The hot bath successfully managed to calm Evelyn and soothe her sore abdomen, and now she sat in desperate need of answers to all the questions plaguing her mind. The skeletons of the tears she wept still clung, dead, but nevertheless present. The blanket tightly wrapped around her body did little to raise her temperature, and every minute or so, she shivered involuntarily.
“Do you want some tea?” Ivory’s voice sounded, and Evelyn looked up towards her from across the room.
Evelyn simply shook her head. “It wasn’t Everest,” She muttered, glancing up, “He wouldn’t do this to me, to himself.”
“Then who did it?”
“It was the brother,” Evelyn started, the hand on her stomach clenching the fabric of her dress, “It was his idea to share a toast, he distracted me while his date poured the poison. She gave me the cup.” The memory replayed in her mind, mocking.
“Perhaps Everest was not directly involved, but he must’ve known, or at the very least, speculated.” Evelyn flinched when Ivory’s hands touched hers, and she kneeled in front of her, “It doesn’t matter anymore, Evelyn. Everest is behind bars, where he should be. The Orb has already paid their blood money. It’s over.”
At her words, Evelyn shook her head. “It is not over. Everest did not do this. It should be River and Clover imprisoned, not him.”
“We can’t do that anymore, not with recent developments.” Ivory watched the look on Evelyn’s face and hastily continued, “They sent for the arrest of the three when it was confirmed you were poisoned, but they were gone. River and Clover had already disappeared, but Everest was caught about to leave.”
The rage and fury Evelyn felt from earlier came clashing back. The knowledge that the people who almost assassinated her, and successfully killed her baby were gone, content with their attempt, sent her on a spiral. She did not know whether to be happy Everest wasn’t out of reach or angry he tried to leave her after his own twin killed their child.
She accepted a few whiffs of air, before asking, “You said the blood money was paid, yet Everest is still here. Wouldn’t Phoenix want his heir back?”
Ivory shook her head, “Your parents bargained for a trade: the Orb would hand over Clover and pay blood money and Adaline would return the heir. Except the Orb refused and disowned Everest.” Ivory paused, allowing the information to register, “River is going to be king.”
Evelyn’s eyes widened, “Why would they do that?” Ivory’s shrug was enough an answer.
Evelyn shrugged deeper into the comfort of her sofa, attempting to understand.
“I should tell you, Evelyn...” Ivory now sat next to her on the sofa, catching Evelyn’s attention, “Everest confessed to loving you, he told your mother about your relationship.”
Evelyn’s heart skipped a beat, the shock slowly turning to relief as the weight on her shoulders seemed to loosen. “It’s out in the open now.” Evelyn murmured to herself, imagining the hysteria and disappointment on her parents’ faces. “He was questioned?”
“Yes, he was.” Ivory answered, “They couldn’t get more information out of him after he confessed to the relationship. He said he would only answer to you.”
Evelyn swallowed and nodded her head, “Then I need to talk to him,”
Ivory’s face twisted in horror, “No, Evelyn. No.”
Evelyn simply spared her a side glance, before reluctantly standing up. The ache slowed her movements. Ivory grabbed her arm, “It does not matter that he was the father, that man is a murderer.”
Evelyn sniffed slightly and ignored her comment.
“You can’t talk to him. He’ll only cause you more pain.” Ivory tugged at her arm, trying to stop her, “Evelyn please, listen to me,”
“No,” Evelyn faced her friend, “I need to see him.” They held eye contact, Ivory’s grip remaining unloosened, “I was a mother, and he was a father. I owe it to him,”
The door opened with a clank, and in came Everest. Dressed in bland dirty grey clothes, he looked sullen, like all the life inside poured out. Metal against metal, the manacles wrapped tightly around his wrists and ankles, dragged across the floor. His now dark blue eyes sparked to life in sight of Evelyn. She sat on the metal chair of the table, still registering recent developments.
Everest’s face was a sickening pale white, grey half-moons decorating the region underneath his eyes, lips an ocean blue pool and black coal hair messy, sticking out at odd angles. Dirt spotted his cheeks and arms, feet heaving against the floor loudly in a pair of ripped shoes. Purple-green bruises painted across his cheeks and lips, dried blood trailing down from his mouth to his neck. Imprisonment didn’t treat him well.
“Evelyn,” Everest breathed in relief as if a suffocated person finally took a whiff of air. His lips parted as he sat across her, taking her in. His hands reached towards hers, only for Evelyn to pull back. The hurt in his eyes was evident, and Evelyn was forced to look away.
The guard locked the chain of the manacles together, leaving Everest unable to move his legs without also simultaneously moving his hands. All the while, Everest’s eyes remained on Evelyn as she refused to look at him. Once the guard had left, Evelyn faced him and began.
“I’m here to question you,” Evelyn spared no second, drawing away any emotion on her face. This was the man who impregnated her and attempted to abandoned her after she miscarried.
Everest knew it was the time he told her everything, so he swallowed down some saliva and nodded.
