Sylvia groaned and stretched out her arms. Despite the long day she had slept surprisingly wel—wait, where was she? She had not returned to the house last night!
Sylvia shot up from her spot on the ground and turned towards the burrow’s ceiling. She could see the rays of sunlight leaking through the shelter’s leaves, showing that it was about midday. Then she saw Keil, sitting up against the wall, staring at her with interest.
The red rushed to her face and she was unable to keep her jaw from dropping. Had she really fallen asleep here and stayed the whole night? How long had he been watching her lay here like a pervert?!
"How dare you!" she snapped.
Keil laughed and put his hands up in defeat, as if saying that he was not at fault at all for this embarrassing situation, but he was wrong. So very wrong! "It would have been better if you had just let me fix the bandages last night!" she bellowed. Keil's eyes widened with shock, looking completely oblivious to her accusation. He even tilted his head in confusion. Sylvia flushed with anger and humiliation, fed up with all the embarrassing miscommunication between the two of them. "Fine! You can fix them by yourself from now on!" She snapped.
Then she scrambled out of the burrow, stomping her way back to town in a rage.
"Sylvia?" he called out.
She ignored him and kept walking, barely able to believe what she had gone and gotten herself into. Just what had she been thinking? How careless of her! He could have taken advantage of her so easily, being a man and all!
Yet he hadn't, had he?
Sylvia slowed her pace, calming just a little as the quiet forest eased her heightened nerves. At least Keil had shown a small measure of honor in not touching her unwantedly, she supposed. Although, a true gentleman would have woken her up earlier.
She sighed. Perhaps she should not be too angry with him. Maybe she would even return after nightfall just briefly to give him some food and show her forgiveness. She did not want to go abandoning him again, after all…
When Sylvia returned to town, she saw that the townspeople were walking around doing chores and conversing, already well into the day's work.
Just how long had she slept in? What time was it?
Sylvia gulped nervously and ran straight to the house. She had to get to work before anyone noticed she had been gone! Just what was she thinking, allowing herself to fall asleep like that? How foolish she had been! If anyone noticed her tardiness, she would be severely punished!
"SYLVIA!" a harsh voice suddenly called out.
Sylvia let out an anxious gasp and turned to Jana and the two other chief workers glaring at her with hard eyes. Her heart sank, realizing that her blunder really would not go unnoticed.
"Please, please! It was an accident! I just fell asleep! I was not trying to run away, I swear!" Sylvia whimpered as her bound hands were raised up on the pole.
The chief paid no mind to her sincere pleas, quite used to hearing them by now from those he hurt. No, he never seemed to show any mercy when it came to punishment, lest he risk his own skin.
"Please Jana, please tell them I would never run! I honestly wouldn’t!" she pleaded, turning to her choremaster.
The older woman stared back at her with sympathy but did not look convinced of her story. "Five lashes, Sylvia, that is the punishment. You knew that, and I warned you,” was all the woman replied.
Sylvia finally burst out in frightened tears, knowing her fate had already been sealed. As if being a slave wasn't bad enough! Why did her master have to be so very harsh? How could he not care about his workers or their suffering?
Sylvia screamed in agony as the whip hit her already-scarred back.
Again she screamed, begging for the pain to stop.
Five lashes in total upon the delicate skin of her back. Tears streamed down her cheeks, fear and hopelessness swallowing all thoughts of hope or joy. All thoughts of Keil, even...
"Sir, the master said to add five more on her, as a lesson to the others,” someone announced.
Sylvia felt her heart skip a nervous beat. Five more?!
"No! Please, no more! I'll never do it again!!" she begged.
She cried out again, her body seizing up painfully. But no mercy was extended to her, as all ten lashes were delivered mercilessly.
Sylvia could not seem to stop her tears, even as she was untied and thrown into the house's cold, dark cellar, where she was sentenced to spend four days. Down there, she would receive no food, and barely any water to survive on. She lay facedown on the floor, weeping in her new prison. Last time she had been careless and spilled water on the master’s daughter at breakfast, five lashes had been put to her back. Now today she received ten more, rendering her useless skin scarred beyond repair, just like her heart.
Sylvia cursed herself for falling asleep out in the woods. She cursed the day her father sold her to pay off his own drinking debts, she cursed the day she fell in love, only to marry and then be cast aside by her husband. But most of all, she cursed the day she found Keil. The very day she let her guard down and started to feel something other than complete and utter misery, only to have it torn away like everything else!