The crater entrance in the middle of Carapace had been covered with a large stone slab, which had then been covered in archaic runes that strengthened the seal. There were small vents present, as air still needed to flow to the surface. Pressure buildup could cause the entire seal to fail, which would then send a flood of miasma throughout the city. For now, it was a thin fog that coated the ground, occasionally being stirred by the random pedestrian or carriage.
This place was vastly different than the core entrance Veximarl had seen when he had been here during the summer. Music and the shouts of stall merchants were replaced with silence, and the daily celebrations was now an eerie stillness.
They had done… Not exactly good things, and losing Tyrtain wasn’t exactly their plan, but they had done things in the past to help out areas like this. The miasma of the Gilded Region was gone now due to Tyrtain’s influence. If they could find a way to summon a god here, Veximarl would jump at the opportunity to do so. This was now a dead zone in the middle of the city. It didn’t deserve to be this way.
“Over here!” Luca Atwater jogged up and the two exchanged a firm handshake. “Nice to see you in the flesh, and not as some horrifying specter here to reap me for my mistakes.”
Veximarl had been told to wait here for the cleric who would act as his escort. It was only a ten minute walk from here, and he had seen it briefly during the summer. The Highland family owned two hospitals within the city and Veximarl would be working at the smaller of the two as Luca Atwater’s partner.
After Luca failed the entrance exam at Braytons, Vincent pulled some strings to get his former squad member an apprenticeship at the hospital. It was a suitable fit and Luca couldn’t complain about the post. He didn’t like what had happened to the rest of his squad but there was little he could do about it.
Barcus, who had attacked Alton and Sybil in the Volo Refuge, was disowned by his family for his misbehavior. He enlisted in the army when he turned eighteen and insisted he be put on the frontlines. He and Silas were now fighting in the north. Silas had entered a lesser known barracks. Their entire force had been conscripted into service. The last member of their unit, Oscar, decided to attend university. Accounting was keeping him out of the way of danger.
Meanwhile, Luca was eager to greet Veximarl at the entrance of the hospital. “Lady Blu wrote us to say that you were one of the best she had ever seen at diagnostics, but you lack the ability to heal effectively. We’re going to be working in the walk-in clinic. You figure out what’s wrong, I’ll write it down or cure them. We’ll discuss other treatments with the doctors but we’ve been running low on medicine.”
Veximarl agreed that a lack of medication would make his role difficult. “We have Miss Hewitt with us. She is a plant mage who will spend a few days replenishing our stocks.”
“Gwyndolyn?” Luca looked over in surprise before coughing into his hand. “Y-yes. She had helped us set up a greenhouse before... We underestimated the number of patients that would be coming in, so we quickly ran out… I didn’t get that much of a chance to speak to her the last time she was here. It’ll be nice to see her again.”
That caught Veximarl off guard. “You know each other... Th-that’s good. It’s good to know that she had made acquaintances while she was here.” Was Atwater somehow the man Gwyn had mentioned before? How closely did they work together?
Why did that make him feel anxious? He shook it off and carried on with his work. This was the work he had done often in the past, and he was confident in the results he would produce. In a way, it felt like cheating. Everyone else was going to be facing challenges that would push them to their limits. He sat in a room and safely waited for people to show up.
It didn’t seem fair.
The person who struggled to adjust the most was Sybil. Beat had been the one who had picked her up that morning. Now they were pulling up to the front of city hall.
Beat got out of the carriage first and held out his hand for her to take. “Let’s be off.”
Sybil had worked with Beat as part of her studies in Bronzescale squad, but the two had never talked outside of that. Beat was going to be acting as her escort during her time in Carapace. Even though they’d be working closely, she found that she had even less to say to him than she did before.
He was still wearing his Bronzescale uniform, but she was dressed in a red skirt and had a short gold coat with rabbit fur trim that had been dyed a vibrant green. On top of her head was flattish cone that was propped up by her hair. Its only purpose was to allow for a large veil to be drawn over her without fear of it touching her face. Apparently, it was fashionable to wear a veil outdoors in order to prevent the skin from getting too much sun, but it was awfully inconvenient to wear when it was windy outside.
