“I had to glue her mouth shut again.”
At the sound of her mother Lily’s voice, Taliya jerked to attention from her hidden spot in the loft that overlooked the common room of the small home. Her parents didn’t often say much to each other. Her mother liked to sleep a lot while her father sat quietly in his chair by the fire reading book after book. So when they did talk, she paid attention, especially when they were talking about her.
Her father Hizel sighed. “I thought we agreed you weren’t going to do that anymore.”
“I had a headache and couldn’t bear listening to one more of her relentless questions.”
Taliya licked her lips. They were still raw from the sticky goo her mother had put on them earlier, but she had used her tongue and spit to free her lips hours ago. Maybe if someone would answer her questions, she wouldn’t keep asking them.
Why couldn’t she play outside? When could they take a trip beyond the city walls? Why was the city surrounded by walls and guards anyway?
And what about dragons? Would she ever get to see one? Did their scales really change colors when they got hungry? What Bloodline was she from? Would she ever find her own dragon to take care of? Could she enter the Battle of the Throne one day?
Taliya crawled on the splintery wood floor to the edge of the loft and watched her tall, muscular father shrug his shoulders and sit in his rocking chair by the fireplace. “She’s only four, Lily. She’s curious.”
“She’s exhausting.” Her mother’s tan cheeks were turning red as she marched across the room to stand in front of her father. She was barely taller than him even though he was sitting down. Taliya hoped that someday she would be as tall as her father, not as short as her mother.
“By the time I was her age,” Lily continued, “I had learned to keep my mouth closed and do what I was told. But your child is asking about traveling and dragons and what Bloodline she’s from and if she can compete in the Battle of the Throne. Those are dangerous questions to be asking!”
Hizel stopped rocking and stared at Lily. “What did you tell her?”
“Nothing. Of course I told her nothing.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “I can’t handle her anymore. I want to give her to the King’s Workhouse.”
“No!” Taliya bumped her forehead on the railing, ignored the pain, and scrambled down the ladder. “Don’t send me away. Please. I’ll be quiet. I’ll be good. I promise.” She wanted to explore new places, but going to the King’s Workhouse did not sound like a good idea.
“This is what I’m talking about.” Lily stared at Hizel but pointed at Taliya. “She can’t even sleep when she is supposed to. I have to listen to noise all day long in the factory. I need quiet when I come home. I want her gone.”
Hizel stood and loomed over Lily. “But she’s your child.”
Taliya looked at her mother, then her father. Neither one of them looked at her. Her heart began to beat faster to keep up with her speeding mind. How could she convince them to keep her? What could she do to make them want her? She liked them. Why didn’t they like her?
“No,” Lily said. “She’s your child. You’re the one who requested the license to have a child. I simply complied when the license was granted. That’s what I do because I’m a good citizen. I comply. Taliya doesn’t. The only way for her to learn compliance is to give her to the King’s Workhouse.”
Learn. Books. Taliya’s bright blue eyes flew to the stack of books piled beside her father’s chair. “That’s it!” Taliya pushed her way through her parents and picked up a thick red book with large black letters. “I’ll read these books and learn how to be that comply thing you want. I’ll be quiet just like father when I read. Please don’t send me away. This is home. I like it here.”
Lily rolled her eyes and took the book away from Taliya. “You’re too young to read.”
“I disagree.” Hizel picked Taliya up. “She’s smart. I can teach her.”
“No,” Lily said. “You trying to teach her how to read is only going to make more noise around here.”
“We can go outside,” Taliya said.
Her mother shook her head. “People will see you and wonder why you are trying to get a head start on your education. I don’t want to do anything that might cause people to doubt our loyalty to the king and his laws.”
“What about your loyalty to your family?” Hizel took the book back from Lily. “We’ll begin our lessons right here in the common room after you go to bed. Until then, Taliya will sit quietly alone in her loft to give you your space.”
Taliya let a little bit of excitement creep into her next question. “Does that mean I don’t have to go away?”
“That’s exactly what that means,” Hizel said. “But it also means you have to promise to be quiet around your mother. No more talking, and no more questions.” Taliya bit her lower lip and nodded. “Okay, Father. I promise.” Not asking questions would be hard because she had so many things she wanted answers to, but she would just have to learn to find those answers in books.