Sat at the breakfast table I drink a lot of water to try and keep my eyes open and I also pile my plate high with carbohydrates to keep me going for the day. Half way through picking up some toast the Queen says to me in a knowing tone "Lillia honey, you look tired."
"My Queen I am tired. I haven't slept much these past few nights." As I say this Genevieve beside me spits her drink back into her cup as she laughs at my understatement of the year.
Looking pointedly at her I continue, "Princess Genevieve wished for me to stay awake all night for the last three nights."
Genevieve looks to me, mischief in her eyes, as if to say "me! How could you possibly blame me?" Smirking I continue again, "Princess Genevieve has asked me to request that one of her spare rooms in her chambers be turned into a bedroom for me, Your majesties."
The King speaks for the first time in all of the breakfasts I've attended in a surprisingly low voice, "Of Course. I'd be happy to do it by the end of today."
Nodding I thank them and then carry on eating this delicious food.
Fifteen minutes later as the doors close on the dining hall I say laughing, "That was rude, Ginger."
"What'd you call me?"
"Ginger. It's my nickname for you. Genevieve takes forever to say so I shortened it to Ginger. Do you not like it? I can change it if you want." Lillia rambles obviously nervous she's offended me.
"No I like it."
Ginger's smile returns and this time it reaches her eyes. And her eyes sparkle, they have a gleam like the sun shining on a lake at sunset. We lay around in her bedroom all day as we watched builders come and go with furniture and paint tins and ladders. We laugh and we joke about how it won't be done by the end of the day and I'll be sleeping on the floor. But by the end of the day all the builders are gone and my new room is ready. And it's beautiful. With white walls and a ceiling painted to look like the sky. A double bed with an ornate headboard stands in the middle, a duck egg blue bedspread with white frills around the edges laid carefully over it. In one corner there's a dressing table that matches Ginger's and then there's a small window with a window seat adorned with pillows that match the bedspread.
Squeaking I turn to Ginger and hug her tightly before immediately letting go and apologising before squealing again as I look around the room. From behind me Ginger says in a teasing tone, "You can hug me you know. Just not in public. But if we're in here even if we have guests you can hug me and call me Ginger."
Nodding I stare in awe at my new room before turning and hugging Ginger once again. This time she hugs me back and it's the safest I've ever felt. By the time we've changed into pyjamas it's ten o'clock and we're sitting on Ginger's bed with her reading to me when there's a knock on the door. We look at each other confused but I slide off the bed and open the door to see the Butler stood in his tail coat and squeaky shoes, his hair still gelled back. He says in his stupid nasal voice "The King and Queen wish to see the Princess. Immediately. In the throne room. She can come in whatever she's wearing." And then he turns in his heels, squeaking away down the corridor. I turn to Ginger to see an equally confused look on her face to what I imagine I look like. Shrugging my shoulders I say tiredly, "Well, Ginger. We'd better go. If they want you this late at night it must be important." She rolls her eyes before putting her slippers on and we set off to the throne room. When we get there the guards open the doors for us and Ginger goes in but they suddenly grab my arms and pull me back. "Hey!" I say struggling against them. Ginger turns around and says "Let her go. She's with me you idiots!" But they simply say in a monotone voice that frankly creeps me out, "Their Majesties ordered just the Princess." Shrugging them off I say to Ginger, "Go. I'll be right out here. Promise."
With a last view of Lillia as the doors close with a bang I turn to see Mum and Dad sat on their thrones looking far too happy for this time of night. Crossing my arms I stare at them expectantly, waiting for one of them to announce whatever it is they're announcing. They stare back at me just as expectant before my mother says in a jovial tone "So, we heard that you're talking. And apparently it's all because of Lillia. The builders told us you were chatting away and laughing all day. So is it true?"
Nodding my head my mother squeals which is something I've never ever heard her do before. Raising my eyebrows I roll my eyes before turning around to leave. But my mother says "Oh wait, wait, wait! I actually do have a proper reason for asking you to come. I have a proposal. About Lillia."
Hearing her name gets me interested so I turn back to face them and gesture for them to go on. My mother continues by picking up a black box with a white ribbon around that I didn't see before. She holds it out for me to take so I do. I unravel the ribbon and open the box to see a delicate silver tiara that's made out of intertwining flowers. I look up at my mother wondering what her plan could be. She continues by saying "She could become your Lady-in-waiting. Meaning she would have authority over visiting royals and court members. It would also mean that no one can say that she has to leave your side because she's your lady-in-waiting and that means she has to be less than ten metres away at all times..." she stops talking but I can tell there was something else she was going to say but for now I ignore it, contemplating the idea of lady-in-waiting Lillia. It would be fantastic. She'd be able to speak her mind to all the royals who I can't speak to and she wouldn't get in trouble. I nod my head and my mother starts talking again "Obviously not yet. But in the future she could be crowned. And we'd have to run it by her as well nearer the time. For now it's just an idea but you like the idea?"
I nod enthusiastically before handing back the tiara and leaving the hall. The doors open and I see Lillia pacing but when the doors open she runs to me and says "So...what happened Ginger? What did they want?"