Sybil took his hand and exited the carriage, being careful to not let her hat blow off as a gust of wind hit them. City hall was the oldest building in Carapace. Its exterior was covered in carvings of dragons, mist cats, and warriors of old. Stories that had long since been lost or forgotten. The inside was modernized, with smooth white walls, and painted murals representing events that had occurred in the religious texts.
She was lead to a private meeting room. Duxton was adjusting his suit while looking into a mirror. The color scheme was identical to what Sybil was wearing. A crooked smile broke out on his face as he saw Sybil’s reflection, and he turned around to greet her.
“Left hand. Now.” Duxton held out his hand and Sybil hesitantly offered it. He then roughly tugged her forward and rolled up her sleeve, twisting her hand this way and that so he could examine the bracelet on her wrist. “... You actually married that bastard of a fish.”
Sybil felt a wave of apprehensiveness hit her. “... Is the bracelet supposed to mean something?” Duxton stared at her with a confused furrow of his brow. “I wasn’t told it that it meant anything other than as a welcome gift from Duchess Elbellziara.”
Duxton began to snicker. He took a step back and began to chuckle so hard that he could barely breathe. “That absolute b-bastard of a fish,” he muttered as he continued to laugh.
Shaw took a step forward. “Violet Region couples are given bracelets that are locked on with arcane magic. The husband is given the key, and he will remove the bracelets once they have consummated the marriage. It is a silent way for a couple to confirm to others that they had engaged in sexual relations, and it is considered ill form to remove them if either of the partners is underaged.”
Alton was gonna get a stabbing when Sybil got home today. “... I-I see.”
Duxton had finally regained his composure. “Cousin!” He approached and placed his hands on Sybil’s shoulders, which made her stiffen with worry.
“... Sybil is fine,” she muttered.
“Don’t make such an ill face. We are family now and we have a job to do. Let me get a good look at you.” Duxton gestured for her to lift up her veil. “Clear skin and no makeup… Barely something to work with.” He kept his eyes on her as he spoke. “Shaw, what is the schedule for today?”
Shaw pulled a notebook from his inner coat pocket. “We will be sitting in on the council meeting this morning. You will have lunch with Lord Flintwell. This afternoon, you will make a public appearance. They are unveiling a portable library which will act as a basis to educate the underprivileged folk within Outcore. We are to see it off before it leaves the city. Sir Rosethorn has already written your speech for the event. Lastly, you will be expected to visit an event hosted by the Goldson family this evening.”
The prince turned to his paladin. “Why do I care about them?”
“They are the owners of your hotel, sir. The matron of the family is turning eighty.” Duxton rolled his eyes at the news. “It will be a brief appearance. I’ve arranged for you to give her a bouquet of peonies. You’d only need to give them to her and wish her a happy birthday before excusing yourself. The event is located in the hotel we are staying in. It will be easy to leave afterward.”
“I’m more disappointed this will be the event that will serve as our dear Sybil’s introduction to the world,” muttered Duxton. “I hardly think there would be the usual group of gossipers. I was looking forward to hearing the terrible things they were going to say behind her back.” He tried to imagine it. “Look at this little core brat thinking that she’s one of us. Abusing a sweet noble boy for his influence. Does she really think she can get the smell of mold and bat shit off of her?”
Shaw chimed in. “And her father murdered Lady Larkin.”
“And her father murdered Lady Larkin!” Duxton put a hand to his chest. “I had forgotten about that! They are going to be absolutely livid with her and the Toval family!”
Sybil couldn’t hide the anger that was now streaked across her face. Her father loved Lydia. He would never in his life do anything to endanger her. To make such a claim to her face was something she wouldn’t stand for.
“Now that is a good look on you,” replied Duxton calmly. “But that is what they are going to say about you and you are expected to reply with a kind and beautiful smile.” His innocent grin shifted into a crueler look. “You and I both know that it’s the fish who is using you.
He’s the one who set this up, isn’t he? I wouldn’t think Aunt El to be the type that would so boldly welcome you into the family. You can tell me the truth... You would tell me the truth, wouldn’t you, Sybil? After all, you seemed so uneducated when it comes to our marriage traditions.”
Sybil narrowed her eyes at him. “And what if I am the one who wants this?”
“Then I would lose all the respect I’ve built up for you.” He narrowed his eyes back. “You’re clever, gloom girl, but not that sort of clever. Even if you did like the power, you seem like the type to take the direct approach.” He waved a hand at Shaw. “I won’t be attending the morning meeting. They ignore my advice and they’d get more done if I wasn’t there. Instead, I’ll be having breakfast with Sybil.”
