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‘Adelice.’ My instructor beckons me to join her in a far corner. A few of my classmates notice but quickly return to their assigned tests. No doubt they expect I’m in trouble again.
But it isn’t just her waiting in the corner. Pryana is with her, and she’s not happy to see me.
‘I’ve been asked to send you two with the gentleman in the hallway,’ the instructor tells us in a lowered voice, so the others won’t hear.
Pryana casts a terrified glance at me, and I know we’re thinking the same thing: Are we in trouble for fighting? Well, more her hitting me and me standing there taking it, but same principle.
‘You aren’t in trouble,’ the instructor assures us. She must see the fear on both our faces. ‘You’re moving on: you are Spinsters now.’
To my surprise, this news brings a feeling of relief. I’m eager to learn more about what happens here at the Coventry. Of course, the drawback is that I’m moving on with Pryana. Regardless of what Jost believes about Maela’s desire to keep me alive, I know both she and Pryana will be hoping to watch me fail.
Outside the training room, Erik is waiting. Today he’s dressed in a dark blue suit with subtle stripes intricately woven into the wool. It’s amazing how less than a week of experience with weaving draws my attention to things I never noticed before. How fine the cloth is and how expertly it hugs his body, tailored to fit him precisely. He clears his throat, and I shift my eyes quickly to the floor.
‘I have the honour of escorting you both to your evaluation. You will be assigned to a novice studio from there, and you will meet with your mentors to discuss what changes to expect.’ His tone is clipped and impersonal. He’s given this speech before, probably dozens of times. So when Maela is busy, I can count on Erik being around.
‘Pryana, your personal belongings are being taken to your new quarters in the lower tower.’
‘Personal belongings?’ I blurt out before I can stop myself.
They both turn and look at me. Pryana understands first, and her face twists into a look of malicious amusement.
‘Of course,’ she simpers. ‘We could bring items that mean something to us. Clothing, pictures of our families.’
Her delight goes flat at the last word and pain flits across her face. I wonder if anyone from the Coventry bothered to find out if her sister died, but I’m pretty sure the answer is yes.
‘You don’t get personal items when you run,’ she continues, eyes flashing.
‘I guess not.’ I step closer to Erik and further from her.
‘It’s like you never even existed.’
‘At least I’m not caught up blaming the wrong person,’ I say, the words slipping out of my mouth before I can swallow them down.
Her nostrils flare, but she composes herself quickly. ‘What? You think because I didn’t rip that day I’m inferior to you?’
‘I think you didn’t rip because you’re scared and you’re taking out your anger at yourself and the Guild on me.’
‘That’s where you’re wrong,’ Pryana growls. ‘We were only there because of you. Don’t try to deny it. You can believe anything you want, but the truth is that the whole thing was your fault. Maela was testing you. You failed.’
She’s got me there, and I can’t think of a thing to say in response.
‘Adelice.’ Erik steps in like he’s missed the entire argument. ‘You’ll stay in your previously assigned quarters.’
I focus on the fact that I don’t have to leave my comfortable new room. Screw Pryana and her personal belongings.
‘Since we’ll be seeing much more of each other,’ he continues, taking Pryana’s hand, ‘please call me Erik.’
‘More of each other?’ Something about this news sends a tingle down my neck.
He looks equally pleased with this announcement. ‘Although you are being moved into the Spinsters’ quarters, you’re still under observation. During the next few months, you’ll be evaluated and assigned a more permanent position.’
‘Will the others be joining us?’ Pryana jumps in, asking exactly what I’m thinking. I’m reminded of the one afternoon we were friends.
‘We will keep the others under evaluation until we’re certain there are no more Spinsters in the group. Some might end up doing the basic food weaving, but they’ll probably never get any further.’
No more Spinsters? I can’t believe that they can weed us out so quickly. Will the others be sent to make clothing or work in the kitchen? I’m glad I won’t be there when the perpetual excitement drains from their faces. They left home expecting a glamorous life, not a life of tailoring and cleaning. And yet I’m grateful they weren’t chosen. Anyone who would treat joining the Coventry with as much passion as those girls doesn’t need to be part of the Guild. Eager girls want to please people like Maela.
‘You know, Erik,’ Pryana purrs, crushing against him, ‘we’ve all been wondering why Adelice has a room in the high tower.’
His response is so well rehearsed, I can almost see the time stand still. ‘Maela has a reason for her actions.’
He must say that a lot. It seems to appease Pryana. Or maybe she’s smart enough to stop asking questions.
‘Pryana, you will be meeting your mentor here.’ Erik opens a large metal door and quickly withdraws her arm from his. Too quickly. Pryana notices and skulks inside.