When Yuliah awoke her throat burned and her eyes would not open. "I can't open my eyes," she called out in a raspy whisper as she began to panic. "Am I dead?" She began to sniffle.
"Stop," She heard him say in an irritated voice.
Then she heard his footsteps approaching and felt a pair of strong arms, the same ones she had felt several times before, wrapping around her body. She relaxed knowing it was the Man from yesterday, the one who had saved her. He pulled her into his arms pinning her head up against his chest. Yuliah could feel her body began to feel warm as he held her there.
"What are you doing?" her voice still raspy as she tried to clear her throat but only felt a burning sensation.
"Helping you and no, you're not dead. It's just your eyes, they are swollen shut," Yuliah heard the Man say.
Then Yuliah felt a wet cloth on her face and drops of water on her eyes. She winced when the cloth and water touched her face. It burned down to her insides, and she clutched her hands until her nails dug deep into her skin. Yuliah tried to hold it back but it began to seep into her bones and core until her teeth chattered and she couldn't hold it in anymore. She struggled out of his arms. "It hurts too much," Yuliah sighed. "Just leave it," she told him.
"Endure it, or your face will fester. Do you want to lose your face and look more unsightly than you do now?" The tone in his voice made her feel immature.
"No..." Yuliah answers but her voice was quiet and distant. How bad did Liang hurt her she wondered? At least she had gotten away.
The cold tone in his voice brought her mind right back before it wandered away. "Don't try to open your eyes until I say so," he instructs her and begins to clean her face.
Afterward, he applied an ointment that smelled like mint. It stung but soon turned into a cooling sensation on her face. Curious Yuliah asked him what he was doing to which he replied.
"This will help with healing." That was all he said to her.
She wanted to ask him what it was that he was putting on her face, but she instead asked about her face, "Does it look that bad?"
"It'll heal," he answers briskly.
"My face, you said it was unsightly earlier. How bad is it?" Yuliah questioned him again.
"Is bad not a good enough explanation? What additional details did you need to hear?" he answers in that same tone that makes Yuliah feel small.
"Oh...right," her voice quiet again.
"You can open your eyes now," he told her but Yuliah could still hear the irritation in his voice.
Not wanting him to think she was ungrateful, "Thank you for your help," Yuliah tells him as she opens her eyes, but finds herself looking directly into his instead. His eyes were a striking deep blue. The kind of blue you'd see in the skies on a cold autumn day. Yuliah felt embarrassed looking into his eyes, but his eyes and face had captivated her, mesmerizing her. He had handsome features that seemed to be perfectly put together. With his narrow face, a sharply defined jawline, and high nose. She couldn't help but notice how God like he seemed.
What is it?" He asked looking down at her.
His annoyed tone of voice snapped Yuliah right out of her dream-like state. Realizing that she was still in his arms her face burned red. Sensing that he was questioning her focus, from his tone and the way his eyebrows came together. Oh no.... He had caught her staring at him, embarrassed Yuliah tried to get up and run from the shame, but he only tightens his hold around her, causing her to freeze momentarily.
"There must be something that you're curious about because you keep looking at me," he said to her. His tone was different from before it was almost teasing.
Was he making fun of her now? Yuliah wasn't sure if it was the ointment earlier still stinging on her face or real embarrassment but she started to feel very hot in the face, and when she tried to speak, nothing came out, just a raspy garbled sound. Not sure how she would recover from this embarrassing moment she quickly got up as he released his hold on her. Yuliah thought she saw one corner of his mouth curl up, almost like a smirk, but it happened so fast while she was moving, that she may have imagined it. When she was out of his arms, she spun her head around to give him a quick explanation in hopes of restoring her pride but what came out only sent it crumbling.
"You're beautiful," her voice cracked into a husky tone for her throat was parched.
"Beautiful huh?" Was all the Man said to her.
She saw his head tilt as though he was thinking, but then he got up and walked away. He is completely ignoring what she just said. Yes! That's great maybe he didn't hear it? She exhaled in relief but at the same time could not believe how things had turned this embarrassing. Her face burned bright red, and she wanted to disappear. Maybe melt into the ground and flow right out of this cave-like water.
He was already back over by her side when she looked up. He knelt beside her with what appeared to be a water bag. "Here drink this," as he grabbed her chin squeezing her mouth open and proceeded to pour the warm liquid into her mouth. "Swallow. Don't spit this out," he ordered her.
Surprised by his actions but too afraid to question him Yuliah just did as he asked. If there were a liquid form for the ointment he put on her face earlier this was it, Yuliah thought. It was warm, thick, and tasted bitter. She could feel her stomach began to retch as she tried not to choke at the same time. He must have sensed her struggling for he quickly pulled the bag away.
"This is going to help your throat and body heal. You took a pretty bad beating from your husband," he said to her.
Yuliah remembered Liang, yesterday's events, and then the veil. Yes, the veil, how it had changed so many things. She wasn't sure if this was the right time to tell him this and so she paused for a moment to gather her thoughts first. She could see that he seemed to have noticed her hesitation.
"You look like you have something to say. Just say it." his eyes fell sharply onto Yuliah.
She knew he wasn't going to be happy with what she had to say, but he should probably know.
"He's not my husband anymore. We... Umm... There's this custom that we have it's different. It's where whoever is the one that lifted the veil and left with the Bride is the husband," she quickly told him and closed her eyes. Afraid of what he would say next.