Chapter Three- Clothes, Shoes and Herbs
The inside of the palace was immaculate. The ceilings were mainly domes that were painted with art so real it was surreal. Most of the furniture was antique and made of expensive looking wood. Arabella had her own quarters, that she was to share with Helena, and they suited Arabella perfectly.
Helena stood gaping at the huge living room in front of her. The living room was the main chamber that had all of Arabella's rooms leading off down hallways. The living room was decorated in scarlet and terracotta, it was a strange combination but it was warm and so a like the colours of fire. I can see why she picked those colours, thought Helena when she knew Arabella's concentration was lapsed. Arabella had always loved fire, she would go outside nearly every night and make a bonfire. The furniture was old, there were two corner sofas and a three-seater in between the corners and it had no arms so that the three different sofas merged together to create an odd "U" shape. They were all deep red, like Arabella's lips, so they all matched.
The rest of the room was plastered with golden coffee tables, that had different plants and other things resting on top of them, and breathtaking excuses of art. Arabella stood at the other end of the room in front of a wall that was the only wall without a hallway leading off of it. She was talking intently to a young girl, about fourteen, filling her in on what to do with Helena. They finished their conversation and then the girl walked off down the hall to her right, to prepare one of the guest rooms for Helena.
Arabella spotted Helena grinning at her from the main entrance.
"What? Is there something that amuses you?" Arabella asked she already knew what Helena was grinning at but also knew that she didn't like it when people read her thoughts.
"Yeah, the fact that you always care for me even though you're not meant to." Helena replied with a slight laugh. She liked this place, it made her feel comfortable and safe.
"Well, I am actually supposed to be protecting your father until he's supposed to go, but if anything happened to you… well, I'll leave you to use your imagination. Helena, why don't you go to your room and unpack your things, have a bath and then we'll go to dinner. However, don't worry we have got more than three hours but I know what you're like."
"Okay. Will you show me the way?"
Arabella nodded once. She walked slowly and gracefully down the hallway that the young girl had gone down. Arabella stopped at red double doors that looked heavy and thick. Arabella opened them, revealing a room just slightly smaller than the main chamber, it was painted in lavender and rose. The bed was the most stunning in existence, it was a king-sized four-poster and the sheets were lilac and white.
"Wow!" Helena exclaimed hardly able to contain her awe for the magnificent room that would be her home for who knows how long.
"Do you like it?" Arabella asked even though the answer was clearly sprawled across Helena's face.
"I love it! How did you know I would be coming? I mean, you'd never have a room like this in your own private chambers. How'd you know I'd say that I'd come?" Helena probed practically screaming with excitement.
"I just did. Let's call it a very detailed premonition."
"You had a vision?"
"Yes, well Hunter did actually. He was just standing there while we were wondering what to do with you and then smack," Arabella made an explosion gesture with her hands. "It hit him. We all saw it and instantly loved it."
"Oh. Well, that Hunter is very resourceful isn't he?"
"Yes he is. You'll like him." Arabella finished. Her eyes began to glaze slightly and she swooned but recovered rapidly before Helena could even see a change in position. She scanned Helena's mind for any trace that she saw what had happened but there was nothing.
"I'll leave you to it. Oh, forgive me. This is Eloise, she will tend to your every need while you stay here. Enjoy." Arabella changed the subject rapidly, gesturing to the young girl she had been talking to earlier. She left through the double doors with a pleasant smile to Helena. Arabella closed the doors behind her with a quiet click and then walked slowly down the hallway toward the main chamber.
In the main chamber Arabella slumped onto the middle sofa of the "U" and sighed heavily. Thinking about Hunter and keeping herself under control was hard work, that was why she tried her hardest not to. But, when she was with him… it was easier not to get swept away. Well, it wasn't that she didn't get swept away or that her emotions spun out of control, because she did, but it was more like that she was too distracted by him to actually think about him. Arabella groaned, thinking about this made her head hurt.
"Why do you torture me so, Goddess? Have I ever wronged you? If so, tell me how to make amends. I will do them willingly, anything is better than this pain I feel when I am not with him." Arabella cried to the ceiling of fierce warriors. She stared at the ceiling with fiery gold eyes and willed the knowledge of the deities to seep through her every perfect pore.
