Read an Excerpt
Journal of Mlle. Zoe Cyprienne Lane
Presented to Me Upon the Occasion of My Thirteenth Birthday
Myers Cottage, Darkfrith
May 1, 1766
Cherry Cake with Breakfast. Spotted Scones and Cider after
From Mother: The Journal. An Embroidered Tucker.
From Uncle Anton: A Tome of Verse: Songs for Gentle Girls.
From Cerise: An Ink and colored Portrait of my favorite rooster, Maximillian. (From me to Cerise: A Polished Silver Nugget in the Shape of a Heart from the River Fier.)
From Lord Rhys Sean Valentin Langford, second son of the Alpha (!): A bouquet of Pure Whyte Roses (the marchioness's garden?). A Small Carving of Maximillian from Pine (bloodstain on the left wing? dirt?). A Woven Ring of his Hair (!!).
Roses to Mother. Hair Ring to the dust bin. I rather like the carving.
June 13, 1766
No rain. Quite hot.
Lessons to-day in the village from the Dreaded Council for All Drakon Children. (I do think that at Thirteen Years of Age One ought not to be called a Child, and ought to be excused from these events, but the Council Begs to Differ.) I don't know why they bother repeating the same shabby old rules year after year. We've heard them enough by now to choke on them: We must not Leave the Shire! We must not Speak of the Gifts! We must not Reveal our Secrets to the Others! We must Think Only of the Tribe!
Rhys arrived late, as ever (no one even chided him. I suppose it must be lovely to be a Lord), and insisted upon squeezing into the seat next to mine. Then he kept pretending to tip his Inkpot upon my skirts when None were Looking. Vexing. I don't care what he said afterward, I don't believe he would have stopped without my kick to his shin. I will Concede, however, that it was unfortunate the Ink spilled upon his breeches instead.
Cerise claims She Saw it All. Grew very red and said that I was a shameless flirt. I told her to find a looking glass before casting names at me. Everyone knows she's a Goose, no matter that she's the elder by three minutes.
I cannot fathom a person less Likely to be my Twin.
Perhaps she is a changeling.
June 19, 1766
Full moon, couldn't sleep. Mother made me extinguish the lamps early. The smell of smoking oil simply fills my face; I can hardly breathe with it. When I opened my window the stars tried to siphon me up into the sky. Saw Uncle Anton flying, the marquess, Mr. Williams, Mr. Grady, at least five more. We are so very lovely by moonlight. I do hope-I do I DO HOPE I shall fly too someday. I know that females no longer Turn into dragons, not since the marchioness, but I could be the first. I want it so much.
I shall be pink and gold and silver. Those are my favorite colors. I shall have a mane of glorious silk.
Rhys boasted he can already Turn. Liar. Lord Rhys of the manor house surviving his first Turn? I certainly would have heard about that.
June 21, 1766
With Rhys in the woods. Should not have gone there with him, but he said he would prove he could Turn. And he did.
Thirteen is young. I suppose he's a half year older than that but most in the Tribe Turn after they are sixteen at least. I have time yet before I need worry.
His eyes are very green. I wonder that I never noted it before.
June 24, 1766
Still Cloudy. No rain.
Rhys says the most foolish things. My hair is like Ivory. My voice is like Dusk. My eyes are like Pitch.
Pitch. Indeed. I told him that comparing my eyes to the color of tar was uncouth.
He changed it to Obsidian and Tried to Kiss me again. I did not Let him.
June 25, 1766
Wind Rising. Clouds Darkening.
He keeps trying to get me to Go Back to the Woods with him. I know it's a Terrible Notion. But I want to. He tracked me to-day to the Lending Library, which very much needs to have its windows wiped. It was murky and we-
I do not know why I feel these things around him, my stomach upset and my heart pounding all queer. It's quite unpleasant, actually.
He's Graced me with a Pet name. No one's ever done such a thing before. "ZEE." As if my given name is too difficult to manage, all two syllables of it.
