A girl sat on a simple bed in a small, dimly lit room. She didn’t have a name. Only people had names. She thought she’d had one once, when she was a person, but that was a very long time ago, and she couldn’t remember it. She was pale and thin, and on her forehead she bore the mark of her masters. House Bar’adon.
She wasn’t alone in the room. There was another girl on the bed. Her skin was a warm brown and her frown distorted the mark on her forehead. They looked alike. The other girl claimed it was because they were both human, and that humans were from a faraway place. The other girl had been a person once too. She believed they could be again. And she remembered her name.
Zoe. A secret that only the two of them knew. Secrets were dangerous, as were Zoe’s words, but the nameless girl could not help but listen. She had listened for months. Right now, Zoe wasn’t talking. All she was doing was using a damp cloth to clean the girl’s skin. Water was scarce. There was a drought. Only people were allowed to shower.
The girl sat in polite silence, ignoring the compassionate brown eyes that traced her bruises with a frown. Ignoring the fresh marks around the throat of the owner of said eyes. What was the point in talking about it? It was routine for them both by now. They had both caught the eye of the son of their House’s lord. Fasha. His moods varied greatly. Sometimes he was kind and gentle. Sometimes he was frustrated and impatient. Sometimes, like tonight, he was violent.
Zoe claimed he was cruel… but he favored them, didn’t he? They were valued and protected, given boons. Like this place. They didn’t live in the barracks with the other house servants anymore. This room was only for them. He was sleeping in the other room.
“Hey, Chatterbox… I’m done.” It was Zoe, breaking the silence with the faintest flash of a smile after laying the cloth down by the water bucket. The nameless girl couldn’t help but mirror the brief smile. She searched for the right words to reply, but as usual she couldn’t find them, so Zoe continued, fighting her hoarse voice as she whispered: “Tomorrow is it. Are you ready?”
The girl’s gaze fell, trying to keep her fears and misgivings from showing on her face. This wasn’t a good idea. It wasn’t safe. But Zoe was set on her plan. She was going through with it. She believed in it. And they looked out for each other. Maybe… maybe it could work. Maybe they could be people? Somewhere else?
She nodded, but Zoe’s frown deepened and she sighed, seeing right through her. “I know you’re scared… but-... but this is going to work. I know it will.” she insisted. The hand she felt on her arm made the girl look up, meeting Zoe’s gaze and prompting a small, gentle smile. “When-... when I was-... new… here, you looked out for me. It’s my turn to look out for you, okay? I’m getting us out of here.”
The girl sucked in her lips, frowning and averting her gaze as conflicting thoughts and feelings ran through her mind. In the end, she came back to the warmth of Zoe’s hand, squeezing hers now. The conviction in her voice. The hope in her eyes. It was frightening to let herself feel some of that hope. To let herself wonder if maybe there could be something better for them out there. A different kind of life. To let herself think maybe they can be people.
But she was doing it, and she nodded again, firmly this time. The response garnered a smile from Zoe, quickly followed by a tight hug. Warm. Gentle. Comforting. No more words were spoken as they got ready for bed, but the nameless girl slept soundly that night, despite all her worries. She allowed herself to hope as she drifted off in Zoe’s arms, listening to the soft sound of her breathing.