They trekked along the road, westward. He held her by the wrist, dragging Dahlia along.
Occasionally Dahlia stopped moving her legs, letting his strength move her. She risked it only when he looked distracted. And when no one else was around, because there were the times when other people were around too.
All people fleeing the same thing. Dahlia didn’t know what it was. She was five and such disasters were beyond her. All she knew was that it had angered her father even more than he usually was. All she knew was that her mother hadn’t come with.
Dahlia sometimes thought she missed her mother, but other times had forgotten about her.
He stopped dragging her eventually, meaning Dahlia had to keep walking no matter what. That cough had caught up with him and their constant travel in the increasing cold. Only two times did one of their happenstance travelling companions ask if he was all right. Her father said he was, but Dahlia had never known him to say he wasn’t. Even when he’d gotten angry.
Then one day, he didn’t wake up.
The pattern looked like a flower, printed out on their shin. The center was dark and the petals faded out into their skin. There was another one on their shoulder, but its shape and coloring reminded him of nothing in particular. Then there was the most obvious one at the side of their face. All of these signs caused a burning anger inside of him that he could barely keep out of his voice. “Who did this?”
They didn’t answer, folding their arms across their chest. They refused to meet his eyes and that angered him more.
“Please. Who did this?”
Without a response, he reached out to the side of their face, turning it toward himself. They allowed it, though their eyes continued to focus at his shoulder instead of his face. He sighed, resting his forehead against theirs. Letting go of their face, he brought his hands up in front of their eyes. “Are you okay?” he signed.
They nodded. He did not believe it, but believed in how they needed him to believe that. He sighed, pulling them into an embrace. “Let me stand by you,” he plead.
Maybe they nodded, maybe they did not. All he knew was that he would do so, whether they wanted him to or not.