"Just some stupid mistake I made in one of my classes a while back, they were drilling me on it because the teacher only just got back. Let's just go back to my room, I'm shattered."
She nods as we head back to our rooms.
Queen Penelope's PoV
I turn to Alex and say "They have absolutely no idea do they?"
He replies taking my hand, "Nope. Not a clue that they are head over heels for each other."
We watch as Lillia asks Gen what happened and I notice the nickname she's given Gen, Ginger. Which I find amusing. The sooner they realise the better because then I can officially tease Gen about it. Relentlessly. Plus Lillia got Gen to speak so that's an added bonus. In my little speech to Gen I almost put the fact that if Lillia became a Lady-in-waiting then she would be allowed to marry Gen and be crowned a Queen. But I managed to refrain myself mainly because I know it would freak Gen out. A lot.
Knowing Lillia was in the next room over last night meant I slept perfectly. In fact it's the best sleep I've had in a long time. She emerges from the closet with our outfits for the day and we get ready in silence until she starts humming. Not wanting her to stop but to curious to not ask I say "What do I have planned today?"
"Well Ginger, you have the morning free but this afternoon you're shadowing your mother in council meetings."
I sigh as I say "Prepare for the most boring afternoon ever. All they'll talk about is how taxes aren't helping the people and whether we should lower them or not. It's always the same. Every single time."
"You never know Ginger, this afternoon could be different."
The afternoon was not different at all. As always I sat on the outskirts of the council room, with Lillia sat next to me, my notebook and pen in hand in case anything interesting actually needs taking not of. Today we're discussing whether or not we should have new traffic lights installed nearer the outskirts of the town. Half people say yes, the others say no. Eventually after a lot of debating and a whole lot of my wasted time later they decide not to and the meeting is adjourned. Finally.
Me and Lillia leave but as we exit we're greeted by Queen Lola, who says quietly, "I'm just waiting to see your mother."
Nodding I say curtly, "She should be two minutes."
"Lily is it?" She asks addressing Lillia.
"Lillia Ma'am. May I ask why?"
"You look an awful lot like my sister that's all. Sorry"
"Your sister ma'am?"
Then the doors open and a guard says "You can go in now my lady."
She nods and walks away, but not before looking back at Lillia one more time with a confused frown on her face.
Turning to Lillia, I see her face is ghostly white, and so I say tentatively "Lil, what was your mothers name?"
After a pause she says in a trembling voice "Hannah."
The rest of the day we sit in my room, with Lillia in silence, just sat in her room. When dinner comes I say gently still thinking she might jump at my voice "Lillia, you have to come with me to dinner."
She doesn't reply, just gets up and follows me to the dining hall.
We walk in as my mother says "Well it's lovely to have you joining us Lola."
At her name I hear Lillia gag, and I turn around to see her hyperventilating, I hear Mother turn at the sound and I say quickly, earning a round of gasps from the guests at the table, "Mother I'll take my dinner in my room, Lillia isn't very well and I don't want to leave her alone."
Mother looks confused and shocked as I hold Lillia, helping her out of the room.
We end up outside sat on one of the stone benches.
The smell of lilies fills my senses as we sit on the cold stone bench, the green hedges surrounding us on all sides. Lillia sits next to me shaking in silence. Not knowing what to say I take her clenched fist from her lap and unfurl it before intertwining our fingers and gently stroking the back of her hand with my thumb. She stops shaking so violently after a few minutes but then she says faintly "Now I look at her, I can see the resemblance between her and my mum. The eyes. The face. The figure. What if... What if..."
Squeezing her hand I say gently "Well, if you can bear it then I would really like to eat some food. I don't know about you but I'm starving. If you want you don't have to come I mean, I know I said I'd have dinner in my room but dinner hasn't finished yet so it won't have been delivered. You don't have to come, you can wait in your room if you can't see her."
Shaking her head Lillia says in a defiant voice "No. I'm bound to run into her more so I might as well face her now. But if I'm sick or if I run out just say I'm not feeling well. Please."
I nod my head and as we walk back inside I don't let go of her hand.
Holding Ginger's hand gives me the strength to walk into the dining hall and not immediately walk out again. She still sits opposite the Queen, chatting politely and turning to look at us as we enter. She looks at me but I ignore her gaze instead focusing on the feel of mine and Gingers entwined hands. The Queen seems to pick up on the fact that if Ginger let's go I might actually collapse and so says "Lillia dear, why don't you join us for dinner today? You can sit next to Genevieve."
Nodding I sit down but don't take any food even though my stomach is grumbling and my nose is going crazy with all the delicious smells. The whole time Ginger doesn't let go of my hand for a second, knowing how much I need to have the contact with the world. Suddenly I hear my name being said and so I open my ears to listen to what's being said. Queen Lola says "So Lillia how long have you been in the castle?"
"My whole life."
"Ah. And where are your parents?"
"I never knew my dad and my mum died a few years ago."
"I'm very sorry to hear that."
And so the dinner continues with Lola asking me questions and me answering her with stilted sentences. As soon as Ginger's finished her food I stand and say "If you'll excuse me, I'm not feeling too great. Princess are you finished?"
She nods and we leave with me still clinging on the lifeline she's providing.