“I was told that Sir Rosethorn would be tutoring me until I was ready to attend the meetings with you,” said Sybil. “I was only to spend the afternoon with you during the first few weeks.” That had been covered in the updated briefing she had received yesterday.
Duxton was shocked that she would be so dismissive of his company. “Sir Rosethorn is unavailable at this time, hence why you have been sent to me. We deal with war and politics within these walls and it is an ever-changing world. I am the only person whose attention you should be seeking.”
Shaw wasn’t convinced that they should deviate from their schedule. “Sir, they will be discussing-”
“I don’t care!” Duxton spat back. “For once I’m graced with the company of a woman who holds no desire for either my crown or my bed. Allow me to idle for a spell as I take my time to understand her better.”
Shaw took a step back. Duxton had startled him by raising his voice. “... I’ll arrange for a carriage.”
Once more was she whisked away while Shaw gave her a list of her duties. She would accompany Prince Duxton wherever he wished to go for as long as he wished to have her company. Her nights would be spent at the Toval estate. Whenever Rosethorn was available, he would act as her tutor. At no point was she allowed to speak in public unless she received a nod from Duxton first. This, above any other rule, was the most important.
Her role was to keep quiet and listen. She was to make a good impression on anyone she met. There were times where she will be viewed as a representative of the Violet court. Nothing should be done to tarnish the Duchess’ name. As the weeks went on, she would be allowed more freedoms, but for now, she was to be nothing more than a mere ornament.
They were brought to a cafe and the prince and her were given a veranda for their personal use. It was snowing again, but only in small flakes that took their time to fall to the ground. An umbrella had been positioned above the pair, but that didn’t stop Sybil from being cold. She also didn’t like how Beat and Shaw were inside the restaurant and wouldn’t be able to hear any of their conversations.
Sybil was asked to talk about her own interests, so she did. She talked about the core, the misconceptions of the people that lived within it, and about golems. Duxton nodded along, occasionally taking a bite of his apple and raisin porridge as he did so. After a time, he set down his spoon and frowned at her.
“You are by far the most boring individual I have ever met,” he said bluntly.
She had been warned by Lady Till that she had a habit of being dull. Nobles liked to discuss frivolous things. Art, gossip, adventures. Those were topics that she had refrained from bringing up. Sybil was kidnapped recently, fought a would-be, and apparently had gotten married. It didn’t even occur to her to talk about any of that. However, she also found all three events to be quite traumatizing. Her nose scrunched up at the memories.
“... I-I own a horse.”
Duxton yawned. “The glasstrotter. I know... A woman’s breed.” He placed his elbow on the table and put his chin within the palm of his hand. “Go on. I’ve got nothing to lose from this... Have you named him?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Do you even know what an oyster is?”
“No.” Alton had told her that it was kind of like a snail, but the shell was flat with no flesh exposed. None of that made sense to her but that’s what he claimed it was. “Oyster is the name he had before and he wouldn’t respond to other names... He and I don’t get along.” Sybil frowned at the thought. “I think he’s an ass.”
“You’re a lady now. Ladies are not supposed to say ‘ass.’” He raised his mug of hot tea at her. “But I will not mind it as long as it’s said in private company... While we’re at it, might I ask a question about your horse?” She nodded. “If he’s such an ass, why not name him Alton? The personalities appear to be a match.”
“Toval isn’t as well endowed as a horse,” she replied flatly. “Why would I boost his ego by naming a stallion after him?”
Duxton stared at her for a moment. She was serious. Sybil picked up her teacup and sipped on it. Her head then turned towards the edge of the veranda. Carapace looked so dull in winter. Then again, she always thought the outerland looked dull… The sudden sound of laughter made her look back at Duxton, who was now clutching at his stomach.
“Y-you can tell a joke. I can’t believe it.”
She shook her head. “That wasn’t a joke. It’s the truth.”
He leaned back in the chair and smirked to himself. “Then you should learn about comedy. Another note, stay off topics involving anything to do with whatever babel you mentioned earlier. Educate yourself to be entertaining. You have an interesting list of kills and people adore tales of violence. Especially when it comes to necromancers.”
