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‘It sounds like you two are good friends,’ her mother says happily, and I don’t have the heart to correct her. ‘Will you do something for me?’
‘Anything,’ I say, expecting her to give me a message for Pryana, but instead, she leans in to whisper, ‘Keep an eye on her for me.’
That won’t be hard.
Enora meets me at the rebound station back at the Western Coventry and drags me away before Jost or Erik can join us. I feel awful for not thanking them for watching out for me this weekend, but since Enora can barely control her shaking hands, I go along with her.
‘You’re wanted upon arrival,’ she tells me.
‘Okay.’ I consider telling her about the conversation I overheard between Cormac and Hannox but don’t know where to start.
‘Have you manipulated the weave again without a machine?’ she asks me in a quiet voice. Her gaze is so demanding I almost believe I have. It’s clear she assumes as much.
‘No.’ I pause and try to remember if that’s right. ‘No, I don’t think so.’
‘No or maybe?’ she presses.
‘No,’ I repeat more confidently. ‘What is this about?’
‘You’ve been called to train,’ she says in a small voice.
‘With Maela?’ I ask, not hiding my annoyance.
‘With Loricel.’
Now I understand why Enora is shaking.
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘I met her in Cypress.’
‘You must have made quite an impression,’ Enora says.
‘She knew about me,’ I tell her, ‘and she didn’t approve of me being there with Cormac.’
‘She wouldn’t.’
‘That’s what he said. And I agree. He is too old for me,’ I joke, trying to lighten the mood.
But Enora isn’t laughing. ‘Loricel doesn’t approve of his influence on the Coventry. She thinks we should be self-governed.’
‘Aren’t we?’
‘Loricel may be, but the rest of the Spinsterhood is closely monitored by the Guild. We may be more powerful than the rest of the female citizenry, but that’s not much to boast about.’
I think back to Cormac’s orders, his conversation about Protocol Two, and the way he offered me Arras like it was his. Amie’s voice rings in my head: control – Spinsters have control. Had I believed it, too?
‘Should I tell her about what I can do?’ I ask under my breath.
Enora’s gaze stays on me, but behind her eyes she drifts somewhere else. When she finally speaks, her voice is as hollow and distant as her eyes are. ‘No. I’ve learned from experience that some secrets must be kept, even from someone with the best of intentions.’
I search her face for a sign that she realises she’s made a value statement. She’s been honest and not spoken in riddles, if only for a moment. And though I still don’t confess about Cormac, or Erik’s concern, or Jost feeding me dinner, it brings us closer. I can’t deny the wall between us, separating us from total honesty, but I’m no longer sure which of us built it.
But one thing is bothering me. ‘Speaking of secrets. Why didn’t you warn me about the Cypress event?’
Enora’s look says it all: because she didn’t know about it.
‘What about the Cypress event?’ she asks quietly. ‘We didn’t get the Stream for that.’
‘Nothing,’ I mutter, and before she can question me further, we’re back within the compound’s walls.
Enora doesn’t give me time to change out of my travelling suit. Instead she drags me to the airy room where I was assigned the first day I became a Spinster. I haven’t been back here since then. The window is open and chiffon curtains swirl around it. I look at the loom – my loom – more carefully. It’s polished and looks untouched. The series of gears on either side of it are still, waiting for me to will them to life. And next to the silent machine, Loricel waits.
I’m jealous of her simple navy pantsuit. I can’t remember the last time I was allowed to wear pants. I’m also struck by how powerful she looks in comparison to most Spinsters. She’s not overdone like the others.
‘Thank you, Enora,’ she says.
Enora nods. ‘Is there anything I can get you?’
‘No, this will be fine,’ she says, drawing up one of the studio chairs. ‘The wall screens are lovely here, don’t you think?’
I smile, not sure what to say.
‘I want to work with Adelice alone today,’ she says to Enora, and my mentor smiles. It’s the first time she hasn’t looked scared to leave my side.
‘Access Alpha L,’ Loricel says out loud when Enora’s left the room.
‘Access granted,’ a disembodied voice sings from the panel.
‘Turn off security monitors and audio surveillance,’ Loricel commands.
‘Monitors and surveillance will be turned off for one hour.’
‘That’s better,’ she says to me, patting the seat next to her.
I sit and stare at her.
‘How is your training going?’ she asks.
I blush at the question. I barely know how to turn on the loom, never having woven on the machine unsupervised. ‘It’s not,’ I answer honestly.
‘I figured. Cormac never has the right priorities.’
‘It’s my fault,’ I confess. ‘I haven’t made training me easy.’