Her pang of surprise was quickly doused. It seemed he had taken her request to leave seriously. Perhaps that was for the best. She doubted he’d approve of her quest to hunt that man down anyway.
When her knees finally buckled, she barely managed to fling her arms out in front of her and catch herself. She lowered herself to the ground, facing the warmth of the pyre.
Night was about to descend, and though the air was cooling, it was nothing compared to the chill inside of her. She wondered if she’d ever feel truly warm again. She drifted off to sleep, the fire glowing yellow behind her eyelids.
Carissa rolled onto her side with a moan, her sore muscles aching from the slight movement. She reached over for her husband, as she’d done on nights passed. But she only grasped a fistful of dirt.
That’s right. Elon had left with Mera. And in his absence, he’d allowed her to watch the massacre of the entire caravan.
Her eyes flung open. The pyre was still smoldering, but had mostly been reduced to gray ash, blackened wood, and white bones. Bitterness festered within her chest, and she cradled it close.
Elon thought that if he could simply tell her he loved her, over and over again, that she would snap back to trusting him as before. But that wasn’t how it worked. If he wanted to fully heal their relationship, she’d need an explanation first.
Carissa rose to her feet, searching for Elon. Perhaps he was cleaning up the ruins of the campgrounds. Or fetching breakfast.
It took her a few moments of wandering around the campground to find a single set of footprints leaving the campground. Elon’s footprints. And there was no sign that he’d come back once he’d left.
A short, hard laugh escaped her as she realized that she hadn’t really expected Elon to leave. Perhaps disappear for a short while, only to come back and tell her that he loved her, ask her if he could heal her. But not truly leave.
Her confidence flickered, her doubt nearly snuffing it. Perhaps she hadn’t wanted Elon to leave nearly as much as she’d asserted.
She nearly tripped over something. A wooden toy in the shape of a wagon. One wheel was missing. She picked it up, ignoring how the movement strained her wounds. She spun one intact wheel, and it let out a quiet squeak. Almost like a whimper. As if it knew it had lost its owner permanently.
No, she’d wanted Elon to leave. With Elon gone, she would be free to pursue the one thing she truly wanted: the death of the man who had betrayed the caravan.
Though it was only a suspicion, something told her that she suspected right. The bitterness in the man’s eyes had been years-old. She wouldn’t put it past him to do something like this, even after Elon’s explanation. His bitterness had destroyed his humanity. And she would destroy the rest of him.
Yet, how was she any different? Wasn’t she allowing her grief to push others away? To resort to violence, even?
But this was different. What that man had done was vengeance. This was justice.