Mercy didn't know how many times she had watched the same scene play out, over and over and over again. Clara subject to the cruel whims of Faust and his crew, crying soundlessly in the courtyard as they abused her, physically and verbally.
Some part of Mercy knew that she shouldn't be allowing this to happen. The fact that she bore witness to Clara's torment and did nothing to stop it made her nearly as bad as those boys. But the larger part of her shrank back, shied away from the idea. The idea of fetching a teacher was terrifying. Overwhelming. The idea of the boys' bloodthirstiness turned on her was ten times worse.
Still, as much as she hated to watch, she couldn't bring herself to leave Clara alone. Should something truly unthinkable happen to her, at least Mercy would know, then.
And then Clara saw her.
There had been no indication that day that it would go any differently than it ever had. Mercy took up her vigil at the window, ever observant, ever silent. Faust gleefully led the boys in a mad merry chase around the courtyard. Clara ran, less so than she had the time before, which had been less than the time before that, which had been less than the time before that, which had been less than the time before that, which had been less than the time before that because she was reminded each and every day of the futility of trying to outrun her tormentors.
The boys pounced as they always did and had their way with her as they always did. And then Clara looked up as she never did and caught Mercy's eye through the window.
The breath left Mercy's body as soon as those blue eyes locked on hers. She felt she was drowning in them, and oh Mercy knew what it was to drown, she felt she was drowning in them as they widened in shock and surprise and then in a plea for assistance.
Clara needed a lifeline, but Mercy didn't know how to give it to her when she needed it too.
So she watched, as she always did, and those pools of blue grew deeper and wider as Clara grew more and more desperate for relief. Despite their ever-growing volume, they filled with water and spilled over, the droplets carving pathways down Clara's face and through Mercy's heart.
Guilt swallowed Mercy up that night in the form of a swarm of black beetles, crawling into her eyes and ears and nose and mouth until they forced out enough tears to match those that Clara had shed that day and every day previous.
Mercy remembered, the next morning, how it had felt when people smiled at her predictions, how happy they had felt when their futures were secure, when they knew there was nothing to fear in the near future. She had lost her predictions, and with them much of her power. But not all.
Mercy stood quaking, not by the window but before her teacher, who frowned impatiently, no time for the saint in disgrace and her uncertain mutterings.
Finally, Mercy raised her head - just barely perceptible - and whispered - just barely audible - "In the... courtyard."
The teacher would have ignored it but for the girl's eerily penetrating stare, the one that felt like it came from six feet underground. So she huffed out her irritation and left her desk for the courtyard.
And then she saw Clara.
Clara, dragged down to the dirt by Faust's hateful hand. Clara, pulled roughly up again and shoved around an unfriendly circle of sharp elbows and sharp smiles. Clara, her face caught between anguish and apathy, her defensive mask knocked aside by so many callous collisions. Clara wounded, Clara weeping, Clara wishing.
The teacher shouted. The boys froze, Faust stiffening so violently that it looked like he was gearing up for further violence.
They stepped back from Clara's crumpled form as the teacher stormed over. Mercy felt their prickling stares on her, felt the wings and legs of the black beetles.
And then Clara sat up, slowly, carefully, and caught Mercy's eye. The corners of her mouth fluttered like a butterfly's white wings.