Chapter 7

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Mostly that week I paid attention to the inner workings of court, since I was now allowed to attend sessions where my father was present. My overall impression of him was that he was bipolar and erratic. He switched moods as easily as he would adjust his flight on a calm day. He usually either completely ignored me or made me the center of attention. Mira avoided me, and it was refreshing. Sunshine talked little, as the action hurt her bruised neck, and I think she was still trying to come to grips with her mother, my beating, and the fact that she was a dark light. Truthfully, so was I.

I had to get her a dress for the ball. The problem was that she didn't realize there was a ball. That was the question she missed, and I wasn't about to clue her in. Let's just say that trip was interesting. She'd never really worn any nice dresses, and most of the ones for humans were made for toys and showed more skin than I needed to see in order to lose my sanity. She kept trying to figure out why she needed a dress, and I danced around the subject. However, after I got her around the curiosity and into shopping mode, she found a cream dress that she was comfortable with. She didn't let me see her in it, though.

"How can I buy a dress I haven't seen?" I argued.

She held it out innocently, letting me see it.

I rolled my eyes. "I mean with a body in it."

"Well, you could put it on, but I think you might look ridiculous..."

"Why don't you want me to see?"

She beamed, the first full smile I had seen her wear since we arrived at the capital.

"Because I know I will like the look of shock on your face when I wear it to the ball tomorrow night."

I narrowed my eyes. "How do you know about that?"

She shrugged innocently. "Listening for assassination plots on the crown prince also helps me hear gossip."

I relented and bought it. She was taking advantage of my guilt. Maybe not on purpose, but she was. I made sure to assert my dominance in her mind and mine that night; namely, I touched her face a few times. She appropriately shivered but didn't really back down from the more friendly stance she had taken towards me.

She wasn't acting like my equal. She still obeyed my every word, but she did start doing her own things. She took time to work on her art. She took care of her own wounds. That hurt. She wouldn't let me tend to her wounds; maybe it was because most of them were on her torso, but she didn't even let me ice her head, which lead me to believe that I hurt her more than she would admit. It took quite a bit of self-control not to force her to tell me what was wrong or make her let me help. I gave her some space and trust, and she thrived in it. I realized the trade off on the day of the ball. I gave her trust, and she gave me more respect and less fear.

I liked that. She didn't hesitate as long to answer my questions. She asked more of her own questions and she actually became less rude to my family. What's more, I think she liked being under my wing. She was tall enough to peek over my shoulder; she was mostly hidden from others because my wings were so big they usually lightly scraped the ground, and I think she felt safe back there. She stepped on the back of my heels a few times, but she quickly adapted to my pace. I liked having her back there. She was my secret ear. She was close to me and safe and easy to keep track of.

Though, if she wanted to, she could easily kill me from there. She still had her sword. She never did. I could relax around her. I could trust her. It was the most freeing feeling in my life, even more so than flying. That alone was worth deciding to actually trust her.

I got ready for the ball quickly, making sure I had no cowlicks, putting on my best and finest clothes, and shaving the scruff off of my chin. I smiled at my handsome self in the mirror and relinquished the bathroom to Sunshine. She took forever. I eventually just got annoyed with it and took her sketchpad from her things, flipping through the pages. The first drawing was a detailed picture of Miss Sparnage with a warm smile on her face.

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