“Are you sure this is a good idea?” asked Esther. “First of all, you should probably continue resting if you back hurts enough that you have trouble walking–”

Arturo interrupted with, “I’m fine, really, I just need air–”

“And second, Nicyes and the others are expecting us to meet them in Ephine as soon as you’ve recovered,” she continued, “and you haven’t done that.”

He was laying on the same cot he had been since he was brought in after the temple fire, and Esther was sitting by his side. She offered him a hand, but he pushed it away, rolled to the side of the cot, and tried to stand.

“You could at least stay here another day or two,” she said. She could hear him wincing as he struggled to stand. “Imagine how much better you’d feel, and how much faster we could cover the island if you were feeling your–”

Arturo had stopped paying attention by that point, and shook his head in disbelief. “We can’t both go to the island, one of us has to stay behind and keep an eye on those, eh,” he stopped to look for a word, “I don’t know whether to call them fools for falling so far into depravity, or to praise them for how they’ve managed to fool the entire town. Either way–”

Esther sighed. “The Gilded Flame again?”

“Not again! The whole time!”

Esther muttered something under her breath, and looked down, at the scars on her arms. Would-be scars, anyway. They still stung, and they were ugly and red, but the wounds didn’t itch as badly as before. Sometimes she wondered if Arturo still remembered she existed when he went on a tirade, like now.

He was stumbling toward the door, using the wall as support, and she was sitting there, doing nothing about it. Without really thinking about it, she pulled the blanket off the bed, balled it up, and threw it at Arturo. The wadded blanket hit him in the back of the leg, his knees buckled, and he collapsed to the floor with a cry.

Esther sighed again, stood and walked over to where he lay on the floor, near the door. She dragged him, sputtering and protesting, back to the bed, and made him lie down. “Try to leave again,” she said, “and I’ll sit on you.”