Allison and Lillia – Concerns
THE FIRST DAY
The sun was shining through a few high clouds and the late afternoon air was warm as Lillia and Treize left the school building. Lillia was smiling as she stretched her arms out and then glanced over at Treize.
"Well, where are we going?"
Treize didn't hesitate with his answer. "Home." With a frown he turned toward Lillia. "Where else do we need to go?"
They had reached his motorcycle and sidecar and Lillia stowed her bag behind the seat, then gave an exaggerated sigh. "I don't mean right now, I know we're going home." She stepped into the sidecar and showed a little more of her well shaped legs than usual. From the corner of her eye she saw Treize staring as she rearranged her uniform skirt. "I mean where will we be going for summer vacation since it starts tomorrow. This is our last time for a summer vacation trip while we're in school and we have always taken the vacation together."
He started the engine and pulled his goggles down before answering. "We're staying here in town this year." Pulling away from his parking spot he didn't even look down to see Lillia's open mouth and look of surprise.
Lillia's surprise turned into annoyance while she waited for Treize to elaborate on his short answer. Finally she couldn't take being ignored any longer and punched him on the leg. "What do you mean we're staying home?"
Treize's leg jumped with the punch and he looked down at her. "Did you say something? I'm sorry but I can't hear you with the engine running." With a straight face he looked back at the road, still ignoring the fuming girl beside him.
The rest of the trip was quiet as Lillia pouted and Treize didn't say a word. Pulling into the apartment building's parking lot she almost jumped out before he fully stopped the motorcycle. Grabbing her school bag and giving him a bigger frown Lillia turned and walked quickly toward the door. "I'll see you upstairs."
Treize smiled and shook his head. Looking up he waved at Lillia's mother, Allison, looking out of her apartment window and saw her smile and wave back. Purposely moving slowly he covered the motorcycle combination and headed toward the back door of the building. Humming to himself he walked up the stairs and went to his small apartment that he had rented when he first came to the capital over a year ago. Changing out of his school uniform into a shirt and casual pants he went next door to the Schultz' apartment. Composing himself he gave a knock and opened the door, announcing that he was coming in. Sitting at the table with a pile of paperwork in front of her, Allison smiled and waved to him.
"Good afternoon, Treize, did you have a good day at school?" With a nod of her head toward the kitchen she rolled her eyes. "Some people apparently didn't."
He sighed. "It was just a normal 'last day of class before vacation', day."
From the direction of the kitchen came Lillia's icy cold voice. "I know you are out there, Treize. The potatoes aren't going to peel themselves, so get in here." There was a pause. "Please." The sound of chopping grew suddenly louder.
Treize winked at Allison, who was trying not to laugh. "I'll be right there." Slowly he walked toward the kitchen and picked up the apron that was hanging by the doorway. Tying it on, he passed behind the long time love of his life. Slowing down he quickly leaned over and kissed the back of her neck, then stepped back out of her reach.
Lillia squealed and jumped as if an ice cube had gone down her shirt then turned toward the perpetrator swinging her knife toward him. "You better watch it mister idiot. I am in no mood for that." She turned back to the chopping board and gave the onion a harder swing of her knife. "We have things to discuss after dinner."
With an innocent look that one very angry Lillia didn't see, Treize went over to the potatoes stacked near the sink. Picking one up he looked it over before starting to peel it. "Hey, I'm sorry you don't like my idea for the vacation." He paused and waited for her to say something, then went on. "I just thought that after all the crazy adventures we've had that a quiet few weeks together would be good." He paused again as the sound of chopping slowed slightly. Slowly he flipped the half peeled potato in his hand. "Remember last summer we were almost killed and the summer before was the orphan seaplane mess. Then both of the crazy New Year celebrations that we spent together in Ikstova." He shivered a little. "And then there was last year's spring vacation." Finally he reached over and put a hand on her shoulder. "Look, I don't want you to be hurt while we're together. Doesn't that make sense?"
Finally Lillia stopped chopping the onions. She lowered her head and reached an onion juice coated hand up to take Treize's in hers. A few tears were in her eyes when she looked over at his smiling face. "I'm sorry. I didn't think of things that way. I just thought we'd go somewhere and maybe nothing bad would happen for once." She leaned over and kissed Treize on the cheek.
"That doesn't look like dinner preparation to me." Standing in the doorway Allison was shaking her head while trying to look concerned. "Your father will be home from University soon, and I think he would like to have something good to eat for his dinner."
Lillia blushed, although she knew that her mother was very understanding of her relationship with Treize. "Yes, mother." She straightened herself and looked over at Treize. "See, you shouldn't force yourself on me like that."
Treize smiled, leaned over and kissed her back. "You are quite right my dear." She blushed again a deeper red, and Allison turned back toward the dining room so Lillia wouldn't see her covering her mouth to keep from laughing.
A knock from the front door interrupted Allison's paperwork. Quickly standing she went to answer it as the dinner preparation continued in the kitchen. Opening the door she was confronted by a girl in a school uniform matching Lillia's, her long black hair held in pony tails on each side of her head and wearing glasses with circular lenses and dark frames, in her hands she held a school bag. The girl smiled at Allison, then fluttered her long eyelashes at her.
"Hello, my name is Ellie, and I'm in the class with your Lillia. May I come in?"
"Certainly, my dear, come in. I'm Lillia's mother Allison Schultz. Would you care to have a seat while I get her?"
Ellie smiled as she stepped into the room. "Thank you Mrs. Schultz, but I think I'll stand. I've been sitting a long while already."
Allison smiled and nodded as she walked toward the kitchen. "Lillia, one of your school friends is here to see you."
Lillia set the knife down after scraping the onions into a pot to join Treize's sliced potatoes. "I'll be back. If you don't finish cutting up the rest of those vegetables by then I'll hit you again." She turned and took off her apron hanging it on the hook on the wall by the kitchen doorway. Entering into the dining room she saw the girl with twin ponytails looking out the window. Strangely, she didn't recognize her, and was confused.
"Hello, I'm Lillia, may I help you?" She stood near the kitchen door wiping her hands with a towel. "I'm sorry, but I don't remember you from my classes."
The girl by the window glanced over her shoulder at Lillia. "You aren't supposed to recognize me." Turning toward Lillia she took the glasses off and grinned. "Although for someone that thinks she has an attachment to my baby brother I would think you would notice who I am." She stood spinning the glasses in her hand watching Lillia's mouth fall open.
"Merielle! But I didn't know you were coming." Lillia started to think things over. "Wait a minute Treize never said you were coming." She glanced over at her mother. "And my mother and father never mentioned it either." With a frown she turned back toward Merielle. "Just why are you here? And how did you get a school uniform?"
Just then Trieze came into the dining room from the kitchen. "Hey, if it isn't my older sister, I thought I heard your sweet voice. Come to grace us with your divine Princess presence?" He pursed his lips as if giving her a kiss from a distance.
Merielle set the school bag on the dining table near Allison's papers, turned with her hands on her hips and grinned at her brother. "I am here incognito because this isn't an official visit. Actually I came with a proposition for you." She paused and looked between Allison and Lillia. "But I was planning to tell you later when we were alone."
Lillia still hadn't moved, but her face started to show concern and interest at the same time. Quickly she understood that something was in the wind and it may involve Treize. "I think you can talk to him with me around." She looked over at her mother. "Right, mom, don't you think I should know what goes on in our family?"
Without changing her expression Allison started to shake her head. "Sorry dear, but you aren't in that category. That is Treize and his sister, and they are family."
She put a little stress on the word "they".
Lillia's eyes opened wide hearing her mother's decision on family law. "But!" She turned to Treize. "But, aren't I family?" Tears that weren't from chopping onions started to well up. Treize just stood looking at her. "Say something, won't you."
Finally he slowly shook his head, then went over to Lillia and took her hand in his. "Don't you think I need to find out what it is Merielle has to say first? " She put her face against his shirt and he could feel dampness against his skin. Trieze looked over to his sister.
Merielle wiggled her fingers at him in a welcoming wave and smiled. "Well, first, mom and dad said to tell everyone 'Hi!'" She glanced at Allison and she nodded back. "And since I am being forced to divulge highly sensitive information that must never leave this room..." She raised an eyebrow at Lillia who had turned her head a little to look at the Princess, but still had tears in her eyes. Lillia nodded slightly. "Good! Now the basics are out of the way." Smiling, Merielle opened the school bag and took out some papers and waved them in the air. "These, my baby brother, are our tickets for the Trans-Continental Express train to the capital of Sous-Beil. I wanted to have a vacation with my brother and since you are out of school for the summer this would be a good time to go." Her smile became wider. "And we will get to see Princess Matilda while we're there." Merielle looked straight at Lillia. "I still would like her as my sister, you know, not to mention she is a real Princess. And my dear brother has only a few months until he is twenty to decide on his bride." Lillia's face started to show panic but she didn't say anything.
