“Did they give us anything to distinguish them by?” Fletcher asked as he leaned back against a stone wall in the shade of the cloth canopy overhead.
“They have an idea of what I look like, so they will find us,” Caleb glanced across the public square.
We were off a few meters in the eastern corner of the square, in the area allotted for travelling merchants to set up their temporary shops. Specifically, we were wedged between an incense shop and a bird breeder. The birds occasionally chirped or squawked when potential buyers stopped by their silver cages, especially when they had children. Puffs of smoke wafted into the air to our left. I started to gag before I could cover my mouth with my cloak.
Somebody grabbed me by my upper arms and led me over to the alley way between the stalls and to the back. I dry heaved a few times. I gasped in the cleaner air. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes. My body slumped forward, whoever held me kept me up. I hated the smell of sweet peas. Flashes of blood and the bottom of a pristine boot filled my mind. I could still feel the blow of his back hand knocking me to the ground and the heel of his boot digging into my neck. Cutting off my air. I buried my face into my hands as my body trembled.
“Evelyn, come back to me Evelyn!” Whoever spoke was turning me around and lightly jostled me by my shoulders.
I tentatively lifted my head up to met Fletcher’s eyes. They were a warm brown that reminded me of a splash of coffee in the sunlight, when separated from the rest of dark liquid so you can truly see its rich brown color. My fingers latched onto the open fronts of his jacket and pulled him towards me. I tucked my face in his chest below his left shoulder. His body tensed momentarily under me, but gradually relaxed. His arms loosely wrapped around me. I breathed in his scent of steel and lingering honeyed-brandy, willing the nightmarish thoughts out of my mind.
“Evelyn, what’s wrong?” One of his hands came up to stroke my hair while he tried to peer at my face.
I turned my face in the opposite direct as my fingers balled into fists in his jacket. My face heated up as I tried to calm my breathing. Our close proximity and the reality of what had just all happened hitting me. I needed to relax before I spoke. A few moments went by. “Sorry, the smell of sweat peas triggers bad memories. I thought I had gotten over it though,” I pulled a bit away from him, yet still held onto his jacket.
His left arm returned to his side, but his calloused, right hand gently covered one of mine. “Was it about your father?”
“Yes, sweet peas were my mother’s favorite scent and he would often fill his room with the fragrance of them. But half the time when he did that it would enrage him and he’d hunt me down to take it out on me, until I learned where to hide from him,” I sometimes wondered if I would still be alive if I hadn’t learned that.
Fletcher’s grip on my hand tightened. “You didn’t deserve any of that,”
“I know,” I gave him a weak closed eye and mouth smile. Though I never met my mother, I knew she didn’t blame me.
“Is that why you were able to stay strong when you were around him back in the Mraga Isle?”
“Sort of, I’ve kind of always knew that my mother’s death wasn’t my fault. So, the real reason why I don’t cower in front of him anymore is because I am stronger now, both physically and mentally. I’m no longer that child who couldn’t fight back. I can now. It’s just that smell still at times reminds me of the defenseless child I was and it scares me,” My voice had dropped to a whisper, my eyes focused on a worn patch of his leather jacket.
My eyes darted to my left and I noticed Caleb speaking to a dark olive-skinned man with a white beard. Maybe that was our point of contact. I looked back up at Fletcher. “Caleb is speaking to someone,” I nodded my head in his direction, “We should head back over,”
Fletcher frowned as he looked between me and Caleb. “Are you ok though?”
I gave him a small smile. “Yes, I should be fine now. Thank you,”
He nodded and released his hold on my hand. I let go of his jacket and we walked back towards the front of the shops. My left hand felt cold and bare without his.