He slipped down deeper into the water, noticing how pale his uncoated skin was. With a hard brush he’d found in a corner basket, he scrubbed until his skin became red and began to itch. Suddenly, he heard voices nearby, surprised he splashed and turned around, calling out who it was in a quick jumble of words. There was no reply, and calming the palpitations in his heart, he listened closely.
‘Andrel, do you have those clothes you were sending back to your mother?’
‘Why?’ Andrel asked, his words drawn out and suspicious,
‘I had Willow –,’
‘Uh, thanks, Anala. I had Will change out of his old ones and take a bath,’
‘Damn, you met the guy ten minutes ago and you’ve already got him naked,’
‘Do you want me to blow you out of a window? Because I will…’
Back in the cubicle, Will smiled. They were funny, and they were far different from those he had known before. They could make jokes, because they knew they were safe, and because there were things for them to make jokes about. Already, he knew he liked Tayna and Andrel, but he wondered if it would be that easy for them to return the feeling.
There was a rap-rap on the cubicle door and then the pattering of departing feet. Feeling thoroughly scrubbed, Will pulled a towel around himself and slowly opened the door. Left at his feet was a neatly-folded pile of clothes, including a white tunic, woollen trousers, as well as socks and underwear. He grabbed the bundle and slipped back inside. He found that the trousers were a little large, but could be tightly corded to fit, and the tunic was loose and airy.
Outside the cubicle in the main room, circular mirrors dotted a back wall, and catching his reflection, Will barely recognised himself. His hair was damp around his neck in thick clumps, but there wasn’t a spot of dirt on him, the only mark of Vincula on him was a scar across his left eyelid that Wilmina had never been able to explain. Is this how I used to look all the time? Like a prince? He looked at his hand and saw that the cut Anala had made was completely healed, no sign that it had ever been there.