Tuesday the 28th
Lunar 4, Luka 16
The Palace at Lumena – Cloudburst
That didn’t go so badly, did it?
No one seemed to have missed me at the Palace. I reemerged in the bathroom, nothing amiss, and hid the mirror and got ready for bed. For once I felt like I might actually be able to sleep. That hollow, empty feeling I had inside me was still there, but it felt smaller, and all of me felt warmer, lighter. Almost safe. Almost okay. A little hopeful. Maybe it was nothing to write home about–a few months back, this would’ve been how I felt on a very bad day–but today it was an improvement, a reminder. Good things would come again. There truly was a purpose in all of this suffering, and most importantly, there was someone–probably more than one someone–who saw the real me and cared.
When I was about to get into bed, I took a detour into the sitting room foyer outside of my bedroom, where I still had some things from home stacked up and hardly sorted. It made me too sad to see it before, so I’d ignored it even when I had time, but now it felt right. Running my fingers over the boxes, I took a deep breath of air that still smelled like home. Then, I remembered what I’d discussed with Mr. Fisk, and dove in looking for my baby book, for evidence.
I spread the book out on one of the reading desks in my parlor. Delicately caressing the cover, I turned to the first page. It was photos of me a few months old, along with a clipping of hair. A sense of relief came to me. I could prove they were innocent.
It had been many years since I opened this book. Portia and I had played with them a bit when we were younger. Flipping a few pages forward, I found an area that read ‘paste birth certificate here,’ but there was none. There were plenty of other reports and pictures, doctors notes about how well I was growing… but no birth certificate. No certificate of adoption, either.
A knot grew in my stomach. That didn’t have to mean anything. Maybe one of the investigators had been in the box. Maybe they’d taken the certificates. Maybe… maybe even if I didn’t find exactly what I was hoping, I still found something important. No one could ever say that my parents had been cruel or unusual. There was evidence in the photos alone, all the notes on the firsts. They were dedicated, good parents, and we were healthy children.
Something unexpected slipped out — a linen, and a newborn’s hat. I could remember flinging the hat at Portia once when we were little. I hit her square in the eye and she cried about it. The linen was still perfectly starched and flattened, having been undisturbed for years. I unfolded the hat and cloth. They were stark white and completely unhelpful, or so I thought. As I was folding them back to put them away, an old simple diaper pin slipped out. It was dully tinged from age and a bit rusted, hard to open. There was something imprinted on the head.
PALACE AT LUMENA LAUNDRY SERVICES
I dropped the pin.
My mother may have worked in the palace laundry department once, but she wouldn’t have taken something like that for safekeeping unless it was special… right?
Er, maybe not.
Maybe it was just a pin.
Or maybe it had been planted there.
Otherwise, it meant…
No. Nope. No way in hell.
It was just a stupid old pin. It clearly had a logical explanation, just one that I couldn’t process right now because I was tired and tired brains don’t think well, and my parents were my parents, or even if I was adopted–and my parents were still my parents–there was no way I was born here, in the palace. No. Fucking. Way. Because that… that could mean it wasn’t a lie, after all, that it was real.
It meant that I was real.