I hang a clean sock in my window, hoping to summon the thief like Joseara promised it would.
It does. While I lay in bed the window whispers open so silently I don’t know the thief has entered until the black mass blocks out the moonlight.
“Good evening.” Joseara closes the window. “To the lucky girl getting married to the richest, most handsome man in Valemorren, I hear.”
I sit up and toss the covers off my legs, changing topics in haste with, “Zadicayn needs help recovering his amulet.” I’ve been betrothed two days so far, yet I have not decided how I should feel about that. A small voice of reason forced into a dank, dark, avoided corner of my brain says it’s not up to me how I should feel, that feelings just are and all you need to do is feel them. So, if it’s not excitement I’m feeling about this betrothal, what is it?
The thief sits at my vanity. “I’m listening.”
I fish Zadicayn’s note out of my secret box and hand it over. Her pretty eyes scan it.
“I’m going to do it,” I say. “I would ask for your help so we have more eyes I trust looking for it. And in case we have to . . . pick a lock or something.”
Joseara hands the note back. “Glad to hear our friendship is linked purely by my usefulness.” Her tone balances between sarcasm and seriousness, so I have no idea how to respond. “When?”
I wanted to see Zadicayn right after the ball, but he vanished sometime during Jaicom’s proposal to me which shows too clearly that the proposal upset Zadicayn. I have one, massive, suspicious guess why, and, I think, that is the sticky feeling in my chest occupying the space where my excitement over my betrothal should be. The note Zadicayn left: . . . I shall tarry at the edge of the roade where the animal trail takes ye to the big rock 2 days from now at moon rise. i shall be at that spot for 3 days in a row . . . prevented me from seeing him sooner.
“Can we do it right now?” I ask her.
Despite her mask, I know she’s raised one eyebrow. “That sounded like a plea.”
I know it sounded like a plea. Because my secret life with Zadicayn is screwing up my soon-to-be-new-life with Jaicom and my heart going through constant epileptic episodes over it all tears at my wall separating both. Joseara’s constant analytical gaze on my face tears it down further.
I inhale deeply to retain control. “I’m just not sure what to do with Zadicayn now that I’m betrothed to his enemy. Has my emotions kind of . . . whacked.”
“You sound like you don’t care whether or not you meet him.”
“Oh, I want to meet the reason my family felt they needed to die for it, it’s just . . .” She blinks slowly at me and looks away. “I forget you’ve met with Zadicayn many times already and have developed a relationship I know nothing about yet, so I’m making judgments I have no business making. Will he know I’m coming along?”
I have a good guess about the judgment she’s making. My jaw locks tight when I think about setting her straight. “No. But I’ve explained to him how you helped find the pieces of the key which is what freed him. I know he won’t mind.”
“All right, we can go tonight. It’s not like I have any other illegal activities pending right now.”
I want to hug her. Instead, I rifle through my wardrobe and find my canary yellow, un-tiable dress with white bird patterns. It’s atrocious. I put it on. Minus the corset and petticoats, it hangs limply off my hips.
My voice matches narrowed eyes. “I don’t get the option of choosing what utensil to eat my bread pudding with. What makes you think I get to choose what dresses I own?”
She makes a face I see despite the mask. “At least take off your nightcap. Your brown hair doesn’t glow as badly as the white. And I suppose I can’t blame you. Sometimes I wish I could participate in society and wear nice dresses, to share dinner with family and friends, to be betrothed to a rich man. But then I look at you and think . . . bloody hell no!”
“Help me tie sheets together,” I snip, chaffed by her statement, “so I can get out of the window.”
“Unless you can teach me how to fly, I have no other way to get out of my room.”
She must have taken my tone of irritation for urgency because she climbs off the sill and tosses the blankets off my bed. I assist in tying my sheets together, and only when I’m certain I’m going to fall this time do we bless them done and throw them out the window as if tossing an anchor off a ship.
She bows elaborately to me, indicating I’m to go first.