My dress is a beautiful golden gossamer gown, simple but elegant. Alice has left my hair naturally falling in waves down my back, only pinning up sections of it with golden pins. My eyes are framed with golden colors and dark lashes. If my appearance doesnt impress the parents, I dont know what will.
I wander down the halls before dinner, too anxious to sit still and simply wait. I am debating whether or not I should chance getting dirt on this beautiful gown by going outside, but my thoughts sharply turn to the events of the day before and I shudder. A door opening interrupts my thoughts, and I quickly duck behind a corner to see two men emerging from a hidden door in a hallway, a door that I must have passed a hundred times by now. I watch as they walk down the hall conversing with each other and wait until they are out of sight before I approach the door.
I would have never noticed it before. Even now I am having a hard time making it out from the wall. I approach it slowly wondering if I should go in or not. I think about Cassius' father, Peter, and the hidden room he has behind his bookshelf. This house was built full of secrets, it seems. I press against the section that is the door, and it opens automatically.
I step through and into a small room. It is mainly bare, with a large desk baring a wall. Once I take a few more steps into the room I see that the wall the desk and chair is facing is filled with a large television screen. Transfixed I walk up to it and see what is displayed on the screen.
Images of the hallways of the house flash onto the screen, one by one, in real time. I see Daphne and Cassius walking together and look down, waiting for the image to pass.
Then I see on the desk that there are buttons with different labels. I scan over them, noting that each is for a certain camera in a certain place. I dont pause until I see my name on a button. Before thinking twice I press it.
The screen goes black.
I take a step back, worried that I've broken something, before the screen lights up once more.
The scene showing is one of the forest. I don't see anyone, not a single thing. Maybe I should leave before I am discovered in here.
And then a bright light flashes. Someone comes running forth with a large lantern. I see him shouting something, but there is no audio that I can see.
And then I see a group of men run after the man with the lantern. They are all armed, and one of them has something slung over his shoulder.
I take another step back when I see that the thing over his shoulder is me.
He throws me to the ground and I lay motionless. The man then kneels down next to me and checks for my pulse.
It's then that I wake up. I scream and flail and the men all point their guns at me. Why don't I remember any of this? I must have been terrified. One of the men goes to hold me down, to subdue me, and in the struggle ends up pulling out a large chunk of my hair. I know now that he has ripped the necklace off of me as well. I scream again. The man next to me injects me with something while I am distracted by the man flashing his light at me and I succumb to sleep once more.
I watch as I lay there, still as the dead, while morning comes around and I finally do regain consciousness. That must be why I was asleep so much longer than the others, I think, because they injected me with that drug later than the rest.
I see myself run through the forest, dazed and alone and scared. I watch myself get thrown into the river. As I watch the girl that pushed me run away, I wonder for a moment what happened to her and why she didn't make it to the Manor like the rest of us.
When I wash up on shore, I am woken. I sit up and look around and begin to cry. I scream and scream until I have no more air left to scream and I collapse. I am overcome by the pitiful sight of me. A little while later, though, I see Cassius appear in the scene. He takes a startled step back when he sees my unmoving body and then runs toward me, kneeling in the mud and cradling my head. He shakes me and speaks. Even though there is no sound coming from the screen, I know exactly what he is saying.
"Hey. Hey, stay with me. C'mon, Blondie, wake up."
The way he is holding me in his arms makes my skin warm, though I feel no comfort by the notion as I stare at my limp body.
I dont want to watch this anymore.
I press another button blindly, hoping that the tape will stop, and the screen goes black once more. I breathe a sigh of relief.
The screen lights up again and shows me and Cassius in the forest. This was earlier, before the man with the knife assaulted us. I watch as Cassius and I talked, transfixed. I couldn't help but notice how he was looking at me- and how I was returning the same look in kind.
My heart stops when he brushes his mouth against mine; the almost-kiss that still burns in my thoughts.
I look away when the man with the knife grabs me, looking at the other buttons and their names. I see one labeled "TESTS" and place my finger over it. Could this be the tests that we are all administered and judged on? I itch to know what they are putting us through and why, but I stop myself from pressing the button. Maybe in the end it would be better if I don't know. With a sigh I take my hand off of the console.
"Wise decision," a voice behind me says. "Otherwise I would have had to disqualify you for cheating."
I gasp and whirl to see a woman standing there staring at me. She is petite, wearing a white beaded gown, dark curls framing her delicate face. She has large blue eyes and a warm, timid smile.
"You must be Morgan," she says. "Cassius always tells me you're the one that looks for trouble."
"You're right," I say, "I'm Morgan."
"My name is Vivian," she says, taking my hand. "I'm Cassius' mother."