I twist my hair on top of my head into a delicate bun before curling the bits of hair that don't quite reach. I apply simple makeup before turning to my dress for the day. A short sleeved, shin length black dress that has a full neck. With it I pair black stilettos that have two straps across the ankle. Before leaving my room I take my mothers ring that she instructed me to wear to any funeral and slip it onto my finger. It has a black band with small rubies encrusted throughout it.
Leaving my rooms I head straight for the main hall, knowing that's probably where everyone will be. Entering I find the hall completely empty and silent. I walk through it my heels echoing too loudly on the floor so I slip them off my feet before padding barefoot to the balcony. I stand in the breeze gazing over the gardens when I hear someone's voice behind me "Lillia?"
I turn to see Lola stood in a black floor length dress with capped sleeves and an open neckline exposing her collarbone. She's wearing dainty flat pumps and tights.
"The car is here."
I nod slipping my shoes back on and following her out to the car.
The car ride to Bamberall is silent, no one knowing what to say or how to go about saying it. I simply stare out of the window, looking at the scenery passing by but not really paying attention to it. Instead I'm wondering about the kiss that Soraya initiated a few weeks ago. And how nice it felt and how right it felt. I also think about how she's doing, and how she's holding up. I wonder if she'll say anything at today's funeral. I wonder if I'll even get to speak to her because all the Princes coming will no doubt be throwing themselves at her hoping she'll break in her grief. But I hope I do so I can give her a hug and ask if she's ok or at least if she's better than before because I remember when mum died I hated being asked if I was "okay". Like of course I'm not okay my mother just died, would you be okay if you're mother just died?
Suddenly the car skids to a halt and we're all lurched forward. The driver starts shouting about something and because I'm bored I climb out to take a look. Stood in front of the car is a midnight black wolf the size of the car. It has fur that shines in the midday sunlight, its blood red eyes staring straight at me. It's tail swishes from side to side as though trying to decide something. The driver gets out and starts attempting to shoo it away by screaming at it but it just growls in response, baring large white fangs. The driver gets even more angry shouting that we're going to be late with lots of swearing in between. I look at it carefully to see a drop of blood fall to the road. I rush up to it to the cries of "Lillia no!" from behind me. It watches me approach as someone grabs my arms, trying to pull me away from the beast.
"It's just wounded." I yell struggling against them. I get loose and go back to the animal. It allows me close but as the other person comes close again it snarls. I gently feel the beasts body, trying to find the source of the blood. On its neck, surrounded by blood matted fur is a gaping wound that looks like it came from a knife or axe.
"Lillia, whatever you do don't touch its blood or saliva. It's poisonous okay? It's an Anoka Wolf, they are extremely dangerous."
Smiling I hum a tune before saying back "No they're not. They're only dangerous to people not of their kind."
I go back to the car and take the first aid kit from the glove compartment before quickly taking out the bandage and gently cleaning the wound. I feel a gentle knock on my mind and I let it in knowing it's the beast.
Why aren't you using your powers?
They don't know about me.
They do now you've been allowed near me.
Yeah I suppose but now's not really the right time to tell them because we're on our way to a funeral.
I'm sorry for interrupting but I felt your presence and knew you'd help me.
It's alright, what's your name?
Well Shade it's lovely to meet you and your all good. I used a little bit of my power to stitch the wound up and heal it over quicker. I also cleaned the fur around it for you.
Thank you. Forgive me for asking so soon but may I be your Altro?
I smile I would be honoured Shade.
I'll follow you to your destination and then may we perform the ritual?
I think that is a wonderful idea. Now you'd better go to the edge of the woods before one of them shoots you or something horrible like that.
Shade pads off to the edge of the forest, as I turn around and climb back into the car telling the driver to drive quickly.
We arrive at the funeral in the nick of time, taking our seats in the pews as the music starts. Looking around I spot Soraya and her family sat on the front row, all dressed in black, except Soraya. Soraya is dressed in an elegant leaf green jumpsuit that stands out like a sore thumb in amongst the rows of black.
I'm sat in the front row with Dad, Xav, Owen and Dalia, all of us clutching hands tightly. The boys and Dalia didn't want to speak today so it's just me and Dad. I've got a speech prepared but I don't think I'll make it to the end. We sit in silence as the Priest starts the funeral, praising the gods and the land for mum's time of earth but asking them to care for her in the afterlife. Then it's time for my speech. Dad squeezes my hand before I stand up and walk to the microphone.
