I didn't sleep well that night. Something had unsettled me and every time I closed my eyes I could see the figure dressed all in black coming closer and closer until I had to make my eyes open. I did finally fall asleep, but only lightly, being woken up at the slightest noise.
I was slightly relieved when I heard Imara rattling on the door when the sun had risen the next morning. 'Are you alright Alex?' Her face was filled with genuine concern and a pinch of fear.
'I'm fine, honest,' I reassured her. 'I just got myself worked up about someone I saw last night. I wanted the door locked just in case.'
'Who did you see? Did they look dangerous or suspicious? Did they try to attack you?' Imara didn't give me space between questions to give an answer so when she stopped to draw breath I jumped in.
'I'm pretty sure most of it was just my imagination. We're all on edge at the moment and it was dark. I probably imagined things that weren't there.'
'But the man was there? You couldn't have imagined that.'
'I don't know if it was a man. They were wearing a cloak so I couldn't see what they were wearing, but they could have easily been someone else coming back late from a party.' I smiled, trying to appear bright and breezy when inside my stomach was still tied in a knot. 'Now, I need to get ready to visit Olivia. I'm expecting an invitation any moment.'
Imara looked confused. 'Who's Olivia?'
I smiled at passers by, inclining my head towards those I knew and exchanging a polite 'good morning' with those who greeted me. I felt much safer walking down the corridors in daylight, even though I was concealing a letter that could reveal my status as a spy, if decoded correctly.
I sub-conciously checked my dress looked alright before I raised my right hand and knocked three times on Eliza's door. I was surprised when she opened it herself, hair not quite perfect, a few strands coming out like she had done it in a hurry, and a breathy smile on her face.
'Come in,' she said airily, holding the door open so I could walk past her. Her rooms were almost identical to mine. A room for entertaining and welcoming guests, and another door which I assumed led off into the bedroom. 'Have a seat.' I took the chair Eliza indicated to me, arranging my skirts comfortably around me. 'Can I get you some tea?'
'That would be lovely, thank you.' There was silence as Eliza poured the tea and we began sipping daintily from our teacups.
'I have the letter,' I said, putting my cup down and searching in the pocket in the side of my dress where I had hidden the paper with my report for Jon. I gave it to Eliza and watched her carefully as her eyes moved back and forwards across the paper. 'I think I've included everything and the code is obscure enough to not be noticeable, but I just wanted to show you first.'
'I think it's perfect Alexandra.' Her eyes stopped moving and focused on one section of the parchment. 'who is the gentleman you've attracted the attention of? The one you were dancing with last night?' I nodded. 'So who is he?'
'I don't know, he didn't tell me his name.'
'But you told him yours?' I nodded a little sheepishly. It was a basic mistake to forget to ask possible informants their names. 'Well I suppose we'll just have to hope he finds you again.'
'I'm just not sure if we can trust him. There is something inside try to tell me something, I just can't tell what it is yet.'
'Well until we find out what that something is, we treat him as a source of information.'
A while later I left Eliza's rooms, shutting the door behind me. I walked quickly down the corridor, this time keeping my head down and trying not to be noticed. A new wave of guilt was sweeping over me. The occupants of this castle were people too, although they didn't seem to be suffering as much as the people in my village back home were. It didn't seem fair that either side should endure a war.
Turning the final corner before I could see the door to me room, I crashed into the chest of someone coming the other way. 'I'm so sorry,' I gabbled , trying to look anywhere but at the man I'd hit. I was feeling so embarrassed.
'That's alright,' a familiar voice said smoothly. 'I'm sure you were thinking about something very important.' I instinctively looked up into the dark eyes of the man I had danced with last night.
'It's you,' I exclaimed, unable to stop the words coming out. I flushed a deep pink.
'And it's you, Alexandra was it?' I nodded. 'Well it's lovely to see you again so soon. I wasn't expecting to bump into you before the end of the week.'
'Well, I hope it's a pleasant surprise,' I said, trying to regain my composure after my unexpected and slightly rude outburst.
'It certainly is.' He stood looking at me for a few moments until I began to feel uncomfortable and think of a way I could excuse myself. I think he could tell I wanted to be somewhere because he smiled and said, 'I hope I'll see you at the ball tonight.'
'Which ball would that be?'
'The one the Queen is holding. I don't know if you've noticed but she loves hosting parties.'
'Even though there is a war on?'
'Even though we're at war, yes.' There was a harshness to his voice that intrigued me, but I didn't have time to pursue my interest because he quickly changed the subject. 'So will I see you there?'
'Maybe,' I said vaguely, giving him a wink.
'Then I will look forward to it.' He bowed and kissed my hand before walking away. I had surprised myself so much by the way I had acted at the end of the conversation I almost forgot to ask him the question I had forgotten the night before.
'Sir! What's your name?'
I burst into my room calling Imara's name to see if she was there. She came running out of my bedroom, the dress I had worn last night over one arm and her hair falling out of the bun on the back of her head.
'What is it Alex?'
'I have a job for you Imara. Find out everything you can about Mr Angel Hurst.'