It’s been a pleasure bringing you free previews of Lauren Skidmore’s debut novel, “What is Hidden,” over the past few weeks, but, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.
And so it is with today’s final peek at the Cinderella-inspired “What is Hidden,” which is receiving great review after great review on its blog tour.
Check back in June for a Q&A session with Skidmore.
As Evie struggles to put her life back together after her mask and identity were stolen from her, she begins work in the palace as a serving girl. She can’t help but be a little overwhelmed on her first night on the job, especially when there’s royalty involved.
The Royal Family was here.
I didn’t know if I was supposed to do anything, since I was already standing, but it seemed rude to not do anything. Again, I looked to the other servers for direction. They bowed their heads, so I did the same, hoping I didn’t stand out as much as I thought I did.
My eyes were probably supposed to be glued to the floor, but I couldn’t help but sneak peeks at the incoming procession.
Two guards led the way, followed by the Speaker and then the princess. The king and queen entered side by side, and the prince followed behind them. Two more guards brought up the tail end.
Do they really have to travel with guards everywhere? I wondered, remembering the Square and the abundance of guards there. Or is this just for show?
If it was just for show, it was certainly an impressive show. It was easy to see the guard standard: at least a head taller than I, a thin but muscled physique, and sharp eyes that peered out at the crowd through plain, silver, full- faced masks.
The royal family was completely covered, though the king and queen’s dark eyes were visible. They were all draped in elegant white fabrics and jewels, and each had a mask that I had never seen before. I wondered if they had a new one every day. That would be exhausting for the makers. Perhaps these were simply their dining masks.
The bottom halves of their faces were still covered, just with opaque veils instead of full masks. The iridescent veils and their white face-masks were covered in swirling patterns of silver. It was like watching a living painting as they paraded by.
They made a complete circle around the perimeter of the room, not speaking to anyone—of course, they didn’t ever speak—and when they passed by me, I certainly kept my head and eyes down. I felt them pass me, and when I’d thought they’d moved far enough away from me, I lifted my eyes again to watch them.
The prince’s head was turned almost completely toward me.
There was no denying he was looking at me. It wasn’t like there was anything behind or near me to catch his attention. My eyes shot back down to the ground, and I started to panic. Had I done something wrong? Was there something wrong with my uniform? I knew my mask was secure—I’d checked it at least a dozen times before leaving my room—and my bandage was completely hidden.
I chanced another glance. By then he had walked past me, so in order to see me he would have to turn around and walk back, and I knew he wouldn’t do that.
He’d fallen back into line, as if nothing had happened, but I couldn’t help but notice how tense his shoulders looked. As I stared, they shook once, as if he were laughing—or crying—to himself, then they completely relaxed.
I narrowed my eyes.