Bo closed the door behind us and when I looked down the hallway, waiting for him I found myself face to face with Eliza. Her face was blank but her eyes were wide as if with shock. I opened my mouth to say something to her but she sprinted away silently and generally suspiciously. I turned to Bo.
"Did you just see Eliza here?"
"Umm... No?" He said, "Should I have?" I shook my head and we walked down the hallway, retracing the way Finn and I had gone earlier to get where we were leaving. Bo suddenly stopped at a fork in the hallways.
"Why did we just stop?" I asked.
"Which way should we go Liv?"
"Umm..." I tried to remember which way Finn and I came from. I turned around and faced the hallway we had just walked down. It took me a moment of twisting my head from side to side to gain perspective to decide which one. "Left." I said. Bo grinned.
"You got it right!"
"Did I really have to do it?"
"Yes, Liv." We were silent for a moment as thoughts raced through my head. What the other girls said the other day about me 'We all know you're going to win!' Florence had said and suddenly I remembered my goal to leave. To get out before anything bad happened. And then that failed and somehow I was in the middle of a revolution started by those who I had been raised to fear and forgotten that hatred almost immediately! And even started to have fun! And enjoy it! And I kissed the Seventh King... Many times! And I wasn't that ashamed!
And then now they were bringing my family in! Gran who hated them! Who probably would despise everything! And ignore me for the rest of her life and Mother who would probably never forgive me if I stayed at the Castle because I was one of the 7 winners. And Finn who would be rejected by his birth mother!
I bit my lip. "Am I going to win?" I asked Bo suddenly.
"What?" He asked, shocked, looking down at me, his beautiful gray-brown-gold eyes.
"Will I be one of the winners of this competition?" I asked, feeling pawn-like in a game.
"Probably," Bo said as I took the honors and pushed the big doors open to the Dining Hall. "Your a favorite of everyone it seems- even Si has warmed up to you it seemed back there, in the meeting. We are...." He leaned in close and whispered outlandishly in my ear. "Canoodling," If I hadn't been so suddenly upset I would've laughed. "And you are doing extremely well, If you asked me." I suddenly pushed out a chair and sat down clumsily. I leaned back again the empty and wide table.
"Do you think my Gran will be upset with me?" I whispered to him, my eyes glazing over and I hated myself for doing this again. All he's been has been nice and easy. "That she'd never talk to me again? I would be shunned..." My voice faded out sadly as I stared through Bo, who was kneeling by one of my knees.
"No." He said surely, "She's probably very proud of you. Helping to take down one enemy in the world who has harmed enough people."
"Don't be, Livia. You grew up hating us and what we stood for. For the pain of your Grandmother and your mother, and its honestly quite amazing of you to be able to put that behind you and... be where you are today."
"With you." I whispered and touched his warm shoulder gently. As slowly I leaned towards him and he towards me what seemed to be a perfect kiss, when someone whistled behind us. Bo and I sprang apart, him falling on the ground, me somehow falling on top of the table. Finn started to crack up from where he stood in the doorway.
"Sorry to interrupt." He said as Bo stood up gracefully.
"I see you've recovered from your bout of being an ass." Bo noted pleasantly, as if mentioning the weather. Finn rolled his eyes from the doorway and lankily strolled over to us. I pushed myself off the table.
"I can never truly recover." He said. I smirked at him. "It's part of who I am." He sighed dramatically, "And besides i've already apologized to everyone but you...two. " He added hastily as if forgetting I was there.
"How have you already apologized to everyone?" I demanded, "Its been five minutes and everyones probably spread out through out the castle already!"
"I ran." Finn said dryly. I looked at him. There was no possible way he ran around the entire place and wasn't breathless.
"Yeah..." I said doubting him
"We were just going to help in the kitchen!" Bo said, saving me from whatever Finn would do once he brewed over the thought of not trusting him.
"Fun!" Finn said, walking ahead and into the kitchen doors. I turned to Bo.
"He's not alright-is he?" Bo said nothing, his face was blank. "He's fickle, emotional, loud. I've only know him for barely more than 5 days but in those 5 days he went from being self-centered, to being nice and then this." I looked at Bo.
"He's having a hard time right now. It's at the wrong time too. Too many people around. " we looked towards the doors. It broke my heart a bit to think of what Finn was going through, generally alone. I walked with Bo the the kitchen doors and a wave of heat hit us as we entered and the doors swung behind practically soundlessly. Finn was already lounging in a chair by the fire and chatting almost amiably to one of the cooks, a small and young looking girl who seemed flustered and red faced from talking to one of the Kings. It was that or it was the heat that seemed to be everywhere. I pushed up the sleeves on my black shirt and walked over to Finn and the girl.
