Chapter 7b

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We didn’t do anymore brainstorming that night. I was exhausted and Dietrich seemed to need some space. The next day, I was restless and distracted in my classes. But I filled four sketchbook pages with ideas of how Delphine could defend herself against the Peacock. I couldn’t wait to get to the tech studio and start making some prototypes. Delphine and Dietrich rehearsed on their own that evening while I worked on my designs. I didn’t see Dietrich at all that day, and it was just as well—what had happened between us backstage confused and unsettled me. And I was still smarting over his “little sister” comment.

The following day, we had most of the afternoon off to work on our final-year projects. To complete our apprentice program, we would have to pass oral and written exams given by the Theatrical Guild. But we also had to produce an original full-length play that would be judged by members of the Guild. We were each put into production teams. I was in charge of set design and prop construction for my team. Raymond was the playwright for our team. Twice a week, we had the entire afternoon to work on our production, but most final year apprentices—especially the team leaders—ended up putting in many more hours on top of that. Our futures depended on creating the best show possible. 

Raymond had been fretting about the script for our play. If he wasn’t careful, he’d end up with a bad case of writers block. Not good, since none of the rest of us could do any work until we had a script. I had wanted to go to the library’s reference room anyway to look at newspaper archives relating to the Peacock murders, so I suggested he come with me to research some possible ideas for our production. 

We spent three hours at the reference room. As we exited the library through the huge, arched double doors and walked down the wide marble steps leading to the street, I couldn’t hold back a sigh.

Raymond adjusted the strap of his messenger bag on his shoulder. He wore a very plain sack suit and a tweed cap. “Research didn’t go well?”

“It was all right.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

“Did I say anything was wrong?”

“You sighed. It was a ‘something is wrong in Minx-land’ sigh.”

I gave him a quick smile. “Aren’t you perceptive.”

“I just know you.”

Warmth like the glow of stage lights spread through me. No one knew me like Raymond and Thea. Their friendship meant everything to me. I didn’t say it to them often enough, but I liked to think they knew anyway.

“I love the library, and I hate it too,” I told him.

“That’s a little crazy.”

I shrugged. “It’s so beautiful, and it’s the biggest library in the empire. Eight floors of books. More books than I could read in my lifetime. It’s a paradise of books.”

“Sounds like true love to me. What’s the problem?”

We reached the sidewalk, bustling with late-afternoon pedestrians. Some were fine ladies out for a stroll with parasols and maids and cute little dogs trotting along. Others were nannies pushing baby carriages and shouting to small children to stay back from the street. Some were business men and women hurrying home from offices or factories. 

I kicked a small rock along the brick sidewalk, trying to put into words how I felt about the library. “Because no matter how much improved my life is, even if I’m a Theatrical Guild member that could afford a membership, I’ll never be good enough or upper-class enough to get one. They’d never let a lowly theater worker be a library member.” I groaned. “All those books, just out of reach. It’s a nightmare.”

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