The time for vengeance was at hand. I gripped my dagger. It was small, but sharp. It would end him far faster than he deserved. Cold satisfaction gripped me as I called his name. “Bernard!”
He turned around. For a moment, I almost lost the will to destroy him. For a moment, I saw his very soul in those beautiful blue eyes. I almost dropped my dagger.
“There’s something I have to tell you, Bernard, before we travel any farther.”
“I know already, Elise.” His tone was gentle, and his worn face broke into a gentle smile. “Go ahead.” He sounded like my father had before he was killed. He sounded gentle and reassuring.
I steeled myself and wrapped myself in anger. I should have stabbed him in the back, but he never would have forgiven that.
“You killed my parents.” That was his crime. Next came the punishment. My dagger dove deeply into his chest. My vision was blurry, and I missed his heart. He grunted and wheezed as he slumped on top of me, just as my father had when I was so small. My breathing became fast as I felt his twitching, gasping weight on top of me. He took a few moments to get a grasp on himself, and gripped my shoulders.
“Go ahead.” he urged quietly. His voice sounded wet as he coughed. I couldn’t see his face anymore. Bubbles slowly rose from the first stab wound. I heard them softly pop near my ear between his wheezing breaths. I couldn’t pull my dagger from the wound. The strength was within me. It was not lodged among his bones. My will to pull it out and plunge the keen blade into his chest again left me.
He coughed again onto my shoulder, and I became tense. I tore the knife from his chest and placed my other hand over the wound. Warmth left me and flooded into him. He gripped me tightly through the painful healing process. His hands clenched down on my shoulders with uncomfortable pressure. Slowly, the wheezing became panting.
“Why did you stop?” There was confusion in his voice. He pulled away and stared down at me with those gods-damned blue eyes. His dropped jaw and stupid expression made me laugh. I couldn’t even think of a shitty excuse.
“Shut up.” I began to walk away, the blood a silent story that told of my betrayal. He wrapped an arm around my shoulders, and I felt safe.
When we arrived back, Rachel lunged at me. I fell with a thud as she clawed my face and pulled my hair. I lifted my arms to protect myself and tried to kick her away. Bernard pulled her off, but I could already feel blood on my face. I sat up and wiped my cheek with the heel of my hand.
“Rachel, why did you attack her?” Bernard asked. His tone was hurt rather than angry.
Rachel’s answer was a screech of rage. “The backstabbing whore!” She struggled against his strong grip. “I’ll kill her if she comes near any of us again! I swear it-” she cut off as Bernard shoved a hand over her mouth with shocking roughness.
“Calm down. Nothing happened that concerns you, Rachel. I will not let you lay a hand on her. We stick together, even if you don’t like her for some imagined sleight.”
“It’s not imaged if the two of you, and her knife, are covered in blood!” Rachel struggled against his grip.
I took a deep breath. “Perhaps it’s for the best if I do leave.” I volunteered. “I’ll go pack.”
“No, Elise. We must stay together. If you walk away, you waste everything you’ve done.”
That snapped me from my self-pity, and I closed my eyes to reflect. He was right. The bastard was always right. I nodded and changed course to head to the camp fire instead. Our one-eyed ex-soldier companion simply looked at me before he returned to his meal in silence. The rest of us settled in for the same bread, cheese, and jerky as we had the past week.
The boring rations, lack of baths, and enforced company did little to help our demeanors. Several times, I sought refuge from Rachel with Bernard, and eventually, we became close. One night, things went beyond the usual chatter, into something far more taboo. Greedily, I told him it was best nobody knew. I was engaged to be wed on the day of our return back to our homes.
We continued our mission without each other’s company, and when the beast lay dead at our feet, we began the trek back. I kept secret some growing signs that I was with child.
Our arrival back in the city was filled with fanfare. My wedding was beautiful, and the honeymoon made me feel alive. Bernard was not present, although the other two were. My new husband, named David, took me to one of his estates, where I gave birth to Bernard’s child and named him Bertrand.
Bertrand was a strong child with a strong will and a clear, bright smile. Bertrand was my life, and I loved him dearly. David was an indifferent father, so many times, it was simply Bertrand and I. We were very close, and many times, I watched David’s clumsy attempts at fathering.
Bernard would have been a wonderful father.
That thought often echoed through my mind, and I often pondered where he disappeared to. He never visited. He never replied to my letters. I asked around, and nobody saw him.
Our son grew. He became a strong, healthy boy with a wide streak of honesty that drove David to drink as I laughed over David’s many revealed affairs. I found I didn’t mind, and even forgave him, so long as I had Bertrand.
Bertrand continued to grow, and as he entered manhood, war broke out. I held him to my breast as long as I could before war called him away. I delayed and put off until finally, I let my baby boy go. Deep in my stomach, I felt an icy grip.