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A v a r i c e | T w e l v e

T w e l v e

❝A beautiful girl red;

a tragedy with death.❞

I WASN’T LISTENING TO A WORD Lilith had been saying the entire time I was at her home. I was too busy thinking about Marquise Trill, the lycanthropes, and Cain. In fact, it was impossible think about anything else. I really did try paying attention, but I just couldn’t.

Lilith asked me a question and I looked up at her dazedly. For probably the fiftieth time, I said, “Huh?” Lilith had grown impatient and glared at me with cold blue eyes. She slammed the book closed and I jumped up in surprise, wide-eyed and staring at her. “What, what?” I asked, expecting her to start yelling at me.

Lilith sighed and brushed back her crazy gray and red mane of hair behind her ears. “You aren’t paying attention,” she said to me calmly. She took in a deep breath and let it go before going on. I actually felt bad because I was being so rude, but I couldn’t help it truthfully. “So, tell me. What happened?”

I glanced away, torn. I didn’t really want to tell her I was learning about the lycanthropes behind her back. She might get mad, and Lilith mad did not seem like a very good mixture. I looked back at her. She tightened her jaw, narrowed her eyes, and repeated herself. “What happened?”

And, suddenly, I found myself tumbling over words because I was telling her everything that had occurred today so fast. When I was finished, I took in a deep and much needed breath. Lilith tapped a finger against her chin thoughtfully.

“Marquise Trill, a witch?” she thought out loud. “Interesting.” Lilith tucked her big book underneath her arm and walked it over to her chest and set it on top. “And Cain told you all of this, hmm? About the lycanthropes and the witch?” I nodded silently and fiddled my thumbs nervously. Lilith walked back towards me and sat down. “He’s a very smart man.”

I nodded again. “He’s a lycanthrope hunter,” I told her.

Lilith raised an eyebrow. “Is he now?” she questioned, lifting her teacup up to her lips and taking a sip. She very delicately placed the teacup back down on the table, but didn’t let go of it. I also had some of my tea.

“I want to meet him,” Lilith said with finality after thinking more on what she had learned.

I choked on my tea. “You what?”

Lilith looked me in the eyes. “I want to meet this Cain. I want to talk to him.”

My eyebrows drew together and I sat up straight in my chair. “I, well, why?” I stuttered. For some strange reason, I was completely against them meeting. It wasn’t like I hated Cain and didn’t want her to meet him because of that. It was some weird emotion, like I was being protective. I just wasn’t sure over who.

Lilith didn’t acknowledge my weirdness. “I believe I’ve had a vision of him, and I want to be certain that it’s the man I’m thinking of.”

I leaned back in my chair and stared at her, my mouth agape. “...alright. When?”

Lilith shrugged her petite shoulders and drummed her fingers against her teacup. “I’m not sure. But the time will come. I will meet him soon enough.”

My stomach tightened in on itself, and I used it to my advantage. I stood up quickly, almost sending my chair flying. “I better get going. I haven’t eaten much today, and I’m starving.” Lilith nodded and stood up as well.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then, dear.”

The strange edge that had entered her voice sent shivers down my back.

When I’d gotten home I’d eaten near half of the food mother had made me and then went straight to bed to get some much needed rest.

The second I woke up, however, everything was chaos. Mother was throwing a fit cleaning the house and getting all dolled up to go over to the Trills’ house. You’d think she’d be a little more settled, what with everything that had happened yesterday, but that wasn’t who my mother was.

“Cerise, don’t dawdle!” my mother called from outside of my room, pounding on the door. With a heavy sigh, I forced myself to get up. I washed my face and patted it dry with a towel and then pinned my hair up. I would take a bath, I decided to myself. I needed that kind of relaxation in my life at the moment.

“I’m awake!” I called out to my mother and waited expectantly for her response.

“Get dressed into something nice! We’re going to leave in a few hours.”

Great. I had time for a bath, then.

I got my own water ready over our fire, ignoring my mother flouncing all about our home. I heaved the water to our back room, where the tub was and spilled the bucket’s contents into the tub. I then got some more water and repeated the process a few more times before the bath was full.

Then, I shed myself of my nightgown, let my hair down, and sunk into the warmth.

I washed myself thoroughly with a sponge. Mother kept calling at me, begging me not to take too long but I blocked her voice out and drifted into my thoughts, closing my eyes. Taking a bath was so very serene and calming. I could feel my worries just drifting away with every second that passed.

