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A v a r i c e | T h i r t y E i g h t

T h i r t y E i g h t

❝A signal marks the start of a new journey;

while the lines crossed seem to be blurry.❞

TODAY WAS IT. MY JOYOUS REACTION to being woken up early came as a surprise to my mother, but I couldn’t help it. Today was the day everything would be alright. I was beyond happy to begin getting ready for the ball. My family had already begun to get ready themselves (all my brothers and their partners except for Ralph Jr., Lenny, Melinda, and Margaret were here).

The ball wasn’t actually until much later, but Mother always liked to be early to such events. She loved to impress the royals, whatever chance she got. I didn’t mind it today.

The second her head peeked in to tell me to wake up, I jumped up from my bed and went to my closet to get my dress out. Mother stared at me in surprise for a few minutes until she just nodded and left me to my business. I grabbed the dress we had chosen and set it on my bed before turning back around.

I had braided my hair the night before, so now I took it out and let it unravel down my back. I fluffed it out and moved it behind my shoulders, looking in the mirror to see how I look. It looked pretty enough. I would pin it back later, of course.

I cleaned my face, dried it, and then put some makeup on. I wanted - no, needed - to look good for today. Today everything would piece together and go back to how it once was. I wanted everything to be perfect, even myself.

If Cain were here, he’d be telling me I was far too optimistic, but I really couldn’t help it.

“Cerise?” Mother poked her head in for the second time today. “We’re about to start eating some breakfast.” She announced to me, raising an eyebrow speculatively. “Care to join us?” I nodded and stood back up, following her into the hall and out into the dining area and kitchen. There, everyone as waiting for us.

Father was pouring porridge, and smiled when he saw me. “You look very pretty today, Cerise,” he complimented.

I smiled and went up to him, giving him a hug and grabbing a bowl. Father poured some porridge in it. Mother had already sat at the table, talking animatedly to Michael. Most of my siblings had forlorn expressions on their faces, obviously focusing on the death that was soon to come.

I was unhappy about this, as well. But I couldn’t focus on that part. I needed to remember the good of the people, and the lycanthropes. With Marquise Trill in the world, there was no way to save the fallen men and women cursed into lycanthropy. If Marquise Trill was in her right mind, I was certain she would understand this.

So, I sat with my family and ate my breakfast with them. I wasn’t very hungry, honestly, but I was in the middle of a conversation with Sarah, and it would be rude to just leave. However, once I had a window to leave, I took it and went to the kitchen to set my bowl down.

“I’ll be getting ready,” I declared.

Mother looked up at me and nodded. “Alright, dear. Let me know if you need any help.”

I scurried off before I could be pulled back and closed the door quickly behind me. It was time to put on the dress.

We would meet Lenny and Ralph with their wives at the ball. I was in the carriage now, mashed between Samuel and Genevieve. I was leaning towards Gen, strangely enough, so Samuel wouldn’t be able to feel the potion that was precariously held to my thigh by my garter. I really had no other place to hide it, and it wasn’t like I could just hold it.

By now, my nerves had set in. I was no longer jittery from being excited. My stomach had tightened with nerves, butterflies fluttering all through out. My mind kept on racing with visions of me being caught while trying to give Marquise Trill the potion, or something going terribly wrong.

I was quiet through the ride, which caught the attention of Zachariah. He raised an eyebrow at me while he asked, “What’s the matter, Cerise? You look upset.”

“That’s a stupid question,” Sam spoke up before I could even think of a response. “She’s upset about Marquise Trill, right, Cerise?”

That was certainly an easy excuse, and factual. I felt terrible about what was to come, but there was no way to prevent it. I just wonder how Lydia would feel if she were here now. So, I nodded. “Yes, I am.”

Zachariah gave me a sad look, tilting his head to the side. “Sorry, Cerise. I think we’re all feeling your pain.”

Everyone nodded mutely along in agreement.

Samuel seemed to be the most affected by the upcoming execution. He had been moody as of late. I could understand why, of course, but I had selfishly expected that I would be the one most upset when it came to what was to happen.

My hands were shaking now, too. I stuffed them into the cloths of my dress and looked out the window.

No one talked the rest of the way there. Everyone had solemn expressions, and I was certain our faces worsened when we saw the Trill girls with red puffy cheeks and streaks in their makeup. My heart tore for them, and I quickly looked away. The poor Trill family. They had already lost Lydia, and now they were to lose their mother as well. It was sickening. I couldn’t even fathom the amount of pain they must be in, even if a lot of them put on unreadable fronts.

I sighed and closed my eyes, shaking my head. I couldn’t think about that now. I had to think about the good; think about the plan. Seeing Edward coming out of a Trill carriage, and him smiling and waving upon seeing me, made me get back on track.

Mother came up to me, hooking my arm in hers.

“There are a lot of men here,” Mother said happily, looking around. I rolled my eyes at her persistence. If she knew who Cain truly was, she’d be planning a wedding already. Not that I want a wedding.