Sybil’s eyes fell to the table as she remembered Bog Vale. Freshly killed corpses rising up against their will and being ordered to kill their friends and allies. Her life was also on the line. “... There is nothing entertaining about death.”
“Not to those who have witnessed it first hand, but these are nobles you are dealing with.” He twirled his finger about the air in an amusing manner. “I would be surprised if any had experienced an injury as serious as a papercut. To them, the truth of our world is nothing more than a well-spun fantasy. You should read some of those copper dreadful books that Beat has been collecting. They’re far worse than anything you could come up with.”
She didn’t have a response to that. It did seem true. Everything was pampered at Braytons. Even death was played off as a warm hug that brought you to someplace safe. Squires were sometimes nobles who would use the experience as their sole source of adventure before they would be returned to rich lives of comfort. Her own experiences were rare when compared to what the other squires had gone through.
“Come along.” Duxton stood up and held out his hand for her to take. “I don’t need Shaw nagging me if we’re late to our next appointment. Despite your overall uselessness, I am looking forward to having you as an excuse for when I’m feeling lazy. No one will judge me if I am taking care of my cousin who is experiencing ‘womanly issues.’ If you feel the urge to leave, feel free to faint. It’s considered the polite thing to do.”
Sybil begrudgingly accompanied him along with his daily tasks. This involved him greeting people and watching him talk to them at length while she tried not to yawn. Or it involved \him making a speech and clapping for him afterward. She really was nothing more than an ornament. It bothered her a great deal.
By late afternoon, she had been escorted to a private room in the hotel. A dress had been sent over from the Toval estate for her to wear to the party, and she was given a set of servants to prepare her hair and makeup.
The loveliness of the gown did nothing to make her happy, as this was just another example of her working as an ornament. She had to remember to tell people that her outfit was from Woven Silk, the best new dress shop in town. Be sure to stop by and take a tour before they had their grand opening. Blah blah, she didn’t really care.
She was given the opportunity to give herself check using the mirror but only spent her time staring at her reflection, wondering what had become of her life. Her outfit was a grey-blue bell-shaped skirt, with slits that hid pink and white flowers. They opened up whenever she moved this way or that. The short jacket that had come with it was a pale green color and had more flowers embroidered upon it.
Her hair was pulled back in a simple braid. A ribbon was hanging off the bottom and it had been decorated with charms. Having longer hair was a pain, but Lady Till had ordered her to grow it out. She also couldn’t understand why she had forced herself to wear Alton’s ring. He had seriously made her angry, but it also felt weird to be without it. Especially after she had been kidnapped. It was like an ill risk to not carry it with her.
Looking at her hair once more, she then frowned at her gold tiara. It made her look like a princess. Sybil had never wanted to be a princess. She was a squire. Duxton wouldn’t even let strap her daggers to her legs underneath this skirt, even though there was plenty of space. It was better for her to carry her weapons. Those were just as much of a good luck charm as her ring was.
Beat knocked at the door frame. “Are you ready?”
“Yes, sir. Apologies for the delay.” She held her skirt up as she walked over and politely performed a curtsy.
He studied her for a moment. “Nobles are poison.” She was surprised by the remark. “Humans, in general, are pathetic. The noble class especially so.” His eyes momentarily flashed dark, almost as though they had tried to change color. “... Don’t let them break you.”
“I suppose you’d rather be hunting tainted beasts. I know I would be happier doing so.”
“I have an important role in this mission. My dedication will one day prove itself. What they are making you do is a waste of your talents.” He let out a disgusted scoff. “Keep your silence, refrain from making enemies, and maybe we’ll both get through this. Five weeks. We only need to last until then.”
She let out a laugh. It was good news to hear. There was at least one ally with her when she was out with Duxton and she couldn’t think of a reason not to trust Beat. He had issues with being grumpy and only seemed to hang around the prince in an effort to keep an eye on him. She nodded to herself. He was definitely someone she could trust.
Beat offered her his elbow and she gladly took it. They walked together through the hall and into a grand ballroom that was flooded with people. An elderly woman was at the center of it all. She was surrounded by fine gifts that she most likely had no use for.
Wine she couldn’t drink due to her blood pressure, candied nuts that would damage her toothless gums, and earrings to heavy for her thin-skinned ears... But she did seem to enjoy the bouquet of peonies that she kept in her lap. She would lift it up to her face every once in a while in order to take a deep breath.
