For the next two days, Sylvia kept to the house and to her work and resolved to forget about the stranger back in the woods. She absolutely refused to return to such an ungrateful man’s bedside!
But she could not help but admit that she was concerned about him, despite the offense done to her. Was he okay all on his own? How were his wounds doing? How was he going to gather food or water in his condition? Would he die if she did not return? She would not have run and abandoned him to this fate had he not been so invasive. Even now she was afraid to return to the burrow for fear he might try something untoward again!
Was it possible though, as crazy as it seemed, that she had misunderstood his intentions? He was a foreigner, so perhaps such a gesture meant something entirely different in his land. After all, he had not actually tried to kiss or molest her like she feared, right?
Sylvia shook her head. She felt so stupid. Anyone else would just leave him to his own devices and go on with their lives! Yet here she was, debating whether or not it was safe for her to check on him again. She did not want to abandon him, to let him die. She could not return to the burrow without some sort of plan, though…
Goodness, what was she to do?
Sylvia took a quiet breath and braced herself as she neared the burrow. She knelt down at the entrance and cautiously peeked in. The man rose his head to look at her and slowly propped himself up on his right arm to get a better view as she entered slowly. Their eyes met, with just enough light for her to make out his surprised expression. She frowned with renewed anger. "You had better not try touching me again!" Then she pulled out a knife and pointed it towards him. "If you do, I will kill you!" she threatened nervously.
For the very first time, Sylvia watched as a small grin formed on the man’s lips. He nodded towards her, obviously understanding her meaning, and even looking somewhat amused.
"Luran." (Sorry.) he said, still smiling at her display. Then he laid back down with a grunt, sounding exhausted from his short exertion. Sylvia hesitated for a few moments before finally entering. She kept the knife drawn as she approached him carefully. His eyes were staring up at the enclosure above him, a hint of a smile still on his lips. Then his stomach let out a loud growl and his face fell with horrible embarrassment as he turned away again. Sylvia felt her heart calm a little, preferring for him to keep his fiery gaze far away from her, even if it was due to his own discomfort and shame.
The remainder of the visit was quiet as she worked hastily to clean his bandages. It appeared that he had attempted to fix them up himself, although he had failed miserably. They were now wrapped far too loose to hold and would hardly be enough to keep out potential infections. She nearly shook her head at his sloppy work, though she supposed he had been forced to do something in her absence. She certainly hoped that such a fear would keep him from ever repeating such inappropriate actions towards her again, or she would definitely be leaving him for good.
When Sylvia finished the work she took out a few small pieces of bread and placed them on his chest. She knew it was dumb, but even in her anger she had set the food aside for him each day. This time she had no intention of hand-feeding him. The man opened his eyes and looked at the food sitting on him, then to her. She crossed her arms and glared down at him seriously.
"You can eat it with your own two hands," she said coldly.
The man suddenly cracked another smile and started to chuckle, looking even more amused. Sylvia flushed with anger, nearly regretting her time spent here once more. Unfortunately, his laughter suddenly turned into a deep and painful-sounding cough, one so hard he recoiled from the pain.
"Be careful, your stitches!" she warned, a bit too late.
The man lay there, panting heavily, new blood leaking through his shirt. Sylvia quickly came to his side and pulled out her needle and thread to mend the stitches that had been torn. He tried to hide his discomfort, but she could sense his tension and see his clenched fists as she worked. The last time she’d patched him up he had been unconscious and oblivious to the pain, but today he was wide awake and aware. Yet he did not let out a single shout the whole time, resolved to keep himself controlled and silent through it all.
When Sylvia was done she re-washed his bandages and re-wrapped his wounds. The man's body had finally relaxed again, although he looked quite worn out. She felt a wave of guilt, wishing she could give him some proper medicine, or at least a decent bed to recover in. Here he was, suffering in the most uncomfortable of places! She could not even offer a bowl of warm soup to go with his bread....
"Here, eat now," she said, showing him the food again. The man gave it a glance, then closed his eyes and shook his head weakly, showing that he was far too tired for it now. Sylvia sighed quietly. She knew he was tired, but he just had to eat something. He had gone without food from her for two days already! So very carefully she came over and placed the bread up to his lips. He opened his eyes and looked up at her again with surprise. "Hurry up and eat this, you will feel better afterwards," she said quietly.
The man gave another small smile, looking touched by her persistence. So he took a small bite of the food, appearing strangely grateful. He chewed quite slowly, looking as if he was focusing every last bit of energy the task at hand. Then he would swallow and she would try to give him another bite. Each time he looked at bread wearily, as if debating whether he could endure another mouthful of chewing, but when she encouraged him he would eventually find the strength to comply. After the food was done she gave him some water and laid the blanket back over him for the night.
"Naro lu." (Thank you.) he said softly.
Sylvia gazed at him. These words also sounded familiar. Hadn't he said these to her before? She thought it might have been after she fed him the first time. Was it a form of thanks? It seemed possible, given his tone. Although for all she knew he was saying that the bread tasted terrible! So she just returned a small smile towards him and bid farewell.
"Please sleep well.”
Then Sylvia left without another word, relieved she had come after all.