Thirty One

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Arden.
•••

   "Oh you lucky bitch." These were Gwen's words to me.

   I had practically barged into her room. She was asleep, but thankfully woken from my loud knocking. "This better be good." Were her tired mumbled words to me.

   Then I explained, as much and as little as I could. "I am so jealous." She groaned into her pillow. "But so happy it wasn't Lily."

   I felt a trickle of guilt, "Am I a bad person, for doing that to her?"

   Gwen lifts her head from the pillow and sighs, "Arden, if you sacrificed everything for everyone else, then you'd never be happy. And how is that fair?"

   Her words sink it. If I sacrificed everything for everyone else. Ironic, because that's what I feel like I was doing. Not everyone, but for someone.
***

I stayed at Gwen's for only a little longer. I was past curfew, and nervous I would get caught.

Walking back to my room, I think of what happened this past hour. Things were awkward after Will and I finished...

You know...

I was quick to leave, putting on my dress, then quickly hurrying to Gwen's room.

I'm brought out of my thoughts, when I see a flashing light. I could swear it was flashing for me.

I know when you see something creepy and weird you should usually run the other way. But something about that light, screamed for me to go to it. Any sane person would ignore it, go back to the comforts of their room. But I guess I'm not a sane person.

But what I was, was shocked. I shouldn't be surprised, I shouldn't expect anything less from my father.

"Arden." His deep voice greets me.

"Dad."

There was no love in my tone, nothing but pure anger. Resentment.

"You seem angry with me." Not a question, but an observation.

"You took Levi."

"Levi?" There's a mask of confusion on his face. Did he really not know what I was talking about?

"My friend, the one you guys kidnapped..."

His chuckle cuts me off. "The blonde boy? We didn't want to take him, we were actually trying to grab the prince instead but..."

"It doesn't matter."

The amusement in his face vanishes. "Arden, you can't actually be upset about that. He's not really your friend, none of them are really your friends."

"They are." I denied, they were my family. Something he was supposed to be to me.

"If they knew the real you, would they still want to be friends?" He brings his palm up and cups the side of my face. Something I know that's supposed to be comforting, but is only repulsing. "Friends." He laughs again, "You can't win with friends."

   It hurt, but he was right. I can't follow through this mission if I saw them as that.

   "The sooner you realize that, the less it will hurt."

   I give him a nod. "You're right." But, why did I feel so wrong?

   He gives me a smile, one I truly think is genuine. "Did you get it?" He asks.

   He doesn't need to specify what for me to know. "Yes."

   His smile grew, and I could swear there was a mask of proudness on his face. One that I didn't get often, one that made me want to smile. "That's my girl."

   I return his smile. How could I not? Approval from him was all I ever strived for. "Where is it?" He asks.

   "In my room. Should I go get it?" Get it, give it to him, then leave. Forget this place.

   "No, no." He has his calculated look on his face. "It's not needed now." Is it possible to feel both disappointment and relief at the same time? "And what about the prince, do you think he could sway sides?"

   Will. I guess something flashed in my eyes, because my fathers face morphed into something I would pinpoint as amused. "Something happened between the both of you?"

Lie. Lie or make something up. If he knew these feelings I felt, he would not have a smile on his face. He would not want the prince on our side. Because it's one thing for his daughter to make the prince fall in love with her, and another for her to fall in love with him.

   "Yes, I have made an advancement on that. I just don't know if it will be enough to get him on our side."

Maybe that's why I slept with him. Maybe it wasn't my heart's choice but my head's. That thought somewhat made me feel a little better. Maybe I didn't care for him, but was just following orders the whole time.

   "Well?" He raises an eyebrow, telling me to explain further. "Does he love you? Hate the place? Did you kiss?" He stops at that question. Something in my face told him the answer. "Kiss?" He asks again. I do my best to keep my face neural. "More?" Panic flashes in my eyes. He lets out an amused chuckle. "Oh don't worry. I gave you orders, and you did more than just meet my expectations." I think he mistakes my panic for something else.

   I look around, trying to avoid my fathers eyes. "I should get going. It's late, and if..."

   "I understand."

   I turn to walk away, before stopping in my tracts. I don't know what came over me. His proudness fueling my ego? Whatever it was, I turned back around and gave a demand. "I want you to release Levi."

   The smile on my father's face drops, and is replaces with a look of annoyance. "Arden, we are not on this again. Friends won't..."

   "He's not my friend." I say, "But he's still someone who has helped me in the past. Someone I owe a debt to."

   "I'm not letting our prisoner go, just because you feel like you owe him something."

   Words come out of my mouth before I can even think them through. "Then you are not getting the stone."

   His eyes darken. "Is that a threat?"

   "It's a promise."

   He doesn't say anything, just stares. I keep the nonchalant look on my face. Hoping he doesn't sense how nervous I really am. The coldness in his eyes vanishes. My father and I are just staring at each other. Both now wearing a mask of no emotion.

   He's the one to break the silence. "Now, that's spoken like my true daughter." I give him nothing but a nod. Hiding what I really felt, true accomplishment. "He will be free as soon as I get back."

   "Thank you." That was a mistake, because the little look he had of of impressment goes away.

   "Don't thank someone you just threatened." I don't say anything, but turn to leave. I'm a couple of steps away when I hear his last words to me. "Don't forget who you're doing this for. Not for me, not for yourself, but her."

   For her. Those were the two words that stayed in my mind the whole night. No thoughts of Will and the night we just had, but of her. Everything I'm doing is for her.

   For her.
•••

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