I am going to skip around a bit. I am trying to keep on track, you see, and it is not easy with all of my memories swimming about, mixing together like foamy waves in my head. I cannot think. So I will start from the beginning.
It was a miserable day, as most fairy tales begin, though I had never been read one, so I would not know. In this one there was rain. Tumulus rain clouds soaring up above, shattering the dark skies with their wrath, rain pellets screaming down at the world, not that we had ever done anything to them, I convinced myself. No, I was walking across the cobblestone path, wandering vaguely in the direction of the Royal Weald. Now let me assure you, dear reader, that I am not the individual that chews on tobacco sticks, stuffs myself full with alcohol, and staggers home, bearing the breath of a smoker, reeking of whisky and some other foul scent, maybe one of a sloshed man, overfull with ale. I may even perhaps not even be the swoony lovesick character you might be used to reading about. Maybe not even a protagonist? No, no, this was not my first time at the bar, or the last, but I do not waste my time in the shady little place, either. This is where I reside to get away, away from myself. But on days like this there was no escape, and maybe I was just running to get out of the rain's furious grasp.
And so begins the tale of my love.
"What can I get you, miss?" The bar tender, a tall, scruffy man, leaned over the counter towards me, watching me shake my damp hair out, dripping onto the counter top, sopping onto the floor. His eagle eyes didn't miss a thing, as my eyes flicked to and from his own. Why was he looking at me so? Shouldn't he be staring off at the other young women in the tavern? He was quite young looking himself.
"Just a tankard of beer, thank you," I was unaccustomed to the look he gave me then, as if not recognizing the simple form of gratitude. I took my time to glimpse around the tiny room, as half the people gazed back. I was not really yet used to the stares. I knew what it was, of course. Every one shot it at me nowadays, now that I had come back. There could have simply been the cause of drunk men staring impolitely as women walked through the bar in skimpy frilly dresses. The bar tender hadn't even glanced at my neck. As the man returned, and slid the mug across the table, I noticed his clothed arm slid against the wood, prying his shirt sleeve away from a ghastly hollow groove on his forearm, still red and bright in the dim lighting. My eyes quickly scampered back to his gaze once more, face flushing, and saw that the man's bright shining eyes were watching me intently, not missing a beat.
"I do not mean to stare," I insisted hastily, though I knew he had meant for me to spot the gouge. I self-consciously shrugged my shoulder, persuading my dress collar to raise high enough to shelter my own scar.
"No, no. Do not apologize. I should instead, for my customers' gazes. I know it's hard when it's bright on one's neck. I try to keep mine covered, though I know it is no use; it's frightful." My eyes could not leave his watchful scrutiny, though I could glimpse at the tough wrinkles around his mouth, his straight nose, and broad shoulders.
"You're not going to tempt it out of me. I won't tell." I shifted my head downward bashfully, glancing up again at his keen green eyes. I knew what he wanted. I knew what the whole village wanted; to know how it happened.
"I'll tell you if you tell me." His mouth quirked a little at the side, though I had tempted enough out of him to insure a wide grin sooner or later.
"Of course not. I'll start bawling," I gave a hesitant little laugh. The truth was I would not share the war with anyone, not this man. It felt slightly selfish, because who could ever covet the tears and screams to themselves?
"Oh, it's really that bad is it?" and then there was this look that you gave me, I remember clearly, because you gave it to me about every day afterword. You were not asking me, taunting me, trying to pry it out; no, this was a genuine smile that I received, like your tale is likely worse than mine.
"Surely." And then I returned the smirk, watching his eyes watch me. He seemed to notice the loud silence then, as the men in the background laughed and wolf whistled.
"I am William, by the way. We haven't introduced ourselves." One of the men then sidled up to the bar next to me, and gave a scratchy laugh, chuckling and slopping beer down his tangled brown beard. His breath suggested ale.
"Hello, ladies. Mind if I take you... outside…" His gaze seemed to be sliding away from my face. I snorted in indignation, and shifted farther away. "What? What is it?" He seemed to be slumped on the counter top now, staring full out. Will, I am thinking. Do you see this? He was certainly staring down in disgust. "Well, don't mind if I do," And then his grizzly arm was reaching out and I froze, terrified. He had his arms around me then, and I remember the chink of a blade, and William's horrified look. He had pressed the rusty shear against my neck and was pulling me away from the bar. And I remembered thinking that he must have been awfully drunk.
I know you couldn't have done anything, but I appreciate the look you gave me. But I did not need assistance, as much as I know you wanted to help. But the next thing you knew, I had a deadly grip on the man's arm, and the blade to his throat.
"I am not a figurine you can play with like a puppeteer. Do you hear?" I growled this in his ear, and was presented with a faint whimper. I then released him- he crumpled to a heap on the floor, moaning- and I slipped his knife into my boot. With a glance at William, and all the folk in the pub, I slinked out of the Royal Weald.
Down came the rain, with an almighty force, pushing me onto the side of the road. I had almost forgotten the weather while inside the bar. I suddenly realized that there was a pit pit pattering from behind me, to slow and uneven to propose rain, and then I recognized the knowledge of the long walk home. The man was following me.
And then you were there, Will, and it was so unexpected, I let you swing me off my feet and carry me home. I only realized when you spoke with heaving breaths that you possibly just saved my life.