The night air was uncharacteristically cool and crisp. Lila didn't know what she was doing; she shouldn't be out here this late, and especially with a prince. What if they got caught? Lila could end up back in the dungeons for this. She didn't even know why she agreed to go with Dimitrius to the servant graves. She knew that there was little to no hope that they would actually find her parents' graves. There were hundreds of different tombstones scattered over the graveyard, not to mention the unmarked graves. Lila felt her heart shrink. What if her parents' graves didn't have a tombstone? What if the royalty had just covered them with dirt and leaves and simply left it at that? Lila felt her eyes prickles with tears at the thought of her parents being thrown away like they meant nothing to anybody. They meant everything to her. Suddenly, a familiar voice brought Lila out of her thoughts.
"So, what were your parents like?", Dimitrius asked. Lila turned her attention to him. He still held the candle, and the light flickered across his face. His dark hair seemed to blend in with the night. However, it was his eyes that caught Lila's attention. Although they were darkly colored, Lila could still see a small sparkle in them. They had never sparkled like that before. At least, not while Lila was around.
"Lila?", Dimitrius' voice broke in. She looked at him with a questioning look.
"Your parents?", he reminded. 'Oh,' Lila thought. She had two options now. She could retort with a sarcastic comment and start in on Dimitrius about how they were going to be caught and how irresponsible he was. Or, she could tell him the truth. For a reason that Lila would never understand, she chose the latter.
"My parents were wonderful. Kind, caring, and loving," she replied. Dimitrius motioned for her to go on.
"My father was rather protective, but he meant well. He was the greatest father that he could be. He taught me so many things...I suppose you could say he was my main educator," Lila said.
"What kind of things did you learn?", Dimitrius asked casually. Lila paused for a moment as they rounded a tree. When they straightened their path, she continued.
"Oh, anything my father could teach me, really. I learned what every child learns; mathematics, how to read, write, and of course, the history of Nouvelle. But that's not all," Lila said as she saw Dimitrius opening his mouth to speak.
"I was taught many other skills. My father showed me how to read the stars and told me the legends of the people that they were named after. He taught me the habits and rituals of the animals and magical creatures. Oh, he also taught me swordplay," Lila concluded with a nostalgic smiled. Dimitrius raised his eyebrows and grinned slightly.
"You know how to handle a weapon?", he asked.
"Of course," Lila replied, "Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I can't fight."
Dimitrius put his hands up in protest.
"Oh, I wasn't suggesting that. I was just thinking that I might have to watch my back from now on," he said playfully. Lila couldn't help but smile slightly.
"Don't pretend. You've been watching your back since you first met me," Lila said in a mock serious tone. Dimitrius rolled his eyes.
"What was your mother like?", he asked after a moment. Lila's face relaxed into a large smile.
"She was amazing," Lila began, "She was the most imaginative, creative, and kind person I've ever known."
There was a short silence before Lila spoke again.
"She encouraged me to use my mind and imagination all the time. I think that's what I loved best about her. While other parents were scolding their children for living in imaginary worlds, my mother would help me create mine," Lila mused. She looked back up to Dimitrius, who was smiling.
"Is this it?", he asked suddenly. Lila looked around and nodded.
"Then let's start looking," Dimitrius said. They spent the next several hours looking at gravestone after gravestone, occasionally pointing out funny names or making small talk.
After some time, Lila and Dimitrius began to grow tired. They had been searching for what seemed like an eternity. Lila knew the likelihood of them finding her parents' graves wasn't very high. However, she didn't want to give up just yet. Something in Dimitrius' determination had flooded into her. Lila was beginning to become confused. She couldn't tell if she liked or disliked Dimitrius, and she did not like that feeling.
The two searched for another fifteen minutes or so before they looked at each other and realized they were thinking the same thing: I've got to rest. Lila sat down against an ivy covered tombstone. Dimitrius sat against a similar tombstone next to her. They rested in silence. After a while, Lila looked over to Dimitrius to tell him that she was ready to resume searching. However, she abruptly noticed that Dimitrius Cane, Prince of Enderth, was sleeping. 'I suppose he's not a night owl,' Lila thought. She felt an uncontrollable smile creep up on her face. She watched as his chest rose and fell peacefully. His eyes were closed lightly and his head rested on his shoulder. Lila almost felt bad for waking him. Almost. She took her forefinger and poked playfully at Dimitrius' chest. It took four good pokes to jerk him out of his sleep. Waking with a start, Dimitrius quickly grabbed Lila's hand, the source of the poking. Lila widened her eyes briefly, but aptly recovered.
