I was late... again. My sister, who is not actually my sister, is guaranteed to forgive me anyways. I love her to bits but she’s unassertive to the point where I have to ward off the boys; she’s too kind to turn down.
I arrive at the top of the steps to a massive school, ornate architecture, topped with a polished dome. Charmeine bounded from her place in front of the double doors to greet me with a suffocating hug.
“Forgive me, I got caught up in my work again.”
“No need to worry, a friend stayed behind to keep my company. Do you think we could walk her home first?” She pointed to a girl, black tipped feathers and raven braids.
I nodded. “Of course.” It was the least I could do for making them wait on me.
It’s Autumn and the leaves are just beginning to wither and break from their branches, decorating the flat-stone path in shades of orange and yellow.
Charmeine’s friend strolled silently as my sister spilled every little detail about her day to us: English Class was boring, someone spilled an entire pot of red paint on the professor’s wings in art, etc.
“You forgot to introduce us.” I mentioned once we’d dropped off her friend.
“That was Melek, we met her at the Summer Banquet a few months back. Remember?”
”I do not.”
“Why are you so forgetful?”
Coming from anyone else, the question would have been insulting. “I hate to pin the blame on the Ignaians all the time.”
“So it’s not the Ignaians?”
“No, it is.” I continued. “We’ve been hemorrhaging Guardians and Powers with their recent hunts. They’re bold-shameless creatures and the attacks have only gotten worse with each wave.”
“Should I worry?”
“No! You are perfectly safe as long as you’re not alone.”
“And what about you? You seldom socialize with anyone if they aren’t a member of the Court.”
“I’m not alone, I have Evangelos.” I opened the temple doors for her.
Charmeine gave me an odd look. “You mean your lover?”
“Charmy!” I squeaked, pulling her inside. Who knows how many spies had just overheard her, their eyes and ears vigilant, none can hide from them. “We don’t talk about these things in public.”
“Look, Evangelos is not my lover, he is... a close friend.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Anyways, on that note, would it be strange to ask Evangeline to dinner?” Innocent naivety. “I’m quite fond of her.”
“But, she’s a lady like you, that would make you an Invert.” I hoped she would see the pleading in my eyes.
“But that would make you an Invert too. If you’re an Invert then they can’t all be that bad.”
People were staring.
“Charmeine, I don’t want to alarm you,” I began quickly, quietly. “But an Invert is far more loathed than you understand. You could be branded for it.”
She glanced around. “Oh-“
A Principality, I do not know how I missed them, went to seize Charmeine. I warded them off by forcing my own arms into their hands. “Leave her be, she is innocent.”
The Knight gave me a dirty look and obeyed, who would challenge me when I was still a member of the High Court?
The Principalities threw me down on my knees in an ornate hall. Not a word had been spoken the whole way here and none would be spoken until they were sent away. It was maybe an hour of uncomfortable stillness before the eloquent lady dropped down on comely feet. The shifting of her gown, the only sound to resonate.
She rose, drawing close her gilded wings. “Zacchaeus, what is the meaning of this interruption?”
I withered under her gaze like a stamped weed. “Charmeine is green, too immature to understand the true meaning behind what she says.”
“You think I believe Miss Charmeine is as incompetent as you have just described?”
“That’s not what I meant.“ I spluttered. “It was my fault, I meant no harm- I swear on my feathers, she is no Invert.”
Lady Ivory glowered. “This is your second offence, yes? You are lucky I am not sentencing you to the cross.”
“lady Ivory, I beg you-“
“Darling, don’t argue.” She rested a slender hand atop my head. “You know it must be done.”
I left the chambers rubbing away the soreness left by the bindings. There will most certainly be bruising by morning.
A sturdy hand clamped down on my shoulder. “It is probably best you leave Cloud Spire for a few evenings.”
“How do you mean? Is it that bad?”
“You won’t like the state of your chambers.”
“Someone got into my room?” I shrieked
He chuckled. “Don’t get your tapestry in a roll, you can always replace what is damaged. Can’t you?”
“How did they get in?”
“Someone unlocked the door.”
Evangelos is the only person with a key.
He smiled, lifting his arms in surrender. “It was less conspicuous than breaking down the door. As if that’d be any more difficult than playing you.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“My mistress wouldn’t say.”
“We’ve been together for 6 years...” I catch his gaze. “Is this the end?”
“What a stupid question, of course it is.”
I couldn’t believe it, did it mean anything to him? What am I supposed to do now? Who am I without him?
He blew me a kiss. “Farewell, little Sapphire.”
I watched him leave, perfect glossy hair and groomed feathers. Never have I thought it possible to Hate anyone as terribly as I did now.
My desk overturned, bed shredded down to its fibers, and the torn down brocade curtains weren’t even the worst of it. My shell collection was unfixable, thousands of irreplaceable hours spent digging up what now lay in ruins. Dried crocus yellow corals and Tyrian Purple murex shells ground to dust and staining the carpet.
Sifting through the carnage, a horrifying thought struck me.
I pulled up the loose floor boards, nearly tearing out my nails in doing so, to find the odd piece of metal still safely tucked away in it’s nook. Relief washed over me like the morning tides and I replaced the boards. I went over my options whilst cleaning up the remains of my room, I’ve decided to take Evengelos’ advice.
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