Carl lead me out of the massive reference library and down a different corridor then the one I had used to access the reference library. “I think as long as you’re with me, most people will leave you alone. We still need to conduct a couple more tests to really see just how much you can do. I think though for this evening, I can probably take you up to the hall and you can have a bite to eat. Does that sound okay?” he asked, stopping suddenly. He turned to me, a bit apprehensive.
“Other people will be there?” I asked. I was nervous about dealing with more people. So far, I had not exactly had a pleasant experience with almost any of them. It might have worked out better if I had been provided a clear explanation of what was going on. Carl nodded mutely, watching me carefully. He was waiting for me to make a decision, trying not to pressure me.
“People will know what has happened with me already?” I asked, knowing that rumors didn’t take long to get passed around in a tight knit community.
“Probably,” Carl agreed. I could feel adrenaline kick into my system and my fingers started to tingle. Without really paying attention, I had considered a cloak of invisibility from several different books and suddenly Carl couldn’t see me any more.
“Gracey? Grace, where’d you go?” Carl yelled, panicked. I reached out to touch him and he backed away from the floating hand.
“Where’d that come from?” he asked, pushing the hood back from my face.
“Manga, novel, something? I don’t even know,” I felt like I was on the verge of tears. I didn’t want this happening to me in the dining hall. I didn’t want to have everyone looking at me.
“Hey, hey,” Carl pulled me to him, enveloping me in a warm hug, “it’s okay if you don’t know. It’s okay.” He soothed me until I stopped hiccuping.
“I don’t think I can do this,” I crumpled onto the floor. Just the prospect of having to actually go in front of these people terrified me. I couldn’t control myself. I didn’t want to make things worse.
“Where’s the brave, fierce woman I saw yesterday? You could have taken down a lion yesterday,” Carl asked, easing himself into a squat. I leaned my head on his knee, which wasn’t comfortable, but it was reassuring. I just sat there, blinking away tears, not really sure how to respond. When I felt like there was nothing left to lose, it had not been difficult to feel all powerful. At that point, I figured that I’d never see Carl or Dante again. It had seemed just fine. Now, now I knew that Dante would probably have the same problem as Carl and me. I knew that I’d have to conform to these people, or else be persecuted. I think I had lost my will.
“How about we go back to my room, instead? I don’t have a lot to eat there, but I can probably rustle something up,” Carl offered. I nodded mutely and let him help me stand up. He took me back down the corridor we were in and lead me down another. How did these people ever know where they were at?
Ten minutes of walking and winding through the underground tunnels, he finally stopped at a door. “Fosgailte,” he said at the door. A latch clicked and the door swung open. He held the door open for me and let me past. I walked in to find a modestly sized kitchen and sitting room. A large series of three ceiling to floor length windows overlooked a courtyard. Trees. I found myself drawn to those windows. I looked out onto that courtyard like a person who had been lost in a desert finding an oasis. The tree centered with the apartment windows was massive. Looking down, we were on the fourth floor of an eight floor block of windows. A garden, maybe the size of a football field, filled with trees and a central fountain spread out below. I looked up to find a ceiling lit with a strange sun.
Carl had walked up behind me and eased his hand around my waist, resting his head on my shoulder. I relaxed into his hold. “What is this place?” I asked, amazed to finally see nature.
“One of our Readers put the sky in the ceiling, and we found that with some work, we could grow plants as they grow above ground. This is Cero block, where many of the top people of the Guild keep personal apartments,” he told me.
Suddenly a surge of panic coursed through me again. Where would I live? As if realizing where my mind had wandered, Carl turned me to face him. “As my wife, I see no reason for the Chair to deny you residence to my apartment. I bought it in full some time ago, so they don’t even hold the title on it anymore. I’ll need to speak with them, but for a while, it might not be a bad place for you to stay, if you’d like to take some time to adjust to everything,” he told me.
“Do you want to sit? I’ll go make you some coffee,” he offered me the couch. “Tea might be nice,” I said. Something passed over his face that I couldn’t quite place. “I don’t really keep tea around,” he said off handedly. “That’s okay, coffee will be alright,” I told him, finding the couch to be very comfortable. If I wanted tea badly enough, I’d just read some out later. I leaned my head on the arm of the couch. Maybe I’ll close my eyes for a minute, I told myself.
I woke up to Carl laying me in his bed. He pulled a loose blanket up over my shoulders and kissed me on the forehead. It was dark and cozy in his little bedroom. I breathed a sigh of relief. I finally felt safe.
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