Kasandra pulled her hand quickly away from Thaylin’s face at his whispered words. She had reached out to offer him some form of comfort, by touching his face and smoothing the hair at his temple. As her fingertips brushed his skin she felt the salty grime of suffering that stained his face; a mixture of sweat, tears and undeniable torment.
“Just…stay away. Go…”
“Where am I going to go?” Kasandra asked softly. She looked around at the confines of the cell they both occupied and then back at Thaylin wondering how she could possibly distance herself from the chained man who remained standing, but only just, with his wrists and ankles locked into manacles attached to the posts in the centre of the small room.
“Stop looking at me. I…don’t want you to see me like this…” He closed his eyes, trying to block out the image of the red-headed girl looking back at him with an expression of profound pity.
“You’ve seen me at my worst, all of me, in all manner of situations.” Kasandra responded with a sad smile. “This is no different.”
“This is different. Very different.” He opened his eyes but avoided looking at her. “Over there…by the door. Put your back to me and just leave me be. Don’t make things any worse than they already are.”
“I don’t think things could get any worse.”
“You have a limited imagination, Kasandra. You’ve no idea who we’re dealing with…what one person can do to another human being…”
Kasandra didn’t miss the ominous implications of his words as they trailed off but what her mind fixated on was the fact that he had used her name. He had called her ‘cunt’ more times than she could remember and she was used to the sting on her soul that that particular label gave her, but the sound of her real name coming from his lips was something she was unaccustomed to. It gave her a little burst of joy inside but it was also clouded with mixed feelings. Thaylin’s role in everything that had happened was now a muddied mess and her heart didn’t know how to respond.
“You used my name,” she said, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “And I don’t think you’re in any position to tell me what to do.”
She saw the muscle in the side of his jaw twitch but he remained silent and stared at the dirt floor with an intense longing. Kasandra thought he was wanting to rest, to be allowed to lay or sit on the floor instead of standing chained and exhausted as he was now.