She didn’t understand. He could see it in her face. The word as foreign as the concept. Freedomless. He felt a prang in his gut. Being a policeman had its rewards, but the list of things that stopped him sleeping was growing long. He gestured to the door and repeated his question, “Would you like to go outside?”
“You mean…” she paused, “Where the others come from?”
“That’s right. The big world. Remember, we talked about it?”
She slowly stood. She hobbled, toenails thick and curled. It must have felt like standing on stones. She limped to the door, watching him. He didn’t move. A hint of threat would shatter months of trust built between them. This was the first time she had gotten so close.
She kept her distance from the door, leaned over so she could see past him. She blinked, stepped back, and bowed. “Thank you.”
“You can go through if you want.”
She didn’t move.
He eased away from the door, giving her the distance she needed to approach it without getting too close to him.
She inched forward, her gaze darting between him and the door. She hunched her shoulders the closer she got to the door, like a cat ready for an attack.
“Looks different.” her voice was low and struggling. She was an adult the size of a girl, but she didn’t sound like either. Some mismatch of both. She inched further and further out from the bedroom, into the corridor.
“I’m going to follow behind you. I’ll stay back. Okay?”
She didn’t answer, but took quicker, braver steps through the corridor. He kept a short distance behind, close enough to take control if the situation began to spiral. She began to run, down the steps of the house of her captor. Driven by memory or instinct, she rushed to the front door and threw it open.
Sunlight struck her. She covered her eyes and whimpered. Freedom, a terrifying burden.