The renaissance clock on the mantelpiece chimed five times, the clock was beautiful: mahogany panelling; gold hands and numbers; marble face. Arabella had rescued it from when she had protected a kind man that wasn't of much importance but still, the need for protection was still present. It was one of her favourite items from the past, apart from her outfits and her memories. Every time she looked at it she was flooded with memories of a beautiful time that was her favourite period. Arabella grinned, two hours until she would see Hunter. Until Helena would meet Hunter, that was going to be interesting.
Arabella stood carefully, she never got head rush but she never liked the feeling of standing too fast. She felt the presence of someone behind and turned sharply. To her annoyance it was not Hunter, but Aonie. Now Aonie was a peculiar girl: she had come from a dark land, a place of not evil but not exactly goodness; her hair was an electric blue (naturally); and her eyes were an almost orange colour (again, completely natural).
"I've missed you. How are you?" Aonie greeted Arabella, her voice was deep and seeped with arrogance.
"I've missed you too. I'm the same as usual after a long separation. How are you?" Arabella replied with a huge grin. Aonie adored Arabella, she respected Arabella mainly because of her power but also because of her background and courage.
"I'm great. Hunter has told me that you'll be watching over us while we teach the new volunteers." Aonie cackled. Really cackled, if you could picture a witch cackling then it would be a Siren's song compared to this.
"Yes I am. And apparently you're leading the psychic squadron. Congratulations. I know you've always wanted to be a trainer and now you've got something even better, and on your favourite subject too."
"I know. I can't wait to get started. Oh, before I came to see you, I checked out the dining hall. It goes: you; then Helena; then me. Where is she actually? I want to meet her."
"Having a bath hopefully. She fell down the hill."
Aonie laughed at that.
"Thanks, tell my embarrassing news to the world why don't you?" Helena demanded as she came into the main chamber. Her eyes fell on Aonie and she paused, as did every one. Aonie wasn't your every day, seventeen year girl ( obviously she wasn't seventeen, she just appeared it).
"Hi, I'm Aonie. You must be Helena. It's a pleasure." Aonie introduced herself as she extended a long slender arm that was perfectly toned. Helena gripped Aonie's hand and then shook it vigorously.
"Nice grip. Maybe you should be one of us." Aonie commented after recovering from Helena's nervous hand shake.
The colour drained from Helena's face. She'd never considered becoming a protector, and from what Arabella had told her it didn't sound too appealing.
"I was kidding. Arabella would never let you anyway. But obviously if you want to … we're dining with the head honcho tonight. Wow is that the time? I better go, I said that I'd be there early. Bye-d-bye." Aonie said before she disappeared into thin air (literally).
"She was kidding wasn't she?" Helena whispered as if Aonie would reappear any second and overhear her.
"Sort of. I've always said that you would be a good protector." Arabella answered casually.
"Well, I don't want a bath right now so I'll have one after I've sorted out what to wear. So, is this… formal, or casual?" Helena asked.
"A bit of both. I'll help you find something appropriate." Arabella replied as she slumped down once more on the sofa. Helena sat next to her looking at her as if she wanted to ask something but didn't quite know how to phrase it.
"Aonie is a very good friend of mine." Arabella started for her, Helena wasn't that keen on Arabella's mind reading powers, but occasionally she loved them. "She's from another realm, thus the peculiar hair and eyes. Aonie's realm is one that is neither good nor bad, it's neutral. However, they have very strong powers. Their psychic skills are extraordinary, psychic skills can prove very valuable during battles.
"Aonie was nine when she volunteered to become a protector. It was quite young for a volunteer but as her kind are usually older than their actual age we decided to let her join. This was probably about … 1'300 years ago. A long time, I know. But she was worth it. I have no idea what we would have done if we hadn't had her elusion skills in a battle we had a few hundred years ago, well … we probably would of lost. She has proved very loyal over the years and her skills have improved tremendously. You really shouldn't judge her just by her hair and eyes. We have found a way to cover that while she's on earth, the other realms are used to weird people, but Aonie prefers to be in her original state here.
"I promise you, Helena, if you sit down and get to know Aonie then you'll find that you like her. She is so funny, she can levitate things with her mind so you would love to see her at a very formal party."
