Caught | ii

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Being a gypsy family, they were constantly on the move. Like their ancestors before them, wherever they went the people shunned them. Persecuted them for their heritage. As she would be persecuted if the truth about her was known. Maybe that was the reason they had opened their home to her. They knew what it felt like. It made it easier for them to accept differences.

Them being nomads was convenient as she was constantly on the move herself and could not afford to be in one place for too long. Being hunted she made sure never to leave any traces behind.

Nerina watched as Dmitri moved from the opposite side of the fire to take his place on the ground beside her. Where she sat, the glow of the fire barely touched her casting shadows over her face. She felt her place was in the shadows. Lazily he stretched out on his side propped up on his elbow as he watched his family. Watched the woman he had grown to love more than his own life. Her face held such sadness it made his heart ache.

Dmitri spoke low knowing she would still hear him. "You still sit aside as if you're a stranger." It hurt him to see the loneliness in her eyes when he was right there. There was something missing that he felt powerless to provide. An unspoken part of her she would never put into his keeping. It created a gap between them that frustrated him. She was his but he often wondered if it would ever be completely.

Nerina shrugged. As much as she tried not to, she still felt set apart from all of them. Even him. Fear kept her set apart. "If they knew what I was would they still show me such courtesy? Such kindness? Would they still want me around their children?" The questions were more for herself than it was for him. When she looked down at him most of his face was in the shadows but his face had hardened. A sign he was angry.

"They know who you are." I know who you are, let me in. He left his plea unspoken.

"Who I am and what I am are two wholly different things," she looked away, "one does not cancel out the other." Who she was did not make her less of a monster. Did not make her less capable of killing innocents at the snap of a finger. It did not erase all the bad things she had already done. Her list of sins was long. The weight of it unbearable. Redemption was far out of her reach. For the deaths, the lives she had torn apart... no, there would be no redemption.

"What you are was not of your doing."

"And the things I've done?" she challenged. Why couldn't she be happy? Why couldn't she accept what was being given when it was all she wanted?

Sometimes she wondered if she wanted him to condemn her. If she would be happier with that than the blind faith he had in her. The misplaced trust. Though faith in itself belief without real proof he knew all the hideous things she had done. All the lives she had brutally taken. All her sins. All her failings. All the things that made her unworthy of him. He knew there was a monster inside the shell of innocence the world saw.

He knew the things her hands had done yet he took her hands in his. "If someone locked a hungry bear in a room full of people and it killed them, whose fault would it be? The bear for taking what it needed to survive? Or the one who knew the bear was hungry and kept it trapped?"

Nerina smiled at the analogy. "I'm not a hungry bear, Dmitri."

"You're a predator," he said, shifting to look back at his family. "She starved you then let you lose. She controlled you. Twisted your mind. If she had not would you have done those things?"

She had no answers for that question. A part of her said she still would have. That part caused her to shoulder all the responsibility for all the things she had done. She could not honestly say things would have been any different. "She created me for one purpose." Eve had forced her to do many horrible things. Nerina felt she had been susceptible to Eve because there had already been darkness inside of her. The potential to be a monster.

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