"What?" I squeaked. "The library. You saw me—,"
"Don't lie to me," he said calmly, running his hands over my bed sheet. "I checked the library. You weren't there. So, where were you?"
"Outside," I breathed after a few seconds of silence. Michael stood up and slowly walked over to me.
"You aren't allowed outside," he chastised, as if I were a child. "What will my King have to say about that?"
My lips set themselves in a harsh, angry line. "You may as well just punish me now then, Michael. You know, save your "King" some time and energy."
He reached out and, with a lazy flick, undid my travelling cloak. It fell to the floor in folds around my feet.
"Maybe I will," he muttered, sliding my dress off one of my shoulders. His hands skimmed over my bare flesh and I shivered. I hated that I still wanted him. "But first, I want you to go to the kitchen and fetch me some wine. Waiting for you is thirsty work."
I very nearly told him to get it himself, but my face was sore and I did not particularly want another slap. Stepping away from him, I adjusted my dress and scuttled over to the empty kitchen. I located a pitcher of wine and grabbed a glass. When I returned to the room Michael was seated at the long, dark wooden desk that was stationed just underneath the tall, square window. The fire in my fireplace was blazing, so no other light was needed. I placed the pitcher in front of Michael, as well as the glass, and moved back to sit on my bed. He poured himself some wine and sipped it slowly, watching me over the rim of his cup.
"Tell me where you were. Don't lie. If you are truthful, I won't tell the king."
Faeries couldn't lie so I knew that Michael really wouldn't tell Damien anything if I told him about my escape outside. However, I could lie and planned on doing exactly that.
"I was outside," I said in a small voice. "I was tired of being cooped up in this castle."
"So, because you wanted some fresh air, you felt it necessary to sneak out in the middle of the knight and mask your scent?"
Crap. I'd forgotten that my scent was covered. I shrugged, trying to play it off as simply being prepared. "If I'm going to go through the trouble of sneaking out, I don't want to be sniffed out."
Michael looked at me for a while longer. The silver fire—because none of the first in the Silver court were actually orange—danced across his features and made him even more metallic in color. The gold was completely gone from his eyes.
"Come here," he said after a minute or two. I didn't move, too wary of him to willingly put myself in closer proximity. He sighed heavily and set the glass down. "Oh, Jez."
My heart nearly shattered when his nickname for me passed through his lips. For a split second, I thought that Michael was breaking through to the surface, the way he sometimes did. Then it became apparent that he had only used my nickname to hurt me. He knew that only Michael called me Jez. He was simply reminding me of what I had lost.
Michael stood up and came to hover above me, his tall, lanky frame towering over me. He reached down, grabbed my upper arm, and hauled me to my feet. He pulled me close, placed one hand on my waist, and grabbed one of mine with his other. He started to sway us to an imaginary song and, when he pressed his cheek to the side of my head, unwilling tears dripped down my cheeks. If he noticed, he didn't say anything.
"Do you remember the last time we danced together?"
"I never danced with you," I snarled. "I danced with my boyfriend."
When he spoke, he sounded almost...sad. "When are you going to realize that I am him, and he is me?"
"No, he isn't," I whispered. We had stopped dancing and were simply holding each other. "He's nothing like you."
Michael pushed me away. Thankfully, the bed was behind me so I fell onto that.
"The king didn't erase Michael and replace him with someone else, Jezzamyn," Michael whispered, his eyes wide and metallic-looking. "He just brought to the surface all that was bad about him—me. I am every inch of Michael. I guess you could say that I'm his bad side, but I am still him."
"It's not the same!" I yelled. "You aren't Michael! Michael loved me—,"
"Oh, did I?" He growled, pacing back and forth across the room. "Did I ever actually say those words to you, Jezzamyn, or did you just assume that I loved you?"
His words stung my face as if he'd slapped me. I looked away, attempting to hide the reluctant tears that had slipped down my cheeks. Michael marched straight up to me and grabbed my chin, forcing me to look at him.
"You hypocrite," he whispered. "You don't love me either. Not all of me, at least. You only love what's good about me. How can you truly love me if you want nothing to do with my dark side?"
He moved away, gulped down the last of his wine, and was gone. The minute I was alone, Rayna buzzed down from the ceiling and landed on my bed, clearly expecting news from the witch. I just shook my head at her and curled up in a ball atop my blanket. "Not now, Rayna."
Surprisingly enough, she didn't press me, and merely flew away without a word or irritated chirp. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep, but, unsurprisingly, I couldn't. Michael occupied my thoughts, as did Will. Michael had said that I didn't love him because I shunned his dark side. I'd never before considered that Silver Fae Michael might just be a representation of all the things that were bad about him. The things I'd never seen. Maybe he was right. I'd fallen in love with someone that I believed to be pure and infallible and, upon realizing that they weren't I sought only to change them instead of embracing part of their nature. I was just as bad as Michael.
