I stared at Gran. So much had happened and so little I could tell her, though the words twisted in my stomach, almost as if they were dying to be let out. “Many things have happened.” I said finally. Gran lowered her eyebrows.
“Like what kinds of things?” She asked. I licked my lips.
“Things I can’t say out loud right now.” Gran huffed.
“Fine,” She said, letting it go surprisingly easy. I expected her to make more of a scene or something out of it. “Later.” She finished.
“What about you?” I asked, worriedly. “Why are you here! He is here! Why is it only just you two!” Zeke frowned.
“Liv, we just went over this.” I ignored him and looked at Gran intently. Zeke sighed and walked away, most likely over towards the food tables, which I had carefully helped set up a few hours before.
“Your mother didn’t want to come,” Gran said stiffly. “And your other brothers didn’t want to come either.” My eyebrows knit together.
“But…” But, it was very understandable, and I realized that, but for me… “I know why,” I said after a few moments, “But why?” Gran shrugged. I stared at her a minute as she frowned, her lips curving to a full semicircle, it was something she had done often when I was younger, something that seemed normal and comfortable. Almost normal. It nearly brought me out of this eccentric party with a whole band of musicians and other people who I hardly knew, and all the way to home. To where I was surrounded my people I knew and by things and places I knew and could walk to with my eyes closed. Here, in this castle, I would never be able to do that, I realized and it made me slightly sad, but it also made me happy. Everyday would be an adventure. But, I realized, things were only an adventure if you had someone who found wonder in everything. My heart suddenly lurched as I, almost inevitably, thought about Bo. About how he accepted my…newness at the surroundings he had lived in his entire life. He had adventured with me. Whether it had been outside, or just around the hallways, teasing and prodding at everything with me. My heart lurched.
I blinked and looked at Gran, who was talking to Zeke, who had come back with a very full plate of food. I saw a few strips of meat, some bread and maybe potatoes. I saw some brightly colored fruit and some vegetables. I saw some cookies floating around there too. I let out a loud chuckle and grinned as Zeke, his eyebrows raised, defended himself from Gran who seemed to be scolding him for his pig-edness for taking a ridiculous amount of food. Zeke grinned, as Gran, instead of giving up, she glanced at something on Zeke’s plate and walked away quickly. I looked up at Zeke’s face. He was grinning and his eyes were twinkling.
“Did she just go to…” Zeke cut me off.
“She went to get some of this cake.” I looked at his plate and had a hard time figuring out where the cake was.
“It’s very good cake.” I said.
“You’ve had some?”
“First day here.” I said, “It tasted heavenly.” Zeke smiled and then frowned at me.
“We aren’t cake snobs-right?” I thought about it for a second. “This doesn’t make up cake snobs, does it?”
“Nope. We are just…cake lovers.”
“My lover isn’t the cake it’s…”
“Okay,” I interrupted him. “Please, don’t finish that thought.”
“It wasn’t a thought, it was a sentence that was being spoken.”
“Fine.” I said. “Finish eating. Whatever. I am going to go dance.”
“When does Livia dance?” Zeke asked the air. “She doesn’t.” He answered to himself. “This place really must’ve changed her.” I hit his arm, annoyed.
“Don’t blame me.” I said, “Blame the music.” The music the musicians had started playing was lively and joyful and overall happy music. It was just one of those songs that you wanted to dance to. “How fast can you be done?” I asked.
“So eager to dance with your brother are you?” Zeke asked, looked down at his food and said, “Ten minutes, top. But ten more digestive wise, you don’t want to vomiting on you as we destroy some folk dance or whatnot?” I rolled my eyes. “You can dance with your-our other…brother.” He said. “Or yourself.”
“We don’t have another b…” I faded off. He meant Finn. “Oh.” I finished lamely. “Yes we do.”
