Running her tongue along her bottom lip, she dipped it in the corner of her mouth. The metallic flavour was familiar, at this point she knew it better than the taste of anything else. Widening her stance, she resisted the urge to run her finger along the top of her ear, which was aching and throbbing. She could feel the heavy drip of blood onto her shoulder. She didn’t need to touch it to know it had been sliced and sliced well.
“Een!” His command was clear.
Looking down at the little boy on the floor, she watched him, frozen. His eyes were wide. His chest heaved with each quick breath he tried to fill his lungs with. His hands were stretched out, rigid at his sides as he opened his hands and folded them into fists over and over again. One of his eyes was beginning to swell, it would be shut soon.
This boy was older than her. He was thin and timid. He didn’t belong in a place like this. Refuge would be his last stop.
His eyes rolled, locking onto hers for a moment before he looked away.
He knew the rules.
“No.” Her voice was soft, strange to her own ears. She hadn’t heard it in so long.
Aleksandr didn’t move closer to her. He stood where he was, a hiss caught in his chest. “Een.” He commanded her again.
“No.” This was not her last stop, she decided. She hadn’t even gotten the chance to be anywhere else. Refuge was all she knew, all she could remember now. There was a life before this one, a life that had so quickly faded away like a mirage you approached all to quickly. She couldn’t live like this anymore. Like a dog obeying its master, killing other kids for scraps so she could survive.
She had fought her way to the top, and it didn’t seem much different than the bottom.
A low chuckle vibrated his chest as he stepped towards her. His stride was confident, strong. Walking past her, he looked down at the boy on the floor. “Worthless.” He whispered, his Dutch harsh.
Raising his foot, he brought it down through the air towards the Boyd’s chest.
Darting forward, Een kicked the side of his foot.
Surprise caught him off balance as his foot landed hard on the floor, narrowly missing the boy at his feet.
Her heart lurched. There was no coming back from this. She would need to escape, or she would die.
Whirling around to face her, Aleksandr brought his hand down hard towards her.
Dodging it, she took a step back. Dropping quickly to her knees, she shoved the boy on the floor, urging him to get up and out of the way.
A collection of gasps filled the room as the other orphans looked on. No one knew what to do, something like this had never happened before.
No one stepped in to help the boy as he rolled onto his belly and began dragging himself away, and no one stepped in to intervene. Instead they waited, for Aleksandr’s orders or Een’s triumph.
“Insolent little whelp.”
Her eyes quickly scanned the space around them. She only had a few options, and in order for any of them to work, she had to remove Aleksandr from the equation, even if only temporarily.
Rushing towards her, he scooped her up. Her legs dangled below her as he lifted her in the air. Pulling her towards him, he held her so her face she could feel the heat of his breath on her skin. “Everything you are, I made you. I created you, without me you would have withered away into nothing somewhere in these woods. Look at you now… you could have been great.”
She let his hand close around her throat, struggling to suck in air. “I am better than you could ever make me.” Reaching behind him, she pulled the large hunting knife from his belt. Whipping it out, she brought it across his chest.
Wincing, he dropped her. “Bitch!” He hissed.
Landing hard on her feet, she brought the blade through the side of his knee.
Aleksandr buckled, agony flashing across his face as he crumbled to the ground. The thick hilt of the blade stuck out as he reached down, hesitating before his hand circled around it.
On her feet, she looked at the orphans around her.
Walking back, she stood in the doorway, waiting. She wished they all had what they needed to flee. Instead, they stood there, unable to escape with her. And she stood there, knowing she had to leave.
Holding her breath, she sucked in a sob as she turned and left Refuge.
As she ran through the woods, her small body struggling to vault over fallen logs. Collapsing, she fell to her knees. A sob escaped as her body heaved.
She was free.