Chapter 3

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Sid had been utterly stupid. The excitement at making it to the House of Portals had overcome her sense. Instead of being on her best reserved behavior with Damian, she had allowed herself to slip, didn't wear the mask she had carefully created. He might have been young, but he was still a Guardian.

So when Councilwoman Liss posed the question to him, asked him exactly what he thought of her, her heart dropped out of her chest and splattered at her feet. She made sure not to show it, though--no, she wouldn't crumble now. Whatever he said, she'd fight until they dragged her out.

Sid had to learn how to open the gate.

The pause between question and answer stretched on. Too long. Then again seconds were too long for her. Answer the question.

"As you see here, she'll make a perfect Guardian," Damian said.

Sid needed to scoop up her heart from the ground so it could jump into her throat. Perhaps he wasn't as much of a jerk as she thought. But why wouldn't he tell them how she had acted? Could be that his stoic look was a mask of his own. He could be an ally to her in this. And she definitely needed an ally--she wouldn't be able to keep the facade up constantly without cracking. She already felt ready to crack, finally realizing how much more difficult it would be to stay here, in the nest of hornets, than it was to get here in the first place.

But she shouldn't jump to conclusions. Even if she needed someone to aid her, to believe what she believed, she couldn't assume anything. He could have other reasons for keeping her actions to himself. Heck, could be he was too self-absorbed to notice anything. That was probably it.

She'd watch him though, slip the mask off a bit around him, see how he reacted. No matter what the outcome, she had to accept that she might be alone in her endeavor indefinitely.

"Very well." Councilwoman Liss returned her attention to Sid. "You are willing to leave your past behind? Becoming a Guardian means cutting all ties to those you once knew, including your family. Do you accept this?"

Sid's mother had collapsed in a puddle of tears when she told her her desire to become a Guardian. She knew what it meant--losing her only daughter. Forever. But Sid didn't intend for it to be forever. It hurt that she couldn't tell that to her mom. She had cried that night, ashamed at making her mother feel that way. The next six years, her mother made sure to spend as much time with Sid as possible, so much at times that Sid felt smothered. But it was the least she could do, knowing the choice she had made wrenched the heart of the person closest to her.

"I do," Sid said. She forced herself to not have any shudder in her words--even behind the mask, she felt the tears threatening.

Liss nodded. "Please step back by Damian while we discuss."

She did so, hoping beyond hope that she had played her part well enough. If she didn't fool them, then she hadn't practiced enough, hadn't prepared for hiding her true self, for delivering the lies without a hint of doubt.

Sid glanced up at Damian, but he didn't meet her eyes, just watched the council members converse. Too much to hope for a small smile of reassurance even. If she couldn't succeed at anything else, she had to at least teach him to smile.

The minutes ticked by, standing in silence next to the young Guardian. It would be difficult indeed if most of her time would be spent this way. Silence was not her friend. Her father would always laugh and say that she enjoyed to hear herself speak. She'd never admit it to him, but she knew he was right.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, but were clearly only several minutes, the council members broke up their huddle. "Come forward, Obsidian." Liss straightened in her chair and placed a tiny stray hair behind her ear.

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