Treize nodded his head slowly. "I guess you're right for once my sweet sister." Merielle stuck her tongue out at him. "A trip to Sous-Beil on the Express might be nice and relaxing." He gave a sigh and smiled. "And it would be fun seeing the Princess again." Lillia was staring up at him with wide eyes. A look of concern came to his face. "Were you thinking of having Lillia come along? After all she knows the Princess and they did have a good time together when they met last time."
Merielle stared at Lillia, and Lillia sniffed, wiping her nose on the towel still in her hand. "Well, there was this." She reached into the school bag and pulled out another sheaf of paper. "Mom and dad said this was for Lillia." Merielle waved the papers like a fan. "But only if Lillia really wanted to come with us. And she hasn't said that she wants to travel with a pair of incognito types like us. Of course she has to swear she will not reveal our identities to anyone." A smile escaped from the corners of Merielle's mouth.
Lillia stared at the ticket in Merielle's hand, then she wiped her eyes and nose again. With a quick bow to Merielle she almost ran all her words together. "Thank you, Princess Merielle, and thank you to your mother and father. I would be so happy to accompany you to Sous-Beil to see Princess Matilda!" She suddenly paused and looked at Trieze. "That is if the Prince would have me as a traveling companion." She bowed, and quickly nodded her head several times while mouthing "please."
Treize finally smiled. "I would enjoy having the beautiful Lillia along as a traveling companion." Then he looked over to his sister. "What arrangements have been made?"
"By arrangements do you mean sleeping arrangements my pervert brother?" Treize rolled his eyes at her. "We have a deluxe compartment with two beds. That makes one for you and one that Lillia and I will share." Merielle grinned at her brother. "And there will be a proper curtain between the beds, so no funny business will be tolerated."
Off to the side Allison started to shake her head and snicker. Merielle and Lillia looked over at her questioningly. Finally she controlled her giggles enough to speak. "That was how Wil and I traveled on that train." With a glint of devilment in her eye she grinned widely at Treize and Merielle. "After your mother moved out of the compartment that she and I shared, to your father's compartment." Merielle, Treize and Lillia all blushed. "Of course Lillia can jump past those curtains in a second if she wanted to." Finally she couldn't stand it any longer and Allison bent over laughing. "Sorry!" She ran back to her bedroom while the three in the dining room heard loud laughter all the way down the hall.
Treize looked at the two girls and shook his head. "Right, no improper anything. I think I have the idea."
Merielle said she wanted to change into something more comfortable and Treize had her go to his apartment. A few minutes later she was back dressed in a very well worn mechanics overall that still had embedded grease stains. Lillia and Treize had gone back to the kitchen and didn't see Allison nod at the Princess and take the offered school uniform back to Lillia's room where it belonged.
Wil came in from the University with an armload of student notebooks. Smiling on seeing Merielle sitting on the couch he gave a short bow. "Your highness, I'm glad to see you arrived safely. Welcome to our home." He moved to the table and set the books down then leaned over to kiss Allison on her offered cheek. She reached up and touched his hand that was resting on her shoulder.
Merielle stretched and stood up moving over to hug Wil. "I had an uneventful flight. Even the weather was good." She stepped away to look him in the eyes. "And I appreciate the escort but I really didn't need it."
Wil frowned. "Escort, what are you talking about?" He glanced down at Allison who also was frowning. "Not that I would know about such things since I retired, of course."
Merielle took in what they had said and frowned herself. "About halfway here there were two aircraft high above and behind me. They stayed with me even in my course changes."
Allison and Wil exchanged glances, and then she looked back to Merielle. "Sorry, not us apparently, I'll check on it later. Do you need protection for your trip?"
The Princess slowly shook her head. "No, I may just have been imagining things. Maybe there was a military training flight and they meant no harm." All three were deep in thought when Lillia came into the room carrying a tureen of stew and announced dinner was ready.
Later that evening as Treize closed the door of his apartment he looked at the smiling Marielle and had to smile himself. "I think that went perfectly, don't you?"
"Certainly my dear brother, after all I do take part in the Royal Theater productions." She plopped down on his bed in her mechanics overall. "And I suppose you would like to take my plane up for a spin when we return?"
"Of course, I would love that, even if it is pink." He stretched his arms out. "I can't afford one of those here, and Allison can't keep taking Lillia and I flying on made up pretenses." He went over to a chest and took out a sheet, blanket and pillow. "I suppose the Princess would like the comfortable bed while her poor brother enjoys the floor?"
"Princesses deserve nice beds." She paused and sighed. "Unlike a certain Prince that requires that he actually has to be in love with his prospective bride." She sighed again and looked at Treize. "You know that I've had to start meeting the eligible Royal 'what evers' that could be my future husband. I wish Matilda was a guy, or at least had a brother that was like her, I could love him!"
Trieze shook his head and went over to hug his sister. "Remember that dad wasn't a Royal. Who knows what the future holds for you." He gave her a kiss on top of her head. "I get the bathroom first because you get the bed." Waving he left her sitting there on the edge of the bed.
"Hey, baby brother have you ever asked Lillia to be your girlfriend?" Marielle lay back on the bed with her hands behind her head looking at Treize.
He didn't even smile as he formed an answer. "Well, actually no. Somehow the time has never been right to say such a thing." This time he did smile. "And she has never asked me to be her boyfriend either. We definitely have never said anything about a permanent relationship." A gentle smile did come. "But sometimes I think she feels that we are to be together." The smile got bigger as he looked at his sister lying on the bed. "Just like she did tonight when she felt she was part of our family."
Marielle rolled her eyes at Treize. "You are an idiot. Thank goodness I got the smarts in the family since I am the future Queen." She shut her eyes and smiled as her brother shut the door to the bathroom.
Next door Allison was still working on her paperwork at the dining table while Wil sat in his chair reading student notebooks. From the bedroom hall Lillia called gently to her mother.
"Momma, may I talk with you, please?" Lillia stood with her arms crossed and hands clutching her elbows.
Allison had an idea what the talk would be about, while Wil just blinked at his daughter with his "what's going on' look. She stood up and reached out for her daughter, giving her a supportive smile. "Will your room be okay?" Lillia nodded quickly. Allison turned to look over her shoulder at Wil. "Girl talk, dear, I'll be back in a little while." He shrugged his shoulders and nodded in return while still looking at the notebook in his lap.
Allison shut the bedroom door behind her as Lillia went over to sit on the bed. Then she moved over to sit beside her clearly troubled daughter. "What's wrong, dear, is it something about this trip?"
Lillia sat quietly with her hands in her lap, then reached over to take her mother's right hand in hers. "Momma, I'm scared again." She looked up at Allison with tears in her eyes. "I feel like I did when Treize disappeared in the train wreck." She shook her head as if to clear it of bad thoughts. "I'm scared he will leave me for Princess Matilda just like his mother and Merielle want him to!" Lillia wrapped her arms around her mother and squeezed tightly while more tears rolled down her cheeks. Allison just held her and let the time of tears pass.
After a short time Lillia let go and sat up while wiping her cheeks with the sleeve of her pajamas. Allison smiled and gently rubbed her daughters head. "Dear, I really think you are reading too much into this trip. After all Treize has been your constant companion since you were young children. Don't you think he knows that?" Lillia nodded her head. "And don't you think he would tell you if he was planning on marrying the Princess?" Lillia nodded again after a pause and saw her mother smile. "Then stop worrying about this. Enjoy the trip and the companionship of Treize and Marielle." Allison's smile widened. "And have fun this time, okay."
Lillia nodded again and whispered 'thank you, momma, I love you' while giving her mother another big hug.
"Okay then, go to sleep and be happy for the time together with your friends." Allison stood up, moved to open the door and leaving the room gently closed it behind her.
Lillia looked at the door, and then she rolled over to stare at the bedroom ceiling. Sleep was a long time in coming.
THE SECOND DAY
The day was bright, with few clouds, and the platform for the Sous-Beil Express had a fair number of passengers and well wishers seeing them off. Merielle with her hair in the twin pony tails and the glasses, plus wearing a dress borrowed from Lillia, smiled and reached for Lillia's hand.
