Arranged: An Array Series (Book #1)

Arranged: An Array Series (Book #1)

Hazel Grace

To my Sheep, my boys, my Mom and my Athenas


The rooftop was my only solace in this prison. The only place without screaming children, or hovering guards—just me. I pondered over my four years of current exile, taken away from my home and placed here with strangers. Looking up at the sky; the sun was setting, displaying ribbons of pinks, purples, and oranges. It was the only color I experienced outside these gray walls, which seemed to inch closer to me as the years dragged on.

I pulled a small book out of my tattered dress pocket and opened it. As the sky darkened, I lit a small candle I’d brought with me and held it by the pages. I’d been studying the Taurus star alignment for days with little progress, making my frustration grow daily.

“Knew I’d find you up here,” commented a familiar voice from behind me. I didn’t need to turn around to know Sam was approaching.

“You didn’t have to think very hard. I’m always up here,” I replied, keeping my eyes on my page.

“Always the smart aleck.” Sam sat next to me and crossed his long legs. “Did you find the jewels to the crown yet?”

I sighed. “No. I thought they’d be the easiest to find, but with all the smaller stars so clustered together, I’ve been having trouble. Now that you’re here, you can help.”

“Don’t know how much I’ll be, but I’ll try.” He reached for the book and studied it for a moment. “Doesn’t look too hard.”

I tsked. “Say that after you’ve found the Zenelou point.”

Sam furrowed his brows. “The what?”

“This star here.” I pointed to the picture. “It never seems to be bright enough for me to link it to the Aldebaran.”

“Can we eat first, and then come back up here to look for the Alde-whatever it is? Mrs. Reynolds sent me to get you.”

“What for?”

Sam squinted his eyes at me. “Are you getting senile in your old age?”

He smiled at me, and I smirked. I could never forget what today was; it was just another reminder of time, my worst enemy.

“Not until I find the Zenelou point,” I remarked, surveying the sky.

Sam hopped to his feet, moving a lock of sandy blond hair out of his face, and held his hand out for me to take. “It’s too light yet, A. C’mon.”

Rolling my eyes, I conceded and gave him my hand. He pulled me up, linking his arm in mine as I pocketed my book. We took the winding stairs to the first-floor dining room that was packed with jumping youngsters, orphans who had been here most of their lives. I chastised myself for being a brat as Sam escorted me to the head of the wooden table. I was lucky to have a parent in this world and to know I was loved. Even though I hadn’t seen him in years.

“Miss Ava, you took too long,” Henry said, his blond bouncing as he jumped in his chair.

I gave him a smile. “I apologize, Henry. I was in the middle of something.”

He squinted his olive eyes at me, not impressed with my answer. “What were you doing?”

“Looking at constellations.”

He crinkled his nose. “Boring.”

“Settle down, settle down!” Mrs. Reynolds exclaimed, pushing through the pine door that led out the kitchen. “Take your seats, children. Napkins in your laps too.”

Mrs. Reynolds set a large cider cake with raisins down in front of me. I smiled at the remembrance of my mother. She used to make this cake for me when I was a child. After she died, I'd grown more attached to Papa, using his affections to my advantage for my own selfish wants. A new doll, dress, a pony. I needed only ask, and he'd buy it right away.

Then, he bought me a one-way ticket to hell.

“Happy day of birth, my darling,” Mrs. Reynolds said, wiping her eyes. Sam handed her a handkerchief and patted her back. “You’re like one of my own; the daughter I never had.”

And she was the closest thing I had to a mother in almost a decade.

“Thank you, Mrs. Rey. It looks delicious.” She cut the cake and dispersed slices among us. “If you keep baking me heavenly things like this, it’s going to go straight to my figure.”

Mrs. Reynolds chuckled. “You’re sixteen; you run around enough with these children and those Harris boys.” Her smile was tight as she looked at me. “While you try to convince them to teach you how to wield a sword.”

I smiled the same smile I would give Papa when he was mad at me. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I may be old, but I’m not blind, Ava Barlow.” She placed her hands on her wide hips, blowing a piece of gray hair out of her face. “Ladies of sixteen do not hold swords, nor do they tramp around in the dirt in a dress.”

I wanted to tell her that my dresses weren’t worth saving, but she made sure I had ones that fit, and I appreciated it. “Well, I need to keep myself busy somehow.”

She raised a brow. “Would you like me to teach you how to knit? I can send Charlie out for yarn, and—”

“No, thank you. That sounds mundane and wearisome,” I answered, as I ate my cake. The thought of sitting for hours with yarn and needles made me cringe inwardly.

“You should be focusing on proper etiquette and decorum. Why, one day, when you are crowned—”

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