Despite it being a party, not a single person dared to dance. The music wouldn’t allow for it. It was fast-paced and riveting. A violin engaging in a twisting duel with a piano rather than harmoniously performing a duet. All eyes were glued upon the stage, where Alton attacked his instrument viciously while an older man fought to keep up with him.
Sybil was equally transfixed. There was passion in the way he played. She could see it in the subtle smile that was on his lips. His eyes were closed and he let the visions that crossed his mind dictate what he played. Yet through it all, Sybil couldn’t understand why no one wished to move. It took everything she had to not spring forward and dance along with it.
The hall erupted into applause when they finished their performance. A silence then washed over the crowd as the pair began their next piece. Slow this time, with each note hanging delicately in the air. The crowd began to pair off and Sybil felt her hand being taken into someone else’s.
“Sybil.” Duxton whisked her away to the dancefloor before she had a chance to object. “Time to see if you’ve improved.”
This was a prank of his and she knew it. People were staring just as hard at her as they had been at Alton moments ago. Suddenly those dance lessons she had never cared about before were the most important thing in the world. Especially with Duxton purposely increasing the difficulty of his footwork. She was being forced to follow along with every prayer in her head wishing that she wouldn’t trip.
“Step and hop, step and hop. Sidestep, fencer’s position.” He abruptly looped his arm about the small of her back as she nearly tripped, lifting her off of the ground in the process. They gracefully twirled about before he set her down again. “When I say fencer’s position, I truly meant a fencer’s position.”
“I used daggers for dueling,” she muttered.
“Backstep, clockwise,” they twirled one way. “Forward, counter,” then they twirled in the other direction. “Surely you must have learned something practical,” he hissed out.
“Daggers are completely practical,” she spat back. He rolled his eyes at the remark.
He continued to give her biting words as they danced. Sybil could do nothing but sigh with relief as the music came to a halt. She then looked up to Duxton with a scowl, but he replied with a smile.
“There are people still watching. What do you suppose they’ll think when they see you make that sort of face to a prince?”
Her expression immediately softened. “Thank you for the dance,” she whispered.
“The pleasure is mine.” He half dragged, half escorted her off the dance floor while working his way towards Shaw. The paladin was speaking to a woman around his age. “I believe that is enough of an appearance from me tonight?”
“It is, sir.” Shaw turned his back to the woman rather than politely excused himself from the conversation. He ignored her completely while she stood there awkwardly. “Am I to arrange company for you tonight?”
Duxton shook his head and tightened his grip on Sybil’s arm. “I have my cousin. Wouldn’t you agree that is enough?”
“Her husband is coming,” muttered Beat.
Beat’s sudden presence behind them made Sybil nearly jump. She hadn’t even sensed him approaching... Was that what she had been doing to people this entire time? The thought made her feel awkward. Maybe she could reconsider how she appeared before others in the future.
“Tch.” Duxton took a step away from Sybil, and his teeth gritted together with annoyance. “Beat. Fetch Rebecca for me. I need Gildenboot’s report on their activities so I can put it in my records.”
“Rebecca has already submitted her daily report with me. I have left it on your desk for your review.” Beat’s apathy towards the situation only succeeded in further infuriating the prince.
Shaw intervened before Duxton could have a chance to explode. “I will handle it, sir. Allow me to make your evening arrangements.” That did little to appease Duxton, but he scoffed as though he would accept that decision.
Alton finally finished weaving his way through the crowd. He had his violin in one hand and his bow in the other. His eyes darted among those present. “Evening... How are all of you doing tonight?”
“Leaving,” replied Duxton coldly. He tossed a glare towards Sybil. “Beat will be arriving early tomorrow. Don’t leave him waiting. I want to have breakfast at a reasonable hour.”
Duxton gave a nod to Beat and both he and Shaw followed the prince out. This left Alton alone with Sybil. He briefly smiled, then frowned, then furrowed his brows. “How was your day? Are you doing well?”
Sybil gave Alton a nod.
“Still not talking to me?” She nodded again. “May I at least give you a hug?” Her eyes darted between the bow and violin. “Ah, right. He hooked the bow onto one of the fingers of his opposite hand in order to free it up. “I have a room set aside with my belongings. Follow me for a moment so I can put this away?” Not wanting to be left alone in this crowd, she agreed.