"Isn't this exciting? I finally get to take a real vacation with my brother and his friend." The plain glass lenses glinted as Merielle turned toward the unsmiling Lillia. "Oh, come on, I just want to have a good time."
Lillia sighed and gave a little smile to the Princess of Ikstova. "I know. It's just that I'm not used to having anyone with us on a trip." She frowned a bit and looked at Trieze standing near her parents apparently in an animated conversation with them. In the back of her mind it had registered that Merielle had called her Treize's 'friend'. Lillia frowned at him and muttered under her breath, "Idiot!" She missed Merielle's smile.
In the distance the Express could be seen coming into the station. Lillia brightened and finally with a genuine smile she pulled on Merielle. "Come on, let's tell my parents goodbye and join up with my…" She almost said something else, and then her smile got bigger. "Let's make him 'our' friend since he can't be related to you either." Merielle suddenly laughed out loud and ran with her toward the small group standing apart from everyone else.
"Momma, daddy, sister and I are excited about this trip and we both wish you could go too!" Lillia pulled Marielle up to stand beside her. With her free hand she punched Treize on the arm. "I'm glad you were able to get our friend to come along to keep us in line." She punched him again.
With a predatory grin Marielle punched his other arm. "Yeah, and he'd better not try anything perverted with us."
Allison quickly picked up on the banter. "Oh, my beautiful daughters, your father and I would love to be with you." She smiled at Treize standing there rubbing his bruised arms. "I'm sure that your good friend Treize would never think of doing anything perverted to you." She knocked him gently on top of his head with one finger. "Or he would die when you came back." Trieze rolled his eyes at her.
Wil cleared his throat and frowned at Treize. "You should do nothing that I wouldn't do at your age."
This time Treize grinned. "Mr. Schultz, from what I've heard about you at my age, believe me, both of your daughters are perfectly safe." He gave Wil a quick bow.
Allison was trying not to laugh as the train pulled to a stop and the conductors stepped to the platform putting the boarding steps down for the new passengers. Allison hugged the two girls, and kissed Treize on the cheek. "Now you all have fun and enjoy your vacation. Oh, don't forget to send us postcards."
Merielle reached into her bag and pulled out a new camera. "Don't worry, mom, I have my newest camera along. I hope to get some good pictures while we go through the mountains."
Lillia hugged her parents again and followed Treize and Merielle onto the train. Allison and Wil waved then stood watching as the train moved out of the station. As the last car went by a pretty woman with shoulder length hair and bright summer dress nodded at them.
Allison sighed. "Maybe I should have been a little more jealous." She elbowed her husband. "Axe can look very good when she wants to."
Wil stepped a little bit away from his wife. "I keep telling you she was only my assistant." He leaned over and gave Allison a kiss on the cheek. "Besides why would I want anyone other than you for my wife and lover."
Allison slowly shook her head. "Right, and not to change the subject, but how many security people do you think are on that train?"
Wil chuckled. "If you count the Royal Guards, Sous-Beil security, Roxche security and probably Ikstova internal security, probably most of the passengers and for all I know the crew also."
Allison reached over took Wil's hand and smiled at him. "I guess that's needed since sixty percent of the Ikstova Royal family is traveling together." She giggled. "Well, in a couple of days it will be sixty percent." She leaned her head on Wil's arm. "Let's go home and get ready ourselves."
Allison wrapped her arm around Wil's and laid her head on him as they left the station.
The trio of friends stopped waving at Allison and Wil after the platform moved out of sight of the window. Beside them the conductor coughed. "May I show you to your compartment?"
Merielle raised an eyebrow at the conductor. "Thank you, I think we're ready to go now." She saw the slight nod in return.
"This way please." He stood aside and stretched out his arm down the passage.
Lillia quickly reached over and lightly took Treize's hand in hers. She was relieved when he didn't move it away. With Merielle leading they moved into the next coach and entered the second compartment.
"This has been reserved for you." The conductor went toward the sleeping section. "This is the private bath facility with dressing room. The beds have the requested privacy panel between them. Your luggage is already in the closet. I hope that you find everything to be to your satisfaction." He bowed slightly. "The lunch and dinner schedules and menus are posted on the table. Light snacks and beverages are available at all times in the club car. If you have any further needs please call one of my staff." He indicated a handset mounted near the table and chairs. Rising, he left the compartment, sliding the door closed.
Lillia let go of Treize's hand and walked around the compartment looking at everything and touching fine fabrics. "This is better than the royal suite at the hotel in Lartika." She turned and frowned at Merielle. "Aren't you two supposed to be incognito?"
Treize looked at his sister. She covered her mouth and gave a little cough. "You have to remember my mother arranged for this trip. And we are Royals, so I think its okay this time."
Lillia moved to the sleeping area and looked at the two beds. Reaching over she pulled on the privacy curtain closing it slightly and tried to look through the fabric. Treize and Merielle watched quietly. With a sniff Lillia looked over her shoulder at Treize. "I'd better not catch you trying to peep at me, pervert." Treize shook his head and rolled his eyes. Lillia slowly ran her hand on the edge of the curtain fabric. She spoke so quietly that Treize and Merielle almost didn't hear her. "Don't peep at me because I'm just a friend and nothing more." There was a catch in her voice and tears were starting to roll down her cheeks as she suddenly turned and ran past the brother and sister on her way to the door. "I'm sorry, I'll be back later." The compartment door was slammed shut.
Treize's eyes were wide as he started to go after Lillia. Merielle grabbed his arm and shook her head. "Don't go. Let her be by herself for a while." She sighed. "You realize this is because you haven't found the right time to say what you needed to say." Trieze got another punch on the arm. "My idiot baby brother, you will have to apologize later. But you had better not ruin the surprise."
Lillia slowed as she reached the end of the passageway in their coach and wiped away the tears with her wrist. She crossed into the next coach and just inside the doorway stood another conductor.
He looked concerned as she tried to move past. "May I be of service, milady?"
She gave another sniff and wiped her cheek. "No, no thanks, I'll be fine. I just need to get something to drink, is it this way?"
The conductor smiled and reached into his pocket producing a clean handkerchief and held it out to Lillia. "Two more coaches in that direction. Please take this, milady, I'm sure things will work out for you."
Hesitating for a second Lillia finally took the offered handkerchief, wiped her eyes and cheeks, then she tried to hand it back. "Thank you, sir."
Still smiling he held his hands up. "Please keep it, milady, just in case."
She had to smile back. "Thank you again." She slowly walked down the passageway every so often wiping her eyes. As she passed the last compartment there was loud male laughter inside and it made her jump slightly to one side and stare at the clouded glass door. Moving a little faster she went into the next car and was politely greeted by another conductor.
"May I be of service, milady?" He bowed slightly.
This time Lillia gave a little smile. "Thank you, but I just wanted some juice before going to the observation car." She noticed that there were several men and women seated around the car quietly talking. Some made quick eye contact and smiled at her and she smiled and nodded back. At the serving bar she asked for a large juice and noticed a plate of her favorite cookies laying there.
The drink waiter noticed her looking at the plate. "Please you may have as many as you wish. Would you care for a plate?"
Lillia jumped slightly and looked at the waiter. "I'm sorry, but may I have just a few? I usually can get those only in Ikstova when I visit there." Her mouth dropped as the waiter handed her the entire plate. "Thank you, but I only wanted a few."
The waiter smiled and nodded at her. "We have a case or two on board. I said you could have as many as you wished."
Lillia moved away from the drink bar while shaking her head. At the door to the observation car another conductor smiled and opened it for her. Stepping into the last car of the train she stopped as she noticed all but one seat had been taken. Again those that took note of her entrance nodded and smiled. A few people had drinks on small tables next to them but she still felt out of place with an entire plate of cookies in one hand and a glass of juice in the other. She quickly zeroed in on a seat facing outward that already had a girl sitting on the other half.
"I'm sorry but may I sit here please?"
The girl looked over at her and gave Lillia smile. Her light brown hair hung below her shoulders and her summer dress had a bodice that managed to emphasize her chest. The girl's gray eyes shone the same as her smile did. "Certainly, I'm by myself right now." She eyed the plate of cookies.
Lillia quickly gave a quick bow. "I'm sorry, my name is Lillia Schultz." She held out the plate to the girl. "And you are?"
"You can call me Carlotta, thank you for the cookies." She took one in each hand as if they might suddenly disappear. Carlotta took a bite from one then closed her eyes and leaned back against the seat. "Oh! These are delicious!" She chewed one up and started on the other. Lillia slowly ate a cookie after placing the plate on the seat between herself and Carlotta. Except for the crunching the girls were silent. After the second cookie disappeared from her hand Carlotta put her head back against the seat. "Isn't it beautiful out there? I've never been far from my home until now. I'm on my way to see the boy I love." She sighed happily.