With our family behind us, and Father coming up to Mother’s side, we made our way up the castle stairs to wait in a line. Apparently many people were going to the ball. I wasn’t very surprised.

Mother glanced around excitedly. Even though her “being early” plan didn’t really work out (as everyone had that plan), it was clear that she was still very energetic about the ball. She squeezed my arm in hers, giving me a grin. “Aren’t you excited, my dear?” she questioned, oblivious to what was to come.

I nodded for her sake and gave her a fake smile. “Very.”

This seemed to persuade my mother and she turned back around.

Within a few more minutes, we had passed the seneschal at the door and was inside. As Mother and I had speculated just days ago, the ball was being held in the rose golden ballroom, where Marquise Trill’s fate had been decided. My stomach tightened when I stepped in and looked around. Everything looked the same, but there was a slight gloom in the air. Something I was certain would stay there the entire night.

The plan was that I was going to receive a signal from Edward, and find Cain, where he would lead me to the dungeons Marquise Trill was being held. The signal would come after Edward and his family obtain information as to when they are to meet her. This would give me around fifteen or so minutes to go down there, give her the potion, and get back here without anyone realizing.

I needed to be quick.

I stayed next to Mother the entire time, watching Edward and looking for Cain. I didn’t need to find him, however, because he found me. A tap on my shoulder led me to turn around, discovering Cain right behind me. He looked very handsome in his golden outfit. I grinned upon seeing him, looking him up and down. “Did you match me purposely?”

Cain gave me one of his very rare and sincere smiles as he shrugged. “You look lovely,” he avoided my question, giving me my answer.

“Thank you,” I bowed my head in thanks. By now Mother had turned around. She looked at what Cain was wearing, then to what I wore, and grunted.

She looked icily at Cain. “Hello again.”

Cain gave a bow. “Hello, Marquise Victoire. You look positively stunning.” Cain complimented my mother. Anyone could tell by his tone of voice that he was being just as icy as my mother. Mother narrowed her eyes at him and looked away and at me.

“I’m going to go over to talk with Phillip Trill. I’ll speak with you later.” Mother said, and looked at Cain again. She very obvious in that what she meant was she would speak with me later when Cain was not around. I rolled my eyes at her subtleness and looked back at the man before me.

I suddenly became nervous.

I glanced around the ballroom, my thumbs twiddling. Cain caught on immediately and reached out, wrapping his hands around mine. I quickly looked up at him. Cain’s eyes met mine, his face very serious when he told me, “It’ll be alright, Cerise. There’s nothing to worry about. By the end of today, the witch will be taken care of and the lycanthropes will be human once more.” He smiled at me.

I nodded, but it didn’t really calm me down. “Thank you,” I said anyways. Cain nodded and let go of my hands.

A butler walked by us, carrying champagne flutes. Cain grabbed two and handed one to me, giving me a wink. “This’ll calm your nerves,” he told me. I gave him a tight smile and took a sip of my drink. Soon, the orchestra that was on the stage the judges had been began to play a beautiful melody, and people began dancing.

Cain and I moved to the sidelines so we wouldn’t have to join in. I was far too anxious to dance regardless. I would probably trip over my own feet and make a fool of myself, which was something I really did not want to do. I had already embarrassed myself enough the last time I was here. I didn’t feel like doing it again.

“Look,” Cain nodded ahead of us, at the Trill family. My mother was forced to walk away when a guard came up to the family. That must be it, then. They talked for a little bit, and everything looked very tense and serious. When it was over, I expected some sort of hand signal from Edward, but it never came.

Instead, he was walking towards Cain and me.

I frowned at him when he arrived. “What’s going on?” I questioned.

Edward looked just as nervous as I probably did. “That man just told us when we are supposed to go down. It’s a lot sooner than we expected, so you guys need to get going now. You only have five minutes now. I can try and stall, but I won’t be able to hold them off for very long.” Edward said, and then quickly walked away.

Cain didn’t even hesitate. He grabbed my wrist and tugged me along and out the ballroom. Once we were out of eyeshot of people walking in and out of the ballroom, we began to run. I followed his lead, slightly slower as I had no clue where I was running. Cain gripped my hand in his own to keep me by his side.

“Cerise,” Cain said to me while we ran, slightly out of breath, “you need to be quick. You won’t have the same amount of time to convince her and get out. So once she takes it, start running, okay? I’ll meet you in the hall and escort you back to the ballroom.”

I nodded in understanding. Finally, we stopped in front of a large, wooden door. Cain unlocked it and then turned towards me and grabbed my upper arms. “It’ll be alright, Cerise. I’m going to keep the guards away. Be quick,” he told me, and then left.

I took in a deep, calming breath, and turned towards the door. Here goes nothing, I thought to myself as I pushed it open. The second the door was opened, I was greeted by two knights who knew that I was not supposed to be here.

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