“Well?” Zeke asked expectantly. I looked around the room, my eyes hovering over the dance crowd, and on Bo, who was swinging the little girl around, still. The girl with the colorful clothes was grinning widely. My heart ached again. I blinked and looked away. I was still ‘on duty’. And ‘duty’ involved looking at Bo. And looking at Bo reminded me of what I had to do. Suddenly the knife in my boot felt very heavy. I shook my leg to hopefully, take away the feeling. Zeke didn’t notice, or if he did, he didn’t say anything.
“I’ll wait for you.” I said. Zeke chuckled and bit into one of the meat strips. “Did you take everything from the tables?” I asked him.
“One of everything.” Zeke said and when I stared at him he shrugged, “I didn’t know what I wanted!”
“So you took one of everything. I said, “That makes sense.”
“It is a lot.” He said, looking down at his overly full plate. He held it out to me, “Do you want some?”
“I’ll take a cookie,” I said as I reached my hand over to pick one up.
“Only half.” He said. I looked up at him as if to say ‘really?’ “I want to try all the cookies.”
“That sounds like a statement a five year old would say.”
“Everyone is secretly five on the inside.”
“That is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.” I said, but broke the cookie in half. I took a bite and outwardly sighed and closed my eyes. Somehow, it was still warm, as if it had just been taken out of the oven. “Holy crap,” I said, “This is delicious.” Zeke scowled. “What?” I asked, taken aback.
“Don’t make fun of me.”
“I’m not.” I said, confused.
“Haven’t you ever heard of real food before dessert?” Zeke asked. I blinked at him, that was something that I almost expected Finn to say. I had spent so much time with him, and had gotten used to him quite easily, and the first time I had met him It had been generally easy, well the second time since the first time he had said, ‘See you later,’ Which I had freaked out at, but the second time, things had been so easy. I realized it was because Finn reminded me of Zeke. Their humor seemed to be very similar.
“What?” Zeke asked, “Do I remind you of one of your King friends?” I sighed, he knew me so well. Instead of responding I took another cookie and broke it in half. I placed one half in my mouth and the other half on his somehow, already less full plate.
“I have heard of it,” I answered his question from before, “But I choose to be a rebel and ignore it.”
“So rebellious at such a young age.” Zeke.
“I’m only two years younger than you.” I pointed out.
“SO YOUNG.” Zeke said loudly, as if to prove an imaginary point. I rolled my eyes and bobbed my knees to the music. “Also,” Zeke said, finally biting into the slice of chocolate cake with vanilla icing. “I meant to ask you earlier, but what are you wearing? I wouldn’t of pegged you to be the one wearing that. The Liv I know likes things less… pastel.” I shrugged.
“I guess I was in the mood for something different.”
“I’m nearly done.” Zeke said, “Just a few more minutes until we can spice up the dance floor.”
“But what about digestion times?”
“I forgot,” Zeke said glumly, “Double that time.” I looked around the room and saw Silas. My eyes followed him to Finn, where he whispered something in his ear. Finn frowned and looked at the doorway between the two party rooms. I looked there too, and saw Queen Magnolia glide into the room, Eliza hovering at her side as if she belonged there. As if she had always meant to be there.
“I’ll be right back,” I said, slipping into the crowd around us. I pushed my way towards Finn, who looked glum. “Hi,” I said as I stood by his shoulder. I followed his eyes to where Eliza and Queen Magnolia were. They were turned towards each other, and were talking intently. The Queen was nodding as Eliza spoke. Finn sighed a response. “What’s wrong?” Finn took a few moments to respond.
“So many things.” He sighed again.
“Turns out my Eliza is a spy.” I sucked in a breath, my head spun.
“What?” I asked, then blurted out, “Your Eliza?”
“My bodyguard Eliza,” He said, “Isn’t from our quarter of the world, she is from Magnolia’s.”
“Why is she here?” I asked as I placed a sympathetic hand on Finn’s shoulder. It had been quite obvious that he liked Eliza.
“Magnolia wanted to keep tabs on us. About our “mysterious” competition.” He said, sadly.
“Oh,” I said, sympathetic. “That sucks.”
“It does.” Finn said. “It really does.”
“Is she leaving?” I asked, my mind filling with possibilities for the new position open. “Will there have to be a new competition? For one spot?”
