Prince Dimitrius was cordially invited to stay at the castle to prepare for his wedding with Princess Giselle. He sent word to his parents, the king and queen of Enderth, that he would be staying in Nouvelle. They were thrilled and immediately gave their consent for their son to stay. In honor of Prince Dimitrius' visit, he was given the expected royal treatment. His own room, rooms for his servants, personal maids, and stables for his horses were among many of the perks. In fact, the King and Queen of Nouvelle had decided to prepare a ball in recognition of the upcoming marriage between Prince Dimitrius and Princess Giselle. The entire kingdom breathed a sigh of relief when the news was broken. Yes, everyone was happy for the arrangement. Everyone, that is, except Lila.
She found the whole situation annoying, to say the least. In all of her years of being Princess Giselle's handmaiden, she had never seen her fall for a prince so quickly and without question. It all seemed too...fast for her liking. Not to mention her relationship with Giselle was dwindling. Lila and Karmella had used to be on such good terms with the princess, but since Prince Dimitrius had arrived, they had been addressed only by "servant" or "slave" instead of their names. Of course, Lila would remind herself that she was, in fact, a servant. That was her place, and she had been lucky to serve a princess who treated her as a person, not an item. Whenever she reminded herself of this, Lila would also be reminded of her father's ideals. As the days went by, Lila grew more bitter at the thought of Giselle marrying Prince Dimitrius. Every moment that she was around them seemed to last forever, and today was no different.
Lila and Karmella were helping to prepare breakfast for the royal family and Prince Dimitrius. The kitchen staff had been up for hours working to make a perfect meal, and the two handmaidens had joined them shortly after they had finished helping Giselle to dress. Lila's servant dress had been clean and white earlier that morning, but now it was covered in mixed stains of dough, flour, and egg. She had twisted her curly, brown hair into a knot so that it would not fly in her face as she prepared breakfast. This process was working - mostly. There were still wild strands of hair that made their way into her face, but she would tug them behind her ear, each tug more aggressive than the first. At the moment, Lila was kneading dough for bread. She worked her fingers and knuckles deep into the dough, attempting to exercise every ounce of anger into her work. This process did not go unnoticed by Karmella. She looked at Lila with concern.
"I think that is ready to go into the oven", Karmella said calmly. Lila shook her head and kneaded harder into the softness of the dough. Karmella sighed and moved closer to Lila, eggs and a bowl in her hands. She began to crack the eggs as she spoke.
"You know, Lila, we'll have to let go eventually. She does have to marry at some point", Karmella said. Lila continued to pound the dough.
"Plus, it doesn't matter if you or I don't like him, though I must admit that I do", Karmella added. Lila shot her an ugly look at this point. Karmella continued with grace, "It doesn't matter if all the servants in the world don't like him. It only matters if she likes him. Because she's what counts. And because that's all we are. I know you know we've been lucky to have such kind royalty to work for, but in the end we are who we are. And you and I, Lila, we're servants. So put that dough in the oven, and help me serve the royalty, okay?"
Lila stopped working the dough, her head lowered. Karmella could tell that she was holding back tears. Karmella gently took the dough out of Lila's hands, but as she was turning towards the oven, Lila grabbed her wrist.
"Karmella, you surprise me", Lila said harshly. Karmella was so surprised by the sudden voice that she almost dropped the dough. Lila continued, "Of course I know that Giselle must marry one day, but I would hope it would be to a suitor who deserves her. Not one who simply walks through the door looking handsome. There should be merit behind those good looks! There should be kindness, intelligence, trustworthiness, bravery, a fondness for ogres, anything! Not just a lovely face", Lila said strongly. Karmella stared at her, casually surprised by her outburst. Lila didn't notice Karmella's expression and continued on with her rant.
"Plus, so what if we're servants! We're still living beings, aren't we? We deserve the same basic rights as anyone else! Why do our opinions not matter? Giselle may be a princess, but her blood is as red as ours. And her kindness to me has meant as much to me as yours, so why shouldn't I be concerned with whom she decides to marry?", Lila said, raising her voice with every sentence. She waited for an answer from Karmella, but none came. Lila grew anxious.
"Well?", she asked. Karmella smiled, put the dough in the oven, and took Lila's hand. She began to speak very slowly.
"You, Lila, are an amazing handful. And one day, the world will bow its head to you. But for now, you are who you are, and you're in this situation. So, again I ask you, help me serve the royalty. Okay?", Karmella finished, smiling at Lila sincerely. Lila held Karmella's gaze for a moment, but then laughed lightly and nodded her head. They both grabbed a basket of fresh fruit to serve and began to walk to the dining hall. Before they reached the doors, Karmella turned to Lila.
"Besides, now I know your secret", she said. Lila opened the door with one hand.
"Oh really? And what might that be?", Lila asked with a smile. As Karmella walked through the door, she whispered the reply that would cause furious blushing on Lila's part.
"You think he's handsome."