Sadly, the best things always had to end. I had to get out of the bath, drain the water, and begin to get ready for dinner with the Trills. Mother brought me some porridge while I got ready, but I hardly touched it. I didn’t want to get too dressed up. It wasn’t like I was having dinner with the king, after all, but I wanted to look decent. I hadn’t seen my brothers or the rest of the Trills for quite sometime now.

Of course, not all of my brothers were home. Just two.

The other three were busy with apprenticeships and careers that they hadn’t much time to come and visit, only once a year really.

Mother kept checking in on me, making sure I was getting ready. When Father came home, she did the same to him even though she herself was still getting ready.

When I was finished and snacked on a few crackers in the kitchen because I hadn’t had lunch yet, I was swatted at and forced to sit down in her rocking chair. Once my parents were ready, (my mother in particular) it was time to leave.

Much to my mother’s dismay, we didn’t take a carriage to the Trill’s house. There wasn’t really any point since they were in decent walking distance. So, we trudged our way through the cold and managed to reach our destination in under five minutes. Though this might be because we moved a little quicker due to the temperature.

Edward opened the door in formal attire and smiled at us all. “Hello,” he greeted and then turned around, calling into the house, “they’re here!” If I had done such a thing, Mother would’ve scolded me profusely. I had always been jealous of the free reign the Trills seemed to have with their parents.

An onslaught of people and chatter came into the main entrance area. My mother squealed when she caught sight of my two older brothers, Lenny and Ralph the Second. She barged through the room and wrapped her arms around them both. Everyone laughed heartily. Phillip Trill stood in the doorway to the dining room, my brothers and their wives inside the main room as well as the rest of the Trill clan.

My brothers looked just like Father, especially Ralph. They all had the same dark brown crisp hair and deep, soulful brown eyes. Strangely, Father had a smaller jaw, and that trait was given to all of my brothers except for one. I was unlucky enough to receive my mother’s square jaw, making my face very angular.

Each one of the Victoires, however, got my father’s cleft chin and smile.

My brothers’ wives were twins, and therefore looked just the same. If it wasn’t for one of them having a beauty mark right under her lip, I would never be able to tell them apart. The Trills all had ginger hair, but different shades of red. Lydia had the lightest of them all. Lydia had been the prettiest, to be truthful. She was petite and sweet and absolutely beautiful. Her sisters were tall with round faces and brown eyes. Lydia had had green eyes.

I looked away from the twins. They reminded me too much of Lydia, even though they looked nothing like her.

“Hello, Cerise!” my brothers greeted and pulled me into a hug by turn. I smiled in return, saying hello back before taking a step back and letting my father go through the same process. After we had all visited a bit, Phillip Trill showed us into the dining room.

Oliver Ackerman was there, strangely enough.

My mother was surprised to see him, too, and gasped a little. “Hello, Duke. How are you?”

Oliver smiled. “Please, call me Oliver or Levi.” Levi? I had heard Lydia call him that a few times, but I hadn’t ever really thought about it before. It was strange to think of him as anything other than “Oliver Ackerman, Duke”.

Mother nodded. “Of course.”

We all took our spots at the table.

We were served our food by a servant of the Trills’. Father spoke to Phillip mostly and mother talked the ears off of my brothers and their wives. For the beginning of dinner, I sat in silence unless spoken to, and that was pretty scarce.

“Are you going to the ball?” Melinda, one of the twins (the one without the beauty mark) said to me.

I raised an eyebrow. “What ball?”

Melinda gasped and glanced around, hoping someone, anyone had been paying attention to our very short conversation. Everyone stopped their conversations to look at her. Her sister, Margaret, did know about the dance and excitedly nodded, grabbing Ralphie’s arm. “Oh, yes. I’ve already gotten my dress!”

My mother blinked. “A ball?” she repeated.

This moment was priceless. For once, my mother didn’t know about something so newsworthy.

Melinda nodded. “It’s for courting, really, but people of noble status are invited to come. It’s going to be a big thing in honor of Princess Arete’s birthday.”

“Princess Arete?” my mother asked in astonishment.

Melinda and Margaret nodded. “Do you plan on attending?”

Mother was quick to pull herself together after that and quickly nodded. “Of course! Well, maybe not me, but Cerise certainly! We just haven’t gotten her dress quite yet.”

