The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 10

The house has been a flutter of excitement since I told Madam Vicioso the message about the fitting. They told me to arrive extra early on Saturday so they can eat before they go. Awesome.

I can only assume that they have asked her to make dresses for them to wear to try to catch the eye of the vampire prince. Work felt even longer than usual yesterday, the giddiness of the ladies of the house is making my mood worse.

I feel a strange emptiness knowing that, whoever the kind stranger had been, the short break from reality is over. I have a longing for him, a nagging in my heart to see him again. I can’t describe it, it’s almost like… I miss him.

Our short time together rolling over and over again in my mind. The more I think about it the more unbelievable it becomes. Not only was he kind and polite but he was genuinely attentive. He offered me food, he walked with me, drove me, because he wanted to. I realized after hours of analyzing every single word and moment, that he looked me in the eye when he spoke to me.

No one does that. Not even my uncle, he looks over me, I’m just a child, there is no need for deference. That boy made me feel special, like I matter.

______

Now, it’s Monday and I’m sitting in the courthouse, again, packed in like sardines in a can. The prosecution’s closing arguments leave a lot to be desired. It’s more of the same baseless claims with no evidence to back them up.

I have to admit, they have flair, drama and excitement to keep the people entertained. I’m disgusted. I don’t want to be here anymore.

I think about the boy, he thinks she is innocent too. I wonder why he asked me about it. Why he would care what a lowly servant girl thought about the trial.

When the defense attorney stands to deliver his final words the room is so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

“Ladies and Gentlemen” he begins, turning his back to the jury, lifting his head to face the audience, “remember your Queen fondly. Don’t just remember her for her beauty and grace, remember her for her kindness, for her virtue and for her humanity. Remember her for her desire for peace and for her courage to speak out against the great wrongs of the world. Knowing that in doing so, she would be making enemies with very powerful forces. One day, she will be remembered as being the match stroke that started the fire, she will be remembered for being one of the good. Thank you. The defense rests.”

He bows slightly and takes his seat next to the Queen. Her head is high, her eyes fixed on the judge.

There is stunned silence in the courtroom. They didn’t beg for mercy like everyone assumed they would. Instead, they chose dignity. The Queen knows that she’s not making it out of this trial and instead of begging and crying, which she knows would only further humiliate her, she chose to give one final statement in front of everyone.

With that closing argument, her message was clear. My heartbeat is ringing in my ears. Looking around to the room I can tell that everyone is stunned.

What did he mean “the match stroke that starts to fire?” What fire? Suddenly, like a wave, one person speaks, then another and another, until everyone is frantically whispering to each other. What started quietly, grows and grows and grows until it’s a loud, frenzied slur of people talking over each.

It’s chaos.

I sit, rooted to my chair, with my head down staring at the floor. I think I might be the only person still seated. Everything around me is moving, vibrating.

The Queen is quickly escorted out by her guards. The judge bangs his gavel, trying to regain control of the courtroom.

“Order!” he screams, “I’ll have order in my court! Order! Everyone sit down!”

The room only gets a decibel quieter as he shouts over the voices.

“We adjourn until the jury returns with a verdict,” he quickly bangs his gavel and rushes, furiously, from the room.

I suddenly feel crushed by my emotions. I replay the lawyers’ words, the Queens words, over and over again in my head. With that final statement, she was admitting to being a sympathizer. She was admitting it openly, in front of the entire world.

He said “the great wrongs.” Did she think that the treatment of wolves and humans was a “great wrong?” I fight to keep my emotions in check but when a tear slips down my face it’s like a dam breaks and I can’t stop it.

Quickly, getting up from my seat, I rush out of the building. I know that there is a stairwell around the corner, it’s the wolf entrance into the courthouse. It should be quiet there.

No vampire would ever go there, it’s a hidden place, out of sight, where the degenerates enter so that people don’t have to see them. I sit down on the bottom step and place my head in my hands. I wish I could meet the Queen.

I wish I could tell her that not every person that was sitting watching the trial was rooting for her downfall. That not everyone believed the salacious gossip being spread about her. That there is, at the very least, one person, in that courtroom that is not only on her side but that is grateful to her.

I hear the click of heels in front of me. I don’t look up. I’m hoping it’s just a vamp that won’t really care that there is a pathetic human crying in the stairwell.

“Why do you weep, child?” I recognized Madam Celine’s voice. I weigh my options carefully. She was kind to me but that doesn’t mean she won’t gladly turn me in. Without waiting for an answer she sits down beside me on the stairs and puts her arm around my shoulders. The soft velvety sleeve of her dress and her sweet floral perfume immediately bring me a bit of comfort.

“I’m sad,” I tell her.

My wolf trusts her, I can’t explain it. My uncle would never forgive me if he knew how potentially careless I am being around a vamp. She leans into me, wrapping her arm around me a bit tighter and whispers against my hair.

“Me too, Dear. Me too.”

We sit there together in silence, aside from an occasional sniffle, for over an hour. An announcement is read out into the street.

“The jury has reached a verdict. Please find your seats quickly and quietly.”

Madam Celine stands, brushing off her dress.

“I’ll hang back a minute” I tell her, sure that she won’t want us to walk back and possibly be seen together.

“Nonsense, let’s go.”

As we walk around the corner I see Madam Vicioso at the bottom of the courthouse steps. Her brows furrow when she sees me.

“Madam Celine, it’s so good to see you!” She turns to me “You can go. I’ll sit in to represent our house for the reading of the verdict.” Her voice is cold and tight, very different from the warmth and cheerfulness she held only one second ago for Celine.

I bow silently. Celine grabs my arm as I turn to go.

“Jolie” she addresses Madam Vicioso “I was just telling Noelle that I need her to come to the fitting on Saturday. Millicent will be away and I’ll need assistance with the fabrics.”

“Oh! Of course!”

As they turn to walk away Celine turns back and gives me a sly wink.

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