moment she wondered if Greg’s followers hadn’t followed them in there. They waited a few minutes and after making sure no one was left, both of them finally let out a sigh and allowed themselves to relax. But before she could really feel relieved, she was welcomed with a good kick to the sides and fell down on the ground again.
-What do they want? Why are they looking for you?
-I-I don’t know.
-Liar! The nobles never send out their army after someone who did nothing! What the hell did you do to them?!
He had this strange intensity in his voice and eyes, as if he was blaming her for all the commotion they caused in the area. Frustration lit up his eyes as she didn’t answer him, trying to remember if she had ever done something worthy of their wrath. They couldn’t know that she had seen Life, and his brother was supposedly dead. What did they want with her now?
She was snatched away from her thoughts before she could get up by the young man who had lost his patience and grabbed her by the collar, forcing her to be at eye level with him. She looked away.
-Just what is your connection with the nobles? Come to think of it, you pretty much appeared out of nowhere four years ago.
-I-I once was once of their slaves.
-Bullshit. There’s no slave that gets out of there alive.
-It’s the truth!
He was about to give her a good punch in the face when she showed him her right hand. She had removed her glove while talking and was now showing him that mark she hated so much. The one she had tried to rip away, the one that was ripping away all her pride, that thing that labelled her as an object. His expression was slightly shocked and he let her go, and while she hadn’t been sure he’d know what it was, he seemed to very well know that this was the mark of a slave.
-So basically you ran away from their grasp and now that they’ve found you they’re going to try and get you back? What are you, fucking stupid?
-I didn’t run away! My master died, alright! They fired me! I don’t even get it myself, but that’s what happened!
She pulled her hat over her head and closed her eyes shut, feeling overwhelmed by all this. Her trembling tail rolled itself up around her leg and either she looked very pitiful, either she looked honest, but as a result the thug looked at her with a deadly silence. Tears came rolling down her cheeks as she didn’t understand what was going on or what she should do anymore. Her whole body was shaking now.
-So let me get this straight. You’re a slave. Your master died. And you ran away. And why didn’t they search for you until now? Heck, I didn’t know nobles would let their slaves slip away so easily. You weren’t even hiding!
He crossed his arms, waiting for an answer, but she was just as confused as he was. Then she remembered Beatrice’s eyes and what she had said upon seeing her. You…?
She hadn’t been angry nor upset, but her eyes had showed surprise, as if she hadn’t expected to see her at all. And it was true they hadn’t searched for her, not even once. She felt dizzy with the conclusion she came to and had to step back and let her back rest on the wall as she answered him.
-Maybe they thought I was dead.
-Dead? How can they think you were dead when they threw you out!
-I don’t know, alright? I can’t even remember how I ended up on the streets… I can’t remember who threw me out.
-Are you fucking retarded? Maybe your head did get slammed into a wall too many times.
-Stop calling me names! I don’t even know if you’re helping or picking on me right now!
She glared at him while he showed no particular expression, before sighing and scratching his hair in frustration. He glared back at her and gave her a kick to her knee, which made her fall down.
-Don’t provoke me, you little shit, or I’m giving them a nice little package.
-So what, you’re helping?
-If they get their hands on you, we’ll never see your ugly face around here ever again, right? Then your friend is going to be sad and she’s going to come crying and we’ll never hear the end of it. She’s already annoying enough as it is when you’re just missing. She’ll get in real trouble if you get caught.
-Why do you even care?
-Look, I don’t give a shit about you, you’re ugly as hell. But I don’t like pretty girls that get hurt, you get me?
She looked down, unable to look at him in the eye. To her, his words didn’t mean all that much, but for some reason this whole conversation was getting on her nerves. When had he taken such a liking to Charlotte?
-What do you suggest? I can’t very well walk the streets while they’re still there.
-Then I’ll go at the bakery.