Boy, did she play a mean darn game of checkers.
She won five times in a row. And after that I gave up after laughing at every smart comment she made like "Did you see that Lillia?" Or "How amazing am I at checkers?" Or most often "What did I tell you! I play a mean game of checkers!" All of these most often been given the response of a grunt from me as I sat opposite her and her smug face. Then as the sun had gone down Ginger had asked me if I'd wanted to sleep in her bed again, but knowing it would only make the secret that I was in love with her harder to keep a secret, I politely declined and for a brief moment she had looked disappointed but I had gone to my room too quickly to see if it was and I had climbed into my bed and it had been cold without her by my side.
Now sat at breakfast I was determined to keep the promise to myself to keep my distance from Ginger. Just in case I can't keep my mouth shut and blurt out my secret, which would be embarrassing.
And so now I sit next to Ginger at breakfast, her knee often brushing against mine as we eat, and each time it does I feel a spark of electricity shoot up my leg which I attempt to ignore but fail miserably.
Then throughout all of Ginger's etiquette lessons I stay at the back of the room, not saying a word.
By the end of the day Ginger keeps looking at me suspiciously, and I feel like she's on to me but I don't stop, knowing that if I gave in and smiled at her and she smiled back then I would break and tell her.
So I ignore the glances I get and the smiles she sends me and the attempts to hold my hand as we walk through corridors.
Lillia is simply annoying me now.
At first it was worry that something was wrong because she wasn't returning my smiles or laughing as much as normal, but now she's resisting all my attempts to smile at her and hold her hand like we normally do. She's basically ignoring my existence or at least as far as she can being my personal maid. So now I'm just annoyed at the fact that she won't tell me what's going on to make her be like this. I mean just yesterday we were laughing and joking whilst playing checkers, but then this morning it's like she's changed into a different person. If she would just tell me what the heck is going on then I could help her and then she'd go back to being the laughing, smiling girl I'm hopelessly in love with.
Only as I hear a Duke from beside me clear his throat do I realise that I'm practically murdering my chicken with my fork as my anger at the situation rises. My mother says concerned from opposite me, her bleached blonde hair swaying as she does so, "Gen dear, are you okay?"
"Fine." I grate out through my teeth, "Please can I be excused from dinner, I'm suddenly not hungry."
My father nods and I shove my chair, causing it to scrape on the floor as I do and the sound echoes through the hall as I leave, with Lillia following behind me.
Storming towards my rooms I open the door and as soon as we enter she goes to her room and this just angers me even more because she doesn't even say goodnight anymore, so in my state of anger I go to her room and slam the door on her. Then I pace around my room, muttering to myself as I do, going over everything I know about her, trying to figure out what would cause her to be like this. Her mother's death anniversary? No, her gravestone said October and it's March right now. Maybe I said something to offend or upset her? This makes me think over the entire time I've been with her, going over all the conversations we've had, all the people we've been around, in case they said something. Then my mind goes to the morning when she woke up in such a good mood and said she had a revelation but couldn't tell me what it was. Then I told her about the lady-in-waiting proposal, so maybe she's thinking about that. Yes. It's probably that that's got her down. She's probably overthinking it as she does. Yes. Relieved I have a possible explanation I climb into bed and attempt to sleep.
I wake to see my clothes hung on my wardrobe door and a note from Lillia saying:
Hello Princess Genevieve.
I am going for a walk around the gardens. I'll be ten minutes.
With the time dated at 07:12, I look at the clock, 07:15. Taking the clothes I get dressed and sit on my window seat, trying to spot Lillia in the gardens that I can see from my window.
Checking the time again my clock says 07:21. Smiling I hear footsteps coming down the corridor and I turn to see my door opened and Lillia walk in dressed in grey jeans, a pink crop top and a pair of flat pink shoes. She's done her hair simple, with just two braids joined at the back of her head. She spots me and says in a dull tone, "After breakfast your parents wish you to visit a place in the town. And then this afternoon you are to be at the orphanage on the outskirts for the present giving."
Then she goes into her room and closes the door.
My mood crashes and I can tell that today is going to be hell not having the normal Lillia with me.
I hate being like this. I hate it. I hate seeing Ginger's face so disappointed. I hate seeing her not smile and not hearing her laugh. I hate, hate the fact that I use that stupid dull tone around her but I know if I showed any emotion I'd give up my secret and be fired. But today is going to be horrible, knowing I can't speak to her unless necessary and having to spend the day doing nice things.
But I do. After breakfast we climb into a car in silence and we drive into the village, and down to a building I've never seen before but I resist asking where we are. We enter and we have a meeting with some guy, then we leave again a couple of hours later with some paper in the Princess's hand and a grey look in her eyes. Then we drive to the orphanage and we greet the children there, all of them in awe of the Princess as she smiles politely and picks them up saying "Oomphf, you've grown since I last came haven't you?"