Melinda and Margaret exchanged a look. “You had better hurry, then. We got ours just in the nick of time. Now dresses are becoming expensive.”

Mother actually winced at this and gave a pained expression towards Father. “I don’t have to go,” I cut into the conversation finally, and gave a meaningful look to Mother. “Really. It isn’t that big of a deal-”

“Yes it is!” Mother said in exasperation. “We need to find you a husband, and you haven’t had any luck with any suitor so far-”

“Whoa, there, dear,” my father smiled tightly at my mother to defend me. “Cerise just isn’t interested in anyone yet. These things take time.”

Mother glared at him, threatening him to challenge her again. With the look she was giving him, I would forgive my father if he switched sides. “I found you easily enough.” Mother said, venom lacing her words.

Mother suddenly stopped and gasped loudly. “Cerise hasn’t even been asked yet! How long before the ball?” She turned to the twins. I didn’t even know people could move that fast.

Margaret and Melinda were loving this, I could tell. “Three weeks,” they divulged.

“Oh, no!” Mother wailed. “Three weeks until the ball and our daughter hasn’t got a date!”

My eyebrows pulled together and I gave her a look like she was crazy, shaking my head. “Er, isn’t that the point of the ball? To find a suitor? Why do I have to go with someone?”

“Oh, hush, Cerise!” Mother cried. Mother looked to the Trill boys. “Have you got dates already?” she asked.

They all shook their heads. Mother smiled instantly. “Well, Cerise, have your pick-”

“Oh, this is ridiculous! Mother, I’ll be fine. I don’t need to go with somebody. That is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.” I retorted. Mother pouted. “I’ll go, I promise.” I sighed. “But I don’t want you to make anyone take me.”

Mother settled back into her seat and grumbled a little, but didn’t speak more about the ball.

Throughout dinner, I couldn’t help but notice the very obvious lack in conversation about Lydia and Marquise Trill. I suppose that was to be expected, however.

When dinner was over, we all moved into the main room to stand around and mingle. I mostly stood with the Trill boys. They each asked me to the dance, as I expected to them to, but I turned them down and shook my head. “Don’t bother. I’ll be fine, I promise. Don’t listen to my mother.” To which they laughed along with me and smiled in spite.

It was nice to catch up with them, and I couldn’t help but notice one brother in particular who showed interest in me. It would be nice to marry into the Trill family, if only for the security and home-ness. But, truthfully, I wasn’t interested in them really. Maybe I could be, if I tried.

Mother was right to some extent. I definitely needed to get out of their home and maybe find a husband. I wasn’t really giving it my all, finding a husband. Maybe if I did I would find one a little easier.

I sighed to myself. I hated admitting Mother was right.

Soon it was time for us to leave, which was good because I really needed to get to Lilith’s cabin. I was probably already late. We said goodbye to everyone, but Oliver pulled me to the side. “If you need anyone to talk to, Cerise, I’m here.” He told me with a gentle smile. I smiled back.

“Thank you, Oliver.” I nodded and then exited the home with Mother and Father.

“What about Oliver?” my mother couldn’t help herself while on the way back to our house.

I rolled my eyes. “What about Oliver?”

“He’s handsome and single and a duke,” Mother said offhandedly.

I instantly shook my head. “Not a chance, Mother. He is also Lydia’s fiancé.”

Mother quieted after that, and we were silent until we got home.

“He’s not Lydia’s fiancé, anymore, Cerise-”

“I don’t want to hear this!” I called back and entered into my room to change into more casual clothing. I needed to go to Lilith’s.

“I don’t care if you don’t want to hear this. You need to hear this.” Mother’s voice had gone serious, and I turned to face her while in the doorframe of my room. “This isn’t just about Oliver Ackerman. I know it’s hard, honey, and I’m not saying you should forget Lydia or get over her death, but I just need you to understand that she is gone. Oliver is not her fiancé anymore. He is single, whether you like it or not. Nothing on earth is still hers anymore. The Trill boys are not hers to claim, and you shouldn’t feel like you can’t be courted by them.”

I stared speechlessly at my mother. “It’s not just about how he was her fiancé or how they were her brothers, Mother. I can’t look at them without thinking of her.”

With that, I slammed my door shut and slid down it until my bottom hit the floor. From there, I buried my face in my arms and cried.

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