Rise An Eve Novel - By Anna Carey

one

CHARLES RESTED HIS HAND FIRMLY ON MY BACK AS WE SPUN once, then again around the conservatory, the guests watching. I kept my eyes over his shoulder, steeling myself against his short breaths. The choir stood at the back of the domed hall, trilling out the first holiday songs of the year. “Merry merry merry merry Christmas,” they sang, their mouths moving in unison, “merry merry merry merry . . .”

“At least smile,” Charles whispered into my neck as we took another turn around the floor. “Please?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize my unhappiness was bothering you. Is this better?” I raised my chin, widening my eyes as I smiled directly at him. Amelda Wentworth, an older woman with a round, waxy face, stared quizzically as we passed her table.

“You know that’s not what I meant,” Charles said. We turned quickly, so Amelda didn’t see. “It’s just . . . people notice. They talk.”

“So let them notice,” I said, though in truth I was too exhausted to really argue. Most nights I awoke before dawn. Strange shadows would move in, surrounding me, and I’d call for Caleb, forgetting he was gone.

The song droned on. Charles spun me again around the floor. “You know what I meant,” he said. “You could at least try.”

Try. That’s what he was always asking: that I try to make a life for myself inside the City, that I try to move on from Caleb’s death. Couldn’t I try to get out of the tower every day, to walk for a few hours in the sun? Couldn’t I try to put all that had happened behind me, behind us? “If you want me to smile,” I said, “then we probably shouldn’t have this conversation—not here.”

We started toward the far tables, covered with bloodred cloth, the wreaths set up as centerpieces. The City had transformed in the past few days. Lights went up on the main road, coiling around the lamp poles and trees. Fake plastic firs had been assembled outside the Palace, their thin branches bald in places. Everywhere I turned there was some stupid, grinning snowman or a gaudy bow with gold trim. My new maid had dressed me in a red velvet gown, as if I were part of the décor.

It was two days after Thanksgiving, a holiday I’d heard of before but never experienced. The King had sat at the long table, going on about how thankful he was for his new son-in-law, Charles Harris, the City of Sand’s Head of Development. He was thankful for the continued support of the citizens of The New America. He held his glass in the air, his shadowed eyes fixed on mine, insisting that he was most thankful for our reunion. I couldn’t believe him, not after all that had transpired. He was always watching, waiting for me to show any signs of betrayal.

“I don’t understand why you went through with it,” Charles whispered. “What’s the point of all this?”

“What choice do I have?” I said, looking away, hoping to end the conversation. Sometimes I wondered if he would put it together, the regular interviews I did with Reginald, who sat at my father’s table, working as his Head of Press, but was secretly Moss, leader of the rebel movement. I refused to sleep in the same bed as Charles, waiting until he left for the suite’s sitting area every night. I held his hand only in public, but as soon as we were alone, I put as much distance between us as possible. Didn’t he realize that these past months, his very marriage, were all for some other purpose?

The song ended, the music giving way to scattered claps. The Palace staff circled the tables with plates of iced red cake and steaming coffee. Charles kept my hand in his as he led me back to the long banquet table where the King sat. My father was dressed for the part, his tuxedo jacket open, revealing a crimson cummerbund. A rose was pinned to his lapel, the petals wilted at the edges. Moss sat two seats down, a strange look on his face. He stood, greeting me. “Princess Genevieve,” he said, offering me his hand. “May I have this dance?”

“I suppose you want to pry another quote from me,” I said, giving him a tense smile. “Come then; just don’t step on my toes this time.” I rested my hand in Moss’s, starting back onto the floor.

Moss waited until we were in the center of the room, the

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