She didn't hear it. She didn't. She didn't hear me. The words repeated in his mind, calming his anger and fear. Thank goodness, she still doesn't know about it.
It was a relieve, but his heart still pulsed hard in his chest. What would he tell her if she knew? Would she ever see him as a good person again? Not that he was one... he absolutely wasn't.
Regret filled him when he saw the marks he left on her fair skin. Her face was buried in his chest. He didn't want her to notice the relive in his expression so that she wouldn't get suspicious.
Why did he even talk about it... it was long past. Maybe the regret just ran too deep. He tightened his arms around her soft body, searching comfort he didn't deserve. Although he knew it wasn't right to hide it from her, he feared her reaction.
She would hate him. She would see him as a monster, even more than now. He was sure about it. After all... he was the one who killed his aunt.
Yes. That was right. He killed her.
"Finally we reached the hideout.", one of the kidnappers sighed and threw his bag on the ground. The others followed suit, stretching their back and talking among themselves.
"Hey! You two!", the leader called the boy and the woman. "Take this and stay in the cave over there!"
He took a thick blanket out of the old chests in a corner of the cave and threw it at them.
The woman catched it and complied hastily, tugging the boy with her. The second cave was much smaller than the main cave and had a wooden door the leader closed behind them. They heard a key turn followed by the voice of the leader again: "Take out the wine! Let's celebrate the five million gold coins those two will get us!"
The woman wrinkled her nose in disgust. Shaking her head, she sat on the ground and opened the blanket. "Come here, Nathan!"
With stiff movements the boy walked over. His aunt pulled him in her embrace, the blanket surrounding them with warmth.
Feeling his hands, she gasped. "Aish! So cold! Why didn't you say something?"
She began rubbing his hands with hers, but stopped when she didn't get a reply. Concerned, she searched his face with her eyes. "Nathan?"
It was irritating how she couldn't read anything out of her nephew's face. When did it get so emotionless? He had never been overly extroverted, but as time passed by and nobody came to their rescue, he grew even quieter. Sorrow filled his aunt's heart. How was what she saw before her still the disposition of a four-year-old?
"I'm okay, aunt.", the boy assured her, but his even tone only caused her to worry more. How could he be okay when she herself was not? The kidnappers may not have hurt them excessively, but the constant threat to their life was enough to traumatize a grown man, not to speak of a small child.
Remembering something, she searched in her clothes, until she found a slice of bread. Although the kidnappers were cautious not to let them die, the food-supply was scarce. She could only deduce that they wanted to keep them weakened. This morning, she had repressed her hunger and kept the bread instead. It was hard and dry like a tree bark, the edges tearing the lips open if one wasn't careful. Still, it was better than nothing.
Without thinking twice, the woman pressed the bread into her nephew's hands. "Here, eat. You're still growing."
The boy didn't react immediately. He blinked, then rotated the bread in his hands once, before hitting his knee with it. A cracking sound reverberated in the cave. The bread broke into two. With one if the halves in hand, the boy reached out to his aunt.
"Oh no, dear.", she rejected with a smile. "Thank you, but I'm not hungry."
Obviously, her nephew wasn't convinced. Staring intensely at her with his red eyes, he stretched out his arm even further.
"Really, I'm not hungry. Just eat it all.", she tried again.
The gaze of the boy wandered to the cold stone ground they were sitting on, his hand sinking down a bit. He bit his lip. Then, finally, he spoke with a small voice. "My wish."
"What?", the woman asked, confused. What did he mean with that? What was his wish?
The bread lifted again, nearly tapping the woman's mouth. His eyes also tore away from the stone, landing on hers. His white brows were deeply knotted as if deliberating a complicated question. "It is... my wish. That you eat it. To..."
Suddenly, his small face distorted as if he was fighting with his emotions, trying to calm down a giant storm that tried to break the emotionless facade. There was pain, there was anger, fear, and sadness bottled up inside him. His lips trembled.
"To...", he repeated but didn't seem to be able to say aloud what he wanted. Still, he gritted his teeth and tried again, not willing to give in to the emotions that were raging inside him. "to my..."
The woman couldn't look on any further. She broke into tears and pulled him deeper into her arms. "I know, I know. You don't need to say. It's okay."
The body of the boy stiffened at first as he made one last afford to contain his emotions, but then all hell broke loose. He cried loudly, throwing his small arms around his aunts neck and burying his face on her shoulder. Shudder after shudder made him loose his footing while his wailing filled the cave, deafening all other noises.
Seconds later, the door banged open and a bearded kidnapper roared: "Make that damn brat shut up!"
The roar was so unexpected that the boy choked on his own tears out of fright and the wailing got cut short by coughing sounds. The woman stared daggers at the bearded man while rubbing her nephew's back.
The coughing creased, but tears were still falling like an unstoppable flood that crashed the only barricade.
Just when he was about to close the door, the man heard the sniffle. His angry face distorted to something even more unsightly. With a step forward, he grabbed the boys hair and pulled him up on it.
The boy yelped in pain and the woman yelled: "Stop it!"
She jumped to her feet just when the man's fist hit the child's stomach, sending it flying against the cave wall. "Nathaniel!"
Instantly, she rushed to the boy's side, who slowly slid down the wall, and shielded his body from sight. In a fluster, her hands checked him for wounds. "Please be alright, be alright!"
The back of his head was bloody, but one couldn't tell if it was because of the collusion or the grip on his hair. When the woman touched his stomach, he flinched and groaned softly, before forcing his eyes open. With a weak voice he called out: "Aunt..."
Relieved, she cupped his cheek with her hand. "I'm here, I'm right next to you. You will be okay."
Nathaniel knitted his tiny brows. "I'm ... not feeling so well."
"I know, my dear, I know. They hurt you, but we will pay them back thousand times when we are found."
He nodded softly and grimaced as pain hit him again. Somehow he got the feeling that the punch broke something inside him. Destroyed something other than flesh and bones. It was an ominous feeling he couldn't describe. Hidden under his shirt, unnoticed by even him, a black point emerged on his chest. It came from no where and slowly started to spread.
The woman turned to the kidnapper, fury visible in her elegant face. "How dare you hurt him! You know who we are! Our family will torture you to death when we are found!"
The bearded man sneered. "They haven't found us for so long. As soon as we get the signal, we will cross the border and give you to our client. Then your family will either have to pay the demanded price or start a war to get you back. Both will have nothing to do with us. And that's why..."
Suddenly, he moved closer to her, grabbing her arm. His stinking breath made her want to throw up. "It won't matter what we do to you as long as you're alive. Now that we're in the hideout, we don't need to be wary anymore. All of us have plenty of time to dedicate ourselves to more pleasurable things."
She let out a shriek when she noticed his intention, trying to break free of his grasp, but he was too strong. He pulled her out of the cave into the bigger one, where the other mercenaries let out joyful shouts.