Isellta kept his gaze diverted from his hands as he picked up his fork. Despite Maelin’s words, he could still feel it on his skin. So many lines. Straight lines. Curved lines. Even lines. Crooked lines all over his skin.
Will I ever be clean again? Or am I ruined for good? Is this all that I am? All that I can ever be? Something to be used. Something to be taken advantage of against my will, without my knowledge. Will I never be something or someone worthwhile again?
Was I ever worthwhile to start with?
He quietly contemplated Maelin. But she sees me as good. She sees me as someone to worry about, someone to care about. I matter to her. She looks at me and she doesn’t see my filthiness. She sees me as clean and beautiful, even though I don’t know why.
Isellta tried to imagine his mother’s reaction to everything that had happened to him so far. His face burned with shame. He could almost hear her words and see the disgust on her face. Maybe. Maybe Momma would prove me wrong. Maybe she’d understand. Maybe she’d feel bad for me.
That last thought hurt him like a rock striking his chest. She has never felt bad for me. Not even once. No matter what has happened to me, she has never…She has…She never….
This. None of this would be the exception. If she knew any of this, she would be mortified and angry that I can’t make our queen happy. He huffed out a frustrated sigh. Why does this have to hurt so much? It’s nothing new. It’s been my whole life. Momma being mad at me. Momma being embarrassed by me. Momma…not wanting me. If she had just shown me once that she wanted me…
Maelin gave him a concerned look.
He managed a slight smile and shook his head. “Sorry. Just thinking.” He edged off a piece of his omelet and put it in his mouth. “Mm! This is so good!”
She smiled. “Thanks!”
Isellta put his hand on top of her hand. “No. Thank you.” He quickly pulled his hand back before he could taint her skin.
Her smile softened into sympathy.
“It’s okay.” He dug his fork into the omelet. “I’m fine, Maelin. I’m okay.”
If only I could convince him to stay with Jay and I. Maelin turned her attention back to eating her food. If only I could convince Preyuna to let him stay with us. But neither one is possible. Isellta has too much hope that Preyuna will help him in the end. And she? She will never let him go. Not again.
I could tell him that and it would be the truth. But what good would it accomplish? It would crush his hope. I can’t do that to him. I won’t. He needs something good to cling to, even if it isn’t the truth.
She smiled. Besides, Preyuna can still surprise us. So, who really knows?