"Dimitrius, it's okay. It's just me. It's just me," Lila said laughingly. Dimitrius regained his focus, and then smiled. Lila stared at him for a moment, and then shifted her gaze to the ground, pulling her hand away.
"I think we should head back," she said quietly. Dimitrius' smile faded and he wrinkled his eyebrows.
"But we've got to be close! If we search for just a bit longer-"
"We probably won't find them, Dimitrius. We've looked for hours and we don't even know if we're anywhere near their graves. Listen, I really appreciate what you tried to do. Honest. But I think we're both tired, and we need to get back. Besides, what if we accidentally fall asleep here? The royal family will wake up and you'll be nowhere to be found. We can't risk that," Lila finished. After a few seconds, Dimitrius nodded in agreement. He looked disappointed, and Lila wondered if he was disappointed in her or himself.
As they got up, Lila felt herself trip over a root. She turned around, annoyed, and tried to kick the root in return. She missed and scraped some of the ivy off of the tombstone she had been sitting against. Dimitrius let out a snicker. Lila rolled her eyes and turned to go when something caught her attention. Lila stopped and looked closely at the tombstone. She saw the beginning of a familiar name. Lila's heart skipped a beat. It couldn't be. She immediately ripped off the remaining ivy. It was. Lila turned to the tombstone beside the one she had just cleared. The ivy came flying off as she ripped it from the tombstone.
When she was done, Lila sat back on her knees and looked at the two names etched in stone. Edric Brede and Kalei Brede. Lila covered her mouth with her hand, her eyes filling up with tears. She rocked back and forth, and then threw herself in the space between her parents' graves. She vaguely heard Dimitrius whisper that he would give her a minute. He walked over beside a tree in the distance. Lila had found her parents' graves. After all these years, she had finally found them. She let out a soft cry and hugged each tombstone.
"Mother, Father...Oh, I've missed you so much. I - I can't even explain how much I've missed you. Mother, I'm a handmaiden to Princess Giselle now. Karmella, too. And, Father, I try to behave...I always hear your voice. I don't know how I've lived without you these years. I know you can see me from the afterlife, but I wish I could see you, too. I love you. I love you both so much," Lila cried.
Lila spent a good while lying in between her parents' tombstones. She told them of her new life and all that she had done. She told them about her trip to the magical realms. She told them about Dimitrius and how confused she was about him and Giselle. Lila wished that her parents could respond to her questions. She knew that they would have good advice for her. After another few minutes, Lila sat back up on her knees and wiped away a couple stray tears. She looked at her parents' graves for a long time, whispered a small 'I love you', and stood up. After brushing off her knees, she looked around and saw Dimitrius sitting up against a nearby tree. Lila walked over to him. Dimitrius looked up with a smile.
"Did you say everything you wanted to?", he asked kindly. Lila nodded. She helped Dimitrius up.
"I think we should head back now. It's almost early morning," Lila said. Dimitrius nodded, and they turned to leave the graveyard. As they walked further and further away from Lila's parents' graves, she felt a melancholy peace overcome her. Lila and Dimitrius walked the rest of the way in silence. They were both reflecting on what had happened. Lila felt as if she had finally gotten to say the goodbye that she was so wrongfully denied as a child. She knew that her words and feelings had been understood.
When they finally came to the servants' quarters, there was a distinct silence. Lila and Dimitrius stared at each other, and then began to speak at the same time. After a short laugh, Lila motioned for Dimitrius to speak. He grinned sheepishly.
"I hope you got to say everything you needed to," he said. Lila smiled.
"I did. Listen, thank you for this. I don't know how it's possible that we ever found them. I...I just really appreciate what you've done for me," Lila said quietly. Dimitrius took her hand, causing her to look at him.
"It was my pleasure, my lady", Dimitrius said genuinely. Lila laughed lightly and smiled. There was a pause, and Dimitrius' eyes flashed to Lila's mouth. Her smile faltered slightly, and she bit her bottom lip. Dimitrius let go of Lila's hand and brushed her hair back from her face. He then cupped her cheek in his palm. As Dimitrius leaned in, Lila's eyes fluttered closed. In what seemed like both a second and an eternity, Dimitrius brushed his lips lightly against hers. Lila felt an explosion of joy. She took her hands and encircled them around Dimitrius' neck, pulling him closer. She felt him smile against her lips, and she smiled in return. For the first time in months, the two felt perfectly in tune with each other. No fights, no sarcasm, just two people who knew exactly where they wanted to be.
However, what they didn't know was that they were not alone. Not far from the embracing couple, Karmella stood staring out of the crudely cut window of the servant house, her hand over her mouth. 'Oh, Lila,' she thought, 'What have you gotten yourself into?"