And, strangely enough, his words reminded me of Will, but only because I'd seen both Will's good and bad side—with considerably more of the bad—and still managed to care for him. Did that mean that I'd never actually cared about Michael? It couldn't, though. I'd basically given my life away in an attempt to free him. I had risked my life trying to save him from the Silver king when I could have just gone home. I'd never felt about anyone the way I felt about him.
Those thoughts roamed through my head over and over again until, finally, my eyelids grew heavy and sleep took over.
I was in a foul mood the next day yet, somehow, I still brought it upon myself to find Orland and Rayna, and go through the events of the previous night.
"So, you essentially put yourself in danger just so your prince could tell you nothing of value, except that he would have a plan when you appeared at court with Damien?"
I rolled my eyes at Orland. "First of all, he's not my prince. Secondly, it sounds stupid when you put it like that but..."
I paused then, and looked down at my bowl of oatmeal. It was breakfast, and we were seated far away from the other servants to avoid any eavesdropping.
"I needed to see him. I missed him. And he gave me something to look forward to."
At that, Orland rolled his silver eyes and muttered something under his breath that made me blush. Choosing to ignore his statement, I returned to my breakfast and had just lifted another spoonful of oatmeal up to my mouth when I felt a presence behind me. I looked over my shoulder and there, all garbed up in metal armor complete with a sword around his waist, stood Jeremy. I set my spoon down, instantly suspicious. "Yes?"
Jeremy looked as if he'd swallowed something sour. "The King wishes you to...prepare yourself. You are needed in the seamstresses quarters."
"For what?" I demanded incredulously.
Jeremy scowled. "You are leaving tonight. You have to look presentable."
He rolled his eyes, turned heel, and walked away. He obviously felt that someone of his stature should not be used as a messenger boy. With a sigh, I turned back to my half-eaten meal. I was tempted to finish it and keep the seamstress waiting but, considering how angry Damien had been the night before—my face still bore marks of his abuse—I decided not to antagonize him further.
"I'll see you later," I murmured, rising to my feet. Rayna sent me a sympathetic look and Orland nodded at me before pulling a small notebook out of his tunic, wherein he commenced scribbling in it. I'd read that notebook once, when he had left it unattended. It was nothing more than a compilation of different spells and potions that cured certain illnesses.
Leaving the servant's quarters, I turned left and headed towards the seamstress. Maveyn was a plump, kind elf. Like Orland, she had been a Seelie faerie before the Silver king had transformed her into a Silver Fae and forced her to work for him. I'd met her a few times, when she'd crafted the dresses I currently wore. I didn't generally see Maveyn around the castle. She kept to herself.
I knocked on her door once, then quietly stepped in. Amidst the rows of brightly coloured, as well as dim fabric, she stood there with a measuring tape in her hand and a few pins in the other.
"Hey," I greeted, approaching the short faerie. Her short, blond hair was held back by pins and she wore an apron.
"Jezzamyn," she replied kindly, beckoning me closer. "How are you, darling?"
"Fine," I replied meekly as she quite abruptly started undressing me. She clucked her tongue at me when I stood there in nothing but my undergarments but said nothing. After wrapping the measuring tape around my waist, then my hips, then my bust line, she clucked her tongue again.
"You're losing weight, and you were already slim to begin with."
A twinge of discomfort fled through me at her words. I'd noticed it when my ribs had started protruding from my torso. I'd just ignored it. But she was right. I was getting for too skinny. Stress did that to you.
"Yeah," I murmured, anxious to just get some clothes on. "So I hear you're to make me a dress?"
She nodded, scurried away, and disappeared amongst the fabric. I heard her shuffling around.
"The king wants you in black," she called to me from amongst the silk and satin jungle. "I thought that this color—,"
She reappeared with a swatch of silk the exact pale green colour of my eyes. "Would look nicer."
"It would," I said wistfully. "I'm too pale to wear black."
"Too bad that I want you in black."
Maveryn and I both whirled around in surprise. There in the corner, with his legs crossed, sat Damien. How I hadn't noticed him before was a mystery to me.
He waved his hand at us. "Carry on. Don't let me disturb you."
His eyes passed over my body in a brusque, emotionless way that made me want to cover myself up and run. There was no appreciation in that look. In fact, he seemed almost...disappointed. Disgusted. I would have rather he leered at me or made some sort of lewd comment instead of looking at me as if I were the most hideous thing to walk the planet. Although, maybe in his eyes, I was.
