Charlotte pulled her head off of Cooper’s chest with a start. When had she fallen asleep? For how long? With a guilty look she realized that Cooper was awake. “You should have woken me up…you shouldn’t have to deal with that extra weight making it even harder to breathe after what you have been through.”
Cooper smiled wryly. “Mornin’ Charlie,” he rasped weakly.
Charlotte cringed as his voice grated across her ears. It was only a ghost of his true voice. It had lost it’s soothing musical ring completely. Charlotte sighed heavily and brought her hand up to his face. There had to be something she could do to save him. Soon it would be breakfast time and she would have to fight again to get something to eat…a fight she would likely not win. She wanted to scream, to throw something, but she couldn’t. She didn’t even have the strength to do that anymore. Instead she began to cry. Hopeless, helpless tears of impotence. It just wasn’t fair.
The cool touch of Cooper’s hand against hers brought her back to the present. “Go now, when the food comes you will already be there, grab it while you can.”
She nodded and crawled over to moldy slot in the door where, every day, the food would slide through at meal times. She didn’t have to wait long before the steps echoed on the stairs and as soon as the food slid through the opening chaos erupted. Charlotte had just enough time to grab a stale crust of bread and a cup of water before the crowd enclosed her. She folded herself up around her precious find. Hands tore at her and feet slammed into her as people fought to get to the food in the middle of the crowd. Nobody took any notice of her curled up form however and once the food had all gone the crowd again settled back into their silent misery.
Charlotte began to uncurl when another problem presented itself. If she uncurled then the food and water she had would be revealed and the crowd would quickly reappear and her hard won food would just as quickly disappear. She pondered the problem; if she still had enough clothing to cover the food she could have done that, however all the spare cloth she had was now around Cooper. No solutions presented themselves however and Charlotte was beginning to get desperate when a loud snore interrupted the silence. Startled, Charlotte looked up and as she looked around, to her astonishment, almost everyone was asleep. After so long in the cell most of the prisoners had learned to sleep away the time. It was better than staying awake after all, and it conserved what little strength they had. Carefully, Charlotte tucked away the bread crust which was small enough to hide under what little clothing she had left. The cup however was too big, she would have to hope that nobody noticed that as she crawled over to Cooper.
Cooper was also asleep when she managed to pull herself over to his prone form. She planted a kiss on his forehead and he slowly blinked himself awake. With a quick glance around the room Charlotte furtively pulled out the bread and dipped it into the water. “Eat,” she whispered gently, holding the food to Cooper’s mouth. Cooper ate without protest until all the bread was gone. Then he drank what was left of the water. Charlotte’s heart sank, she had hoped to see an immediate effect on Cooper’s health when she finished feeding him. Wasn’t that always how it happened in the books? The hero or heroine finally completed the task assigned to them and then everything was better? It just wasn’t fair! Cooper had to get better! She needed him! She loved him!
Cooper looked up at her and again smiled wryly. “I do feel a little better if that is any consolation,” he whispered. His hand reached for hers and his eyes plunged deeply into hers. “Charlie, whatever happens, I am not going to stop loving you. I’ll—“ he stopped as a cough racked his torn body, “I’ll do my best to stay with you love.”
Charlotte’s heart tore as he reached up and pulled her down to him. Pulled her lips toward his. She loved him so much.