The next day, after leaving the fairy realm, Lila, Karmella, and the rest of the servants traveled to the remaining realms of Nouvelle. They delivered invitations to the centaur, dwarf, griffin, and sphinx realms. As the ones before them, they were all special in their own way. Lila enjoyed the wisdom of the centaurs, the humor of the dwarfs, the pride of the griffins, and the riddles of the sphinxes. However, Lila's favorite would always be the fairy realm. But, that was neither here nor there, as the servants had completed their task and were headed back home.
As they neared the castle, the guards opened the gates to allow them entrance. Lila noticed pure white horses pulling Giselle's carriage away from the castle steps. Clearly, she and the queen had just arrived. Lila lead the way up the steps and through the tall castle doors. As they entered, the servants began to disperse. They all went to the part of the palace that they worked in. Karmella asked a passing guard if he knew where Princess Giselle was. He pointed towards the grand staircase. Lila followed Karmella up the steps and to Giselle's bedroom. They knocked politely and waited. Soon after they knocked, Giselle opened the door, and in a flurry, pulled the two handmaidens inside.
"Oh, there you two are!", Giselle exclaimed, "I've been waiting for you to return! Come, look at what mother bought for me!"
Lila followed Giselle to her bed, where there was a dress. It was a dark, ocean blue with an ivory sash tied around the middle. From what Lila could tell, it was low cut with a tapered waist that fluffed out into an iconic ball gown skirt. It was beautiful. Lila took a quick glance at Karmella and could tell that she was thinking the same thing. Lila resisted the urge to run her hand over the gown - she had never seen a dress this gorgeous. Lila turned to Giselle, who was smiling widely.
"I thought you were only picking out materials...," Lila trailed off. Giselle didn't seem to notice.
"I know, so did I, but it turned out that mother had intended for Mavelle - the dressmaker - to make the dress while we were there. It was amazing; I was sized and picked out my materials when we first got there, and for the rest of our stay, Mavelle worked on the dress! It was definitely the fastest dress making I've ever seen!", Giselle replied cheerily.
It was then that Lila realized that Giselle didn't really appreciate the work that went in to making the nice things that she owned. It was never anything special to her, just another necklace or dress, another homemade dinner or carriage ride. Each item that she had or luxury that she experienced was quickly forgotten and replaced by whatever came next. Giselle expected everything to be handed to her, and although that idea may be subconscious, it bothered Lila to know that one of her lifelong friends could be so shallow.
She looked back up to Giselle who had continued with her speech about her new gown. Giselle mentioned that the fabric was from the elf realm and that the sash was from the mermaid realm. Or something like that. Lila wasn't really paying attention anymore. She suddenly found it hard to focus on the words of someone she once thought she knew so well.
A knock at Giselle's bedroom door brought Lila out of her reverie. Out of habit, Lila walked towards the door and opened it, only to find herself face to face with Dimitrius. Lila immediately looked to the floor, the windows, anywhere but his eyes. She opened and closed her mouth, trying to think of something to say. Luckily, he spoke for her.
"Are you going to move, or am I meant to walk through you?" Dimitrius asked in a playful tone. Lila was not amused. Could he not see that she was in no mood for jokes? She opened her mouth once more to respond harshly, but instead Giselle took her turn to speak.
"Lila, do move for the prince, won't you?", Giselle spoke giddily. Lila moved, but not before sparing a glare in Dimitrius' direction. Dimitrius only grinned in response. Lila, however, was going to make her point one way or another. So, as the prince was walking into the room, Lila proceeded to stomp on his foot as hard as she could. Dimitrius let out a loud yelping noise as Lila muttered a fake 'oops'. When he glared at her, Lila only returned the goofy grin.
"Lila!" Giselle yelled, clearly embarrassed. She walked quickly over to Lila, grabbed her arm, and steered Lila out of the room.
"We'll be right back!" Giselle called over her shoulder as they walked through the door. Then she turned to Lila, hurt in her eyes.
"What do you have against him?" she asked. Lila kept silent and looked towards the ground.
"Come on, Lila! Out with it! It's obvious you don't like him, and I want to know why!" Giselle said sharply. Lila frowned. There were so many possible answers to Giselle's question. Maybe because she didn't deserve Prince Dimitrius because she was a flake? Or, perhaps, on the flip side, because Prince Dimitrius couldn't seem to decide between Princess Giselle or her own handmaiden? Lila sighed inwardly. Neither of those answers would be suitable, so she reached into the pit of her stomach and pulled the most solemn face that she could muster.
"I am sorry, Your Highness", she said. Lila attempted a small, pleading smile, but it did not break Giselle's stone cold expression. Her smile faded, and Lila bowed her head in defeat.
"Lila, what am I going to do with you?" Giselle whispered. She sighed and wrapped her arms around Lila, perhaps as a sign of peace?
"Maybe you should finish up your days work in the kitchens, yes?" Giselle said. Lila stared into Giselle's eyes for a moment, but then nodded her head.
"Then off you go," Giselle said. Lila bowed her head, and then turned to go down to the kitchens.
Lila spent the rest of the day working in the kitchens, just as Giselle had asked. However, Lila didn't do it for her; she did it for the palace. She saw it's beauty and symbolism even if the princess could not. Besides, the servants of Nouvelle were proud in their own right, and it showed in their work. Lila had always put her best into what she did, even if it wasn't considered an art. She made it through lunch and dinner, standing in her regular place right next to Karmella. Every now and then, she would give Lila's hand a gentle squeeze, ensuring that her friend would indeed be okay. It was moments like those that Lila forgot that she was a servant and felt more like she was free.
