“Running away was easy; not knowing what to do next was the hard part.”
― Glenda Millard
I heard rustling.
I snapped my eyes open and frantically looked around. He's here. He's found me.
"Greg, give it back!"
"You'll have to come and get it from me, Niall!"
"Why do you have to be so immature!"
I stumbled up onto my feet and ran my fingers through my frazzled hair. I was weak, going without food for days and water from the creek in the middle of the night. I heard one pair of footsteps scatter away but others slowed down and ruffled leaves nearby by. I tried to take steps and get away but my body wouldn't let me. I felt paper thin.
My eyes lazily peaked up and met a pair of crystal one, startling me.
"Oh! My god!" he nearly shrieked, jumping back a few steps. "You scared me."
I dryly swallowed, "Obviously."
His brow furrowed and he took a cautious step towards me. "Are you lost?"
I looked from side to side before settling my eyes on his, "Yes. Please tell me the year."
He looked just about to choke on his own spit. "The year?" he croaked.
I slowly nodded, "That is what I said."
"2010. Very early 2010."
I sucked in a shuddering breath and counted on my fingers over and over again the number of times I've forgotten. I'm so ashamed. I have no courage, no backbone. Alpheus has run me out of my own memory.
"Hey," I was taken out of my thoughts by the boy in front of me, "come with me. My mum will give you clothes and we'll help you get where ever you need to be."
I looked over my shoulder at the house a while away and figured he was talking about that one. I turned back to him and nodded. Alpheus won't find me there.
I tried to step forward but my thin limbs prevented any movements. "Whoa there," he rushed out, quickly darting out his hand and catching me by the arm. "I'll help," he assured me and wrapped and arm around my waist and places mine around his neck as he helped me to walk.
"You're freezing. How long were you out here?"
"Overnight," I weakly replied.
His fingers seemed to tense on my hip and the brush of his fingers slightly warmed me. "My mums making stew. Looks like you haven't eaten either."
I shook my head.
We made our slow walk to the entrance of his home. Once we were inside I was embraced with warmth and the most mouth-watering smell. "Mum!" he called out.
"In the kitchen," a delicate voice said back.
We went in the direction of her voice and now matching the lady to her voice all made sense. She was a little lady with short blonde hair and the brightest smile. "Oh! You have a guest," she beamed before an unknown expression crossed her face once she saw my clothes. "Dear, you must be frozen in that thin dress."
"She...um. I found her in the back by the creek."
"What do you mean found her?"
"Lost?" her eyes widened, "where are you from? We can help you get there."
I shook my head. I was too far from home and I couldn't go back.
"Well where are you headed?"
I shook my head again, this time with hot tears brimming my eyes. "I don't know."
The boy tightened his arm around me, almost like a hug, and spoke softly, "It's gonna be alright."
The lady clasped her hands together and rested them under her chin while her eyes began to glisten. "We'll take care of you, love, and help you find your way, okay?" I nodded. "Niall, go run her a bath and I'll lay out something of mine. Supper will be ready soon..." She dragged on the rest of her sentence, waiting for me to say something.
"Arethusa," I said, with a slight croak to my voice.
She smiled, "A lovely name, I'm Maura. Go on, Niall, show Arethusa around."
The house was...modest. There was one floor with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The larger room was for the adults I guessed and the other was for the boys. After drawing my bath, the boy repeated his nervous tick of scratching the back of his neck. "Um," he stammered, "just call if you need anything."
I lightly smiled, "And by what name shall I call you by?"
"Oh," he tinged, slightly chuckling, "Niall. My name's Niall."
"Ok, Niall. I will call for you if I need anything."
I took my time to bathe because it was foreign to me after not having done it for so long. The water turned murky fast and I was glad to have washed up so well. My hair and skin were clean.
I looked around the bathroom but didn't see what I needed to dry off. "Uh, Niall?" I called out.
"Yes?" he answered back so quick I thought he'd be standing right outside the door.
"I've forgotten a towel."
"O-oh, sorry, it was me who forgot."
I hugged myself to cover up my bits and waited for Niall to retrieve my towel. He cautiously came in and kept his eyes casted to the ground. I couldn't help but let out a soft laugh.
"Thank you," I softly said, watching him quickly retrieve back into the hall.
Once dried and dressed in the baggy night shorts and shirt Maura gave me, I left down the hall with my old dress and shyly faced the kitchen. "Here she is," an older man greeted me, sending a warm smile my way. "I'm Bobby, Niall's dad."
"Hi" I whispered back.
Another guy, younger, raised his hand and slightly waved at me. "I'm Greg."
Maura smiled brightly, "Oh, it's so lovely to have a girl around. Here, let me take that dress and wash it. Go on and sit down."
Dinner was a bit different for me. After fending for myself for so long I've forgotten what it felt like to have a family like this. My home away from home will always be the trees, it will be the animals, but in this winter season they are all hidden.
It was very dark now and I had a little bed on the sofa. It pulled out and although it was a little bumpy, it was better than on the cold, dewey, winter grass.
"There you go, love, I hope you sleep well tonight," Maura smiled, patting me on the shoulder.
"I will, thank you."
"You're very welcome. Goodnight."
When she left the room and left me alone in the dark, it was then when my fear caught up with me. I tried to sleep but I couldn't. Everywhere I looked I saw Alpheus. I couldn't give him what he wanted. I couldn't.
I heard a slight melody flow down the hall and into the grand room where I was. I quietly got up and headed toward it. I was stood in front of Niall and Greg's room, too shy to knock on the door. I mentally counted to ten before just up and opening it. I found Niall with a guitar on his lap and startled eyes as he looked up at me. Greg was in one bed fast asleep but Niall looked restless with red eyes.
"I'm sorry, did I wake you?"
"No, I already couldn't sleep."
I slowly made my way towards him and sat next to him on his bed.
"Um, I guess you can stay," he mumbled and softly began to play again.
The tune made me sleepy and I unconsciously laid my head on Niall's shoulder. "Thank you" I whispered.
"For finding me." That was the last thing I remember saying before I could finally sleep.
There were always the demons, though, lurking their way into my nights rest.
A/N: Why is this so rushed? You ask? Well, Arethusa feels very grateful towards the family, especially Niall because he was the one who found her and potentially saved her.