I turned and walked to the wall of swords and pistols to look more closely at the designs on the handles. The places Alexander must have gone to get these. I wondered if he would ever take me anywhere exotic. At this thought, I surprised myself. How easily I had accepted my fate. I couldn’t have, not so soon. I took a step back to look at the collection as a whole. The other night I’d seen Alexander wielding one of them. He even held one to my throat. Which one had he used? I raised my hand to my neck and reflected on the feeling of having the sharp steel so close to my flesh. I shuddered. But strangely, I didn’t remember being scared, just confused. Strange.
When the jingle of keys reached my ears, I didn’t turn. I stood motionless, looking at the wall as the door opened. It was Alexander. It had to be. He told me he was the only one with the keys to this room.
“Are you planning to use one of those on me?” Alexander asked in a low voice. I shook my head. In truth, the thought had not crossed my mind, and I wondered why it hadn’t.
I felt, more than heard, him moving around the room. He brushed past me to go into his sleeping quarters. It was then that I turned my head to look at him, and just as I did, I caught him taking his shirt off. I couldn’t look away. His body was tanned and lean, and his hair had come out of its tie to hang around his neck. He glanced over to me, and I quickly looked to the weapons again. I felt my face heat with a blush. Was this going to be it now? Him being familiar with me this way? I supposed I should be lucky he hasn’t done anything more–yet. But it was just a matter of time, was it not?
Without thinking, I quickly took a step and threw myself against the door in an attempt to stall him. I planted my hands against the wooden planks, with my back turned to him. I could feel his arm against my side where his hand held the door knob. “Please, please don’t send me back just yet,” I begged. I was reduced to begging a man to keep me in his presence. I was not going to cry. “Please, my lord, not yet.” I slowly looked up at his face, trying to plead with him in the dim lantern light, with what I hoped was a face he could not refuse. “Not yet, please.”
I lifted my head to look around, trying to wipe my eyes on my shoulder. It was still hard to see the people around me, but slowly, as my vision cleared, I could see that it wasn’t mostly women here. It was all women, and all looked dirty and scared, much the same as me. I began to register a noise in the background, and I could make out the smell of yeast. The factory. I was at The Cascade Women’s Factory, the place where they sent the overload of women convicts. It had to be. I hadn’t seen so many women in the full five days that I had been free because this is where they all were, so it seemed. I was in the middle of my perusal when, without warning, Pierson slapped me across my cheek. It felt more like a punch. It was to the opposite cheek than earlier, and I couldn’t help but let out a cry.
“This is what will happen to runaways,” Pierson called out to the gathered crowd, pointing down to me. “Nobody leaves this factory unless I say so. Do you all hear me?” Not a sound. I licked my bottom lip, tasting blood whilst trying to sit up again. “Don’t bother,” Pierson said to me before kicking me in the stomach, causing me to slide slightly across the floor.