Lillia was surprised. "Boyfriend? You have a boyfriend? I'm sorry I didn't think you were old enough to even think about a boyfriend."
Carlotta grinned over at Lillia and pushed her obviously growing chest out. "I'm almost thirteen! Besides, I told him two years ago that I would marry him if the girl he loved told him she wouldn't."
Lillia's eyes widened. "You're thirteen? And you are ready to get married?" She picked up another cookie and munched it slowly while looking out the window and trying to match her thoughts with the child beside her. After a minute of silent chewing, Lillia took a sip of juice. "I wish I was as sure of my life as you are. I think I have a boyfriend but he never has really asked me to be his girlfriend." She sighed. "Now his sister wants him to be with someone else and I guess I'm not in the picture." Sipping the juice again her eyes started to tear up. "I'm sorry I don't know why I said that." Smiling again she reached over and took Carlotta's hand in hers giving it a squeeze. "I hope your boyfriend tells you he would like to be with you."
Suddenly from the entrance of the coach there was loud laughter and three military officers entered the car. Lillia looked at them and frowned. Two were from Sous-Beil and the third was in the uniform of Roxche. Each had a drink in their hand and obviously they were enjoying themselves. She missed the subtle movements of some of her fellow passengers including three of the ladies reaching into their purses at the same time. One Lieutenant from Sous-Beil elbowed the Roche Lieutenant and nodded toward Lillia and Carlotta. All three started to make their way toward the girls as Lillia turned away to look out the window. Carlotta just stared at them until Lillia hissed at her to look away.
The Roche Lieutenant came up beside Lillia while the other two stood behind the couch. She refused to look up at him. "Well, don't we have two of the most beautiful ladies on this train together in one place." He started to lean over and Lillia could smell the alcohol on his breath. "Would you mind sharing those wonderful cookies with some of the finest officers in the armies of the two kingdoms?" Reaching over Lillia he picked up a cookie from the plate. Lillia's face started to turn red as she looked up to tell him off.
Carlotta looked up at all three and gave them a beaming smile, then shook her head. "I wouldn't bother my sister if I were you. I've seen what she can do when she's mad."
Lillia frowned and shot a glance at Carlotta, who smiled back at her and nodded.
Lillia looked back up at the Roxche Lieutenant, but before she could say anything a man's voice interrupted. "Would you three gentlemen please step to the rear of the car? That gentleman would like to have a word with you." He bowed slightly and held his arm out directing them toward a distinguished man that had been reading a newspaper and was now slowly folding it up and placing it on the table. As the army officers moved away the man bowed toward the girls. "I'm sorry you ladies were disturbed." He straightened and followed behind the Lieutenants.
Lillia's mouth was open and her eyes were wide. She looked at Carlotta. "Who is he, your father?"
Carlotta shook her head and looked out the window again while she picked up another cookie. "No, sister Lillia, I don't know who he is. But I suspect he ranks higher then those three."
Lillia looked back and saw the three Lieutenants standing at attention, with very scared looks their faces, on the open platform as the distinguished gentleman was speaking to them. She shook her head again and took another sip of juice.
Quietly she and Carlotta watched the passing scenery until sunset approached.
She had almost been lulled asleep when a conductor was at her side.
"My Lady, your dinner reservation is ready, and your sister and friend are waiting for you at the table." He bowed to her again.
Half asleep Lillia nodded. "Thanks, I'll be right there." As she started to rise up it finally made its way into her half awake mind how the conductor had addressed her. Shaking her head she mumbled to herself. "Boy would he be surprised if he knew what I really was." She smiled down at Carlotta. "Thanks for sitting with me. I guess my friend didn't really want to come find me." She gave a little bow, turned and left.
Carlotta grinned at Lillia's retreating back and reached for the last cookie. "He's mine if you don't want him." Outside on the open platform the three Lieutenants were alone and still at full attention.
Lillia was escorted back to the dining car where she found Treize and Merielle sitting across from each other at a table. Most of the other tables were occupied and waiters moved quickly taking orders and carrying trays. Her escort started to pull out the chair beside Treize when Lillia stopped him.
"I would rather sit by my sister please." Her eyes narrowed as she looked at Treize. "I just don't trust that pervert's hands when I'm too close." Without a hesitation the waiter moved to Merielle's side of the table and seated Lillia.
Treize smiled at Lillia. "We already ordered for you. Where were you all this time?"
Lillia sternly looked at her supposed boyfriend and sniffed in imitation of the high society girls at school. "I was enjoying the view from the observation car with my new friend. I even had the attention of some military officers." She pursed her lips. "I figured it wouldn't matter to you since I am just a friend and you never came to find me." Lillia unfolded her napkin with a snap and muttered under her breath. "Idiot!"
Treize's eyes opened wider and he looked at his sister. "What did I do?" He gave an exclamation of pain as she kicked him under the table.
"Anything wrong my dearest friend?" Merielle smiled one of her sweet smiles and fluttered her eyelashes at her brother while he leaned over and rubbed his shin. "Maybe you need to be saying something to my sister right now?" Her smile disappeared. "Don't you think that would be a good thing to do right now, immediately, before things get further out of hand?" She gave him her predatory grin.
Lillia was frowning at the conversation beside her. "Before what gets out of hand?"
Treize gave a sigh and sat back in his chair. "Before you get mad at me again, I suppose." Marielle sat with her hands under her chin smiling at her brother and nodded gently. Treize looked at Lillia. "I've wanted to tell you this since that first summer at Lartika, but something always came up and the time was never right." He flashed a look at Merielle as she nodded at him to go ahead. Taking a deep breath he reached out to take Lillia's hand in his and knocked over her water glass. Jerking away as the water ran across the table from the movement of the train he put his napkin over the puddle. In a flash two waiters were at the table removing plates and glasses then making the table up again. They were finished in less than a minute then bowed to the three before leaving.
Treize shook his head. "See, something always comes up."
Lillia frowned at him. "Okay, that's taken care of, so what do you want to say?"
"I want you to be my girlfriend." Treize breathed out in relief. "There, I've finally said it." He looked across the table expectantly but Lillia didn't show any change in expression and Treize was slightly confused. "Well, are you happy?"
Lillia sat back in her chair. "Am I happy with what? I had thought that I was your girlfriend before. Then you want to visit Princess Matilda for what, a final check out to see if you rather be with a real princess? Then I'm described as 'just a friend'." She had risen from her chair and leaned over the table as her words became clipped. "And I am supposed to be happy?" Treize's eyes had widened, Merielle just continued to smile.
Carlotta came up beside the table and nodded to Lillia then grinned. "If you turn him down he's mine. Isn't that right, brother Treize?" She turned her smile on Treize who looked dumbfounded at her.
Suddenly recognition hit him. "Carla! You're Carla from Lartika!" Finally he also smiled. "It sure is good to see you again." He turned to Lillia. "You remember Carla don't you?"
Lillia sat back down with her mouth open, and then she started to recover her thoughts as she spoke slowly. "This is Carlotta that I was with in the observation car." Turning to Treize she was still confused. "We met Carlo, a boy, in Lartika when he helped us two years ago. It wasn't a girl."
Carlotta had moved over to put her arm around Treize's neck. "No, sister Lillia, it was me, only brother Treize noticed I was a girl. It was better for me to act as Carlo than as Carla when I was on the streets back then." She kissed Treize on the cheek. "And I promised that I would marry him if you didn't accept him." She leaned toward Lillia slightly. "You see, he told me you were special to him, only he had trouble telling you." Carlotta grinned and leaned a little closer to whisper. "And he told me his other big secret also."
Treize had his arm around Carlotta's waist when he turned toward Lillia. "See, I told you I wanted to tell you back then that I had feelings for you!" Smiling he hugged Carlotta. "Sorry." He kissed her on the cheek, and then she hugged him and went on down the aisle to another table while waving at Lillia.
Relieved, Treize looked at the fuming Lillia. "Well, do you believe me now?"
Lillia sat with her arms crossed and slouched in her chair. "Ask me again."
Treize frowned at her. "Ask you what again?"
"Ask me if I will be your girlfriend." She shifted in her chair. "In fact, announce it to all these strangers." She swept her arm around indicating the fellow passengers in the dining car. Her voice was almost a hiss. "I dare you to."
