The next time I opened my eyes I was weaker still. I tried to move but my body refused to listen.
There was a stirring next to me and a young man’s worried face swam into my vision. I blinked and his features became clearer. His straight blond hair was pulled back from his face and his eyes where the colour of a restless sea, blue on grey. His eyes probed mine and I found myself unable to look away.
His voice was deep and rough, not the voice I had expected to come from that face. He had the face of a man who has never had to work hard a day in his life. He wasn’t overweight but that leanness I had come to know in men was missing.
“Crystal.” He said my name again but this time slid a hand under my head and held a glass of water to my lips.
I drank greedily but he pulled it back before my thirst was quenched. I reached a trembling hand to the glass and he smiled.
“Not too much at once. Let that settle and you can have more.”
“Who... who are you?” My voice cracked with every word.
“I’m Dante Brook.”
The man I had been sent to find, the one whom the envelope belonged to.
“The fever came back two days ago. You almost didn’t make it.” Dante touched my forehead and I shrank back from his touch.
How dare he touch me? He was a perfect stranger and he had no right. He pulled his hand back and smiled in apology.
“Sorry. The fever broke last night and we knew you were going to make it.”
“A fever would never have stopped me.” I barely got the words out. Already I was so tired.”
Dante laughed at that. “No, it wouldn’t have. The doctor was most surprised when he came this morning and found you still alive.”
There was a rustling on the other side of the bed and with great effort I turned my head. The maid that had been with me when I first awoke sat up on the window seat. Covering a yawn with her hand she stared at me.
“Oh, Mr. Dante. What are you doing here?” The maid nearly tumbled to the floor in her hurry to get off the window seat. “Miss Crystal, you’re alright.”
“It’s alright, Elise. I came to see if I could do anything and I found you asleep in the chair. You deserved the sleep. You haven’t slept since Crystal’s fever came back. And as you can see the fever broke and she is fine.”
Elise bobbed a curtsey and came to the bed. Sitting down she gently took one of my hands in hers. She pressed a hand to my forehead and smiled. “Completely gone. Shall I find you something to eat?”
I nodded. She smiled again and after bobbing another curtsey left the room.
“She’s a good girl. Elise will see that you have everything you need. I have some things that need attending too.”
Dante stood and sketched a quick bow. The door closed behind him and I was left alone. I struggled to keep my eyes opened but to no avail. I was so tired.
Elise was beside me when I awoke. I felt a little stronger.
“Do you think you can sit up?” Elise asked.
I shrugged and even that took most of my energy.
“Well, no matter. We have plenty of pillows.”
With quick, gently hands Elise arranged two more pillows behind my back. Propped up as I was I was able to see more of the room. My time up before had been brief. I hadn’t noticed much beyond the number of drawers in the furniture.
While Elise warmed something up over the fire crackling in the stone fireplace, I looked around at the room.
The walls were a pale blue and trimmed in white. Everywhere I looked I saw an abundance of pillows. Every chair in the room held one. And the pillows were all different sizes. Some were round, others square and some were shaped like hearts. The couch and chairs arranged around the fireplace were dark blue like the canopy on the bed. A table made of some sort of dark wood sat in the middle of them.
I was still admiring the elegance when Elise came back with a bowl in her hand.
“Now, let’s see if we can get some of this broth down you.”
She held a spoonful to my mouth and I swallowed. I felt silly being fed like a baby but I couldn’t lift my hand farther than a few centimetres off the blankets.
“Never mind about that, Miss Crystal,” Elise said when she saw me struggling. “You’ve been sick a long time and the doctor said you were pretty torn up inside. It will be awhile before you are back to your old self.”
I swallowed some more broth. Then asked the question that had been burning in my brain for awhile. “Has anyone been to check on my family?”
“Don’t you worry about them,” Elise said cheerily. “A Patrol Justice came by just after you came here. We told him that you were on the mend. He’s been back a few times. He brought a letter from your family yesterday.”
I smiled. They hadn’t forgotten about me. “How long has it been?”
“Just over three weeks, Miss.” Elise fed me more broth. “Patrol Justice said that they were doing just fine. So don’t worry about them. We’ll just concentrate on getting you better.”
I nodded and allowed her to lay me back down. I would get better and then go home. Home where I belonged. I began to make plans but soon found myself drifting away.
The door opened and the smell of wet dog assailed my nose. Truscott cuddled up beside me and I curled into his warmth. A soft growl echoed in the back of his throat and I heard Elise sigh. I didn’t mind that he was wet. Truscott was still with me, I wasn’t totally alone.