Then she goes into the car and starts handing out presents. Toys, books, sweets and even laptops and the looks the children get when given them, it makes a smile appear on my face that I know the Princess notices. Then we come back to the castle in silence just as on the way, and we enter the dining room for dinner and sat next the Queen is Miles and another prince who I've not seen before. Oh wait I saw him at the gala, stood in a corner staring lustily at the Princess. Immediately that familiar anger rises towards him but I push it down, not wanting to get into trouble for slapping him. But as I watch him from behind the Princess's chair against the wall, he stares at her now with the same lust I saw at the gala. She stands nodding her head to her parents and then as we go to leave this new Prince stands and says "Your Highness please, let me escort you to your rooms." Having no choice she takes his arm and we walk out into the corridor.
In a cold voice I say "Excuse me sir, but I'm afraid I don't believe we've met. I'm Lillia, the Princess's handmaiden."
He smiles distastefully before saying "Prince Lucas. Now if you wouldn't mind staying fifteen paces behind us."
Shaking my head I say "Sorry but I have to be a maximum of five paces away from the Princess at all times. The Queen's orders."
Sighing a look of anger appears in his eyes but he sighs and bites out "Very well."
Then he turns back to the Princess and takes her arm before proceeding to walk through the corridors towards our chambers. Once we reach them he attempts to enter but I say harshly "The Princess is tired from a busy day. If you wish to see her then you can see her at breakfast tomorrow morning, thank you."
Then I slam the door in his face. And it feels good. He was so getting on my nerves. Turning around I put my back against the door and take a deep breath. I open my eyes and see the Princess already asleep so I walk over to her and kiss her lightly on the forehead, before going I her bookcase and taking a book that I end up reading in my room until early in the morning.
And so I wake up, get dressed, hang the Princess's clothes up and go for a walk, then I come back in and explain her day and go into my room.
Then at breakfast I eat silently only answering questions from the Queen or any of the other guests. Then we go through the Princess's schedule normally etiquette lessons but sometimes outings into town. Then we come back have dinner and go to bed. And this is how the next few days pass.
And now I'm stood behind the Princess's chair at dinner with Prince Lucas still here. Observing him I see he eats like pig, gobbling down his food in big mouthfuls that he chews open mouthed, making this sloppy sound as he chews. You can see all the other nobility visibly uncomfortable with it around the table. Queen Penelope suddenly stands up and says with a smile on her face, "I have an announcement. Prince Lucas here, has asked for my daughter, Princess Genevieve's, hand in marriage. Now isn't that wonderful?"
The entire table is silent as her words are processed in my head. Ginger's been proposed to. Now I have no chance whatsoever.
In front of me Ginger stands up and storms out of the room without saying a word. Running after her as she takes turns and corridors and goes through doors, we end up in the old throne room that she wants to convert. She stands pacing across the floor, muttering to herself. Then she suddenly screams, making me jump, "WHY ON EARTH WOULD SHE ACCEPT THIS? Did you see him? Did you Lillia? The way he stares at me?"
Staying silent she then turns to me and goes "And then there's you! You infuriating girl. You were like my best friend one day and then the next you basically ignore my entire existence. And you speak to me in that horrible tone like you hate me. What's wrong with me? What did I do? Is it because I asked you to be my lady-in-waiting? Is it because I pressured you? Please just tell me what's going on so I can help you get back to the Lillia I know!"
Shocked by her outburst I reply "I'm sorry! I didn't realise you thought it was your fault. I have been acting strange lately, I agree with that but what's causing it is most definitely not you. Well not directly anyway."
"What? What do you mean? It's me but it's not me? Lillia you're not making any sense. Please explain."
Shaking my head I say shamefully "I can't. I'm sorry. But I just can't. I don't want to hurt you."
Sighing she says quietly "You're still not making sense but if you don't trust me enough to tell me then..."
Suddenly panicking I hastily say "It's not because I don't trust you, it's because if I tell you, you won't want anything to do with me."
"I'm sure that's not true ." She says with reassurance in her voice.
"Well I am. I'm just a maid Ginger."
"No you are not 'just a maid' Lillia. You are my favourite person in this world. You are the first person not to force me to talk, but allowed me to in my own time. You are the one who slapped Miles for hurting me. You are the one my parents adore. So no, you are not just a maid Lillia. You are much more than that."
Blinking back tears at her view of me I tell myself not to give in. Not to break. But as I look at her she looks so beautiful with the dim sunlight shining through the roof I realise if I don't say anything now, she'll have no reason not to marry Lucas, and then I'll be forgotten and I'll forever have the secret so I decide I'm done hiding it.
So I take a breath in and out and say as calmly as possible, walking closer to her as I do, "Ginger, I'm in love with you."