The stairs landed onto a wide hallway, its marbled floor arranged in small squares, some black some white. To The Bird, it looked like a giant checkerboard.
Not seeing anyone in the corridor, The Bird walked down tentatively — she remembered that nobody beside her mother seemed able to detect her, but didn’t feel comfortable in testing that theory. There were a series of doors on either side of the corridor, some opening to unoccupied rooms, others closed.
She felt herself relax, almost reflexively. Having fled the sudden violence in the Queen her mother’s room, then racing down the stairs, her body seemed to recognize that now, in the quiet of this deserted hall, was time to rest. Her eyes caught sight of an ornate wooden chair, its back absurdly height; she walked over, and sat.
She looked down at the checkerboard pattern of the floor, and a memory came to her — the tiled floor of the Bark Bay High School cafeteria, where she practiced on Tuesday afternoons with the fencing team, the same group of people she was now desperately seeking. No the cafeteria floor wasn’t marble, was made of some cheap material that was as easy to chip as it was to clean, and the pattern wasn’t a checkerboard, but rather a series of white rectangular islands in a sea of black. Mr. Jacobs had told her the layout had made the cafeteria a much more desirable practice location than either the new or old gymnasium. “Each rectangle’s nearly half the size of a fencing strip. We don’t have to lay down tape for practice — we just fence within the white areas.”