Maelin shook her head. “I don’t see anything, angel. Just your bare arms.”
Isellta frowned. “But it’s there.” He took one of her hands and folded it into a fist with her index finger sticking out. “See? There.” He touched her fingertip to the back of his other hand. “It starts right there and goes all the way down.” He guided it to his elbow. “But it doesn’t really stop here and it isn’t just one line. It’s many. So many. It’s all over me, even on my face. I’m filthy and disgusting.” He quickly released her hand. “Please tell me you see it too?”
Maelin took the time to consider her words before speaking. “I could edge around answering this question or I could give you the answer you want to hear, but no. I will be honest with you. Your skin is clean and beautiful.”
He frowned. “Don’t you see it?”
She shook her head.
He hugged himself and drew his shoulders forward. “Maelin? What’s wrong with me?”
“Then, why am I like this? Why do I feel this way?” He hugged himself tighter. “Why am I seeing things that aren’t there?”
Maelin looked down at his bare arms, his wrists, and the back of his hands. No black lines. Not even half an inch of one. So, why is he seeing it? “It must have something to do with how Preyuna hurt you.”
He blanched and averted his gaze. “So. I’m broken.”
“No, angel. You’re hurt. There’s a big difference between hurt and broken.”
Isellta slid his hand up to his opposite shoulder and rubbed it in silence.
Maelin let the silence stand between them. When he’s ready to talk, he will talk. She picked up her fork and dug into her omelet.
“How long are you going to stay with Jay?”
She put a cheese-smothered steak slice in her mouth and ate it before replying, “I don’t know. I would stay indefinitely with him if I could.”
He looked at her with hurt in his eyes. “Then, why don’t you? He needs you, Mae. If you leave him, he won’t have anyone. He’ll be alone. My dear Jay will be all alone.”
This boy. This poor, dear boy.
He leaned forward and pressed his forehead against her arm. “Please don’t leave.”
“May I touch you?”
She gently stroked his soft hair. “I’ll stay as long as I can. I promise. And don’t worry. I am not leaving yet. Okay?”
He peeked up at her. “Jay will miss you a lot.”
“I know, angel.” She swept his bangs off to the side. “I know.” She kissed his forehead. “Come. Let’s eat before our food gets cold.”
He managed a slight smile. “Okay, Maelin.”