"Hello." I said and gave her a short wave. I gulped, the heat was making my throat dry. "Um... Is there anything I can help with?" She looked up, surprise shown on her small, freckled face and her large green eyes. Bo cleared his throat from behind me.
"Me too." He said. The girl's eyes somehow grew larger at the knowledge that she was in the presence of two of the Kings.
"Pietra!" She said surprisingly loudly for her shy introduction, yelling over all the clattering that the other 4 cooks made. A tall and grisly and generally scary man looked up, his eyes were somehow cold yet he was smiling and it seemed pretty genuine.
"Hello!" Said Pietra, bumbling over.
"We want to help." I said.
"Help?" Petra said, "Good. One of you go help made dough for bread." Pietra said pointing to a counter by a fiery stove where a tall person was kneading dough in a bowl. "And the other go help Nat peel potatoes." I looked briefly to Bo, who smiled encouragingly and tapped my shoulder twice with one finger. Once seemed to say, 'you can do it' and the other said 'have fun!" I smiled back at him and walked over to the small girl who was not what seemed to be ignoring Finn. Having Finn close made it a bit more comfortable, but just his presence not his....self. I stood by the girl's shoulder.
"I'm to help you." She glanced up at me and now that I could see her face closer I could see the determination in it and not just childhood. She pushed a surprisingly large pile of potatoes towards me and nudged over a knife to peel them with her elbow. We set off peeling in silence. "So your name is Nat?" I said and when she didn't respond I said, "I'm Liv." She looked at me then looked back at her potatoes and large pile of peelings on the ground. I peeling in silence. Pointing the knife away from me and embedding the knife under the thin layer of skin and pushing away from me. It was a familiar action that I had done hundreds of time at home. I finished a potato and put it next to the pile that Nat had already finished.
"How long have you been working here Nat?" I asked.
"Three months." She said, her voice soft and quiet, nothing alike to the yell to Pietra. "And four days." She added, almost braggingly.
"I think I'm going to be upgraded to a guard soon!" She said, excitedly. "There's new soldier recruit and I'm going to go!" She grinned at me, her lips pressed together and her eyes the shape of a quarter moon.
"That sounds fun." Finn said, glancing up from the fire which he had been staring into for five minutes as he was lounging on the chair, his legs over an arm rest and head leaning over the other. He almost sounded like his usual self.
"It will be!" Nat said gleefully and I looked across the room at Bo who was whispering something to one of the older cooks, who nodded in response and walked away. Bo caught me looking at him and he gave me a flour-y thumbs up. Somehow he had gotten a large smear of flour on his face: a line that crossed through his the left forehead to the right and then down his right cheek and it ended on the left cheek. I grinned at him, but he was already paying attention to his bread.
I looked back to Nat who was in a deep staring contest with Finn, both of them were scowling.
"So what State are you from?" I asked.
"Seven." She said, looking away from Finn and down at her potatoes, and the large mess of a pile of peels at our feet.
"I'm from State 8." I said. "We're kind of close."
"Were." She corrected. "Now we are both here and quite close." I bit my lip, not knowing what to say. A few minutes later we had all the potatoes peeled and Nat dropped them all into a ginormous, boiling pot. I went over and asked Pietra what I could do to help next. I was pointed to a tall, thin old man who was churning milk into butter. I walked over to him.
"I can take over for you." I said and he looked up, face drooping with age, but he got up and I took his stool which was by the fire. He slowly sat down in one of the chairs by the fire. "Why do you churn your own butter?" I asked.
"Well, someone has to do it." He said. "And its better homemade. Its healthier."
"I haven't heard that before but its pretty cool."
"Yes. " He looked at the stool I was sitting on. "Do you want to know the story of that stool? It was my great-grandfather's. Before the revolution."
"Really?" I asked, leaning towards him and the heat.
"Yes," He said and the room seemed to get quieter as he began to speak. Everyone was listening to him. Embracing his story. To retell maybe or just to hear history that sounded purely fiction. When he was done everyone stopped what they were doing and clapped, before going back to working. I looked at him, my body cramping from both the churning and my muscles.
"That was amazing."
"That story has been passed down generation from generation." He said, and I suddenly hoped that he had a family. That his stories and his legacy and his family's legacy would live on forever.
"And its all true." I said, amazed. He nodded his gray head sadly.
"Every truth is based on a lie."