"Ah, the things I must do for the girl I love." Standing, Treize tapped his glass with his knife to get everyone's attention. "Pardon me ladies and gentlemen. I have asked my beautiful companion, Lillia Schultz to officially be my girlfriend, and I am telling you all that I am in love with her." Grinning he looked over at the fire red embarrassed face of Lillia as she slid lower in her chair. "And now I ask for her answer in front of all of you as witnesses." He held out his hand toward Lillia.
Lillia nodded her head, and then Marielle bumped her with her elbow indicating she should stand. Slowly she stood and looked around at the expectant faces of her fellow diners. "All right, I accept his request." She suddenly sat down and frowned at Treize. "We have a lot to discuss later you idiot." The dining car erupted into applause and wishes for happiness as glasses were raised toward the couple. Lillia turned even redder as she looked up at the smiling Treize. "You had better be glad I can't reach you right now! You deserve one of my special 'Lillia Kicks'." He grinned at her again.
Dinner was served a short time later and even the waiters congratulated Treize and Lillia. Although the food was excellent Lillia was in a dark mood. As more new diners came past the table they all would add their wishes for happiness. Finally, after dessert Lillia sighed. "Does every person on this train keep up with us? I can't believe why they are so happy that I'm your official girl friend." She pouted over at Treize. "And to embarrass me by announcing what was going on." She sighed loudly. "I just don't know what I'm going to do with you."
Treize wiped his mouth with his napkin and looked surprised. "Well, to start with you could enjoy it a little; after all you dared me to announce it. Maybe you could even say love me back or something." He smiled at her as she started to blush again. "And possibly you can be included in 'family' discussions after this." He stood and suddenly waiters were standing behind Merielle and Lillia to help with their chairs. Treize reached over and held out his hand to Lillia. "Would you take my hand? Do you want to go to our compartment or maybe go to the observation car for a little while?"
Lillia stared at Treize's hand, and then looked at Merielle. "Do you think it's safe? The pervert mentioned going to the compartment first and was awfully excited about it."
With a straight face Merielle shook her head. "I would be very careful with that one; he's been around my parents too much. They are always kissing and hugging if given the chance, even when they are supposed to be working." Then she giggled. "Should I make myself scarce for a while?"
Lillia blushed again. "No! I said 'yes' to being his girl friend, and I don't think that makes us married!" Finally she reached out to take Treize's offered hand. "And this is just barely acceptable behavior." She held his hand tightly as the trio made their way back to the compartment. All along the passage conductors bowed slightly then wished them well and made way for them to pass.
Much later in the evening Merielle was sitting reading a book on her bed. Treize and Lillia sat on the couch in their pajamas, close to each other but definitely not touching.
Lillia put her hands behind her head and looked thoughtful. "Why are the conductors treating me like I'm a Royal?"
Treize slowly looked over at her. "Treated like a Royal? I think they treat all the passengers that way. After all, you have to have money or power just to be on this train."
She glanced over to him. "Okay, then why do I seem to recognize some of the passengers? I'll swear that Dad's old assistant, Axe, was in the observation car this afternoon. And for that matter how did Carlo, I mean Carlotta, get on the train? She's an orphan and barely had clothes or food two years ago."
Treize scratched his nose for a second. "Best I can say is everyone has a near double and that's why you think you saw Axe." He looked thoughtful. "And maybe Carlotta was adopted by a rich family. That would be a good thing, right?"
Lillia lowered arms and after glancing down at the distance between herself and Treize, slid closer to him. "You may put an arm around my shoulder, I'm a little cool."
"Do you want a blanket or sweater?" Suddenly a pillow hit the side of Treize's head.
"Idiot baby brother, she said she wanted your arm on her shoulder." Merielle went back to reading her book as if nothing had happened.
The designated "idiot baby brother" rubbed the side of his head then put his arm around Lillia. "Right, I get it now." Still he blushed.
Merielle lowered her book enough to look over the top edge. "Sister, I'd watch where he puts his hand if I were you." Treize lifted his forearm up to the back of the couch so it wouldn't touch Lillia. "Smart move little brother." She went back to reading while both Treize and Lillia blushed.
Lillia leaned over against Treize. "And, by the way, did you really tell Carlotta you were a Prince two years ago? You could tell a stranger your little family secret but not me, your childhood friend?"
Treize couldn't see that Lillia was smiling as she asked the questions and hesitated a moment before answering. "Well, she admitted her secret of being a girl, so I told her I was a real Prince, I just didn't say from where. That's okay, isn't it?" He braced for a punch and was relieved when it didn't come.
Lillia rested her head on Treize's chest. "Well, what's on the schedule tomorrow? We're still a couple of days from the capital aren't we?" He lowered his arm to hold her.
"Tomorrow we are arriving in the city you were named after, Lillianne, and will tour a bit. Merielle and I have never been to the city where our parents were married and we thought it would be fun to see." Merielle's eyes were peering over the top of her book again and Treize gave her a quick grin. "Besides, it will get us on a non-moving surface for a while where we can stretch our legs."
A very sleepy voice mumbled in return. "Umm, sounds good to me." Lillia snuggled down against Treize and her breathing became quiet.
Treize was happy, but wasn't very comfortable and couldn't move. "Merielle, can you help me move Lillia?"
Merielle lowered her book again. "She's your problem now, brother of mine. What do you want to do with her?" Suddenly she dropped the book and her face took on a shocked look as she clapped her hands to her cheeks. "Oh my goodness, are you planning on putting her in your bed and take advantage of a sleeping woman? I am shocked, just horribly, horribly shocked at your lecherous and perverted thoughts and actions!" In a theatrical manner she threw her head back and placed her wrist against her forehead. "Oh the horror of what my young brother is planning with such a pure virtuous maiden!"
Treize slowly shook his head and gave his actress sister a dark look. "Am I supposed to applaud now?"
Smiling brightly Merielle found and marked her page then laid her book on the bed. "Of course you are little brother. You should always applaud after such a great performance as that. Or the one I gave yesterday at the apartment for that matter." Standing up she went over to the sleeping Lillia. "Where do you want to move her to? Personally I vote for your bed, because she moves around in her sleep and you need to get used to it."
"She doesn't move that much." Treize stopped and looked at his sister's leering face. "It isn't what you think! She slept in the bed and I was on the floor in Moreau's cabin the other year. You're almost as bad as her mother. Now help me lift her up."
With a little work Merielle lifted Lillia up enough for Treize to stand up and then pick up the sleeping girl in his arms. Merielle moved up and pulled the covers down on Treize's bed and motioned for him to lay her down. With a frown he laid her on the mattress and pushed her to the far side of the small bed. "Now do I get your bed big sister?"
Merielle jumped into her bed and pulled the covers up to her chin in one motion. "Not on your life little brother, I want a good night's sleep." She reached over and turned off the light by the bed. "Good night brother, and keep the noise down."
Slowly Treize sat on the edge of the bed and reached for the light then stopped. He looked at the peaceful Lillia, swallowed twice and reached for the chain again.
"Will you quit playing around and turn that off, I can't fall asleep with it on." Merielle's eyes were showing above the covers and Treize could see the humor in them. She was having a good time anyway.
Finally he pulled the chain putting the compartment into half darkness. Light from a three quarter moon flowed through the windows as he lay close to the edge of the bed trying not to fall out and at the same time not touch the girl beside him. After what seemed like hours he wiggled toward the center a little more where he could feel the warmth of her body being close and finally fell asleep.
Daylight shone through the window as Lillia halfway opened her eyes and saw black hair on the pillow beside her. She mumbled a "morning Merielle" when there was a bright flash. Startled, she sat up and saw the grinning Merielle with her camera standing by the bed. Wide eyed now, Lillia realized the black hair was Treize's and threw a punch that landed on his shoulder. With a shriek she moved against the outside wall of the bed while pulling the cover up to her neck and pushing with her legs shoved him out of the bed onto the floor. The camera flashed twice more during the action.
"You pervert!" Quickly she looked under the cover to see if she still had on her pajamas. Her vocabulary couldn't match her indignation. As Treize's head rose from the floor she swung at him again but missed. "Pervert!!" The camera flashed once more.
At the compartment door there was a loud knocking and a shout. "Your Highnesses, is everything all right in there?"
Laughing, Merielle went to the door and told the guard that everything was just fine. Then she took another picture of Lillia in the corner of the bed and her brother rubbing his shoulder while kneeling on the floor and leaning his upper body on its edge. "Your mother will love this set of holiday photos." Merielle laughed again. "Actually it's good enough to be a whole section of your memory book."
