I search through my makeup bag and my suitcase and all my bags and I cannot find one single Bobby pin. I'd been doing my hair into a bun with a braid going up the back of my head. But I can't do that without bobby pins and right now I can't find any. I'm wearing a deep blue jumpsuit with a crossover back and a pair of grey pumps. Sighing I decide to see if I can borrow some from Lillia.
Knocking on her door I feel butterflies in my stomach but I push them down. No time for those now. The door opens and I see Lillia with her midnight hair French plaited tightly down her head. She's wearing a pair of beige riding joppers with a sky blue polo shirt tucked in. Then she's wearing a pair of knee high black riding boots that look freshly polished. On one arm swings a riding helmet and the other tucks a stray piece of hair behind her ear.
She smiles "They said my horse arrives today. So yes. Are you ok?"
Shaking my head I say "Um. No I was just wondering if I could borrow some bobby pins."
"Sure, come in a minute." She says walking off.
I walk in to see a comfortable looking sofa at one end of the foyer, a glass table in the middle with a bouquet of flowers in the middle.
She comes back out with a small purse, "Take the whole thing, I'm not using any today. Bring them back either tonight or tomorrow."
"Thanks." I say before awkwardly leaving the rooms and waving goodbye as Lillia walks down the halls.
I practically run down the halls to the stables. I've been waiting so long to ride again. When I was little my mum taught me because she was friends with the groomsmen and now I know how she knew because she learnt here. She'd sneak us out at night and I'd learn in the dark, my mum occasionally whisper shouting things at me.
So the day after I arrived I asked the groom to bring in a stallion for me. And last night I got told that he'd be arriving his morning.
I reach the stables to see a fancy silver horse truck coming down the driveway. It pulls up and the groom goes to get the horse but I get there first.
The ramp is lowered to reveal a beautiful rose grey, andalusian stallion with a naturally crimped mane. I take the lead rein from the handler and lead him off the ramp. He nickers softly and I stroke his nose gently.
"Does he have a name?" I ask the handler.
"Dragonfly, Miss." He replies.
I thank him and lead Dragonfly to the ring. I tie him up and then turn back to the handler to see him already holding Dragonfly's tack. I take it off him before saddling up Dragonfly, putting his reins on and then mounting quickly. I sit still for a while, letting him adjust to my weight. The groom unites him from the fence and I gently urge him to walk forward. He follows obediently, responding quickly to my commands. I push him into a trot, rising and falling naturally. I go around the ring trotting a few times before pushing Dragonfly into a canter. He goes swiftly into it, seeming to enjoy it as much as I do.
After an hour we stop for a break, I feed Dragonfly some carrots and let him drink as I myself drink a glass of water and some raspberries. Whilst we're doing that I ask the groom to set up a simple jumping course for us to try.
Just as we finish the course I see a familiar figure walking down the path towards the ring. She's dressed in black joppers with a grey polo shirt matched with a pair of ankle riding boots. Her hair is now in a low ponytail, to accommodate the riding helmet.
"Do you ride?" I ask from atop Dragonfly.
"Nope." She replies popping the p.
Smiling I ride over to the fence and dismount. I lead Dragonfly out of the ring and towards the stables beckoning for Soraya to follow me.
"This is Dragonfly." I say to her as I lock the stable door.
"He's big." She says nervously.
I laugh walking over to a different stable and unlocking the door.
"Don't worry, if you wanted to learn you'd be on this girl." I gesture to the dapple grey mare in front of me, "Her name's Petal."
Soraya comes over and tentatively pats her nose. I grab some apple slices and hold one for Petal to eat. She takes it happily, her slobber coating my hand.
"Here, you try. Hold out your hand, palm up, flat. And then just hold it near her mouth and she'll do the rest."
Soraya does as I instructed, and Petal, pleased she's getting free food, takes the apple from her hand with pleasure. She laughs as Petal softly nuzzles her hand, "Would you teach me?"
Turning to her, slightly shocked I say "You want me to teach you? To horse ride?"
"Ok, why not. You want to start now?" I ask.
"Why not." Soraya replies, copying my phrase.
I shove her playfully before instructing her to take the red saddle and reins from the shelf and bring them over. I tack up Petal and Soraya watches intently.
I lead Petal up to the steps for Soraya to mount. She does so with effortless grace as though she's done it a thousand times before. Petal responds to the lead rope as I walk her into the ring. Soraya laughs from atop her saying "This is so weird. I feel really tall."
