Sneak peek of my upcoming novel. Out in five days!
She turns back to her desk, rustling the papers atop. With a flash of metal Finch realizes they were all for show anyway. Her grandmother has had a pistol trained at her since she walked into the office. The slightest hesitation, the wrong tone…
“Since you have deprived me of my emissary – No, no,” she waves off Finch’s stutter, “I’m not looking for whatever little fib you’ve come up with for this moment. Since you have deprived me of my emissary,” she starts again, “I am afraid you’re just going to have to fill her place yourself. For obvious reasons I can’t trust you out in the field for a while. And, honestly, we should have started your training years ago anyway.”
Emissary training? Finch can feel her brows furrowed, but her grandmother only waves her off again. “Oh you’ve had a decent foundation,” she murmurs. “But you lack the subtlety of proper training. Come,” she pats the divan. “Sit.”
“Gregor says I’d be a fool to do anything other than kill you or keep you,” her grandmother seems to… confess.
“You’ve decided to keep me.”
She nods, some of that same elegance striking Finch as it sometimes does: that her grandmother is a truly beautiful woman. That she’s all lithe lines and her back has not bowed under sixty years of life in exile. That she holds to her hopes with a ferocity Finch can barely understand. She truly is a Queen.
“Do you understand?” she asks now, a strange intensity in her eyes, in the tension in her voice. “Do you understand my plans for you? What I see sometimes when I look at you? That we share all but blood?”
If she didn’t know better, Finch would say her grandmother is floundering, that she’s truly asking, bewildered herself at the implications, at the answers.
“I know you have trained me well in all else,” Finch finally hears herself answer. She shrugs immodestly. “That I have taken to it.”
She has never struggled at anything but love: her one great failure.
Except, it seems, Elana understands even that. For all her bewildered gaze, there is also a strange gleam of compassion, the way she’s looking at Finch now almost as though she’s looking in a mirror.
“You have,” she echoes. She reaches out now to brush her fingers against the cold of the ruby heart, pinned to Finch’s chest. Since Sophie, when she’s not fighting and it’s not a liability, Finch has taken to wearing the brooch pinned directly through her skin, nestled until there’s a heart-shaped bruise over her left breast. Finally, her grandmother seems to return to herself, but Finch isn’t sure if she’s talking to her or the brooch as she finally murmurs: “You are not to be looted like the rest. You belong to me.”
In a sad sort of way, Finch knows this is the only declaration of love her grandmother has ever given her, that perhaps this is the only declaration of love this Queen, or even a Queen, is capable of. But, maybe if she’d phrased it differently. Maybe if she had said any other sentence in place of that last, any other sentence at all…
Because it’s the declarative that finally seems to slide the missing piece, shard, deep into Finch’s mind. In her numb and wandering state these past few weeks, she has felt it, the question, hovering always at the edges of her mind. She has been wandering towards it. She has been searching even as she’s been unable to see so much as her own hand before her face.
Why did her mother give her away?
Why did her grandmother keep her?
Why, why did Finch stay?
Why does Finch stay?
Blasphemy. To question the Queen, this veritable Shiva before her. Finch expects lightening to fall from the chandelier. She expects to be struck dead.
And yet, she waits. And waits.
And she and her grandmother sit across from one another, seemingly frozen in tableau.