Night time came, bringing relief from the day’s determined sunlight.
But still no food.
Ambrose sighed and closed his eyes. His mind drifted from thoughts to memories to wants and back to angry thoughts. None of it was particularly coherent, until his mind fixed on her.
Elsie with her long black hair and gold eyes.
He opened his eyes and frowned. “Why waste my time with thoughts of that hunter? She dragged me into this situation.” His frown deepened. “I didn’t even do anything to deserve this. If she were here, I’d—”
He raised his head and listened to the soft tread of approaching footsteps. They held a different sound from the footsteps he’d heard all day. They were light and precise like a cat.
Like a hunter.
He stood and looked over at the ticket stand.
She was there.
He walked to her without tripping or stumbling or making a generalized idiot of himself. “Hello, Elsie.”
“Have you come to gloat and laugh at me like all of the others?”
“No. Have they fed you yet?”
He glared at her. “I don’t need to be fed by anyone. I am not a zoo animal. No matter what those fools may think or say.”
“Fine. Let me rephrase that: Have you eaten yet?”
The concern in her voice, the expression on her face made him want to curl up in her arms and wail about the neglect he’d been experiencing. But his pride refused to let him demean himself in such a way.
He gave her a belligerent look. “What does it matter to you, hunter? I’m right where you want me to be. You surrendered me to your goons. What do you care what happens to me?”
He hated the hurt in his voice.
“Those were not my goons. I don’t even have goons.”
“But you were in league with them. You let them take me away. You let them bring me to this place to die either of starvation or from excessive sun exposure.”
“Then…They haven’t…Nothing at all?”
He wanted to turn away from her, but he refused to show any weakness. “Nothing.”
He arched an eyebrow as an interesting possibility occurred to him. “Have you come to offer yourself to me?”
There was no mistaking the disgust on her face. “No. I don’t want to wind up like you and your kind.”
“You won’t. If you let me bite your wrist.”
She shivered. “No.”
“I’m hungry. Can’t you give me—”
She backed away from him. “No!”
“Elsie. Just one—”
“I said, No.”
“Then bring someone to me. I don’t care who. Just someone. Anyone. I’m so hungry.”
“Then get me out of here and I’ll find my own prey.”
“Maybe I’m feeling stupid and sentimental from the day’s heat, but her voice just made my name sound beautiful.”
She startled. “What?”
He muttered a French curse word. “I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”
“But…You meant it?”
“What does it matter to you?”
“It doesn’t. I just want an answer.”
“Let me out of here and I’ll answer any question you might have for me.”
“That isn’t funny.”
“I was being serious. Elsie.” He laid his hand on the clear wall. “Help me.”
She laid her hand on top of his hand.
Silence fell between them for a few minutes, but it felt like hours.
He watched her turn and disappear from sight. As soon as she was gone, he returned to his post by the Gondola of Doom.
He sat on the ground and tried to think of Maria. Her brown hair. Her gray eyes. But he imagined her with Elsie’s face and Elsie’s voice.