His smile is so fetching. He never bothers with a hat or gloves so his skin has tanned with the sun. I did not go with him to the Woods.
Cerise more and more waspish every day. She has at least Five beaux. I can't imagine why she would begrudge my One.
June 26, 1766
Storm to the East. Not here Yet.
I had a Dream Last Night that he came to my window as a dragon, dark glimmer and gold. I dreamt the dragon was tap-tapping on the glass, like raindrops, steady and soft, but when I woke, he was not there. Only those storm clouds, and not a drop of rain.
The air feels so heavy I could tear at my hair.
HE LOVES ME.
He wrote it on a slip of paper during Council Lessons. Pressed it into my hand as we were Leaving, along with a rose petal he had hidden in a pocket.
Lord Rhys Langford of Chasen Manor Loves ME, of all the maidens of the shire. Me, the daughter of the seamstress. Me, who once put a clot of mud in his tea when he wouldn't stop teasing me about besting him in Latin and Arithmetic. Me, and I'm not even Pretty. Cerise says my eyes are too strange and my lips are too big and I'll certainly never Develop as she has.
What a load of piffle. All that just to steal a kiss in the woods. It's really rather pitiful, isn't it?
(I shall save the petal here, between these pages.)
Cerise found the paper. I had dropped it by accident in the Hallway after Supper, and came upon her just as she was picking it up. I could hardly disguise from Whom it Came. Master Baird says Rhys's penmanship flows like a Sultan's robes in the wind, right off the edges of the page. Most Distinctive.
She was red again, even more red than her hair. She was trembling. I stood there and felt as if a great hammer had smashed upon my head.
Cerise is in love with Rhys. Enormously shocking!
But she is. She's weeping in her room right now. I can hear her through the wall, though she's trying to be quiet.
August 1, 1766
I've thought on it a great deal. I've thought and thought.
Cerise and I have been at odds nearly our entire Lives. She is Comely while I am not; she is well liked while I am not. She is fashionable, and droll, and buxom, while I am . . . not. It's a very great Wonder that we should have shared a womb at all. But I look at the portrait of Maximillian she made for our birthday, now hung above my bed. I look at the lines very carefully drawn, and how steady her hand was with the colors. How she got every stripe in his feathers just right, and the red comb, and the cock of his head. I think about how long it must have taken her to complete it, especially since Maximillian despises Cerise and must have spent a great deal of his portrait time hiding behind the coop.
She is my Twin. When she weeps I feel it to my bones.
August 2, 1766
I told Rhys to leave me be. I told him I did not love him. I gave him back his carving of Maximillian, just so he knew I was Sincere.
August 4, 1766
August 19, 1766
Cloudy. Hot, hot, when will it rain?
He leaves gifts for me on my sill. He follows me about. When I walk to the village, he is there. When I walk to the downs, he is there. When I feed the chickens, he is there, and it is a Very Big Fuss because now that he can Turn, all the animals scatter in fear of their Lives. Mother Heard the Fuss and now she's cross at both of us. The hens won't settle if he's near; they remain frightened for days. No eggs.
I hardly think it's fair I was punished for that. I'm trying to get rid of him.
September 1, 1766
I had the same Dream last night. Rain was softly falling, and he came to my window, tapping on the glass. Only this time when I awoke, it was so hot I was perspiring, and the rain was really, truly falling, drawing into silvery tears down the panes.
And behind the tears was the dragon, watching me with glowing green eyes.
I walked to the window and looked back at him. His scales were slick and shining, an emerald so dark it was nearly black, and his talons and mane and wings were metallic gold. He looked from me to the brink of the eastern forest over his shoulder, then back at me. I understood him as clearly as if he had spoken the words.
Come with me. Come to the woods.
Instead, I pulled the shutters across the window, latched them, and returned to bed.