"Yeah, you're probably right. She just shocked me that's all. I'll talk to her at dinner … while you catch up with that Hunter. Peter told me how much you two are in love, childhood sweethearts kind of. I'm looking forward to meeting him."
"Excuse me, that's enough of talk about Hunter and I. Come on and help me find you some fitting clothes for dinner. Oh, and before you say anything … you'll take what I give you and like it!"
Helena giggled, this was beginning to feel like a sleepover Helena used to have with her girlfriends back home in Hampshire. Arabella and Helena stood at the same time which made them both laugh uncontrollably (as most girls find ironic things like that hilarious). They walked, arm-in-arm, down the hall to Helena's room still giggling like six year olds who had just stole the cookie jar.
Arabella unlocked arms with Helena and then strode over to her walk-in wardrobe that was at the opposite side of the room to where the double doors were. Arabella threw open the single door then froze, the suitcases were lying in a neat pile on the floor … empty, all of the clothes, shoes, accessories and make-up lined the walls in its assigned places.
"I didn't do this." Helena admitted stunned.
"I know, it was Eloise. You must thank her the next time you see her." Arabella answered Helena's unspoken question.
Arabella surveyed the large range of clothes that stood to attention on both sides of her. She ran her hand a long the familiar fabrics as she strode down the aisle like she was on a catwalk. Arabella's hands froze on a certain fabric; a silky smooth, cotton, black blouse. She tugged it off the hanger and then threw it at Helena with perfect aim even though she was already searching for matching items of clothing. Arabella's golden eyes paused on a pair of trousers. Perfect, she thought as she slid them off the hanger and threw them once again at Helena. They were black, wide legged, suit trousers. Arabella found a pair of black boots that had a small heel and placed them at Helena's feet. She walked out of the wardrobe leaving Helena to try the outfit on.
"Did I ever tell you how great your sense of style is?" Helena asked as she emerged from the wardrobe looking not too casual but not too formal either, just right. Arabella smiled to herself, another job well done.
"Yes, but thank you anyway. Now, take that off and go get in the bath, Eloise is running it now. Through the double doors then first door on your right." Arabella ordered.
"Okay. How long have I got?"
"An hour and a half. I'll sort out your hair and Eloise will show you where the shampoo and things are."
"Cool. See you in a minute."
Helena walked out the room and followed the directions that Arabella had given her. The first door on her right was a single, red, pine door with golden detail. Helena pushed her way through and then froze at the scent that drifted up her nose. It smelled like a mixture of lavenders, roses, vanilla and cocoa, strange but relaxing. A pearl white Jacuzzi bath sat in one corner, the water line was just below the rim of the bath and had rivers of steam coming off of it.
Eloise stood with her back to the door as she added a mixture to the water in the bath. Eloise's light brown hair trailed down her back in a long ponytail and made her look very old-fashioned with her long, Victorian dress.
"There is a robe on the hook by the changing room. If you get undressed and slip that on then I'll show you where the things are and leave you to it." Eloise announced still with her back to Helena. Eloise had a high, soothing voice that made her seem much younger than she really was and the age fourteen (the age that she looked).
"Okay. Oh, I just wanted to say thank you for arranging my things, it would have taken me days. So … thanks." Helena said to Eloise as she made her way to the right side of the room where there was a small room with a bench and a half door that exposed your calves and above your shoulders.
"That's fine. It's my job. Besides, I hate things to be untidy." Eloise replied.
"So… why did you become a protector?" Helena finally asked. Since meeting Arabella thirteen years ago, Helena had become fascinated when listening to the life stories of other people. Helena un-zipped her skirt and let it fall to her feet, and then took off her top. She reached for the robe and her hands gripped a warm silk. She yanked slightly and felt the material fall off its hook. Helena swung the robe over the door then slipped her arms through. Doing up the sash, she looked over the tip of the door at Eloise who had finally turned to face Helena in the changing room.
Helena pushed her way through the door and then gave Eloise an encouraging smile. Eloise grinned back at her, blushing slightly.
