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Thu Apr 25, 2019 8:04 pm
"Dolores, you should leave."
The blue-silver girl glanced up from her drawn-in knees, red-rimmed eyes staring back uncomprehendingly at her sister. Damaris' broad, honest face looked serious, stern, and her hands reached for Dolores'. Her hands wrapped around narrow fingers, anchoring Dolores, tethering them together, the only family they had remaining.
Because long ago, their mother had died. Their uncle and brother left for war.
They didn't come back.
"What d'you mean, leave?" Dolores asked.
"You know what I mean."
The girl began to shake her head in horror.
"Listen, Dolores," Damaris said, squeezing her hands, grounding her. It hurt. "We can't have somethin' like this happen again." Her voice, husky from smoke damage, was raw with pain as she pulled her sister's arms, exposing the patchwork of bruises, abrasions, scabbed wounds made from snagging teeth.
"Others died 'cause of me," Dolores said, tugging her hands free and curling in on herself once again. She traced a scratch on her leg. "This is nothing."
"All the more reason you ought t' go."
"They don't gotta see it like that."
"If they don't catch you, it don't matter. You think they'll hunt you 'cross the world for desertion when Scintilla's comin' into our territory?"
Dolores looked down, her dark hair falling in front of her eyes.
"Can you imagine what Father would think of me?"
"Our father never wanted this life for you." Damaris leaned forward, taking her sister's chin and tilting it up gently. Her yellow eyes were soft, sad. "He didn't want it for any of us, but 'specially not you. Things have been worse for you since he and Zacchi left, you ought t' know that. He was protectin' you. He would've wanted you to leave this place if it meant you were safe."
"What if I don't?" Dolores asked, pulling her muzzle away. Her voice was high and sharp with frustration, fear. "I'm supposed to be a soldier."
"You're supposed to be a soldier, but you ain't, Dolores."
Damaris sighed, then smiled crookedly to soften the words, true though they were. Dolores had never been able to keep up with the other Boreas recruits. She survived through luck, and a great ability to run, but that only meant undeserving soldiers died. The ambushes had been almost constant lately, and the paranoia wore on her. She'd always been more sensitive than her sister or Zacchaeus.
"Think about it," Damaris said, settling down on the cave floor. "Maybe God has other plans for you. You can still do good out in the world."
When Dolores didn't answer, Damaris sighed again and closed her eyes, resting her head on pillowed arms. She fell asleep easily, though it was a light sleep, adapted to their circumstances. Not even Gilead was guaranteed safety in these times.
Dolores remained awake, trying to weep softly enough it wouldn't disturb her sister.
In the end, she went AWOL.
Damaris helped her despite the risk of punishment. They walked the Narrows on a hunt, watching the lip of the rock for spying eyes, whether wolf or coyote. They found an alcove hidden from view, and said their goodbyes there.
Her sister went home with news of her drowning. It was plausible; long ago, Silas had saved her from being washed away during a summer storm.
Dolores left with the clothes on her back and a bow on her shoulder.
Twenty days later, it became clear she didn't know where to go.
Hopeful buzzards circled overhead as she rested her back against a boulder, her eyes half-lidded as she drank from her canteen. Her bow rested at her side, her quiver more than half empty; many of her arrows had been aimed at shadows. She was as jumpy out in the wild as she had been in Zion's no-man's-lands.
No matter how many times she looked over her shoulder, Dolores couldn't rest.
She drank her fill, then shouldered the canteen, the quiver. They weighed on her, and she stumbled, blinking into the sunlight.
Around the bend she heard hooves.
Dolores didn't have her bow strung. She reached for it now, a weight of wood like a club, and stared at the horse and rider who approached. She bared her teeth in warning, her teal eyes wide and shadowed with exhaustion.
The rider was another woman, a wolf, her pelt a palette of browns and creams. She reined in her stout horse, a fleabitten grey mare, and unexpectedly smiled.
"Y'look a lil lost."