Lillia frowned at the laughing Princess. "Just how did I get over here?" She glowered at Treize as he tried to sit on the edge of the bed then kicked at him again. "Stay away pervert."
Treize finally managed to sit on the edge of Merielle's bed as he gently probed his painful shoulder. He turned toward his sister. "Well, aren't you going to say anything?" The future Queen of Ikstova laughed some more and sat down on the couch shaking her head.
With a sigh Treize looked across the gap at Lillia. "You fell asleep beside me on the couch and my dirty minded sister said to put you in my bed, so I did. Then she wouldn't let me in hers." With a look close to that of a sad faced puppy he sighed again. "So I reluctantly got in with you, making sure I was far away on my side of the bed and not touching you at all." He paused and glanced at his sister then looked back at Lillia. The pillow hit him straight in the face and the camera flashed again.
"And you expect me to believe that story? I would hope your sister wouldn't let you in her bed." Lillia shook her head in anger. "It's a good thing poor Carlotta wasn't in the room or you would probably try to get in with her too." The second pillow flew at Treize and the camera flashed once more as he ducked.
"But I didn't do anything to you. And you offered to let me sleep on the bed at Moreau's, so I didn't think it would be something bad." Lillia had run out of ammunition so Treize was able to sit facing her.
Lillia blushed and glanced at Merielle. "That was different. I offered to let you sleep beside me because there wasn't anywhere else for you to sleep except the floor plus we were fully dressed." She frowned at Treize again. "You didn't ask first this time." There was a flicker of a smile. "I may or may not have said yes. Meanwhile, you are a pervert." She looked at the smiling Merielle sitting on the couch and her face darkened again and her eyes went back to Treize. "And you could have slept on the couch if you really wanted to be a gentleman and stay out of my bed. I'm getting dressed now so no peeking!" She threw the cover off and crawled to the far end of the bed to make her way to the bath dressing room.
Treize watched quietly and then sighed as the door slammed shut. "It never occurred to me to sleep on the couch. Maybe I am a pervert." He shook his head as he stood up to gather his clothes together.
Merielle never stopped smiling as she stood up and stretched her arms out. "I just can't wait to see what other mayhem you can cause today. Better get dressed while you can. I'm getting hungry for breakfast and I'm sure she will be ready for some when she gets out of there." With a final stretch she went to the compartment door and started to slide it open. "I'll meet you and Lillia in the dining car. Now be good for just a little while longer my pervert baby brother." She stepped past the first guard outside in the passageway and pulled the door shut.
A few minutes later Lillia opened the door to the toilet room and peeked out. Treize was sitting on the couch waiting for her. He smiled and stood up reaching his hand out to her. "Ready for breakfast my beautiful Lillia?"
She poked her head out and looked around the compartment. "Has Merielle left already?"
Treize lowered his hand. "She went on ahead to the dining car. Should I go get her?" He was confused by the way Lillia only had her head out of the room. "Is there a problem?"
Lillia took a deep breath and stepped out into the compartment. "No, I needed her to zip this dress for me." She had put on one of Merielle's pretty summer dresses and it looked wonderful on her. "If you promise to not be a real pervert I'll let you zip me up." Turning around she raised her long hair out of the way. "You try anything else and you're dead."
Treize blushed slightly and quickly zipped her in. "There, now that wasn't so bad was it? And you do look beautiful this morning."
Lillia dropped her hair and turned around to look at him. "That's because I asked you to do it." Quickly she leaned up and kissed him on the cheek then laughed as she watched Treize turn red. "And that is a thank you for doing a good job and the compliment." She clasped her hands behind her back and turned away. "I might allow you to help me from now on." She glanced over her shoulder and had a little blush coloring her cheeks. "But only if you are good and don't try any perverted things while you are doing it."
Treize felt relieved and happy at the same time. He held his hand out to her again. "Thank you for your consideration. Now will you take my hand while we make our way to the dining car for breakfast?" He smiled and bowed slightly when Lillia placed her hand in his. "Thank you my dearest. May I have this honor every day from now on?"
Lillia finally smiled at him like she used to. "Only when no one is around, and definitely not around the school." Again she kissed him on the cheek then wrapped her arm around his as they opened the door to find a conductor coming down the passageway. He smiled and touched his hat as they passed.
"Your highnesses, the train will be arriving in the city Lillianne in less than two hours. There will be a taxi waiting for you at the station." He bowed slightly again after Treize nodded then waited while the couple passed.
Lillia pulled on Treize's sleeve. "See, that's what I was talking about last night. People keep calling us 'your highness' and I thought no one knew who you are, not to mention I'm not a Royal."
Again Treize smiled slightly before answering. "Don't worry, I still think it's because only the rich can ride this train. They just don't want to address someone in the wrong way and be dressed down about it. You can just feel like a princess when they greet you and enjoy the feeling."
Lillia frowned and finally nodded her head in agreement. Then she pulled on Treize's arm. "What about the taxi? Why do we need a taxi in Lillianne?"
"You wanted to go shopping didn't you? The good shopping district isn't near the station." Treize paused a second. "At least that's what I'm told. Don't worry so much and just enjoy the trip."
Lillia pulled on his sleeve again. "I haven't decided yet about this morning. You realize that finding you in my bed was a shock. I'll let you know this evening how I feel." She pulled his head down to whisper in his ear. "You are a pervert, but I guess I do really love you anyway as your publicly acknowledged girlfriend. Sorry I hit you." She gave him another quick kiss on the cheek just before coming to the door to the dining car where another conductor was smiling and waiting for them.
As the door opened into the dining car most of the people smiled, and lifted their cups in their honor. Treize and Lillia both smiled and nodded their thanks as they went to their table. Merielle was taking a sip of her tea as the waiter seated the pair across from her.
"So you decided to actually come to breakfast and not hang around the compartment alone." She sighed and placed her camera on the table. "And I was hoping to get some more great pictures of your exciting holiday trip to show all our parents." She giggled as both Lillia and Treize blushed.
Just then a happy Carlotta came through the door from the next car. She waved at the trio and came over to the table trailed by a waiter. "Good morning my sisters and brother." Leaning over slightly she kissed Treize on the cheek. "May I join you this morning?" She nodded at the waiter and he pulled out the chair next to Merielle. Lillia and Treize both were wide eyed as Carlotta sat down. "I'll have the same as my sister, please." The waiter smiled, bowed and left for the kitchen. "Well, is everyone ready for an exciting day shopping?"
Merielle grinned back at her. "I am sure we're ready for the shopping. That is a cute dress you have on this morning."
Finally Lillia was able to gather her thoughts together and she took a sip of tea as she glanced at Treize beside her then set the cup down. "Good morning, Carlotta. Did you have a restful night?" She glanced around the dining car. "Do you have anyone with you?"
A waiter poured a cup of tea for Carlotta and she thanked him. "No, sister Lillia, my parents aren't here right now, only my siblings are with me." She took a sip of tea and reached for a slice of toast.
"Siblings? You have your family with you?" Lillia was having a little trouble with the mental image of the orphan that she last had seen in Lartika and the well dressed young lady sitting in front of her now. "I don't mean to pry, but you have been adopted?"
Carlotta chewed on her toast and took a sip of tea before answering. "I was adopted by a wonderful mother and father and have two older sisters and a brother." She smiled happily. "I love them all and really enjoy being with them." Just then the waiter brought everyone's plates and began to set them down. "I'll introduce you to everyone later today after my parents meet us."
Lillia blinked at her and shook her head still slightly confused. Then she looked at Treize who raised his shoulders slightly and looked equally confused. The meal was quiet as everyone ate. As soon as she finished Carlotta smiled and motioned to the waiter to pull her chair out. "Well, I did enjoy my breakfast and I hope we will have more of our meals together in the future." She bowed her head slightly. "I'll see you later my sisters and brother."
Lillia watched her leave the car then turned back to Treize and Merielle. "I'm happy for her that she was adopted after what she went through. I'm a little surprised about not having her parents with her though." She laid her hand on Treize's. "Do you think it would be okay if we took her with us shopping?"
Merielle had to hide her mouth with her napkin and coughed. Treize looked over at his sister then to Lillia. "It's okay with me; she probably would like the company. Besides she appears to know about our plans and seems to be invited along already." He frowned at Lillia. "Did you see her sisters or brother yesterday?"
Lillia just shook her head. "I never saw anyone with her but I left the observation car before she did. I hope they don't mind if we take her with us in Lillianne."
Merielle nodded. "I'm sure they wouldn't mind, but how are we going to find her to ask her to come along with us?" She folded her napkin and laid it next to her plate, immediately the waiter came up to clear the dirty dishes.
