“Who are you…” asked Lia.
Lia was frightened to be in an unknown environment, but she was also immensely curious.
The boys sparkling emerald eyes met hers in return.
“I am Kieran Vale.
Lia, youre twelve, right”
“Yes…,” said Lia, cautiously.“Im fifteen.
Nice to meet you,” said Kieran.
Kieran looked at Lia as he sat on the edge of her bed.
Betty, the woman tasked with taking care of Lia in this unfamiliar place, admired the two.
They were curiously alike, both had honey-blonde hair and emerald eyes.
They even looked similar.
Lia was still scared of these people she didnt know.
When the boy tried touching her cheeks, she flinched away from his outstretched fingers.
She ran to the sofa and hid behind it.
She peeked from behind it.
“Please…,” she said in a small voice, “Please let me go back to my mother.
I dont know if she knows where I have gone.
She will be worried.”
“Your mother” said Kieran, “Betty, what about Lias mother”
Betty approached the sofa slowly and squatted down to meet Lias eyes.
“Madam will answer that question,” said Betty, “I have only received orders to feed and bathe her.”
Lia felt a little bit better at Bettys kind smile.
The place was a wonder, filled with prettiest things.
Betty never had had a full bath.
They would only scrub themselves with wet rags to clean themselves at her place.
They couldnt afford so much water and much less a tub.
She looked at herself, all dirty and muddy and looked at Kieran, radiantly shining in a crisp white shirt.
The girl then carefully grabbed Bettys skirt.
“Can I wash first” she asked.
“Of course,” said Betty warmly, “Lets get you all cleaned up.
Then you can eat.”
Lia was just about to stand and walk out of her hideout when Kieran coughed and doubled over, as though he was going to vomit blood any second.
He was pale-faced and rolled over on the bed.
“Young master!” exclaimed Betty.
Servants came running at Bettys call and lifted the boy up while putting a clean cloth over his mouth.
They carried him out while calling for someone else.
They seemed practiced in this type of handling, as everyone knew what to do right then.
Lia knew that cough, the knight who had given her a candy had the same cough.
The knight had been her mothers customer, but he had died after coughing all night.
Mother had cried over his bloodied clothes for a while.
Lia felt frightened at the memory.
She pulled at Bettys skirt.
“Is he dying” asked Lia, tearfully.
“No, he is not,” said Betty while stroking the girls hair soothingly.
“Really Are you sure” asked Lia.
“Yes, he will be alright,” said Betty, “Now its time for a wash.”
Betty did not say anything more and Lia followed her to the next room.
There was a bathtub filled with warm water, along with soap only used by aristocrats.
Lia looked confused at the sight as she had never seen one before, and Betty patted the girls hair as she spoke.
“You will wash here every day.
You will get used to it.”
Lia was silent as she took off her tattered rags and carefully folded them.
Her thin frame shuddered as she entered the tub in the warm water.
Betty smiled at her in sympathy and began to wash the child.
Lia seemed almost radiant as Betty scrubbed at her filth and muck.
“Now, lets eat since youre clean,” said Betty, wiping sweat from her brow.
It was the first time in a long time that Lia had such nice soup, soft bread, and roasted chicken and vegetables.
Where she was from, such a feast was not seen or heard about.
Nonetheless, she wanted to go back to her mother.
She wondered how she would askMadam to send her back politely as she walked with her hand in Bettys.
Before long, they came upon a door and Betty knocked softly.
“Madam, I have brought the girl,” she said.
“Come in,” said an elegant voice in answer.
It was the same voice Lia remembered who had called out to her at the stream when she was waiting for her mother.
Lia followed Betty into the room and folded her hands in front of her and stood at attention, just like Betty had taught her.
“Greetings, Madam,” said Lia, like Betty had taught her.
The Marchioness was sitting on a plush sofa.
She was draped in a blue gown over her nightdress.
Her hair flowed brown and dark over her back.
Her sharp blue eyes looked at Lia.
The noblewoman nodded at the childs greeting.
Lia hesitated at the cold face of the Marchioness.
“You look better after washing, Canillia,” said the lady.
“Thank you for the meal and bath, My Lady,” said Lia, “Please can I see my mother now”
“Hmm,” mumbled the Marchioness and gestured for the child to come nearer.
Betty gave a gentle push to encourage Lia to walk nearer to the sofa.
Lia obliged and walked hesitantly to the Marchioness.
She had Lia sit beside her on the sofa.
Lia found her beautiful but scary and shrunk herself smaller.
“Canillia, Im sorry to say you cannot meet your mother,” the lady declared.
“But why” asked Lia hurriedly.
“Your mother stole something precious,” said the Marchioness.
Lias eyes widened at the answer.
“My mother isnt a thief,” cried Lia.
Her eyes brimmed with tears which streaked down her cheeks.
The Marchioness looked at her damp hair with disapproval.
“Canillia, your mother stole something very valuable from me, and I cannot have it back now.
So, she should be punished at the least.”
“I will find it!” pleaded Lia, “We are poor but my mother is no thief, please believe me.”
“You will find it” said the Marchioness, stroking Bettys cheek.
A maid took out a pair of sharp scissors from a drawer and placed them on the table in front of the sofa.
“Then, give yourself to me,” said the Marchioness coldly.
Lia hiccupped with tears and fright.
“Canillian Vale,” said the Marchioness.
“If you live as Canillian Vale from today, you and your mother will be safe, I promise.”
Lia wanted to say she wasnt aVale but her lips couldnt move.
She was terrified of this lady.
“But…,” she managed, “I am just Canillia…”
The Marchioness gave a cold smile and shook her head.
“No, you are Canillian Vale from today.”
Lia couldnt understand why she had to beCanillian Vale.
Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt the scissor blades clipping through her hair.
“Short hair will suit you greatly,” said the Marchioness as she cut away her hair.
Lia sat there stunned and terrified as the scissors finished snipping off so much of her hair.
Betty sighed in sadness.
“Betty,” called the Marchioness.“Yes, Madame,” said Betty.
“Ask someone else to clean up and send Lian to a room,” the Marchioness instructed, as she lowered the scissors.
Lia brushed her hands through her short, almost boyish hair.
“My beautiful Canillian, how lovely you are,” she said.
Lia missed her mother.
She had brushed Lias long hair every night.
She started to cry.
Betty picked up the child in her arms trying to calm her.
Lia buried her face on Bettys shoulder.
She didnt like it that she had lost her hair and was not being called with a strange name.
She was frightened.
Betty placed Lia down on the bed as they reached the room and sat across from her.
Tears streamed down the childs face.
“Lia, your mother is being treated.
She isnt punished,” said Betty gently, “Madam is just a bit angry, but she isnt a bad person.
So, listen to her to save Laura.”
Lia raised her lowered head when she heard her mothers name.
“You know her” she asked.
“Of course,” said Betty, “This is your fathers house.”
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“My father” asked Lia.
She pointed to a portrait on the wall.
A man with honey blonde hair and emerald eyes.
“You have hair and eyes just like your father, Lia.”
Her eyes glistened in the lamplight.
The man was too familiar for her to not know who he was.
Her mother hadnt stolen an object, she had stolen a person.
Lia looked at her reflection in the dark window.
With her hair so very short and her thin body, she looked like a boy.
Lia mumbled the strange new name as she buried her head between her knees and cried.