Lila and Dimitrius spent the next hour walking around the orchards, deciding which apples would be the tastiest. They would tease each other every now and then, and yet they both enjoyed themselves immensely. It was a strange feeling for Lila, going from loathing Dimitrius to actually liking him. 'Well', she thought, 'I only like him a little.' She refused to get carried away with any emotions that might overcome her. At least, that's what she told herself. As Dimitrius was reaching for an apple high up on a tree, Lila finally asked the question that had been bothering her.
"Why are you so interested in me?" she inquired. Dimitrius almost lost his balance when he heard her. He regained his composure, picked the apple, and turned around to face Lila. He took a quick bite of the apple.
"Those are for lunch, you know," Lila said slyly. Dimitrius rolled his eyes and ignored her.
"To answer your question, I don't really know," he replied. Lila raised one eyebrow. He didn't know? How was that supposed to answer her question?
"What do you mean 'I don't know'? What kind of answer is that?" Lila asked. Dimitrius shrugged.
"I don't know. I was drawn to you. Maybe it was your obvious animosity towards me. Or maybe it was your boldness. Like I said, I don't know," he responded. Lila couldn't imagine having someone being drawn to her, especially if the reason her sharp personality.
"So...it was my anger that got to you?" Lila pushed. Dimitrius shrugged once again, causing Lila to scowl.
"You know, you're not being very helpful," she pouted. Dimitrius only smiled. Lila rolled her eyes.
"I bet you do this everywhere you go," she said teasingly, "You find a maid that initially despises you and spend all your free time with her. I suppose you like taking blows to your pride?"
"Hardly. You're the only one, my lady," Dimitrius replied. Lila frowned. She had never been called a lady before, and it didn't feel right.
"Please don't call me that, your highness," Lila said dejectedly. Dimitrius furrowed his eyebrows.
"Call you what?" he asked. Lila sighed. Explaining this was really going to do a number on her pride.
"A lady. I'm not a lady, and I never will be. I'm a servant, a maid, and you know that. I appreciate the kindness that you've shown me, but calling me a lady is just a bit much. It's...it's not my status," Lila said, looking towards the ground. Dimitrius walked over to her and put one hand on her shoulder. Lila looked up in slight surprise.
"You are certainly not the definition of a proper lady, but you are the closest thing to a real lady that I've ever seen", he said in a tone so serious that Lila almost shivered. She didn't know what to say. She opened her mouth to respond, but suddenly felt something cold and metallic hit her foot. She looked down and saw Dimitrius' prize necklace from the ogres resting in the grass. Lila let out a quiet 'oh' and started to bend down to pick it up, but the prince beat her to it. He laughed as he grasped the necklace.
"I thought you might have thrown this away," Dimitrius said, admiring the pendant.
"Of course I didn't!" Lila responded, "You did give it to me."
"Oh ho, so you do appreciate acts of kindness! And here I thought you were completely made of ice," the prince joked. Lila rolled her eyes but laughed a little.
"Don't get too ahead of yourself, my heart is rather cold," Lila replied with a smile. Dimitrius chuckled. He then placed the necklace around Lila's neck and hooked the clasp. As Lila felt him lift her hair from underneath the necklace, she felt herself shiver. There was something that she felt in her heart that she had never really felt before, and she wondered if Dimitrius felt it, too. She bit her lip out of habit, and looked up at the prince, who had an unreadable look in his eyes. Lila felt his hand trail from her hair to her neck and slowly up to her cheek. The sudden silence was deafening. If Lila moved only a few inches forward she could...
"LILA!" came a shrill voice. Lila and Dimitrius immeditely seperated themselves, and Lila tucked the necklace into her servant's dress.
"LILA!" the voice screamed again. Lila quickly snapped back to reality. She recognized the voice of the head kitchen maid. How long had it been since she had sent her out for apples? Lila turned to Dimitrius, but looked towards the ground as she felt her face go hot.
"I...erm...I'm being called. Your highness," she said while curtseying. Lila turned and ran back to the castle, leaving Dimitrius stunned and pondering what almost was.
