“How long do I need to sit here?” I asked Cassius as he plugged another vile into the tube that protruded from my arm. As soon as the vial was in place, dark blood flowed from my vein. Cassius had already filled two vials full and was working on the third.
I had awoken to an empty bed, to my surprise and delight. After the ashen men dropped off my breakfast they left me some clothes before once again locking me in the room. I quickly changed and ate the food they had provided. Going without food was starting to wear on me.
After I thought about it, letting the food go to waste would be a bigger sin than not enjoying it at all. Besides, I highly doubted the ashen men gave the leftover food to a hungry peasant like me. Most likely it went into the trash. Such a waste considering all the hungry and struggling people in the lower parts of the city. When I think of the food sitting on the cart going to waste, it’s upsetting.
Pappy and I struggled just to get by. Most days pappy would hardly eat. I told myself it was because of his age, but I knew better. Pappy went without knowing that I needed my energy to work at the nursery. He was always putting me first.
“Be still,” Cassius barked as he unplugged the third vial and attached a fourth. “This is the last one.”
Cassius had collected me a few hours after breakfast. We had left the room and descended the flights of stairs until we were on the platform where I had arrived. Boarding the subway car, we zoomed through the tunnels until we arrived at another platform. Cassius pulled me from the car without so much as a word and led through several stairwells and down hallway after hallway until we came to this small examination room.
I was afraid at first when he strapped my arm to the chair, but he had explained that he only wanted to test my blood. After that, I relaxed a little and let him place the extractor in my arm. It hurt at first, but the pain quickly disappeared. I wondered if this is what pappy went through every time he gave blood.
To be pricked and poked, watching as your life source is drained from your veins, helpless yet defiant at the same time. I think I understand why pappy said he did not want me to give. After meeting Cassius, I understood my pappy’s silent rebellion against the revenant a little better. Our blood was taken, not given. It was the cost of living.
“All done,” Cassius said as he unhooked the fourth vial of blood. He secured the vials in a small insulated box with a red X on its lid. It had taken him only a minute to pull the extractor from my arm. A small drop of red blood formed on my skin where the needle had been. Cassius looked at the blood, his irises becoming wide and dark.
He grabbed my arm and pulled it closer to his mouth. I thought for a moment that he would place his lips over the drop of blood and begin to drink from me. But to my surprise, he only sniffed at the blood before wiping it away with a cotton.
“You should be careful not to bleed in front of others,” Cassius said. “It would be detrimental to your health if another revenant scented your blood.”
“Why? What is it about my blood that you are curious about?” I asked as I pulled my arm from his grasp. Cassius placed the soiled cotton in a metal tin and doused it with alcohol before lighting it on fire. The cotton burned sending black plumes of smoke towards the ceiling of the small room.
“Your blood is unique, my dear wife. I have waited a thousand years for you,” Cassius replied. “If my brothers scented your blood, they are liable to take you for themselves.”
“Why? You didn’t answer why,” I replied. “You said my blood contained the same blood as the revenant, but that’s not possible. I don’t live like you do. I don’t drink human blood.”
“You don’t,” Cassius replied. “That’s what makes you special. Every generation born within the revenants have been male. There has never been a daughter among our people.”
“What do you mean?” I asked more confused than ever. Cassius stood and grabbed the insulated box with the blood. He placed it in a dumbwaiter fixed within the wall. Pulling down the glass door and sealing the box within the dumbwaiter, Cassius pushed a black button on the wall and the box quickly disappeared from view ascending upwards into the unknown floors above.
Cassius turned back to me and stared into my eyes. I felt exposed as I fell under his gaze. It was as if he could see through to the very depths of my soul. “You are special because you are the first female born to the revenant,” Cassius said. “That is what makes you special.”
“I am not a revenant,” I argued.
Cassius moved to stand before me. I would have gotten up and moved away from him, but my arm was still strapped to the chair. I pushed myself back into the chair as far as I could trying to put distance between us. It didn’t make a difference.
Cassius was so close to me that I could feel his breath on the skin of my neck. He slowly reached down and started to unlatch the straps holding my arm to the chair. “Don’t argue with me, wife. I am not the forgiving type.”
“I am not your wife,” I said in a whisper. His nearness was causing my breath to be ragged and my chest to overflow with anxiety. I could have had an all-out panic attack had I not been fully aware of his intentions. He stood this close to me to show me that he had the power in our one-sided relationship. He had the power and I knew it, but it didn’t matter to me. I would stand my ground even if it cost me my life.
He didn’t pull away from me until someone clearing their throat at the door caught his attention.
“I had heard from Dreven that you took yourself a wife. I didn’t think you would have brought her here to have a midday rendezvous.”
Cassius pulled away from me, allowing the breath that had caught in my chest to release. I hadn’t noticed that I had gripped the arms of the chair I was sitting in. I released the soft leather of the arms and placed my hands in my lap.
“Haydn,” Cassius said to the man at the door. “What brings you here?”
“I came to congratulate you on your marriage, brother. Why else would I have come here?” Haydn replied as his eyes grazed over my body. I felt exposed under his gaze. His inspection lasted mere seconds, but I felt as if my life had flashed before my eyes.
Haydn exuded power. The way he stood, the curve of his brows as he looked at Cassius. He was bold and confident.
“Thank you for stopping by,” Cassius said. I thought I could see him cower back from Haydn. He didn’t possess the strength he had exhibited to me just a few minutes ago. It seemed that Cassius was fearful or weary of Haydn.
“This was the least I could do,” Haydn replied as he blocked the door of the room. He walked to the side of my chair and held out a hand for me. Maybe if I could get Haydn on my side, he would help me to escape. The enemy of my enemy was my friend, and I could tell he and Cassius were not on good terms.
I started to place my hand into Haydn’s, but Cassius reached out and grabbed it first. He pulled me from the chair and wrapped his arms around me. I tried to pull out of his grasp, but he held me tighter. Haydn seemed to have smiled at my protest against Cassius, but it vanished just as soon as I thought I had seen it.
“Well, thank you for the sentiment, brother. My wife and I won’t keep you,” Cassius said as he pulled me from the room. I managed to glance back at Haydn before Cassius had closed the door.
Without a sound, I was able to mouth a word to him before the door closed.
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