“She’s staying.” Finn said, frowning in a very similar way to the way Gran did earlier. “But she’s still a spy. She will still be reporting what we do to the bitch-Queen.”
“From what I’ve heard she’s very nice and fair,” I interjected.
“She is.” Finn said, scowling, “But spying isn’t.”
“Thus: bitch-Queen.” I said, “You might not want to call her that when Eliza is around.” I said.
“I don’t care anymore.” Finn said, looking up at the ceiling. “Why do things happen?” He moaned. I stifled a laugh.
“You might want to care.” I said, “Unless you want a very angry Eliza to see everyday.”
“Is she not fun to be around when angry?” Finn asked, glancing towards me. I nodded silently. Finn grimaced. “What if I can’t control my words?” I smiled, tight lipped.
“How about you just don’t call her bitch-Queen, so that way it doesn’t catch on.”
“I could do that or…”
“No plotting.” I ordered. “Go dance or find someone to dance with. Or talk to someone. No more moping on how Eliza…” I cut myself off, “No more moping on Eliza.” I corrected myself.
“I don’t feel like dancing.” Finn moped, “The song is to slow.” I listened, the song was slower than the other.
“Okay, go talk to someone.” I said.
“Who? Everyone is a bore.”
“Stop moping.” I said, “You don’t know if someone is boring until you talk to them.”
“I can tell she is boring.” Finn said, pointing to a bored-looking lady, who was wearing middle gray clothes and had an shockingly boring haircut.
“She does look boring. But no one else looks that boring.”
“True.” Finn agreed. “Which of your family is here?” I looked around the room.
“My brother Zeke is here.” I said, ”And Gran.”
“How many brothers do you have?”
“Three.” I said. Finn nodded, blinked and then did a double take.
“Did you say your grandmother was here?” I nodded.
“What…Why…” Finn stuttered, unable to get the words out, but I understood him completely. “How..”
“She wanted to come.” I said, shaking my head, “No one else in my family did though.”
“She is brave.” Finn said.
“She will…witness quite a show.”
“She will.” Finn nodded sadly.
“You can go talk to my brother.” I said.
“Zeke. Second oldest.”
“How old is he?”
“19.” I said.
“My…” Finn gulped, “Twin is…?”
“George. He’s 25.”
“I know.” Finn said, “I’m that age.”
“Oddly enough, that does make sense,” I said, goofily.
“Where is your brother?” I smiled and led Finn through the crowd to where Zeke was leaning against a pillar, quite similar to the way Bo had before. Zeke looked at me expectantly and pushed himself off the pillar as I walked over. He then caught sight of Finn behind me and stiffened visibly.
“This is Zeke,” I said to Finn. Zeke bowed his head,
“Finn.” Finn interrupted. “Just Finn. Please.” Zeke nodded understandingly but her was stiff. He had heard Gran’s stories. He hated the Kings as much as I first had. In fact, he probably hated them more. His anger towards them had more years broiling inside of him. It was amazing how he had hidden it so easily when he has been talking to me, and when he had been walking around. Finn said something to him, but I wasn’t paying attention.
I looked around the room for Bo. It was hard to find him on the dance floor, since it seemed to be so hectic but eventually I found him. He was leaning against a wall, politely smiling and watching the dancers. Someone who seemed to be around my age walked up to him, I couldn’t see what she was saying, or might’ve been saying but I could guess. He shook his head and the girl frowned and walked away, scowling. I stared at him. He was leaning on his arms against the wall and was looking around the room. Finally our gazes met and held for a moment before he looked away. I didn’t look away though. Instead I watched him. A young girl walked up to him next, grinning into their shirt collar. I stood on my tiptoes to see the conversation. Bo crouched, his lanky body easily squatting to see the child. I couldn’t see the conversation, but the next moment he stood and he and the child walked off and started dancing. He was apparently more open to children than other people.
Their dancing wasn’t as elegant as the last one. It consisted of the small child twisting, her arms waving around wildly, and him bobbing around. I smiled.