The next time I woke up, sunlight streamed through the window from a gap in buildings and painted the bed golden. My muscles ached a little bit less so I sat up and reached for the glass of water on the nightstand. The wire ring still sat next to it, but I stopped myself from touching it. It was obviously hand made- a coil of wire, wrapped around itself several times and just the right shape for a slender finger. Perhaps I’d ask Marit and Fiona about it later.

Even after drinking the water, my head spun with dehydration. They’d told me not to get up, but I could hear no one else around. It was ten in the morning, according to the wall clock. If they were at work, they wouldn’t be back for a while. I swung my legs around, blinking away the spots that appeared in my vision, pushed myself to my feet- and promptly collapsed. 

I cursed. My cheek pressed against the wood floor, my elbow and head sore where they had whacked into the ground. I tried to push myself to my feet, but my limbs refused to work- my arm instead spasming and knocking into the wall. 

The door burst open and I looked up, fearing- well, I wasn’t really sure what I feared. Perhaps a secret police force, or a mafia boss, or an angry landlord. 

Not a teenage boy wielding a kitchen knife, baby carrier strapped to his chest. “Who are you,” he snarled, “and what are you doing in my apartment?”

I propped up my head on my elbow, still smarting from the fall, and tried to look as casual as I could. “As for the first question, I could ask you the same. The second, though, I’ve been told that I almost drowned and was dying for a week. Believe me, I’m as confused as you are.”

The baby in the carrier began to whimper, and the boy bounced his knees. His expression didn’t change, though the hand holding the knife shook a bit. “Who told you that?”

“Marit and Fiona.” I managed to haul myself to a sitting position, leaning against the bed frame and trying to catch my breath. Either I was very, very out of shape or something else was going on. 

He squeezed his eyes shut, dropping the knife and bracing himself against the door frame. “My sister,” he gritted, “likes to play the hero. Risking herself for others, smuggling them in and never telling me about it.”

“Fiona?” 

“How’d you guess?”

“You look alike.” I closed my eyes briefly, feeling myself break out in a cold sweat. “I think- I think I need something to eat. And drink. With iron and protein, maybe. Sugar.”

The boy blinked. “You look terrible.”

“I feel it.” My head spun even more, and I curled into the fetal position. “I don’t know… what they fed me.” My words were hardly breaths. “Need… more than broth.”

He hesitated before opening a drawer, taking out a pill bottle and handing one of the capsules to me. “I’ll get you some water. I think we have some beef, I’ll put it on for you.”

Before he even came back with the glass of water I’d so desired, I swallowed the pill dry. “I’m Ruth,” I whispered as he bent to set the glass on the ground. 

He simply stared for a moment before leaving, shutting the door behind him. 

 

Quick note: the featured images on my writing portfolio posts have little to nothing to do with the excerpt. The way that they formatted, however, was a bit nicer than they were without any pictures! I’m going to hopefully replace them with more pertinent images in the future, but this may take some time as I am using my own material. 

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