Maveryn, sensing my discomfort, made quick work of my measurements and, before long, she had draped a smooth swath of black satin over me. Using magic, she had it held up here and there without and pins. Also using magic, she sewed and constructed it while it was on my body, which would ensure that it was a perfect fit. When she started fidgeting with the cloth around my breast area, Damien cleared his throat and caused us both to look over.
"You were right," he said to Maveryn. "She has lost far too much weight. Can't you do something to make her look less like a boy and more like a woman?"
I wasn't able to hold back a small gasp of surprise and insult. Damien didn't even look at me. Maveryn's hand paused, then continued folding over and tucking in flaps of cloth as if nothing had been said.
"I'll see what I can do."
He nodded and stood up. He then addressed me for the first time. "I expect you to be ready to leave by tonight. Pack your necessities once the dress is finished."
He swept passed me and left. I felt myself zoning out and closing off as Maveryn very surreptitiously placed padding around my hips and bust to, as Damien had put it, make me look less like a boy. Maveryn, sensing my mood, didn't engage me in conversation. After a few hours, the dress was complete and I caught a glimpse of myself for the first time. It was floor length and had long sleeves that extended past my knees and had opening for my hands. The dress fell off my shoulders and was clinched tight at my waist before it flowed out and down at my hips, giving the illusion of a fuller figure. A figure that I lacked.
It was a nice dress, but I had been right about not being able to wear black. I looked deathly pale, almost sickly, and my hair looked less blond and more white.
"It's a lovely dress," I forced myself to say. Maveryn's eyes softened and she helped me out of it.
"You have to be strong, Jezzamyn," she said quietly as I slid on my own dress. "He wants to break you, but you mustn't let him."
With Maveryn's words tucked away in my mind, I left her quarters with a new dress over my arm and very slowly progressed to my room. I still had at least eight hours until we were to leave but I figured that, if I got my packing done early, I wouldn't have to worry about it afterwards.
There was a trunk waiting for me on my bed when I arrived at my room. I wasn't sure about the extent of our stay, so I didn't know how long to pack for. To make matters easier, I packed the dress and put as much clothing as I could into the trunk as well. I packed the nicer of my dresses—the ones I barely wore—because I wasn't going to be surrounded by a bunch of royal or high and mighty Fae while wearing threadbare clothing.
I was done packing quickly and was debating between seeking out friendly company or reading for a few hours in the library when my door flew open without so much as a knock. Michael stood there, a grim set to his face. He always looked grim. I remembered a time where he smiled constantly and poked fun at me. But he wasn't that person anymore and apparently, or at least, in his opinion, I never really loved him because I couldn't accept his dark side. Right.
"What do you want?" I asked sourly. His eyes looked me over quickly and I couldn't help but wonder if he were mentally comparing me to a boy as well.
"We're going for a walk," he said stiffly. "Outside."
I blinked at him from my perch on the bed. "Why?"
"Because the king said so!" He snapped, eyes flashing. I got to my feet warily and approached him the way I would a hungry, angry tiger. With extreme caution. He got impatient, crossed the distance between us, and grabbed my arm.
"Let's go," he muttered, dragging me along. "We're going for a damn walk."
"I can walk by myself," I hissed, trying to shake him off as he quickly paced through the castle. He ignored me and didn't relinquish his hold on me until we were outside, at the front of the castle. I hadn't been outside during the day since Will and Puck had left. As I stood on the stones in front of the looming castle, that was all I could think about.
"What are you looking at?" Michael demanded. I jumped and snapped out of my reverie.
"Nothing," I lied, forcing myself to look away from where Puck and Will had once been and at Michael.
"Well, if you're done looking at nothing, why don't we actually walk for a while?"
I nodded, but only because this was the first bit of authorized freedom that I'd had in...ever since I'd began my stay here. Michael and I walked side by side down the road leading up to the castle in silence. He found a path in the woods easily, which led me to believe that he'd wandered off many times. After a few minutes, I grew less wary of him and began to observe my surroundings. There were a few flowers in bloom and, after recognizing one that I knew, I plucked it. Momentarily forgetting myself, I held it up to Michael. "Look."
He stared at it for a few moments, then returned his gaze to me. "It's a jasmine flower. Don't you remember...never mind."
I let the flower fall to the ground and started walking again. I'd forgotten, if only for a second, that this Michael wasn't the same one who left me flowers with notes saying "a jasmine for Jezzamyn" on my pillow.
I noticed that Michael wasn't beside me anymore and turned around. He was crouched down with the flower I'd dropped sitting on his palm. He straightened up and his gaze caught mine.
