Graduation Day, Year 5 of the Addergoole School
"Stay here." Ib patted Callista's shoulder gently. "Clean up the place, and get stuff packed. When I return, we'll go to Maureen's and sign custody of the children over to me."
"Yes, Master." Callista let his words wash over her, and let her body take care of the orders she'd been given while her mind slowly tuned out. The place wasn't dirty, not at all, so she did the breakfast dishes and started packing. Her stuff. His stuff. It was all his stuff, really, wasn't it? She threw hers in a trash bag.
Pack. Where was she going? He, she knew, was leaving Addergoole. Graduating. Walking away. Three years ago, she'd dreamed of this moment. Now…
Pack. Socks. Underwear. That knife, that nasty knife. She still hated the knife. The leash. The cuffs. What would he do with all this, without her? Was it her stuff, if he'd bought it for her?
Everything you have is what your Keeper gave to you. She hadn't been back to her room, except for her books, since she left it on Hell Night her first year here. Everything was his; he could have it all. She dropped the garbage bag of her shirts into one of his bags and kept packing.
It was mindless work. Shirts, folded, tucked into a box. Pants after that. Knives. Jewelry. Food. He was leaving. He was graduating, taking her children, and leaving.
Taking her children. She stared at the shirt she was holding. He was graduating. Taking her children. And leaving.
"No." She told it to the shirt, because it couldn't hit her or tell her to shut up. "No, no he's not." Sensation was beginning to work its way back into her, sensation and feeling and, terrifyingly, emotion. She worked so much better when she didn't feel anything.
He was leaving. She studied that one for a moment, rolling over the feelings in her mind. He was going to walk away from her. He was abandoning her, naked and with nothing. He'd given her everything… and he was taking it all away. Going away. Leaving her.
Something she'd buried, tucked so far away she'd imagined it would never come out, whispered in the back of her mind. "If he doesn't Own you, he can't hurt you." Io had said that, Ioanna, sweet and naïve. Io who never understood that there was no escape from Ib, anywhere in the school, anywhere in the world. Not while they were students at Addergoole.
But he was leaving. He was leaving, and that meant, the moment he graduated, he would no longer be Keeping her. She kept packing, because she was still under orders, but she packed three of his knives into sheathes on her own body, and she packed her school books into her backpack. She would walk out of here, the moment she could. She would keep packing, because obedience wasn't an option, it was the only path. Because until he left her, he controlled everything.
Pain surged up in her, briefly, at that thought, at the image of him walking away. She was his, wasn't she? She was his good Kept, his pet. The only one he'd ever needed. Why would he leave her?
She gulped down the panic, and thought about her children. She hadn't been allowed much of them - their fathers had named them, and her Keeper had handed them over to Lady Maureen for keeping - but she had looked on all their faces, and she had carried all three of them. Delilah. Brand. Warner, baby Warner, her littlest. They were, damn the departed gods, hers.
And if she stayed her, Ib was going to try to take them away from her.
She fought down a surge of despair and a slowly growing empty feeling, and took a look around the room. Everything was packed. Everything was ready. She took one last knife and waited, her hand on the door, until she could force herself to open it.
The hallway was cold and empty, and an old echoing feeling of bad girl surged through her. She had to get to Maureen's. She had to get to her children before he could. She stepped, slowly, so very slowly down the hall, clutching the longest of Ib's knives.
"Easy there." Luke was at her side, not touching her, but his wing, so like Ib's and so not. "Where you headed, Callie?"
She flinched in on herself. Was he going to stop her? Take her back to Ib?
She couldn't let him. For her kids, she couldn't let him. "To Lady Maureen's."
"With a knife?"
"Don't want to be stopped." She swallowed a lump in her throat. "Sir."
"Oh. Well, then." He paced her, giving her a bit more space. "Nobody will stop you, Callista." She thought she saw something in his expression, but she couldn't be certain. "Go to your kids."
Every slow step got easier. Every step took her farther away from Ib. With Luke as a silent escort, Callista went to her children.
Copyright © 2009-2012 Lyn Thorne-Alder. All rights reserved.
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