Attia sat with her arms crossed at the long table laden with food and drink. She watched Keiro flirt with a girl across from her. He was leaning close to her, whispering something in her ear that made her giggle and blush. Bile rose to Attia’s throat. She needed to get out of there.
She pushed away from the table, her chair scraping loudly against the floor. Claudia gave her a questioning look from her spot next to Finn at the head of the table. Attia smiled apologetically and left the protection of the canopy they dined under and trudge off toward the dilapidated castle they had settled in.
It had been drizzling rain all day. The farmers rejoiced and Finn decided to throw a party. They hadn’t been out of Incarceron for three months and Finn had thrown five parties already. Claudia said he was trying to be likable. He wanted to gain the favor of the people. Finn was growing comfortable in the limelight, Claudia had grown up in it, Keiro craved it, but Attia feared it.
She hated the way people looked at her like she was some hero. She was a survivor of a mysterious place that people feared, so they feared her. Perhaps if she was as suave as Keiro they would like her more, but, as it was becoming abundantly clear to her, she was nothing like Keiro. She was also nothing like the girls Keiro was pursuing left and right. She didn’t know what she had expected.
No; that wasn’t true. She knew exactly what she expected. He had pulled her out of Incarceron, hand in hand. She expected him to never let go of her.
Most days they didn’t even see each other. If they did it was because Finn had called both of them or he was throwing a party. When they were in the same room he hardly looked at her.
Much like today, when he spent most of the party wooing some blonde bimbo who could hardly cut her own meat, let alone a man’s throat.
“I’d like to see her survive for more than five minutes in the prison.” She muttered to herself.
When she reached the castle she was dripping wet. It was dark in the entryway, no one had bothered to lights any fires. Attia sighed before making her way through the dark.
It wasn’t too hard to find her first floor room. She knelt in front of the fireplace and lit a small fire, just big enough to light her room while she changed into dry sleepwear. Despite the rain it had been quite warm all week. Claudia had provided her with several dresses and night gowns, but she avoided them, opting instead to wear trousers and tunics.
She changed into an oversized shirt that fell to her knees and a dry pair of woolen socks. Her big comfy bed looked more than inviting.
“Who needs parties when you can have sleep?” She jumped onto the bed and nuzzled a pillow.
“Attia?” Claudia knocked on her door. “What are you doing?”
Claudia opened her door and came into her room.
Over the last few weeks Attia and Claudia had grown closer. They didn’t have much in common except for Finn and the prison, but it had been enough to form some sort of bond. Attia had let go of Finn when she took Keiro’s hand and Claudia was the only one who knew it. Claudia climbed onto Attia’s bed and flopped on her back.
“Did you know that when I was pretending to be a dog slave the only food I got was the few bites Jormanric made me eat to make sure his food wasn’t poisoned?” Attia asked, her face still buried in pillows.
“No.” Claudia turned to her, waiting for her to finish her story.
“Well those meals were more enjoyable than these stupid parties.”
Claudia laughed. “At least you don’t have to talk to anyone.”
Attia grunted an agreement.
“Have you talked to Keiro recently?” Claudia asked.
“No.” Attia sighed. “He’s been distracted by Lady Clarissa.”
When she said her name she mimicked the girl’s frilly accent. Claudia laughed again.
“Promise me you’ll talk to him next time you see him.” She slipped off of Attia’s bed.
“Sure, fine.” Attia waved her away.
“I’ll know if you don’t.” Claudia threatened and slipped out of the door, closing it behind her.
Attia laid in bed, no longer thinking about sleep. Now she thought about what she would say next time she saw Keiro.
“Oh hello Keiro, how are you?” She practiced.
“Why are you an idiot?”
“Remember all those times I saved your life?”
“Remember all those times you saved my life? Yeah, me neither.”
She covered her face with a pillow and screamed. Claudia told her this was a normal way to feel about a boy. Attia had always been too busy trying to survive to flirt or even think about boys. Until Finn had saved her.
She wondered what would happen if she went back to Jormanric.
Without even thinking about it Attia climbed out of bed and put on a pair of pants, some boots, and a jacket. If she thought about it she would lose her courage. The path to the white room had been ingrained in her brain. It’s entrance at the royal palace was much more frightening than the entrance at the destroyed Warden’s palace. Attia had been through hell and back, but the dank, cobweb covered brick walls sent shivers down her spine. She entered the room and sat in the chair.
A few button presses later she was standing in the room where Incarceron’s statue still stood. Attia had nightmares about that thing. She hated it more than she hated any memory of this place. She decided then that if she was going to stay here, it would have to be far away from that thing.
Jared looked up at her from a desk he had brought in.
“Attia?” He asked. He looked much better than the last time Attia had seen him. Healthier, if not more crazed.
“Hello Jared.” She smiled. “I changed my mind.”