If Daniela had thought her muscles had ached when she went to bed, it was nothing in comparison to how she felt when she woke up. She thought that if she moved she might pass out from the pain that shot through her entire body. However, it wasn’t this sharp pain that worried her. It was the familiar dull ache in her lower stomach and a slight moistness between her legs that made her panic.
Despite the pain she sat bolt upright, her hand brushing the inside of her upper thighs. When her hand came back stained with blood she almost felt her heart stop.
“Not now,” she mumbled to herself as she realised her sheets were also stained with blood. There was a slight sense of relief when she realised no one else in the barracks was awake yet, which bought her a bit of time before she was discovered.
The first thought that came into her head after the panic had subsided was that she must get rid of the sheets. The moment someone saw the blood on them her secret would be out. There was no way she could explain it. So she gathered up the sheets as quietly as she could, wrapping the bloodstained area up in the clean sections so no one could see it. As an afterthought, she grabbed a fresh pair of breeches to replace the bloodstained ones she was wearing.
Luckily the hall outside the dormitory Daniela was sleeping in was empty, so she scuttled along it as fast as she could. When she heard a door close somewhere behind her, Daniela threw herself into a concealed doorway in order to remain out of sight. Footsteps padded towards her and her heartbeat quickened, a lump growing in her throat.
She closed her eyes and began to pray so when a hand landed on her shoulder she almost cried out.
“I thought I heard you get up,” Ronan said, looking sleepily at Daniela. “Is something wrong?” His eyes scanned her body and focused on the blood on Daniela’s breeches. “You’re bleeding.”
“It’s nothing,” she insisted, trying to keep the panic out of her voice.
“There’s blood on your sheets too,” Ronan exclaimed, fear entering his eyes. “You look pale. That’s a lot of blood. Wait here, I’ll get help.”
“No!” Daniela almost shouted, grabbing hold of Ronan’s arm before he could escape and reveal her secret to anyone else. “I’m fine, I promise. I just need your help.”
“What’s going on, Danny?” Ronan asked, his expression somewhere between concern, fear and puzzlement.
“I can’t tell you,” she said.
“I can’t help you if you won’t tell me what is wrong.”
Daniela fought with her brain to try and work out what she wanted to say to her friend before he lost patience and went to find someone. “I’ll tell you what is going on, but first can you please help me?”
“What do you need me to do?”
“Get me a knife and then help me find a way to get rid of these sheets.”
“Good thing I always carry a knife on me,” Ronan said, producing a blade from his boot. “Let’s go get rid of this then. If we get outside the camp then we can burn it.” He led the way to the end of the corridor, then to the door that took them outside and into the open. There was no one in the training yard so the pair ran as fast as they could towards the arched gate that led away from the camp.
Once through the arch, Daniela felt she could relax slightly. Even though she had not got rid of her bloody sheets there was a smaller chance that they would get caught outside the boundaries of the camp. Ronan led her a safe distance away from the gate and into the trees before stopping and gathering wood for a fire. While he did that, Daniela borrowed the knife and cut the unstained cloth into strips to use to stop the blood flow.
By the time Ronan had a small fire going, Daniela was ready to burn the stained sheet. She ripped it into smaller sections and slowly let each one catch on fire, then burn before setting light to the next one in order to stop the fire from going out. Ronan did not speak for the entire time that she did this, watching her intently.
When the last piece of cloth was turning to ash on the fire he finally spoke. “So what is this about? I find you wandering around the corridors in the early hours of the morning when you should still be asleep, with a bundle of bloodstained sheets in your hands, and when I go for help you stop me. I need an explanation, Danny.”
“I’m sorry for that,” Daniela replied. “Believe me, I didn’t want you to see me.”
“Because you weren’t meant to find out.”
“Find out what?” Ronan’s temper flared and for the first time since arriving at the camp Daniela didn’t feel perfectly safe around her friend. “Stop being so cryptic, Danny, and tell me what on earth is going on.”
“I have a secret,” Daniela explained, “a secret that you cannot tell anyone. Do you promise you won’t tell anyone inside the camp?”
“Yes, I promise. Now tell me.”
“My real name isn’t Danny,” she said, forcing the words out carefully and slowly. “I was named Daniela. I am a girl.”