Alton led her to a small room located just outside the ballroom. Pulling a case out from within the closet, he put away his instrument. He then turned to her, keeping out of arm’s reach out of fear that she would try to hit him. “I was playing for a while. Did you see some of the performance?” She nodded. “Did… Did you like it?”
He was ripe with worry, as though her opinion mattered a great deal to him. Because of course it did. Alton wanted to impress her. Impress might be the wrong word... He wanted her to have pride in the man she had chosen to be with, but chosen might be the wrong word as well. Forced was more like it.
Alton wanted her to have pride in the man she was forced to be with.
… Phrasing it that way left Alton filled with immense guilt.
“I guess it was alright.” Sybil shrugged and looked off to the side.
Hearing her voice was a weight off of his shoulders. “Do you want to go home?” She nodded again. “I need to say goodbye to some people and see if Jory needs any help before we leave. It will only take a few minutes. I would offer to have you come with me, but we’d be forced to stay here for who knows how long as people lined up to congratulate our marriage. I don’t want to make you do anything like that... You shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable.”
Her eyes flitted to him for a moment before looking away again. “Because you have never done anything that would ever make me feel uncomfortable... You’re all about making decisions that I am fully comfortable with.”
“... Please don’t be like this.” He pleaded with her as she shot him a glare. “Wait here. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
She held out her hand for him to take. “It’s fine. Go ahead and introduce me as your wife.”
“... No.” Alton was suspicious of her motives. “This is a trap. Why are you suddenly making this into a trap? I already know that I’ve done something absolutely inexcusable. You don’t have to force yourself to participate for my benefit.”
Sybil kept her hand extended. “It’s good for the core businesses, isn’t it? That’s why you and Jory are here? You need to take as much time as you can to make them work and I will agree to do my part as well.”
“You mean that?” He leaned over so that he were looking eye to eye. “You really mean that?”
“I do,” she said quietly, averting his gaze as she did so.
He straightened up again. “That’s good! No, that’s great. That’s really great! Give me a second before we go.” Alton took her right hand and slipped off her ring so he could place it upon her left. He then kissed her fingers before removing his own ring. “Here you go.” He held it out for her to take.
“Are you being serious?”
“Absolutely.” He placed it into the palm of her hand and closed her fingers around it.
“Everyone already knows that we’re married. There isn’t a point.” Alton silently extended his left hand again. She quickly slipped the ring on his finger. “Happy?”
“Yes…” He took her hands into his own and lowered his voice to a quiet whisper. His voice still sounded slightly raspy, even more so when he spoke like this. “You look beautiful tonight.” Alton then struggled with how he wanted to phrase his feelings. “I… I love you, Sybil. I’m sorry that I’m only good at hurting you, but please remember that I’m never going to leave your side. I promise you that much. No matter what happens, know that I am always going to love you.”
She was stunned by his response. Through the ring, she could feel his heart racing. He could probably feel the same from her. Sybil had no idea how she was supposed to reply to his vow.
Alton used her moment of confusion to close the distance between them. Their lips met for a gentle and brief kiss. It tasted slightly sweet from the wine he had been drinking and felt both cold and moist. Her cheeks felt hot though. That heat didn’t go away as he rested his forehead against her shoulder. His hands settled on her hips, modestly holding her for a moment.
“Thank you for bearing with my stupid requests. We can go now.” He enjoyed the tender contact between them for a moment longer before pulling away.
He offered her his elbow and she took it. The rest of the evening was a blur. She was certain she said little, offering nothing but a bashful smile as people congratulated her on their marriage. Alton was beaming. The smile on his face couldn’t be broken as he went from person to person. Afterward, they went home together. He led her to her room, kissed her hand, and wished her goodnight before leaving.
She didn’t bother to get changed, instead opting to flop down on the bed in order to stare up at the ceiling. Sleep had become a foreign concept. Her fingers traced her lips in an effort to recapture the sensation that Alton had placed there hours ago.
There were words that were dancing about in her head but none of them were positive. Hate, anger, a tense void that she felt trapped within… Beat was right. Nobles are poison and Alton was the worst of them all. His kindness, his words, even his touch was a vile infection that was threatening to take a hold of her.
And she hated it.