“Did you know?” Evelyn crossed her arms across her chest, biting her lips in fear of his answer.
Everest knew what she meant, she was asking about the baby. He leaned back on his seat, “I had my speculations...”
Evelyn released an angry breath, “And you decided the best way to get rid of the baby was to poison me?”
Everest replied instantaneously, “No, of course not. Evelyn, I wo-”
Evelyn shook her head, “It does not matter. The point is your wretched brother almost killed me and he accomplished killing my baby, your child. Are you telling me you didn’t know? Or make suppositions? River got away with it, and you were about to.”
Everest shook his head violently, “I wasn’t escaping. I was going to find your parents.”
“Why?” Evelyn questioned.
Everest rubbed his forehead, “I knew it was Phoenix who sent Clover and River to poison you, that bastard went behind my back. I wanted to talk to your parents, and devise up a plan to overthrow Phoenix, just like I’ve always planned,”
“Planned?” Evelyn repeated.
Everest sighed nervously, shut his eyes and said, “I’ve always known conspiring with your parents would take Phoenix down.”
“How long was always? Enough before we met? To plan it all? The relationship, the child? Did you use me to dethrone your father?” Before he could answer, “What did Phoenix do that is so bad, his son wants him overthrown and my father wants him dead?”
“Evelyn, I did not use you, okay? The rivalry between your father and mine is not my business. Either way, Phoenix is a monster who abuses children, and he must be taken down.”
His words caused Evelyn’s stomach to drop in horror, her eyes widen in terror and her to whisper quietly, “He abused you?”
His silence was enough of an answer.
“Everest,” Evelyn muttered, still getting over the shock.
The tormented boy changed the subject. “I never used you. I did everything for you. I needed a way to protect you when I realised my assumptions about your pregnancy could be correct, so I found one, except in the form of my father.”
Evelyn nodded, allowing him to continue.
Everest breathed, knowing Evelyn won’t like the next part, “I convinced him to send me here, to Adaline, where I could slowly seduce and manipulate you-” Evelyn’s eyes bulged “- into convincing your parents our union in marriage could win peace. Then, when we’re wed and I own a portion of Adaline, we would slowly eliminate you by poison...”
Before Evelyn could react with a mix of anger and disgust, Everest resumed, “That was what I told him, but I had other plans. Like I told you, conspire with your parents and keep you safe.”
Evelyn did not speak, she did not even breathe. She held her breath, eyes downcast on the floor. The betrayal stung deep, deeper than Ivory’s secret and Eleazar’s mistrust. To an extent, Evelyn understood.
“Evelyn,” Everest spoke, “Evelyn breathe!” He jostled the chains, wanting to pull her out of her reverie.
“You needed a way out-” She started, “-out of the kingdom, far from Phoenix, so you can scheme against him.” Her eyes remained downcast.
“All the while protecting yourself-” She glanced up at him, “-and putting me and my baby in harm’s way.”
Evelyn did not bother soothing the pain, letting it rip her inside out. She let it draw lines on her heart, she let it claw and claw its way. Her heart felt heavy, like it was gaining too much weight, and was dropping lower and lower in her chest. It was leaning towards the knives and the blades living right underneath it.
“I did not mean for this to happen,” Everest reasoned, shuffling closer, only for Evelyn to push her chair backwards with a loud screech, maintaining the distance.
“So your father agreed with the plan? He agreed with your foolish idiotic plan?”
Everest only nodded, “I convinced him, for you.”
Evelyn shook her head, “You convinced him for you.”
Everest’s eyes remained on her frame, ensuring she breathes. Evelyn hadn’t moved a muscle since jostling her chair back, eyes still downcasted and hands pinned to the sides of her seat for support.
“Is that why you were so hesitant to fight me? Because of the baby?” Evelyn murmured, “Why you didn’t bother fighting for me when I told you I won’t abandon my people? You just kissed me and left, not even giving me a proper goodbye. You knew it wasn’t goodbye...” When she finally raised her head, her face was scrunched up in agony and sadness, tears pooling again. “You made a fool out of me.”
“Listen, Evelyn,” Everest spoke, shuffling on his seat as an attempt to get closer to her, “You have to believe me,”
“Believe you?” Evelyn spit back, “You expect me to believe you after all that you’ve caused me? All that you’ve cost me?” Her hand trailed to her stomach.
Everest licked his lips exasperatedly, ignoring the sting of pain, “I asked you to ran away with me, remember? I wasn’t being selfish, I just saw an easier way out. I knew you wouldn’t agree, but I still asked because I wanted to protect you.” He took a breath, “That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Evelyn ignored his comment, “I suppose you succeeded. That monster will be king now.”
Everest’s face became confused, “What do you mean River will be king?”
At his words, Evelyn cocked her head, “You haven’t heard?”
He shook his head.
“You were disowned.”
His mouth turned upright into a grin, his eyes prickling with unshed happy tears as he muttered thrice, “I am free.” He laughed as he faced Evelyn.
“And all it cost was my child,”