Glass clinked. Dropping to the floor, I crawled toward the door at the opposite end of the room. It was ajar, light emanating through, along with a chilly draft.
Barely daring to breathe, I peeked through the crack. I was expecting to see the witch. Instead, sitting on the carpet in the center of the room was Caleb.
The window was wide open, an icy breeze blowing through the room. He had a glass of blood by his side and an old oak chest open in front of him on the floor. He was sifting through it slowly, lifting out a few random objects—a white pearl necklace, a gold ring, and what appeared to be a dried-up bouquet of flowers.
He placed them all down in front of him on the carpet. His eyes were distant as he gazed down at them, as though lost in thought.
He picked up the ring again and rolled it between his thumb and forefinger. As if it had just burnt him, he dashed it against the floor and, picking up his glass of blood, hurled it against the mirror. It shattered, blood dripping down the mirror onto the wooden cabinet beneath it.
The chilly breeze had gotten to me. I swore beneath my breath.
When he turned toward me, I slid away from the door and climbed under the table.
The door creaked open, and his feet paced along the edge of the table. He sniffed the air.
He can smell my blood.
I scrambled further back, careful to keep beneath the tablecloth.
His footsteps approached closer and closer until I could crawl back no further. I held my breath as his feet stopped just inches away from where I was curled up.
His hand reached down and pulled up the tablecloth.
His face didn’t appear, but the game was over because my legs were now visible.
He drew in a deep breath. Then he reached down once again, this time gripping my arm as he yanked me out from under the table and pulled me to my feet.
“What are you doing here?” he growled, his dark brown eyes narrowing on me.
I averted my eyes to the floor. He gripped me harder and shook me.
“I-I saw the witch crying the other day. And I just—”
He slammed my back against a wooden cabinet.
“It’s none of your business what goes on here. Do you hear me?” he shouted, pressing me so hard against the wood that it was a struggle to breathe.
When I didn’t answer, he released me, though his glare didn’t let up.
Trembling, I ran back through the rooms until I reached the exit. I didn’t look back as I hurried back down to my apartment.
Tears formed in my eyes as I swung my door open and rushed out onto my balcony. I stood staring out at the starry sky, trying to calm my nerves.
I stood there for far too long in the cold. But as I closed my eyes, the fresh air felt like it was transporting me somewhere else. Somewhere other than this godforsaken place.
After about half an hour, the front doors to the castle creaked open. I looked down and watched as a lone figure stepped out onto the icy entrance steps and sat down. Breathing heavily. Head in his hands.
Chapter 27: Rose
I didn’t see Caleb again for the next few days. Even if I hadn’t come down with the flu and been forced to stay in bed, I would have still avoided him as he avoided me.
I guessed that the flu had been brought on by standing too long on the balcony. I had a headache and didn’t feel like eating anything.
When I showed no signs of getting better after the fifth day in bed, I began to worry. It wasn’t like there were any doctors on call here. Normally when we got sick, Corrine took care of us. I was too shaken by our last encounter to want to approach Caleb for anything.
So I lay in bed, getting up to stoke the fire every once in a while, and wearing the coat wrapped tightly around me beneath the blanket.
By the seventh day, Caleb must have suspected that something was wrong. Frieda entered my room and walked over to my bed. One look at me, and she hurried back out.
Do I really look that awful?
She returned half an hour later with Caleb. His face appeared hazy as I looked up at him. His cold hand touched my forehead. I experienced some relief the moment his skin touched me. His hand was better than any cold towel.
“She has a fever,” he muttered to Frieda. “A very high fever. Stay in this room until I get back. Make sure the fireplace remains hot. This room still feels too cold. Also make sure all the windows are shut tightly.”
He walked out of the room and Frieda went about her duties.
I must have drifted off by the time he returned. But I was woken by his cool palm on my forehead once again.
“Sit up,” he said.
Frieda propped up cushions behind me and he reached around me as he pulled me into a sitting position. He sat down on the bed next to me and held a metal cup out in front of me.
“You need to drink this.”
I stared at it. A strange dark brown substance. Clasping it in my hands, I sniffed it.
“Ugh,” I groaned, nauseated by its pungent smell.
He pushed the cup against my lips, and, supporting the back of my head with his hand, tipped some of the liquid into my mouth.
It burnt the inside of my mouth as soon as it entered, and singed my throat as I swallowed it.
“Ah!” I cried out. “No. No any more. Please don’t make me—”
But he was already gripping the back of my head and tipping more of the liquid through my lips.
I choked and complained again, but he ignored all my protests, forcing me to continue drinking until I had downed the very last drop.
“Give her some water now,” he said to Frieda.