Glad kept to himself in the crowd that slowly gathered, all trekking in the same direction. The people around him now weren’t from his village. No one to stare at him, to whisper, to threaten, to hurt.
He had no idea where all of these people were going, but he went with them anyway. Because it was moving away from what lay behind him. He understood that had to be everyone’s reason. But while the people of his village had a specific person to blame, no one else seemed to know what was going on.
However, they all seemed to know where they were going, which was more than what Glad could say.
The seaside city loomed somehow ahead of him. He saw it the closer the refugees made it to the cliff. A stable face against the wear of the ocean which beat up against so much of it.
The boy could only focus so much on the whys. He was too tired, cold, hungry…
Glad collapsed ten minutes away from Castlehaven, where Winter would find him.
Eventually Winter had to pick Summer up, because Summer sat down and refused to move. It was hard, but it was either that or leave her there and that was no option at all.
Occasionally there would be some other refugee. Sometimes one would try to talk to them. Winter didn’t know what to do, so she ran away, tugging Summer after her. Because if she made the wrong decision with the wrong person…
Summer eventually quietened. At that time, Winter felt like crying.
Behind them came more survivors.
Dahlia waited, rubbing her arms. At the very least, even when moving was tiring, it was warmer than sitting. Now everything became colder and colder.
When the next group passed, one of the older men made her stand up. “He’s gone, darlin’. Let’s go.”
Dahlia left her father and all of his baggage behind her. This left her with nothing. Nothing but where all of the small ragtag groups of people ended up.
The Baroness looked out the window, standing still as a statue. At least, until he approached. She looked down as he lifted the spider up for her to see. “How interesting. You catch that all on your own?”
He nodded with a smile.
She returned it with a smile of her own and pressed a hand on the top his head. “Now put that down, my flower. See? It’s scared.”
He didn’t know how to determine it was scared, but he put it down nonetheless. The both of them watched it skitter away. He climbed up on the windowsill to watch it as it escaped, his mother’s hand on his back to balance him. Once again, his eyes trailed away from the spider to the people down below. “Who are they, Ma’mer?”
“People who need help.”
It would be a long time before he understood what that meant.
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.
Summer wouldn’t stop crying.
Winter didn’t know what to do. She could only imagine what ailed her sister, but imagination didn’t help. She was probably scared. Tired. Hungry. That would be enough. The squeeze in Winter’s chest when she considered their options was not caused by any of those things. It was caused by whatever had happened to her at birth.
Their parents had taken care of these things. Winter’s chest. Summer’s crying. Winter didn’t know how to deal with it, but to force Summer to keep walking.
If Summer would only demand to go home, to eat, to sleep, to something… Then at least Winter could tell her no. They couldn’t stop, or they’d freeze. They couldn’t go home, there was nothing there. They couldn’t eat, because they had nothing. Hunger clawed at her insides too. It made her forget about the three year old who wailed beside her.
Summer wouldn’t stop crying and Winter didn’t know what to do.
This was what their life had become.