Part I

Part II

“Come on,” he said, gently shaking her awake.  “It’s time to move.”

“Do ye know what time it is?” she said and rolled her back, never opening her eyes.  “Breakfast isn’t for another half hour at least and Ma always sleeps in on the weekends.”

She thinks we’re home, he thought bitterly.  Would be nice, were it so.

“Come now, wake up.”  He said a little more sternly.

“I told ye, Bradley –” she said, opening her eyes, bringing her back to reality.  “Oh. Pardon, I’m afraid I was still half asleep”

“Only half asleep,” he agreed.  “Breakfast is ready and very real, though I’ve never been one to describe mi’self as Ma.”

She laughed and rolled over towards him.  “Well then, biscuits and gravy?  Eggs and toast?  Pancakes smothered in homemade maple syrup?  I prefer blueberry jam to raspberry on mi’toast – if there’s a choice of course.”

“Those are all remarkably close.” He stood and placed his hands on his hips, standing proudly he looked upon her as if he was about to say something very grand indeed.   “I’m not sure what yer Ma would call it, I’m quite fond of ‘coffee, beans and bacon’ mi’self.”

“Fancy that, coffee, beans and bacon happens to be mi’favorite breakfast.”

“Good thing,” he grinned, “because we’ll be eating it for lunch and dinner as well.  And –” he crouched down and leaned in close to her, “—we might just eat it every day of the week as well, if ye play yer cards proper.”

“Joy,” Olivia said with a smile as sarcastic as her voice.  She leaned back towards him and kissed him.

“Ugh,” she backed away with a smile she was trying to stifle, “promise me I get to make the coffee next time, ye mouth tastes of ash burnt.”

“Is that so?” he leaned in close again – ignoring her playful recoil – breathing heavy, making sure to provide her multiple opportunities to smell his coffee ridden breath.  “Might be you’ll actually have to wake up, ye know, skip the beauty sleep and all.”

“His truth be it,” a devilish grin parted her face.  “God knows ye need the beauty sleep more than I anyway.”

Bradley put on his best shocked face, he feigned being hurt but he was never known for his acting, not at least the kind you saw on a stage.  “Ye words cut deep, Olivia.  I’m sure the pious man Blithe would have a thing or two to tell you about wrath.

“And I have a thing or two to tell him about being unseemly,” she looked to the horizon, the glow of the sun illuminated the world around them but it hadn’t shown itself quite yet.  She wanted to freeze time, to keep it still, to stop it from its methodical, steady advance forward.  If heaven is eternal moments such as this, perhaps we should turn ourselves in and be done with it.

Bradley followed her gaze and matched her solemn look.  He stood and offered his hand to her, “Come now, let’s rouse and be on our way.  Their host is no doubt doing the same.”

They sat and ate their breakfast (coffee, beans and bacon) but not with the same effortlessness as before.  He hated Blithe for it.   Not because he sought to send them to their eternal redemption, but because of what he stole.  He had taken their freedom to coexist and their peace of mind.  They could no longer waste their time with idle prattle, no longer watch the day creep by with indifference.  Simply spending time in one another’s company was inexcusable.  Most of all, he had taken the very human thing he and Olivia had together: love and infatuation.

All too eager to be on their way and expand the distance between them and their pursuers, they finished their meal quickly then gathered their belongings and mounted their horses.  Bradley patted his horse and reached around its head to feed it a carrot from his pocket.

“We’ll be swift,” Olivia broke in.  “We’ll outpace them, as we always have.”  She said it every morning and every night, and every morning and night it seemed less and less the truth.  They had started with so many days ahead, how had Blithe moved his host so quick?  Every morning the two left before his grand host, and every night the host was closer and closer.  Nights were made sleepless by the sounds of the camp just a few miles from their tiny campfire.

“Aye, we’ll outpace them.” He agreed, but said it more to persuade himself, than her.  The sun was just breaching the horizon, giving everything a warm light full of life.  He looked back towards the host of men.  A foreboding dust cloud had replaced a previously complacent and still landscape.  They’ve awoken.

He turned his head towards the barren landscape before them.  It was the only way they could survive this ordeal they found themselves in.   The two moved forward, away from the men behind them and into the great unknown.  Towards their freedom.

Towards our doom, the stray thought wormed its way into his mind.  He shook his head, shaking the pessimism away.  He had to be strong; he had to be courageous.  He couldn’t show his fear.  Their sanity was on a knife’s edge, all it’d take was a flippant remark prophesizing the very thing they fled from to toss them into insanity’s abyss.  The day was young, and they had much ground to cover.  Time, as it always had, would tell.

Nothing can live in that no man’s land.  The thought was supposed to bring him solace, but instead it filled him with dread.  He took a deep breath and urged his horse to quicken its pace, taking the two of them into unknown lands, ravaged and made poisonous by war too long ago to remember.