Rise by Anna Carey Read Free Book Online

Book: Rise by Anna Carey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anna Carey
choice forced upon you. I am trying here, and I always have been. You could’ve at least told me before you ambushed me at the site.”
    â€œI didn’t know until this morning,” I said. I stepped away from the door, trying to keep my voice down. I was thankful. What he’d done was kind and decent. He’d given me at least one more day inside the City walls, a chance to speak with Moss before I escaped. But I had never asked for his help.
    Charles rubbed his forehead. “You spend hours in the gardens, walking in circles, taking the same path three times as if it’s always new. I see the way you stare off when we’re at dinner. It’s like you’re in this unseen world that no one else can reach. I know you had feelings for him—”
    â€œI didn’t have feelings for him,” I corrected. “I love him.”
    â€œ Loved . He’s gone,” Charles said. My whole body went rigid, as if he’d pressed his fingers into a new bruise. “I don’t like what happened either, but I believe you could be happy. I believe that’s possible still.”
    Not with you . The words were so close to coming out. I held them somewhere behind my teeth, trying not to launch them unkindly. I studied Charles’s face, how oddly hopeful he looked, his eyes fixed on me, waiting. Yes, it would be easier if I felt something for him. But I couldn’t ignore the small, cowardly things about him. How he always said “what happened,” as if Caleb’s murder were some uncomfortable dinner party we’d attended weeks before.
    â€œI’m grateful for what you did today,” I said. “But it won’t change how I feel.” His eyes filled suddenly and he turned, hoping I wouldn’t see. I grabbed his hand without thinking. I held it there for a moment, feeling the heat in his palm. Even here and by my own doing, it felt strange and forced. Our fingers didn’t naturally fold into each other’s the way Caleb’s and mine had, the ease of it making it seem that was just the way fingers were supposed to be—entangled forever with someone else’s. I let go first, our arms dropping back to our sides.
    He sat on the edge of the bed, his elbows on his knees, cradling his head in his hands. He was more upset than I’d ever seen him. I sat down beside him, watching the side of his face, waiting until he turned to me. “Tell me this,” he said softly. “You were involved with the rebels. Is what they’re saying true?”
    I fixed my gaze on the floor. “What do you mean?” I asked.
    â€œHow they took the labor camps, and they’re coming here. There are all sorts of rumors—that they’ll burn the City, that there’s a huge faction already inside the walls.” He let his head fall back as he spoke. “They say everyone who works for the King will be executed. No one will survive.”
    I remembered Moss’s warning of the dissidents who’d been reported and killed, some tortured inside the City prisons. I could not tell Charles anything—I wouldn’t. And yet as I sat there, listening to his uneven breaths, I wished there was some way I could warn him. I rested my hand on his back, feeling his chest expand through his shirt. “You might’ve saved my life today.”
    â€œAnd I would do it again.” He turned and went in the bathroom, the door closing tightly behind him. I sat, listening to the tap running, the drawers sliding open, then banging shut. He worked for my father, just as his father had. In Moss’s mind he was no better than the King. But right then he was just Charles, the person who stole peonies from the Palace gardens because he knew I liked to press them in books. He hated tomatoes and was tyrannical about flossing, and he sometimes held the smell of the construction sites in his hair, even after a shower.
    I pulled on my nightgown and lay

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