I hardly notice my attraction, but my fingers have nudged their way onto the platform as
my chin tucks over the wood, and my eyes fix on the Givers moving speedily to and fro as if I’m
watching a coveted movie, though none inside of Iliad are as good as this performance. Attention
is drawn to my fingers when Jez approaches from my side and taps his foot at my forefinger. “If
it isn’t the Princess Thief. Have you come to take more goods?”
I almost gasp. The guards had a strict talk with him about not speaking with me, and
letting me take what I want—and yet here he is. Not that I expect that I should be able to do
whatever I want, but I certainly don’t expect a Giver to not follow orders.
I stumble my words. “Wha? I…I’m not here for that,” I defend poorly.
“Then why are you here? Isn’t that what you Insiders do best? Take?” Jez’s voice cracks,
as if the word take weighs particularly heavy on him.
“I’m not here to take anything,” I say as my voice quivers, hands tremble, and my eyes
flit around for focus.
“Then why are you here?” His brazen tone makes me uneasy.
The question stops me. I can’t be at all sure why I came, why I insisted on seeing Jez.
Curiosity? Passion? I hardly know. I only know there is something about him—something
mysterious— something different from all the rest of the boys of Iliad. Maybe it’s because he’s
been Outside, seen the world. Maybe it’s because he must be so brave to do so.
His eyes dig deep into mine, waiting for an answer I can’t give. So, I answer a little
shakily, “I just wanted to see the inner workings of the Center of Citigog Goods.”
Jez stares briefly, a smirk sliding across his face—not believing a word. Then he says
snidely, “Curious how the other half lives?”
“Why do you keep attacking me?” I grit my teeth, my fingernails scratching the wood of
the platform, my head fixed upward at Jez, sun glares hurting my eyes. “What have I ever done
to you?” His audacity surprises me. I should be used to it by now. Every time I talk with him, he
has nothing but ridicule for me. Still, I can’t wrap my brain around his disgust. No one speaks to
the princess this way.
“Attacking you? You call a few words an attack?” Jez shakes his head and ruffles his
fingers through his hair, releasing a loud huff of disbelief.
“You didn’t answer my question,” I press, keeping my eyes locked on his. He isn’t going
to get away with it this time. Not without an explanation.
Jez pauses, his eyes searching me, and I can see questions circling his mind. “You really
“Know what?” My brow quirks, and he draws all my attention. I wouldn’t notice now if a
Citiguard stood beside me.
“Anything,” Jez remarks, and I’m not sure if he’s just being smart or if he really cares
about my so-called ignorance.
“So, enlighten me, oh Giver of all.”
He squats so that we are eye to eye, and his smirk becomes more of a sadness, his color
more of a pale crème, but his hair engulfs him—his square face and broad shoulders—as it falls
to his chest. Then, I regret what I’ve just said. I feel I’ve hit him somewhere deep inside where
even I didn’t intend.
“You live in your perfect princess castle, with three meals a day, and everyone at your
beck and call. Safe from danger, and from the truth.” His head lowers, and he looks like he is
about to cry, before he takes a deep breath and his head rises. “I won’t be able to enlighten you
with anything but misery. I’m not a Giver. I’m a survivor.”
“Survivor of what?” I ask, not sure if he even heard me ask the question, because at that
moment the dark-skinned man with the buffalo tattoo pushes beside Jez and tugs on his shoulder.
“Get going, Jez. Your tribe can’t handle another reprimand.” Jez looks at the dark man
and nods before he pulls away from me and straightens up to return to the Box Carrier. As Jez
walks away from me, the dark man hawk-eyes me. “You’re nothing but trouble for us. Why
don’t you crawl back to your castle?” The corner of his mouth curls up as he turns back to Jez. I
stand there, alone, lingering in questions. Survivor? Aren’t we all survivors of CR? What tribe?
Safe from danger, the truth?
Everyone I come to for answers turns into another blockade, but I won’t let curiosities go
unsatisfied this time. Jez knows something, something my aunt and mom know as well,
something no one wants to tell me. I’ll watch him, and wait. He’ll lead me to what I want to
know. He just has to.