Caden’s answering smile is so bright I feel the need to shield my eyes. He jumps forward and throws his arms around me, hugging me hard. He pulls back and is grinning from ear to ear.
“Thank you, Solees. You’re a good friend.” He says softly. I smile back at him and give him a fake punch in the shoulder. He smiles good naturedly and laughs.
Another six months pass in much the same way. I send off my letter to my ‘uncle Massers’, telling him where me and my mother live and that we’re safe and I look forward to seeing him again. He sends back a letter explaining nothing that I don’t already know.
The King is having trouble keeping his throne but everyone who rises up to oppose him turns up dead but there is no way to connect the deaths to the King himself.
We continue to write to each other but I continue to get all the same information from Caden who is still running his ‘errands’ for the master.
Then, the master returns. He’d come home maybe three times in the entire year and a half I’d been working at the estate but never stayed for more than two days and I never got a chance to meet him.
But then he’s here and he’s standing in front of me. He’s tall and imposing. Large in the shoulders and chest and narrow in the hips. His clothes are tailored to fit him perfectly and definitely not scratchy like my own clothes I’ve gotten used to over the course of the past year and a half.
“So you must be Solees.” He says, unnecessarily. I’m the only teenage boy living on the estate other than Caden, since the master refuses to allow children to live and work here. I nod and bow deeply.
“Yes sir, I am Solees. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” I say to my shoes.
“I’ve heard so much about you.” I add, straightening up and looking him in the eye. It’s a blatant act of disrespect to look my master in the eye like I am, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He’s staring at me with a thoughtful expression.
“You and Caden are close, yes?” he asks, speculatively.
“Yes sir.” I answer, unsure where this is going.
“Lidiya informs me that you’ve spent nearly every moment of your free time together for the past year and half.” He says.
“Yes sir.” I say, although I can tell that he’s not really talking to me as much as he’s talking to himself.
“You must be close…” he murmurs. The way he’s looking at me sends shivers down my spine. I want to flee. To run from his look. I feel like prey caught in the gaze of a hungry predator, frozen, waiting for the strike which will end my life.