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Don't Be Afraid
Suddenly, he stopped, arrow nocked in his bow, hand ready to release and kill, sober green eyes boring into mine, filled with curiosity. I could feel hesitation radiating off of his robust body as he stood his ground, not making a move to shoot or run away, away from the forest my family was hidden in.
“Please,” I begged, because then I thought me begging would help, then I didn’t know the sound of my voice would make the man in front of me pull back the bowstring.
I couldn’t scream. If I screamed I would have alerted my enclave, my family. There were too many Trackers for us to protect each other. At least one of us would have died, would have felt the beating of a heart slow to a stop, would have turned to dust before seeing the light we heard the humans talk of.
So instead I shut my eyes, squeezing them tight as if the arrow would disappear if I did so. I thought it did when ten seconds had passed and nothing happened, but when I opened my eyes I saw that the Tracker had lowered his bow and was moving towards me.
The green in his eyes gleamed with shock, and it made me wonder why. Curiosity suddenly overcame my fear. It was only when he lowered his hood, flappy dark hair blending into the night sky, and removed the scarf from his nose, lips parted slightly, jaw hanging loose, that I actually got my answer.
I backed away, not knowing what to think, what to do. The wind whipped my white blonde hair into my face, but I let it stay there because I didn’t want to look at the man in front of me.
He was a Tracker, one who trained and studied to seek us out, my family, my friends, the whole enclave. Trackers searched for us religiously, as if it was their duty in life to find us, to capture us, to bring us to the castle to work as slaves—weapons—for the king. And he was one of them, despite… everything.
I thought he loved me.
I couldn’t look at him, couldn’t say anything. I could only wonder why he was here to kill me, why his bow was raised, arrow ready to be released just moments ago. There was only one way Trackers would know where I was, one reason why they would go so far as to kill me.
They knew who I was. One of them must have followed me yesterday, back from my visit to town.
“Ava, you have to get out of here.” His words, voice shaking and scared, brought me back to reality, made me realize that I had a way to stop this.
As soon as the thought dissolved, my eyes rolled back. I started to feel that I was shifting away, that the trees and the dirt floor, the hidden huts and the river, were vanishing, until a hand pulled me back, stopping me—the enclave—from safety.
I started to scream, forgetting about the danger I could bring to the others. But before it became noticeable, a hand was covering my mouth and pulling me away. I tried to bite it, but it was too tight against my mouth to let my teeth escape my lips.
“Ava, stop, it’s just me.” I stopped instantly at his voice, a reflex that I wished I didn’t have.
When he finally released me, I couldn’t help myself. “How could you, Tobias? You’re a… And we… You were…” I couldn’t find the words, my mouth suddenly dry. Even my ability couldn’t stop the tears from falling.
“I didn’t know you were a Hex!”
I wanted to hit him. I really wanted to hit him and yell and cry. But instead I kept my voice calm. “Don’t call me that.” I didn’t want him to see me that way, as someone he wanted to capture… to kill.
I saw the sadness in his eyes, the green glowing brighter as I watched water form. I didn’t want to feel bad, but I did.
“I’m sorry.” His voice was quiet but firm, different than he sounded last night.
Last night, when I was just another girl in town, one who wasn’t the only one that could truly protect the people I love, the people that were abandoned years ago. Last night, when it was just Tobias and me—like no one and nothing else mattered. Last night, when we were a mystery to each other, a lie… but still in love.
But that didn’t matter anymore. It couldn’t matter, because he was a Tracker and I was the one he was searching for, the one who could make her whole enclave vanish from the mortals’ eyes within a few seconds. But it was too late to let my ability present itself because Tobias still held my wrist in place.
“Tobias, let go of me,” I warned, trying hard not to show the fear in my voice. I might have thought I knew him when we were together, but finding out he was a Tracker made me want to be tough. I didn’t want him taking advantage of my weakness.
“No.” I looked him straight in the eyes, trying to find the heart I knew was there. “I want you to tell me the truth.”
The truth, what I had been trying to keep from him since the day I met him. I had been doing so well, hiding who I truly was, what I truly was. But it didn’t matter anymore. It was revealed, and now I had to tell the only man I’d ever been in love with that I was a thief who stole from the kingdom only to support the people—no, the Hexes—the mortals hated and feared because I was the only one that could. But I loved him, and though my trust was starting to fade, it would be a relief to finally stop lying.
I tried not to look at him when I told him, but I failed. “I’m a Hex, Tobias. I am a thief and a liar,” he started to look down, “but I only do it to protect my family.” I wanted to stop there, but I couldn’t. “If I didn’t steal from the castle, they’d starve and freeze and have nothing.”
His eyes hardened, his mouth setting in a firm line. “I have to protect them, Tobias,” I pleaded. “They’re my family, and I’m the only one that can. If I don’t…” I wanted to cry, but I had to keep going to wash away the disgust on his face. “…they’ll be sent in and forced into using their abilities just to help the king. They’ll be slaves until they die!”
I wanted him to understand, to still love me, but I didn’t want to look in his eyes to see if he did, so I looked down and backed up against a tree. I needed support or else my knees would collapse.
I saw his boots moving towards me, breaking leaves and snapping twigs. I soon felt his breath on my lips as he lifted my chin and whispered, “I should care who you are. I should hate you,” a tear slid down my cheek, “but I don’t.” My gray eyes lifted to meet his. “I love you, Ava, and I will always protect you.”