I took only a few bites of the sausage and roast potatoes.
“Aren’t you hungry, Nathan? Is something wrong with your food?” Alan asked worried.
“Ah, I’m sorry. I think I’m just a bit too tired right now, I will eat it later once I get more hungry again.”
Putting my food aside, I went to my room. To my surprise, Mae decided to join me instead of sleeping with her parents.
“What are you doing?” Mae laid in her bed, facing me.
“I practice counting.”
“I hope it helps me get my friend back.”
“Is your friend pretty?” she asked with curious eyes.
“I’m sure you would find her pretty, yes.”
Mae reacted with an elongated “Whoaaa~” before confidently announcing that she could already count to twelve. I responded with a chuckle.
Counting until an hour had passed, I checked if Mae was already asleep, then sneaked out of my bed and grabbed the plate of my leftover food. The wooden floorboards cracked and complained under my feet. Even worse were the stairs that squeaked each time I shifted my weight over to another foot. Good thing I had some training in this, even though the orphanage didn’t quite reach this level of soundscape. I carefully opened the door in front of me and went down the four or five steps until my feet made contact with the path of gravel. A fresh breeze rushed through my hair. Today was a moonless night, which led to a sky only lit up by some tiny stars. I was especially careful not to wake the ox-beasts, which rested under a small thatch - their heavy breathing being the only thing noticeable in this darkness. The light at the barn had been extinguished, leaving only the lamp in my back - I couldn't see anything in front of me. Suddenly, a window right behind me squeeked open. My breathing stopped as I quickly pushed myself against the wall.
"Must have been a shitty rat, bah!" The man burbed. For a split second I feared that he might throw up on my head accidentially. Minutes passed until I dared to move again. Please don't be behind me anymore, I thought. Fortunately enough, my concern wasn't needed and I reached the barn without any other problems.
Wait, what if they are sleeping? Or what if the door is locked, why shouldn’t it be locked? I asked my dumb self, but there was no lock on the door. Pushing it open just enough to peek through, I tried to check if they were asleep.
“What do you want?” a disembodied female voice sounded from behind the door.
“Huh?..Uhh...I thought that you’d maybe like some leftovers from our dinner. Nobody has touched it and it would just go to waste.”
Ahh, why did I say leftovers...that sounds like trash.
A chain rattled when the girl peeked around the door. What looked at me were two large eyes that observed me and the plate in my hand doubtfully. I swalloed nervously. The girl sighed, "Come in." One single weak candlelight shimmered on a brittle table next to the other boy who was sleeping in a corner- or so I thought. “It’s fine Bori.”
The boy shot up in one single acrobatic jump. “Are you sure? What if it's poisoned?”
“I trust him on that one, Bori. Why should he sneak here at this time just to poison us, there are much easier ways.” She shot me a suspicious glance.
“Huh? Why would I want to kill you? I just met you!”
“Because we are Etyans and you hate us.” The girl responded unimpressed.
“What is there to hate for me?!”
“Relax, I'm just testing you. Thank you.” She handed the plate over to her brother, who was still hesitating. “Don’t worry about me, just...leave me a bite or two.” The thin girl put on an assuring smile. I watched the boy Bori and how he stuffed his mouth and swallowed with barely any chewing.
“I’m Ivy by the way and what’s your name?” Her directness catched me off-guard.
“...Nathan...Ivy, how long have you been here?”
“A little over three years I guess.”
“Three?! Wait, how old are you??”
“I’m 21-” Ivy chuckled when she noticed my gaping mouth, “-we look a bit younger, don’t we.”
Bori rolled his eyes. “She’s 14, don’t be sho naive it pishes me off,” he mumbled with his full mouth.
“Bori! You’d be dead if anyone learns how you speak to humans!”
I stayed for a while. Bori didn’t say a word again, just handed the plate back to his sister. I hadn’t noticed at first but now, I could see the chains that wrapped around their ankles while the other end was hugging a pipe. They must have been grating on their skin since it was blood red around the metallic edges.
A loud crunch filled the barn as Ivy munched on the vegetables that her brother had left behind. Her pale grey skin absorbed the faint candlelight. I grew a bit nervous since Bori refused to take his eyes off of me. They had the same black rings, but the blue was a tad brighter compared to his sister’s.
“Have you thought about running away?” I asked, mainly to evade the silence.
“Of course we have. Think we’re stupid you-”
“Bori stop talking like that!” Ivy interrupted annoyed. Looking down in anger, her brother turned silent again. “We actually ran away from another place in the past. Long story short - we got catched and sold to this one, now everything is even worse.”
“So you won’t run because you’re afraid that everything will just get worse again.”
She nodded while twirling a strand of hair between her delicate fingers.
“I would really love to walk around freely again though.” Ivy yawned and stretched her arms over her head, “it’s so frustrating to be chained here for the whole night especially since we don’t need as much sleep as you guys…..Why are you gazing at me like that?”
Shoot was I gazing?
“Uh, sorry I was just thinking that you’re still surprisingly lighthearted despite all of that.”
“Haha, of course I am! I know for certain that we will make it out of here one day.”
Bori shot us a cold glance from the corner and kicked a little stone away.
“He’s right- you should go back to sleep. Thank you again. It was nice to have met you, Nathan.”
I walked back to my room with a bitter taste in my mouth. I wanted to help more, but there wasn’t anything I could do. Mae nearly shocked me to death when I stepped into the room and found her sitting cross-legged on her bed.
“Are they nice people?” she asked curiously.
“Yea, they are.”
“I wanna go with you next time. It was scary alone here!”
“Oh...I’m sorry, it won’t happen again. Sleep well.”
We left early after having breakfast. While we spent some time chatting at the table, an idea popped into my head.
“Do we have something to write with?”
“There are pencils in the left drawer. What do you want to do with it?” Alan answered.
“Don’t worry I just need a second.”
I grabbed one of the pencils and rushed to my room.
Sorry Evelyn- but I’ve read through this book already so it should be fine, I thought as I grabbed the book, opened the first page and wrote one single line before hiding it under the pillow.
‘Hope this can somewhat help your boredom at night.’
No way that the old man cleans the rooms by himself, right?