(This story is a sequel to, and quotes lines from, "To Teach a Lesson", and ”Encouraging Words”, and is a part of the ”Wrapstuffed Tribemates are Healed and Rejoin the Tribe” storyline – see listing for related stories.)
You're not the only one who's suffered. Putting you in wrapstuff was hard. For me, for father, for Dreamflight... even for Greenweave. But we did it, because we thought the world without you would be a sadder place. We thought you were someone worth holding on to.
The words Thornbow had spoken echoed through Honey’s mind as she watched him disappear into the forest. He had told her to try and remember that. That it had been hard for the others, for him. That he had missed her, and that it had been sadder. For some reason, his words didn’t ring true to her; he had been someone she had always trusted, had run to for comfort. She could recall whispers and hugs, always offering just what was needed. Only now, everything was different. They were separated in age even more. So much had happened in the meantime...
“It’s not fair!” Honey cried to no one.
No one, she thought to herself. There’s no one who cares. Moving, she caught a whiff of herself again, groaning at the stench. She stood, then directed her feet northward toward where Laughing Creek fed the Holt's River. She didn’t feel like laughing, but she needed to bathe again, and she didn’t want to go back toward the Dentrees.
You’re not the only one who’s suffered, Thornbow had said. She hadn't seen a lot of suffering when she’d awakened. She’d seen wide eyes and felt the tension. Dreamflight had been happy, crying, and yet wary. Their suffering was in waking me up! Honey realized again. She’d known it even in the den of cocoons. Though her brother had said they’d been sad without her, there was no way it could be true.
Honey remembered the words she’d spoken that day, “You didn't even want to wake me up… It would have been easier for everyone involved if I'd just continued sleeping. You should have let me just die in the first place, if you wanted me out of the way that badly.” Why did they wake me up to this? she asked herself, stumbling because of blinding tears, and new roots on old paths.
She felt the scratch of bramble, and heard the sound of the creek. Walking to it, she bent and cupped a handful of water to wash away the tears. Then, stripping off the stinking rags of leather, Honey knelt in the mud of the bank and began caking herself in it. She knew mud had a smell of its own, but figured that the smell couldn’t be worse than whatever had been in the bladder Willow had set.
The memory of Dreamflight’s words interrupted her thinking, “You’ve been targeting Willow since you were brought out of wrapstuff.” Windburn had agreed — he’d said in front of everyone that she had been hard on the healer. The part that bothered her was that if he’d thought it, why had he waited until the others were around to tell her?
Still, they were right. Honey hated admitting that to herself, but it was true. Willow had only tried to be helpful. The bee-charmer had used newfound healing powers to bring her out of wrapstuff. That hadn’t been malicious. How could it have been?
Caked with mud, Honey waded knee-deep into the river, washing herself. The cool running water was a balm on her soul at that moment, and she was able to forget it all. At peace, she stepped back out of the water and stretched out on the bank, smiling up at the warm sun, truly relaxed for the first time since being unwrapped.
She watched as a bird entered her peripheral vision. It was so free, so beautiful in its flight. No weights hindering it on its trajectory. Honey stretched, her eyes closing as she yawned, not noticing the bird was directly overhead. As it passed, it dropped dung. Right into her open mouth.
In that instant, words she'd spoken days before, You'd do anything to get rid of me again, wouldn't you? flashed through her mind, along with Willow's carelessly shrugged response, came back to her.
Honey sat up, spitting, crawling toward the water, and lapping at it like a wolf, rinsing the putrid stuff out. As she did, rage boiled up inside her, hatred for being put in the position in the first place. All thoughts of forgiveness and feelings of peace flew away with the dung-dropping bird.