Once Lila returned to the castle, she was scolded for staying in the orchards so late. The head kitchen maid told her that she needed to keep her head out of the clouds and that she should focus on her work. This all went unheard by Lila, however. As she set the apples in the fruit bowl, all she could think about was what might have happened in the orchards. She had to be careful. Although she was enjoying her time with Prince Dimitrius, she couldn't get close to him ever again. She desperately hoped that he wouldn't mention anything to anyone in the castle. Lila didn't know what the penalty for almost kissing a prince was, but she imagined that it couldn't be anything good. Besides, he was betrothed to Giselle, and Lila certainly didn't want to hurt her. So, she decided, she would keep her distance from Dimitrius - no, Prince Dimitrius - and everything would go back to normal. As Lila finished putting the apples in the fruit bowl, she heard the familiar voice of Princess Giselle.
"I hope she's still here. I haven't had a chance to see her all day! Lila! Lila, are you in there?" Giselle said as she walked into the kitchen, Karmella in tow. Once she saw Lila, her face brightened. Lila made sure to cover her bruise from Ulric.
"There you are! Father said you had to work off what you missed this morning here, but I couldn't stand it any longer. Karmella and I have been absolutely bored. Come on, come with Karmella and me!" Giselle said very quickly and cheerfully. Lila nodded and followed Giselle out of the kitchen. As they made their way through the dining room and foyer, Giselle grasped Lila's hand for a brief moment.
"Did you notice that I'm calling you and Karmella by your names again?", she whispered, "I hope that things can be as they were."
Lila smiled weakly and nodded. Giselle laughed and began to hurry up the stairs. Karmella turned to Lila as they followed Giselle up the stairs.
"I'm sorry I couldn't visit you in the dungeons. I tried to get away, but I couldn't. Are you alright?" she asked genuinely. Lila smiled thankfully at her and took her hand.
"I'm fine. Of course, Ulric wasn't the kindest of persons...," Lila trailed off. Karmella cocked her head to the side. Lila checked to make sure that Giselle wasn't looking. When she saw that Giselle was stilling laughing happily and running up the long staircase, she lifted up her sleeve to show Karmella the large bruise that Ulric had given her. Karmella looked horrified.
"Lila, you have to tell Gi-," Karmella started.
"No! I can't, and you can't either. Please Karmella, don't tell," Lila interrupted. Karmella began to protest, but when Lila pleaded with her eyes, Karmella finally nodded. As they reached the top of the stairs, they followed Giselle down the hall and into her bedroom. Giselle sat down at her dresser and began to brush her orange locks.
"I'm so happy things are getting better. Soon, it will be all of us like we were...plus Dimitrius, of course," Giselle said. Suddenly, she stopped brushing her hair and turned to Lila and Karmella.
"Speaking of my prince, have either of you seen him? He's been absent since breakfast," Giselle said curiously. Karmella shook her head instantly, but it took a moment for Lila to do the same. Giselle shrugged and turned back to her dresser. She motioned for Lila and Karmella to sit down, and then began to hum a bouncy tune. The two girls sat down on Giselle's periwinkle couch. On the mahogany table in front of the couch sat Giselle's practice writing. Karmella took a blank sheet of parchment and the brush sitting next to it. She dipped the brush in a bottle of ink that Giselle had been using and began to silently write on the parchment.
When she had finished, she pushed the parchment towards Lila.
Are you sure you're okay? You seem distant.
Lila looked from Karmella to the parchment, and then began to write.
If I tell you something, you must promise to never tell anyone about it. Ever.
Lila passed the parchment back to Karmella. Once she had read it, she looked at Lila with a scared expression and began to write back.
I promise. Are you in trouble?
When the parchment came back to Lila, she took a breath, looked at Giselle, and then wrote her answer.
I almost kissed the prince.
Karmella's eyes widened. She looked at Lila with disbelief.
"Are you insane?", she whispered, "That would be considered treason now that he's betrothed to Giselle!"
"I know, I know. But I didn't do it!", Lila whispered. Karmella was about to respond when Giselle stopped her humming and called them over to her dresser. As the two handmaidens got up from the couch, Lila was careful to take the parchment she and Karmella had used with her. She hid it behind her back, and when Giselle wasn't looking, threw it into the fireplace where it burned into ash.