"I was thirteen when I joined and stopped aging." Eloise began looking off into the distance as her memories came tumbling back to her. "My family, well my mum and dad, were both protectors. I remember when I used to be so proud of them, I still am. I stayed here and was cared for by my mother while father went out on missions. He was always given the shorter ones so that he wouldn't be away too long, but we were fine when he was away. We stayed in the servants quarters and they took very good care of me and my mother." Eloise paused as she helped Helena into the bath, turning her head away as Helena let the bubbles smother her body.
"But then my mother fell ill, neither she nor my father had stopped aging because the realm that we were from didn't age the same as humans, it's complicated. Nobody knew what was wrong with her exactly but she was loosing a lot of weight and she looked very pale. When I was nine she passed mercifully in her sleep. My father came back from his successful mission and then declined the life of a protector in order to protect me. He took me back to his home realm but I missed my life here too much. Father agreed that I could come back here if I was only a servant and never went on a mission. He made a deal with Arabella that I would cater to her needs and those of her guests. I stopped aging at thirteen and I haven't regretted coming back. Arabella treats me like a sister, an equal … not like a servant at all. And I owe her for that."
Eloise finished with a deep sigh and smiled at Helena. She handed Helena a tall bottle of shampoo that Helena took eagerly.
"Well … I'll leave you to it. Call me when you're finished." Eloise offered. She walked dreamily to the door and then closed it behind her silently. Helena sank deeper into the bubbles letting them swarm over her head in an attempt to wet her hair. When she emerged, suddy water trickled down her long neck and back into the water at her shoulders. Helena sighed heavily as she rubbed in the flowery shampoo.
Helena finished washing and cleansing her hair, stood up slowly and grinned as she felt the ton of water stream off her body in waterfalls. She fumbled for the towel, in the hazy water vapour it was hard to see anything. Finally, Helena found it and dabbed it across her flushed face. She stepped out of the bath and dried herself vigorously. Helena slipped into the robe once more, in awe at the softness of the fabric as it swayed and tickled at her knees.
The hallway was quiet as Helena made her way back to her room. She opened the doors and made her way over to her four-poster bed on which were her clothes laid out, prepared and pristine.
"Good bath?" Arabella asked from the doorway.
"Yeah, where did Eloise learn to make such amazing combinations?" Helena replied as she began tugging on her clothes.
"Servant quarters. I over-heard her telling you her story, when she was younger she used to help the other servants and they showed her a lot of herbal remedies. I let her grow her own things out back so she can experiment."
"I bet her and Peter get bored when you're not here. It must be weird not having someone around for ages and then they're suddenly there again."
"I doubt that they miss me too much. They always have the other servants to help or talk to. Oh, I don't tell them to help the others … they do it on their own accords. Sit down at the dressing table and I'll do your hair for you."
"But it's still wet."
"Surely you know me better than that by now."
Arabella stood behind Helena who sat on a mahogany stool with a rose velvet cushion pinned to the top. Arabella held up Helena's hair so that it didn't fall on her back then lifted up her other long, slender hand. A tropical breeze began to whip at Helena's hair, it was white hot yet Helena still felt at a normal temperature.
After two or three minutes of the breeze it stopped just as abruptly as it had came and left Helena's dark hair dry.
"Cool. Thanks." Helena said as she tried to stand, but Arabella shoved her back down.
"I'm not finished, I was just drying it." Arabella snapped. She began to brush through Helena's thick locks with a heavy, wooden brush that was from the 1800's. The long, rhythmical strokes began to relax Arabella and Helena, uncoiling their muscles and slowing their breathes. Funny, isn't it, how such a mundane thing as brushing your hair can feel so good and natural.
"Now I'm finished. You can look now." Arabella announced as she revealed a tall, mahogany mirror that influenced Helena's appearance beautifully. Helena turned her head so that she could see the back and then gasped. Her dark brown hair was piled up into a tight ponytail that sat neatly on the top of her head. It was held in place with small grips that had a small red lily on the ends, and the ends of her hair were curled so tightly that you couldn't even tell where they ended.
"Wow! How d'ya make it so curly?" Helena exclaimed in awe. Her hair had never looked so beautiful.
"Magic. Now … you're ready so let's go. We have twenty minutes to get there. Put your shoes on and we're off."