"My mum is... was the most amazing person I've ever known. She always gave me hugs, goodnight kisses and lots of wonderful smiles and laughs. My most vivid memory of her is when I was seven years old. She called all of us into her room and told us that tomorrow was a festival of balloons. All of us being children we got very excited. Then to make it better she said that tonight the entire kingdom would release hot air balloons into the sky so we could stay up late and have a midnight feast. So we went down to the kitchens and made pancakes and cupcakes and various sandwiches, then we woke Dad and grabbed blankets and pillows and soft toys and we all went to the balcony and sat chatting and laughing. Then just before midnight a thousand if not more lights started to light up the entire kingdom and then my mum whispered to us all "Wait for it."
A split second later all the balloons soared into the sky, trails of what looked like fireflies following them. It looked as though fairy dust was being sprinkled all over the kingdom. It was the most magical thing I've ever seen. I'll never forget that day. And mum wherever you are know that we love you. We love you so much and even though we told you every day I hope you know we meant it."
I retreat back to my seat tears threatening to spill over.
After all the speeches have been made we all walk in a procession through the town to the castle. People have put murals and flowers all over, everyone has heir windows closed and shrouded, mourning for their Queen. We reach the castle and go to the main hall where a banquet has been prepared with all mum's favourite foods. I stand by the wall as a prince of some kingdom comes towards me. "Princess. I understand you are grieving and that you may require a shoulder to cry on. Well my shoulder is always open for you my love."
"I am not your love and your shoulder isn't worthy of my tears." I reply and he looks wounded before sulking away. Throughout the evening more and more approach all attempting to woo me in my grief but my heart beats for one person and one person only and ohmygoodness she's walking straight towards me, looking like a goddess. She's dressed in a figure fitting full neck, cap sleeved, shin length black velvet dress that she's paired with black stilettos. Her hair is twisted into a bun on top of her head with a few curls framing her face. Her makeup accentuates those fake brown eyes perfectly. She reaches me and smiles a wonderful smile before saying "Hi. Um. I know from experience that asking if you're ok is a stupid thing to do so instead I'll ask a different question mainly to distract you but also because I'm curious. Um, why did you kiss me?"
Her question takes me by surprise but it certainly distracts me. I think about it in my head and then decide there's too many people in this room for me to say it without someone hearing me, so instead I say "Do you want to go to a quieter place?"
She nods so I head to the door but get stopped by a maid who says to me in an urgent voice "Miss, your father is distraught, he needs you miss."
I turn to Lillia apologetically saying "Rain check on this conversation?"
She nods "That's fine, go to your dad."
I rush to my father's room to find him, head in his hands sobbing violently with my mothers perfume on the floor by his feet. I rush to his side, enclosing my arms around his trembling body, gently rubbing circles on his back. For a long time we sit there, his sobs fluctuating between violent and calm before finally settling on deep shaky breaths.
"I knocked it over when I opened the door." He says in a voice hoarse from crying, "I didn't realise until I opened the door to leave when the smell hit me. I couldn't move. I was paralysed. How am I meant to rule a kingdom without her? How am I supposed to move without her?"
Sighing I say "You aren't. You're not supposed to move or rule without her. You're supposed to move and rule for her. Live for her. Do everything for her. That's how it works. And you'll have good days and bad days but you'll get better. She'll turn from grief into love and memories. That's just how it works and that could take a day, a month, a year, maybe ever ten years. Who knows but you will get there. I promise and me and the boys will help you get there as soon as possible."
"When did my daughter get so wise?"
"I'm actually quoting a book I read on grief when we first found out she was ill. You should read it."
"I just might."
He wipes his eyes before saying a hint of a smirk on his face "So did you follow your mothers instruction? Or did you let her get away?"
It takes me a second to realise who he's talking about but when it clicks I lightly slap his leg "She told you?!"
He chuckles "Of course she told me. I'm her husband. And you're my daughter. So?"
Scoffing I say "Well I might have kissed her. As I was packing to leave to come home. She came in to give me some flowers and it reminded me of mum so I started crying and she comforted me and then she pressed a kiss to my forehead and then as she pulled away I kissed her . She kissed me back but then said she'd better let me finish packing and left. We were about to discuss why I kissed her, she asked me, when I got told you were here."
"Well then, I'm ok now, I'd better go back to the people and get given a thousand condolences anyways, so you go and explain why. And tell her your feelings."
I smile "I'll try. You know I'm not good at feelings."
"Well try." He says with a kiss to my forehead before leaving me sat on mother's bed alone.