Chapter 24

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Some of my peppermint tea spilt over the rim of the cup, dripping down my fingers which clutched around the outside of it. I didn’t meet Xerxes’ eyes as I cleaned up the mess, wiping my fingers with a napkin, scrubbing the skin a bit too hard when I heard him move closer to me.

I raised the cup to my mouth when I faced him, taking in his still sleepy eyes and tousled dark hair. When he had joined me in bed last night, he had known that I was still awake, had questioned if he had done something wrong because of my silence. It seemed as though he knew my reasoning for keeping quiet, but he wanted me to say it.

The overbearing actions that he had done last night, getting right into my face and demanding I understand him, had instantly reminded me of the ways he talked to me throughout the couple weeks after we first met each other.

And although I could understand his anger towards me because I had not told him beforehand that Mathew would be coming to the house, the way he had spoken to me last night after everyone had left, was unnecessarily intimidating.

I had told him this after he questioned me in bed. No words were spoken after that, at least not that I remembered. I had fallen asleep soon after.

“Where are you going?” Xerxes’ eyes ran over my clothes as I finished off my tea and washed the cup clean. I began to sweep my long twists away from my face, using a hair tie to keep it in place, silver eyes watching every movement of my hands.

“On a walk.” I said, taking a bottle of water from a fridge, smiling at it’s coldness. Xerxes released a breath, akin to a noise of annoyance at my statement. Closing the fridge door with my hip, I wasn’t surprised to see Xerxes’ frown. “I’ll see you in an hour.”


“An hour, Xerxes.”

The front door shut loudly behind me after I left, my feet moving slowly against the pathway. I waved at the guards patrolling, who nodded politely.

I had made it down the edge of the pathway when I heard soft footsteps behind me. A look over my shoulder showed Sissy running to meet me, her cheeks red and flushed. She grinned excitedly when I paused to wait for her.

“Good morning.” She said after catching her breath. “Where are you going?”

I looked ahead, gazing at the houses and the long road ahead. The sun was beginning to rise and I was surprised that Sissy was up so early. She still had bed head hair and her eyes were red, as if she had shot out straight from her bed without washing her face or anything. “Not sure yet. Just walking I guess.”

“Can I come?” She asked, knowing that I wouldn’t refuse her anyway. I nodded, beginning to walk once more. Her hand found mine, her  fingers warm against my icy cold ones.

People were beginning to leave their homes, heading to work, the faces of some slack with tiredness and others clearly morning persons, shouting good mornings at neighbors and humming.

“There’s a lake nearby,” Sissy told me when I thought we were reaching the end of the neighborhood. “They’re some geese that swim along it.”

She began to direct me to the area;  grass was what we walked through for long minutes and more than once I wondered if this lake was something Sissy had imagined. We passed many trees, walked through countless high bushes.

Grass stains were beginning to appear on the bottom of my yoga pants, the soles of my sneakers becoming muddy as I searched for this lake.

Sissy was unbothered by the dewy wet environment, her focus completely ahead of her. Minutes passed and I began to think that we were lost. However, after a few twists and turns, a large, beautiful lake came into view, along with a guard standing nearby.

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