Lillia looked thoughtful for a second. "Sir, the young girl that was at our table, do you know which compartment she's in?"
"I'm sorry, milady, I don't know that information, but you may ask the conductor at the door and he should be able to pass a message to her." The waiter left with the dishes.
Lillia grinned at Merielle and Treize. "That was simple enough. Well, are you both ready to get ready for our shopping spree?" She glanced at her watch. "We should be at Lillianne in just a little while."
Treize frowned again at Lillia. "I don't like the sound of 'shopping spree', your mother didn't give you that much to spend did she?"
"Now don't be mean to us, old friend Treize, we girls like to shop and you'd better get used to it." Standing up Merielle took Lillia's hand. "Come along my sister, let this non-shopper be unhappy by himself." She looked over her shoulder as she went past Treize and stuck out her tongue at him.
At the door to the next car Lillia spoke to the conductor to pass a message to Carlotta to meet them at their compartment when the train reached Lillianne. With a bow he assured her that he would pass it along to the "young miss". The trio continued on to their own coach Lillia holding lightly to Treize's arm. As they approached the door to their compartment Carlotta came around the corner from the following coach.
Lillia's eyes opened wide. "Carlotta, did you get our message about going shopping with us in Lillianne?" Treize shared Lillia's shock while Merielle only smiled and nodded at her.
Carlotta was still her exuberant self. "Of course, the conductors are very efficient. I even had time to pick up my purse." She touched a slightly overlarge purse that hung over her shoulder. "It has everything we need." This time her grin was directed at Merielle, who winked back.
Treize had opened the door to the compartment and let the girls go in first. At the end of the passageway a conductor's head leaned out and he nodded and waved at Treize. Treize nodded and raised his hand in return, then stepped into the compartment and shut the door.
Carlotta quickly sat on the couch and stretched her arms. "I'm so excited to be going with my sisters and brother around the city. It's so much more fun being together."
Outside, buildings became more numerous as the train entered into the fabled Mountain City of Flowers. All four stood watching as the city streets went by, each lined on the sides with beautifully blooming flowers.
Lillia sighed. "It's so pretty! What do they do, plant for each season? Mama said that the flowers were blooming when all of our parents were here before and that was spring."
Treize spoke up this time. "According to the guide book I read they have the flowers planted so they do bloom in the order of seasons. Even in the winter there are winter flowers that have been relocated from the high mountains."
Lillia glanced at him then looked back at the scenery. "I see you have started doing your research. Now I don't have to do all of it." She put her arm around his again and leaned her head against his shoulder. "Hmm, I'm happy right now. I have to thank your parents for giving me the ticket so I could see this."
The train slowed down further as they approached the city station. There was a knock at the door just before the train stopped completely. Treize opened it and the conductor bowed to him. "Your taxi is waiting at the foot of the steps. I had a larger vehicle sent since there will be four of you." Treize nodded and thanked him for his help. Outside they saw a set of steps just where the coach stopped and at the bottom sat a large black automobile with what appeared to be a chauffer standing by the open door.
Lillia's mouth fell open as the friends stepped off the train to the platform. "This is a taxi?" She held to Treize's arm again and gave it a shake. "This is the taxi you ordered?" She looked at him with the beginnings of panic in her voice. "We have to pay for this you know."
It was Carlotta that answered as she stepped onto the platform. "Don't worry, sister Lillia, my parents will pay for our ride." She grabbed Lillia's hand. "Let's enjoy the shopping trip. You really need to stop worrying and enjoy yourself."
Lillia still had a worried look as they seated themselves in the large taxi. The driver shut the door and after seating himself, pulled the taxi away from the train platform. Lillia frowned again as she turned to look at the train. "Treize, why are we the only people leaving the station?" Her eyes widened as panic set in again. "They aren't going to leave us are they?"
It was the taxi driver that answered her question. "Miss, they normally disembark on the other side of the train. If you are being picked up by automobile you disembark from this side of the train."
Lillia sat back down and slid nearer to Treize with a relived sigh. "Thank you driver, I'm just not used to this."
"That's all right miss. I think a tour of our city would be in order before I take you to the shopping district. Just let the beauty of our flowers help you relax."
For the next hour they were driven down wide boulevards and quiet side streets all lined with flowers. Carlotta, Merielle and Lillia had their faces at the windows commenting on the beauty of the city. Treize sat quietly and kept looking at his watch. Finally he checked it again and smiled. "Driver, how far are we from the cathedral by the lake?"
"Sir, it is only a few miles from here. It is one of the biggest attractions of the city. I'll take you there now if you would like to see it. I think the ladies will find it most attractive." The auto made a turn at the next cross street and headed into the country away from the city.
Lillia slid against Treize again and reached over to take his hand. "That was pretty, and I always thought our capital had beautiful parks." She put her head against his shoulder. "But why did we keep passing all those shops?"
Carlotta moved from the jump-seat across from everyone to the space between Lillia and Merielle. Taking Lillia's free hand in hers she grinned. "Sister Lillia don't you think it was nicer being together seeing everything in town and not being in a stuffy store?" She peeked around Lillia at Treize. "Besides, brother Treize most likely was a lot happier holding your hand the entire time than watching us try on dresses." Treize rolled his eyes but held tightly to the girl beside him and didn't say a word.
In the distance a tall bell tower appeared surrounded by acres of flowers and a large lake. As they drove closer a bus and a number of automobiles were seen pulled up in front of the church and on the lake two black and sliver single engine seaplanes were nosed in with their floats on the shore.
Lillia looked at the church. "Is this where our parents were married? It is so beautiful. Treize, look pulled up to the shore, those are Roxche Air Force messenger planes." She tried to look closer but they were too far away. "Those aren't marked with military markings; I wonder who they belong to?" She leaned across Treize. "Do you think we have time to go look at them up close?"
Treize maneuvered Lillia back to the seat. "You would rather look at the seaplanes instead of all the flowers or see the inside of that beautiful cathedral?" She gave him a blank look. "Uh huh, got it the first time, airplanes one, flowers zero." She was close enough so he kissed her on her cheek as she sat back down. "Actually I want to see them too."
Merielle looked at the two seat mates holding hands, shook her head and sighed. "I want to see them also, but let's go inside first my younger siblings. I really want to see what the inside of the cathedral looks like." Carlotta put her hand in front of her mouth and giggled.
The driver pulled to the gate in front of the cathedral and opened the door for everyone to climb out. Lillia rubbed her bare arms.
"It's cold here, I guess because we're in the mountains." She looked at Treize and Merielle. "Okay, so you're used to cold. I need an arm around me." She eyed Treize waiting for him to take the hint. Merielle pushed him over beside Lillia and he put his arm across her shoulders. She nodded. "Much better thank you." Merielle and Carlotta both shook their heads in frustration.
Entering the church the beautiful stained glass windows almost took their breath away. Except for aircraft hangers this was the largest indoor area they had ever been in. Lillia moved away from Treize and turned in a circle looking at the colors. "This is beautiful! It's almost like being inside flowers of light!" She put her arms out and made another turn.
Treize stood smiling at her. "You know you look beautiful it that light."
Lillia slowed her turn put her arms behind her and leaned toward Treize. "And you imply I don't look beautiful all the time?" At least she still smiled. Merielle and Carlotta both giggled. "Oh, I could just dance around it's so pretty." She put her arms up as if she had an invisible dance partner and made another turn.
"Lillia, stop that, there is a tour group in the front of the church and some people sitting in the pews. You don't want to bother them do you?" Treize reached out and took her hand, holding it tightly. "Let's go to the area under the cupola."
Treize stood on Lillia's left with Merielle and Carlotta following behind them. On either side of the central area were people being shown features of the building by tour guides. Reaching the end of the seating area and directly under the domed cupola Treize looked up. "See the winged cherubs in the blue sky? Mother always said that was what she remembered the most."
As Lillia looked up the young woman sitting in the second row rose and stepped forward to stand with Merielle and Carlotta holding a bouquet in her hands. Her long blonde hair hung down her back from under the large summer hat that covered part of her face.
Lillia was staring at the painted ceiling when Treize caught her attention. "Lillia, do you know this is the exact spot that our parents stood when they pledged themselves to each other in marriage?"
She looked down at the floor. "Right here? I guess that makes this spot significant then?"
"Lillia, what will you say if I ask you to stay by my side from now on as my wife?" Treize wasn't smiling. "If you agree you just need to smile for me."
