As the fiery light behind her faded, the nun slowly came back to herself. Her ribs hurt and her wrists burned. Dried blood coated the skin across her split open knuckles.
When each step moved her further away from the villa, the labored breathing of someone behind her sounded out. She spun quickly, but the night sky was dark without the presence of the moon. Only the pinpricks of the stars lit the way.
She stopped for a moment until a slight feminine form walked into her. She caught her as she slipped in the sand. A small cry in Mandarin escaped the mystery woman’s mouth.
“Who are you?” The sister whispered harshly into the darkness. As her hands helped slide the small lady to the ground, she caught one of the woman’s hands in her own. Something felt strange about it, but she kept her mind on keeping the girl from falling.
As the woman slumped into a seated position, it finally struck her. There were only nine fingers.
The crunch of steel shod wheels cutting their way through the crust of the earth caught her ears as the light of two handheld lanterns crested the hill they lay on top of. With the last of her energy, she prepared for a fight she didn’t think she could win.
But she relaxed when the lanterns lit up the face of the young boy from town and the strange girl who lived in the brothel. She watched as the two children stopped the wagon and came over to help her lift the tiny Chinese woman into the back of the wagon. They helped her up as she pulled herself up.
The wagon trundled back the way it came and the Sister stared at the face of the woman in the wagon with her. She suddenly remembered, “I know you. You knocked that sawbones out. You carried me away from there until I could stand on my own again. I owe you my life.”
The Chinese woman’s eyes remained closed as her breathing leveled out. The nun relaxed and let the weight of the world fall from her shoulders and her eyes quickly fluttered shut.