After the royalty had finished their dinner, Lila, Karmella, and some kitchen servants began to pick up the plates and silver wear. They walked back and forth from the kitchen, carrying various items, some containing excess food. Lila came out of the kitchen, dusting off her apron. She looked up, saw Prince Dimitrius walking towards her, and immediately spun on her heel and headed back. She heard the quickening of footsteps.
"Oh no you don't, I want to talk to you," Dimitrius said in a louder tone than he had intended. Lila continued into the kitchen and proceeded to help the other servants clean up.
"Lila, I want to speak with you!" Dimitrius said. Lila ignored him and handed a stack of dishes to another servant. Dimitrius let out a frustrated sigh.
"Lila, I order you to come over here and talk to me!" he said harshly. Lila slammed a bowl down on a table, almost breaking it, and turned to the prince.
"What? What do you want? You want to follow me everywhere and slow down my work? Or do you want to spend the day annoying me and leading me to believe that...well...," Lila faltered for a moment, "You wanted to talk to me, so here I am! So talk! Talk, damn you, talk!"
Lila pushed the prince in the chest with one hand forcefully. He took a step backwards, but immediately recovered and moved closer to Lila. She moved to push him again, but Dimitrius grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the kitchen.
"I want to talk to you!" he whispered harshly. Lila rolled her eyes and attempted to pull her hand away from Dimitrius, but to no avail.
"Yes, I believe you've made that abundantly clear!" she responded. Dimitrius sighed.
"Look, I just want to know what you were doing up in Giselle's room? Why the hostility?" he asked. Lila looked at him incredulously. Was he serious?
"Why the hosti- what is WRONG with you? You honestly don't see any problem with toying around with me and Princess Giselle? Who do you think you are?" Lila practically shouted. Dimitrius' face went red.
"I am Prince Dimitrius of Enderth and-"
"Really? Then what kind of prince are you?" Lila interrupted. Dimitrius let out another sigh and ran his fingers through his hair.
"Why are you always this angry?" he yelled. Lila was startled at his outburst, but did her best to hide it.
"Because I deserve to be," Lila replied in a simple tone. On that note, Lila wrenched her hand out of Dimitrius', turned around, and stormed towards the kitchen. She didn't have to look back to know that Dimitrius was following her. Lila made her way through the kitchen and out the door towards the servant's quarters. She didn't care if they put her back in the dungeon; she was done for the day. As she walked down the steps from the kitchen into the back, Lila made sure to slam the door in the face of the prince who followed her.
Lila quickened her pace and followed the familiar path to the servant's quarters. Soon, she heard footsteps behind her, and all the frustration, animosity, and sadness that she had experienced over the years seemed to swell up inside her. Lila turned around quickly to face Prince Dimitrius.
"WHAT?" she yelled, causing some nesting birds to screech and fly out of the trees. For a brief second, Prince Dimitrius looked as if he might squeal.
"Why do you follow me everywhere and expect me to switch from your friend to your servant? You can't have both, you know! So pick one or leave me the hell alone!" Lila yelled, her eyes dampening slightly. A long silence passed between the prince and the handmaiden. Lila was breathing heavily, but would not drop the prince's gaze. Eventually, Dimitrius spoke up.
"Are you quite finished?" he asked simply. Lila narrowed her eyes and shook her head slightly.
"Well, then, answer me this. You said you deserved to be angry. Why?" the prince inquired. Lila felt like pulling his hair out. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Why am I angry? Let me spell it out for you, since you clearly can't take a hint. One, I was born into a class that no one respects. Two, the people that gave me life are now dead and have been for quite some time. Three, I never got a proper chance to grieve for them or to even find out where they are buried because I had to be trained to become a servant to people like you. Four, you seem to have a strange fondness for making me confused and angry beyond all reason, and yet you won't leave me alone. And, finally, five, despite the fact that you torment me so, you will soon be marrying Giselle, the one that I wait on hand and foot, and that means that I'll never be rid of you!" Lila said. Dimitrius' eyes were wide but unreadable.
"Your parents are dead, and you don't know where they're buried?" he questioned. Lila shook her head.
"I assume that they're in the servant graveyard, but that's all I know. Can I go now?" she replied. Dimitrius stared at her with a sad expression, but then turned around and headed back to the castle. Once he was out of sight, Lila fell to the ground and cried.
It was the dead of night, and Lila was fast asleep in her servant house. She slept next to Karmella and two other female servants on a large cot. She had gotten to the servant's quarters early and had waited for Karmella to show up. When she did, Lila explained everything that had happened between her and the prince. Karmella was shocked but empathetic. She told Lila that everything would be okay and to just try to sleep. So, that's what Lila did. In fact, she was the first to fall asleep. She lay motionless, wrapped up in her dreams. That is, until she felt a poke in her side.
Lila shifted in her sleep, but soon felt two more pokes. She pulled herself out of her dreams and turned over to the side of the cot. There, with a candle sitting on the window sill, stood Prince Dimitrius.
"You've got to be kidding," Lila muttered sleepily.
"Come on," Dimitrius whispered, "Let's go."
"Are you mad? I'm not going anywhere with you, especially not now," Lila whispered harshly, coming out of her sleepy state. Dimitrius rolled his eyes and scooped Lila up in his arms.
"Hey!" she whispered, but Dimitrius cut her off.
"If you won't walk, I'll carry you," he said firmly.
"And where exactly would you carry me?" Lila whispered a little too loudly. Dimitrius let her down, grabbed the candle off of the window sill, and smiled. In the candle's light, he looked ghostly.
"We're going to find your parents' graves."