It was late into the afternoon the next day before Sylvia found an opportunity to slip away into the woods again. She left right after lunch, with everyone thinking she had gone to gather herbs again. She moved along quickly, hoping she could make it back and finish her day's work before anyone had time to miss her. When she came across the familiar burrow from the night before, she crawled in the space and neared the man cautiously. He sensed her, however, and suddenly whipped his head around, startling her for a good moment with his intense stare.
"Suga lu me?" (What are you doing?) he asked, almost in an accusatory way.
Sylvia knew he was feeling confused, but he could at least sound a little grateful, seeing as he would have obviously died without her help last night. The man just kept up his death glare and went to move again, but his body immediately seized up in pain. He gasped with shock and gazed back at her with a scowl, acknowledging his own helpless state before her. She smiled with sympathy at his frustration. "I am sorry, but your wounds will need more time to recover, sir."
The man stared deep into her eyes, seeming to understand her kindly-meant tone. Then his stomach let out a long growl, exposing another problem of his situation. Sylvia nearly laughed as his face betrayed his extreme embarrassment, but she managed to hold it in as he turned away from her in new shame. She was quick to take out the piece of bread from her pocket. She had saved it from her own lunch for him to eat today. Yet, as she held it up to his lips, he proudly refused it, in no way willing to accept her offer. Sylvia frowned at his ungrateful display. "This is no time to be stubborn," she mumbled.
The man looked back at her with a very hard expression and a burning determination in his eyes. It was quite clear he was hungry, but he really did not want food from her. "You had better eat this right now if you want to live!" she snapped in irritation. He scowled at her again, trying to look as intimidating as one could while laying on the ground half-dead. Sylvia just smiled at him, half amused and half annoyed by his childish behavior. "Come on, just take a bite," she said, putting the bread to his lips again.
The man stared at her with cold and emotionless eyes, not even acknowledging her gesture this time. She quickly became fed up with his tiring behavior, having no time left to spend on such games. "So, you want to do this the hard way, huh?" she mumbled.
The man's eyes widened with comprehension of the challenge in her voice, but before he could do anything she pinned herself on top of him, making sure to hold down his right arm. He gave an angry roar and twisted her wrist painfully, his grip rather strong for one so injured. Sylvia just smiled, confident in her own victory as she very gently poked at one of his wounds. The man’s strength buckled and he let out a startled cry of pain, stunned by her unusual maneuver. When he did that she took the opportunity to shove the bread in his mouth, making sure he got a good taste of the food. He nearly went to spit it out, but it was all too clear in his expression that he could no longer deny his own hunger. As fast as he could the man chewed up the piece of bread and swallowed, after which he turned to stare off into the distance again.
"You're welcome." Sylvia sighed. He gave an unappreciative grunt, as if her actions had merely been an annoyance in the end. She, on the other hand, watched with satisfaction as his body slowly relaxed and his breathing calmed a little. He was not sleeping, but he was at least less tense and anxious than before.
Sylvia smiled. He did appreciate the meal, he just didn't want to show her any gratitude for it. Not that she wasn't used to that kind of behavior already. When you worked as a slave, no one gave you any acknowledgment or praise for anything. No one cared about you, because you were a nobody, a servant meant only to work at the will of others.
She sighed and prepared to leave again. Slavery truly was a thankless job, even when you meant to do good to others. Though she supposed expecting gratitude really was unrealistic…
"Naro lu," (Thank you) the man suddenly mumbled.
Sylvia looked at him with astonishment, surprised to hear him speak again. He glared back at her with a stubborn expression, not really looking like he wanted to admit any variation of weakness or humility. But without understanding his actual words, she could make out the emotions in his expression well enough. He was grateful, just too embarrassed to really express it. Sylvia could not help but smile at the gesture of goodwill he’d extended, even as small as it was.
"You are very welcome, sir," she replied quietly.
The man let out a long sigh and turned away once more. She could tell he was focusing intently on her movements as she checked all his bandages one last time before preparing to depart. When she saw that he was fine she got up, ready to leave again.
"I will be going now, but will return again tomorrow," she said.
The man stared at her blankly and made no reply. Without another word, Sylvia left the burrow and started walking back.