-FOURTEEN-Mature

Following the warden down the corridor, Brida was tempted to do several things. She wanted to scream out of fear. She wanted to cry in knowing she would likely never see Shale again. She wanted to dance with happiness that she was finally, finally being freed.

With sudden emotions tugging at the back of her mind, Brida forced her faltering steps to continue in a steady manner, no doubt leaving traces of her spirit behind. Her hand haltingly went up to cover her mouth, and her feet began to drag. Leaving. Leaving, leaving, leaving. Leaving for good. Leaving behind the world that had so cruelly enveloped her for far too long. Swallowing back her fright, she eased the tense muscles in her neck, enough to raise her head a little higher.

Shale was at the door of the cell within moments, hands grasping the bars. Smiling, the poor prisoner's eyes lighted with joy at the sight of Brida. "You're leaving?"

"How did you guess?" Brida reached forward and gently ran her fingers along Shale's. "Yes, I'm leaving. But I'll come back for you, I swear." Casting her eyes quickly in the direction of the warden, she removed her hands from the cell door and shoved them behind her back, so that neither the warden nor the prisoner could see the way she was trembling. "Someday, we'll leave, Shale. Together."

Something akin to sadness skated across the warden's normally emotionless eyes. Brida focused all her energy into Shale's eyes, begging her friend to understand. This is it. This is the day. This is the time we've been waiting for, Shale. We're going to escape, you and me, and all the others here.

Recognition was barely visible in Shale's eyes, but it was there, nonetheless. Shale leaned forward, lips near Brida's ears. "I have a key. Set us free, Brida. Set this place on fire." With those words, the left-behind one slipped a piece of paper through the bars of the cell door. "Read this, Brida, when you've done it."

Brida nodded, grasping the paper and stuffing it into her bag of belongings. "I'll read it, Shale. And you'll be there, beside me."

Shale smiled and nodded. "Yes, I will," the dear one agreed.

"Come, now," the warden said, causing Brida to return to the gravity of the situation. "Your new home is waiting for you."

The End

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