"Come here," he said softly. I went to him uncertainly, not sure if he were about to hit me or do something else undesirable. When I was close enough for him to reach me, he extended his arm and tucked the flower stem behind my ear. I felt my face flush and looked away.
"Look at me," he whispered, grabbing my chin and forcing me to face him. I stared up into his eyes and felt like his gaze was burning me. My lower lip started to tingle and, for whatever reason, I felt tears well up behind my eyes. They spilled over after a few moments.
"Why are you crying?" He asked hoarsely. I shook my head, trying to pull myself out of his grip.
"Let me go—,"
"Why are you crying?"
"Because," I sobbed. "I love you."
"Is it that horrible to love me?"
"Yes," I breathed out, my voice catching on another cry. "Because you hurt me. And you don't love me."
"I don't want to hurt you," he said, his voice breaking. "I can't help myself. There's this...thing inside me, Jezzamyn."
He pulled me closed and, much to my surprise, hugged me. His face was buried in my hair. "It's telling me to hate you. Even now..."
His hands moved up my back to lightly grasp my neck.
"It's telling me to wrap my hands around your throat and kill you."
I gasped and tried to move away but his grip was like iron—or silver.
"Don't move," he whispered. "Don't provoke it. It wants you to run. It wants to chase you."
He pulled away and stumbled back a few feet.
"I'm not strong like you, Jezzamyn," he croaked. "I don't want to but...it's easier to just give in. To hurt you."
I took an involuntary step backwards. He growled threateningly and I froze. Fear jump started my heart.
"I told you not to move," he said, sounding more like the evil Silver faerie that he could become. In one of those lightning fast movements, he was in front of me. He placed his hands on my shoulders and bent down until we saw eye to eye—a large feat for him since, in faerie form, he was nearly seven feet tall.
"I don't understand why the king would let you be alone with me," he hissed. "He knows how hard it is...to be around you...and not kill you—hell, he's the one who made me this way. Do you know what I think?"
I just shook my head, at a complete loss for words.
"I think he wants you dead," Michael said with a sick sort of grimace on his face. "I think you should watch your back from now on, Jezzamyn, because if the king orders me to kill you, I won't be able to say no."
He released me, turned, and was gone before I could think of anything to say. I walked back to the castle alone, and more than somewhat scared when a hoard of Silver knights passed by me. Thankfully, they paid me no mind and I was able to get back into the castle by myself. Once I was alone, I was able to process Michael's words. And they made sense.
The king wanted to kill me. He had gotten tired of me. I had sensed it myself, had I not? I had sensed that he no longer wanted me around. His behaviour in the past few days had been different than how it had been when I'd first started living here. He no longer tried to charm me with gifts and trinkets. He no longer kissed me—not that I was complaining. He was angry with me all the time, he hit me more than usual, and barely requested my presence unless he wished to yell at me.
I was like a toy that he'd gotten tired of. And now that I had passed my expiration date, he no longer wanted me.
As if my thoughts had summoned him, Damien appeared at the end of the hallway and began briskly walking towards me. I froze when he reached out to my face but he only removed the flower from behind my ear, crushed it, and let it fall to the floor.
"Flowers won't make you pretty, Jezzamyn," he said conversationally. Then his nose wrinkled and he looked me up and down. "You're disgusting. Get washed and at least try to make yourself look decent. I won't have you make a fool out of me by looking like some...unkempt human."
My jaw ground together and I had to fight back angry tears.
"You used to think I was pretty," I called at his retreating figure. "Are you a rare breed of Fae that can lie?"
He turned back to look at me. His voice dropped to a whisper.
"Who could ever think that you were pretty, Jezzamyn? Do you look at yourself? Surely, you must pass a mirror at some point during the day?"
He crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head to the side. "Do you know what I see when I look at you? I see a revoltingly skinny girl with eyes that are too big for her face and skin that is far too pale. I see a too-long nose and thin lips and a face marred by freckles. There is nothing pretty about you. The sooner you accept that, the easier your life will be. Trust me."
Hurt ran me over like a truck, and left me broken and bleeding. I stepped away from Damien and tried to wipe away the tears that were steadily falling down my cheeks. When they wouldn't stop, I turned and ran. I ran until I reached my room and was able to barricade myself inside. Then I threw myself onto the bed and cried. It was childish of me, to cry after being insulted as if I were in elementary school, but I couldn't help it. I'd never had someone point out my flaws straight to my face. It hurt. I felt undesirable. Unwanted. Alone. Because it was true. I was alone. Michael didn't want me, and Damien was going to kill me.
I rolled over on my bed, buried my face in the pillow, and forced my body to succumb to sleep, if only for a few hours. Any time that I got to escape reality was a godsend.