"Oh, Treize, I just became your acknowledged girl friend how…" Her voice faded away as she looked at his face. "You're serious aren't you?"
"I'm as serious as I was last night at dinner."
From behind Lillia a familiar voice spoke up. "If you don't accept his proposal then he will be mine, my dear friend Lillia."
Lillia quickly turned her head and found Princess Matilda standing there smiling at her, and holding a bouquet in her hands. Her eyes widened and mouth opened in shock but she couldn't speak a word.
"Or he is mine, sister Lillia." Carlotta smiled at her. "I asked him before either of you."
"Better say something before that tour gets here, my sister." Merielle also smiled at Lillia.
Lillia's eyes looked at the three girls behind her and then her face changed as the confusion left it. "All right then, if that is how things will go, I say yes." She turned toward Treize and smiled. "Is that good enough for you?" Treize only smiled back.
"Then these are yours, Lillia, with my congratulations." Princess Matilda held out the bouquet to Lillia.
Lillia nodded and took them, then turned to face Treize. "Are we supposed to say something?"
Merielle handed Treize and Lillia pieces of paper. "This is what our parents said before the ceremonial sealing of the marriage by a kiss."
Lillia looked at the piece of paper in her hand. "You had a script for us?"
"Lillia, let's say the words." Treize was serious now, he already knew the words. "My Lillia let the Lord be with us evermore." He nodded toward the paper in her hands.
Although her hands had a little shake to them, her voice was strong. "Let the goddess of love always watch over us." Lillia looked up at Treize just as he leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. She hesitated then responded and kissed him back.
Merielle covered her mouth and gave a quiet cough. "Okay you two, we need to complete the ceremony now." Turning to Carlotta she held out both of her hands. "The box please, sister." Carlotta opened the large purse and removed a decorated presentation box and placed it in Merielle's hands. "Now my brother it is your turn." She opened the box to display a golden pendent with the seal of Ikstova.
Treize lifted the pendent out and turned back to Lillia. Smiling at her he raised the chain over her head and placed the pendent around her neck. "I now bestow the title of Princess of the Kingdom of Ikstova on my wife Lillia Acacia Corazon Whittington Schultz Benedict." He kissed her again, leaned back and smiled. "I told you years ago I would give you a pendent like mine." Lillia reached up to grasp the medallion, nodded and smiled back.
Princesses Matilda, Merielle and Carlotta all curtseyed and bowed their heads to the Royal couple.
Suddenly there was applause from around the cathedral. Lillia jerked her head around to see everyone in the tour groups applauding and started to blush. "Treize, it's happening to me again, everyone seems to be paying attention to us."
"Of course my dear they are happy for us." Taking her hand he turned her toward the crowd and loudly announced. "May I present my wife the Princess Lillia." Everyone in the crowd either bowed or curtseyed toward Lillia and Treize.
"Am I supposed to do anything?" Lillia's looked at the people with confusion as they stood back up. Finally she nodded toward everyone and smiled. "Thank you for your wishes for our happiness." She leaned toward Treize and whispered. "Who are they? I swear I recognize some of them from the train."
From the crowd to her left four people stepped out and came toward the couple. Treize nudged Lillia and turned her to face the little group. Again her mouth dropped and eyes widened with recognition. "Mama? Papa? Queen Francesca? Mr. Benedict? But how did you get here?" She spun her head to look at Merielle, Matilda and Carlotta. Suddenly she blinked and frowned at Treize. "This was planned all along?" She put her hands on her hips and leaned toward Treize. "You had this all planned out and wouldn't tell me about it!" With a sudden movement she threw a karate chop to Treize's shoulder. "Just you wait until I get you alone. I should have kicked you a few more times this morning."
By then Allison and Wil had reached the couple and Allison threw her arms around her daughter. "So, are you still afraid of losing him to Matilda?" She gave her daughter a kiss then shook her head. "You are so much like your father at your age. He just never really caught on to my feelings for him that entire school year, just like you and Treize." Allison giggled and looked at an increasingly uncomfortable Wil. "I actually had to throw him on the ground and sit on him to go through the ceremony after Benedict and Fi had left." She pointed to the floor. "Right there at that exact spot." Wil's face reddened with embarrassment.
Fi and Benedict came over to hug Lillia and welcome her into their family. Carlotta joined them and hugged Lillia herself. "I also want to welcome you to the family sister Lillia." She stepped over to stand between Fi and Benedict then turned back to an increasingly confused Princess. "Sister Lillia, I would like you to meet my new parents, I believe you know them already."
Lillia's mouth fell open again as she looked between the Royal family of Ikstova and Carlotta. A second later she frowned and reached over for Treize's arm. "You didn't tell me about this little surprise either. Was that conversation also held in a secret family meeting?" She raised her arm for another chop to his neck.
Treize started to cringe as he shook his head. "I didn't know of it either! Merielle never said a word to me about Carlotta. I was totally surprised seeing her on the train."
Carlotta was still grinning at Lillia. "Remember sister Lillia, I did keep telling you that I was with my siblings. I just didn't say they were you, sister Merielle and brother Treize."
Greetings were exchanged among the old friends until the woman that looked like Axe stepped over to Wil. "Sir, we need to be leaving now." He nodded to her.
"Start moving everyone out. Fi and Benedict will use their plane, and I'm not certain whether we'll be flying out or taking the train to Soufflestos. Be ready for either direction and coordinate with the other commands." Axe nodded stiffly and stepped over to the rest of her security contingent to convey her orders.
Axe personally escorted Princess Matilda to her automobile. Merielle, Carlotta, Treize and Lillia were almost being herded to the "taxi" that had brought them to the cathedral. Fi and Benedict were walking toward the lake hand in hand and Allison and Wil waited to one side near the entrance gate.
Lillia was holding to Treize's hand and were almost to the automobile when she suddenly stopped beside her parents and pointed toward the lake. "Mama, why are Fi and Benedict walking to those seaplanes? Do they belong to them?"
Allison smiled at her daughter. "Why, yes, one of those is theirs. Actually it belongs to the Ikstova Tourist Bureau." She quit talking and waited.
Lillia was almost like a child that had just seen her favorite candy in a shop. "Mama, may Treize and I go see it before they leave? I didn't know any civilians owned a Seventy." Her grin was wide and she almost was bouncing from foot to foot.
"Wil, do you think the children could be trusted to inspect the pretty airplane without damaging it?"
Wil covered his mouth and coughed. "If they are careful and don't touch the little knobs and levers I suppose they could."
By then Lillia was turning red from embarrassment, and she could hear the sniggers from Merielle and Carlotta. "Mama, dad, I think we are old enough to not destroy an airplane that belongs to Ikstova." She had her hands on her hips and huffed with indignation.
Treize gently touched his Princess on her arm. "Lillia, something isn't quite right here."
Lillia whipped around toward Treize. "What's not right? Are you agreeing with them that we aren't old enough to look at that?" She pointed at the lakeside, then stopped and looked again. Slowly she looked back at her mother. "Mama, who does the other Seventy belong to?"
Allison held her chin in her hand and slowly rubbed it. "The other Seventy? Well, Wil just who does that belong to?" She turned toward Wil.
Lillia finally gave up and stomped her foot. "Come on Mama, there are two airplanes and one is for Ikstova. You and Daddy are the only ones left without a ride. Is it yours?"
Wil coughed again. "Actually we are just borrowing it for a while. Right, dear?" Allison nodded.
"Daddy! Who belongs to that beautiful airplane?" Steam was almost coming from Lillia's head as she pointed toward the lake.
Finally Wil smiled at this daughter. "Well, the last time I read the ownership papers it was a wedding present for some Royal couple. Know anyone that fits the description?"
Behind her Lillia heard Merielle and Carlotta yell. "It's us! We're a Royal family!"
Lillia spun around again. "You aren't married to each other I hope." She saw Treize staring at the airplane with his mouth open, and she slowed down. "Wedding present? For Treize and me?" Allison was holding a set of keys dangling from her hand. "Mama, dad, thank you! Bow in thanks, idiot." She grabbed Treize's head and pushed him into a deep bow.
Allison held the keys slightly away from Lillia's hand. "Of course you do still have the train you can travel on to Soufflestos."
Lillia grabbed her mother in a hug and kissed her then moved to her father. She grabbed the keys from Allison's hand. "You and dad may take the train mama. Treize and I have a whole sky to travel in!" With Treize being pulled behind her Lillia ran toward the lake shore.
Allison and Wil stood watching them as they climbed into the seaplane. "Think they are excited?" Allison leaned against her husband and all he could do was nod.