With considerable effort, Mairi carried Trev into her quarters, his neck hanging limp in the valley of her left elbow, and gently placed him on her bed. He looked younger than he was, or was it innocent and childlike; she couldn’t quite decide. His hair was matted and his eyes looked crusted with sleep, at least that is what she tried to tell herself. The idea that a grown man had cried the tears she knew he had cried, in shame or pain or, as she knew, both, knocked at a door of her heart she would rather not unlock.

His tunic, once white, looked more like a painter’s canvas of dark gray’s and textured browns and the buttons were mismatched as if manipulated by fingers rushed and too large for the task. Flashes of fists and kicks struck like lightning and faded just as quick leaving ghostly imprints in her mind. With care, or haste, she could not recall, she slowly released each button, pealing back his shirt. His nipples looked bruised and slightly swollen with ruddy concentric rings that implied stimulation gone wrong. A strange whey paste-like substance flaked to the touch and visions of forehead straining against leather, of veins bulging as eyes narrowed in the smiling windows of another’s wickedness sent a shiver up her arm and into her chest.

Lifting first the left arm and then the right, she eased Trevor’s shirt from his dirty shoulders and tossed it to the floor. Reaching for the warm wet cloth from the wooden bowl on the side of the bed, Mairi cocked her head as if the mere position could somehow soften the touch of rag to skin and communicate care and love. Her eyes watered as each pass of cloth removed a layer of yesterday from Trev and overwhelmed her own mind with screams and terror mixed with pleasure and slaps as piece after piece of his ordeal danced with horrid grins before her still burned out mind.

Black water filled the bowl as rag released pain into the cleansing basin. Moving with tenderness, she unbuttoned his trousers. Pulling from his ankles, she removed the soiled garment and tossed it to the side of his discarded tunic. The back of his legs showed reddish purple welts, each a testament to a cruel darkness. Sliding her pristine copper nails under the waistband of his shorts, she pulled them gently over the firm tautness of his young flesh. She had never seen Trev nude before nor had she ever seen such a magnificent body abused and beaten so mercilessly. Falling to bended knee, Mairi placed her hands upon his cold and trembling chest and whispered supplications of forgiveness.

Wiping salty petition from her eyes, Mairi examined the focus of wickedness past. What was flesh and what was blood, was not easy to surmise. With strokes tender and grasp light, Mairi washed and caressed his divine manifestation with the punctilious care of the discalceate before alter. Her hands lingered, letting her warmth become his and as blood begin to flow, her mind throbbed with his agony in step with the rising tumidity in her hand. She sighed, of relief or surprise, she would not say. He was magnificent in repose, his battered body bent but not broken, bruised but not forgotten. Why she had never noticed him before, in this way, she could not explain.

With a fresh bowl, she went to work again with her cloth and from head to toe, cleansed his body as if the healing waters would absolve her guilt, each pass of cloth a prayer. When she was done, she stood, and releasing the bow that held her dress in place allowed it to fall to the floor as a parachute to ground. Nestling Trev’s head to her warm bosom she placed her right leg over his tender and abused agent of masculine surrender as her fingers combed his hair and pulled him tight. Tremble responded to tremble as cold melted into warmth and the story of Mairi and Trev intertwined as strands of rope, giving strength and comfort in union.

Commentary: With Considerable Effort

Soundtrack for this chapter: Un Giorno Per Noi (Josh Groban)