I laugh with her and then show her how to hold the reins and what to do with her feet. She picks everything up really quickly, quite obviously a quick learner. But I also realise that she's very stubborn and if she doesn't get something she won't stop until she does. By the end of the hour she's trotting around the ring comfortably on her own.
Realising it's past lunch and I didn't actually have any breakfast because I was so excited about Dragonfly arriving, I shout to Soraya across the ring, "Do you want to get something to eat?"
She nods as she comes to a halt in front of me.
"Can we do some more afterwards?" She says, elation in her voice.
"Sure we can go for a hack if you want. Through the woods."
"Sure." She replies as she dismounts and pats Petal on the neck. We hand Petal to the groom and head inside for some food. As we descend into the kitchens there's quiet and hushed whispers as they all clean pots and pans.
I spot Annabelle sat with George, attempting to feed him some mashed banana. I walk over to her and say "Annabelle, what's going on?"
She looks to me then says "One of the Queens has taken ill."
Behind me I hear Soraya turn and run sprint back up the stair, not long after I'm sprinting behind her, calling her name desperately trying to get her to slow down. She slides around a corner before stopping suddenly at a door and practically ripping it off of the hinges. On the bed lays a pale, pasty Queen Paulina, and surrounding her is her family, Dalia, being held by Miles and Rhys holding his wife's hand. Soraya walls slowly to her mothers side, looking at her with tears in her eyes.
When Annabelle said mum was ill I knew what it was.
She's been ill for a while now, they said it was cancer. She knew she'd only have a year to live so she did everything she wanted to do. She'd hoped to be able to see Dalia's wedding but we all knew it wasn't likely.
Now I sit on the bedside, everyone gathered round, and all I can think of is the lullabies she used to sing to us at night.
So I sing for her.
"Hey child, you need to sleep. Otherwise how will you dream of me?
Sweet child, if you need me, dream of me.
I promise I'm not going anywhere,
I'll always be in your heart, forever and ever.
If I should go, you'll never forget me."
I look at her with tears falling down my face as she closes her eyes and then her breaths get slower and slower. And then there isn't anymore breath. No more laughs, no more hugs, no more goodnight kisses or advice. No one to do my hair for me or help me with my makeup.
Now the tears come thick and fast, burning my cheeks. I feel my brother's strong arms wrap around me and I turn into him as he strokes my hair.
The next morning I'm packing my things up ready to go home for mum's funeral, when there's a knock on my door. I open it to see Lillia stood there in grey sweatpants and a black top with a bouquet of white freesias. She hands them to me and I put them in a vase filling it with water to the halfway point, just like mother...
I run to her arms, tears falling once again down my face. She wraps her arms around me rocking us slightly side to side. She gently leads us to the sofa and sits us down, my head on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry." I say.
"Hey. Hey, look at me." She says softly.
I look up at her and she wipes away two teardrops before saying "Do not be sorry for grieving. It's normal and it's ok."
She presses a kiss to my forehead and as she pulls away I meet her lips with mine in a soft sweet kiss. She pulls away clearing her throat, "Well, um. I'd better let you finish packing."
Then she gets up pressing another kiss to the back of my hand before leaving, closing the door softly behind her.
The rest of the day I pack my things in a blur and then say goodbye to everyone before I'm in a car driving back to Bamberall.
I think about the kiss and how right it felt, I wonder what Lillia thought of it, I wonder whether mum was proud of me for finally acting on my feelings. She'd said I should before she'd gone. Said I shouldn't let her get away because she was one of the good ones. And I agreed but had decided I wouldn't, not knowing that the break up with Genevieve was still raw but in that moment it had felt so right so I went for it. Guess I won't find out what she thought or what she feels for a while. As we drive all I think of is the memories of mum doing stupid stuff around the castle or on our family picnics when she'd be buzzing around us insisting on wearing sun cream in the pouring rain or even that one time it hailed. Or how she'd give us all a card when it was only one person's birthday. Or how she know how to cheer any one of us up if we were sad and how not one of us could stay mad at her for anything. Not with her hugs and kisses and those smiles. I'll miss those smiles and her laughs and those hugs and those kisses. And those lullabies and those snippets of advice. I'd miss telling her I love her and watching her and Dad dance at balls and parties. I'll miss how she'd scold dad for not using the right fork or for eating with his mouth open. And always niggling at the boys for not having brushed their hair or not making an effort when "there will be girls there". Or how she'd constantly point out girls she thought were cute with me if we went on walks or how she'd tease Dalia for her childishness when really she loved it.
I'll miss her.
I miss you mum.
I love you mum.