December 24, 1769
It's wonderful to have everyone around in one house, even if it is for just a few days. I love the scents of the holidays, cinnamon and roast goose and pine needles covered in ice. Mother's cough has improved. Even Cerise laughed at the runny mess I made of the plum pudding.
Saw Lord Rhys back from Eton today in the village, shopping, I think. He was there with all three sisters and his brother, and their father. The Marquess of Langford tipped his hat to me and wished me a very Happy Christmas. I, of course, wished them all the same.
February 2, 1773
Cold and Sunny.
I cannot fully describe my emotions on this day. I'm very happy for Cerise, of course. She deserves every Felicitation and it's a joy to see her so flushed and pretty. Thomas is no doubt a good man, a strong dragon, and their child will be doubly blessed.
I can't imagine having a baby. I can't imagine being wed. I think of Love and feel only a rather empty sense of curiosity. I've been kissed before, and I liked it. I've been squired before-to dances, to soirees-and I liked that too. But I feel so strange these days. I look up at the sky and I feel as if I have forgotten something important.
Not the Turn. I suppose I never really believed that would happen. Yet when the clouds gather and blow, it almost seems like they're taking a part of me with them. I long for the rain, all the time, and I don't know why.
Hayden James came by today for tea bearing a posy for me and a bouquet for Mother's sickroom. He's blond and tall and quite handsome. But he spent an entire two hours talking with me about the weather. Even I was bored.
May 11, 1774
I should have anticipated this. I mean, I did anticipate it. I just never truly believed he would work up the nerve to ask.
Hayden is very dear. I do like him. Perhaps I even love him. I enjoy his quiet company, and his thoughtfulness, and the way his eyes light up to the most perfect blue when he smiles. I appreciate that he still brings lilacs to Mother's grave, and that he worries about me living alone here in the cottage. It's very kind, if unnecessary. I have my work (although I am a poor substitute for Mother's skills), and family about. I have ones who care. We are a tribe, after all, and no one is ever truly alone in Darkfrith. Just ask the Council.
I suppose that if I am to note that Hayden's character is rather reserved, I must also truthfully declare that his manners are always the pinnacle of courtesy. If his demonstrations of physical affection for me are somewhat . . . restrained, at least I know he values my virtue.
I've tried to close my eyes and picture him in the cottage with me, taking tea with me every day for the rest of our lives. Our sons and daughters around us, yellow-haired and merry. What a relief it would be to finally slip into the domestic ease enjoyed by the rest of the tribe.
Madam Zoe James. Madame Zoe James.
He is a fine man. I must think about how to answer him. My least desire is to hurt him.
May 12, 1774
Rhys. Langford. Is. An. Ass.
Saw him at Market this morning in the village. Heavens knows what he was doing at Market, since he surely never has to purchase anything of his own. There are servants to shop for him, after all. No doubt he's just been sent down from Cambridge (again) and decided to rake up some trouble here at home for a change.
(What would I give for a chance to leave this shire and attend school! You can bloody well wager I'd not get caught doing anything to send me back here, but of course only the hallowed family of the Alpha is allowed to leave!)
He spies me before the bakeshop buying bread and saunters over. Yes. Saunters. He wears his hat cocked back and his brown hair untied and his breeches too tight and has this smile, this so Charming and Sweet smile, as if he's just happened upon a Dear Bosom Friend. Which I am not.
"I understand I am to congratulate you," he says.
"Oh?" I reply, because I can't imagine to what he's referring. Cerise's second child? Surely not Hayden, as I have not yet spoken with him.
"Indeed," he says. "Hayden James, eh? Decent sort, if a bit dull. I wondered if any of the fellows here would ever pluck up the courage to end your reign as the Old Maid of the Shire."
I did not throw my bread at him. I merely gave him my coolest smile and answered, "As long as it wasn't you. Oh, but that's right-you did try, didn't you?"
And then I sauntered away.
From the Hardcover edition.