Alaia comes skipping down the marble staircase of her home lost in her own thoughts. She sees a maid about to go upstairs and gives her instructions. “I’m telling you for the last time, Polly, please don’t wash my lace things with the other clothes! You always tear them!” She turns away into her father’s study.
Ilaria straightens her rose-coloured himation and tries to brush off some dust, then pounds on the door loudly.
Alaia ignores the door as she never really opens it. She disappears into her father’s study to bother him about some new clothes she’s been wanting. A maid, however, opens the front door, and stares curiously at you.
Ilaria stares down the rude maid and strides into the hallway. She throws her curly black hair over her shoulder (from whence it promptly springs back) and looks haughtily at the maid. “Tell Alaia that I am here!”
The surprised maid asks: I’ll fetch Miss Alaia, miss. Who should I say it is?
Rolling her eyes at the maid, Ilaria says impatiently, “Only her most beloved cousin Ilaria all the way from Ephebe!”
Alaia is sitting on the armrest of her father’s armchair when the maid arrives with this surprising announcement. She gasps and comes bounding out of the study, followed more sedately by her surprised father. “Ilaria!”
“Alaia!” Ilaria cries and throws herself in an unstately manner at her cousin, arms immediately wrapping around her in a giant hug. “Oh, I’ve missed you!”
Alaia gasps and hugs her cousin tightly even as her father stands behind her, looking both surprised and welcoming. “It IS you!” She pushes you away from her and looks at you. “But how?!” She shakes her head and hugs you tightly again. “I can’t believe it!”
Ilaria grins, “Carriage ride, heard of it?” then turns to her uncle, having done the most important greeting. “Hello Uncle! You look surprised, you didn’t get my letter?”
Alaia’s father hugs Ilaria in turn, and murmurs surprisedly, that no, he didn’t get the letter. “Your aunt is shopping in town”, he says. Alaia tugs on her cousin’s chiton impatiently. “You’re supposed to be getting married in a month!”
Ilaria frowns at her uncle. “Oh dear, I had written to say I would be coming to stay for a week.” Turns to her cousin, “I know! We have so much to talk about!”
Alaia’s father waves to the maid who looks for the luggage. “You’re welcome my dear.”
Ilaria points to the luggage outside still on the doorstep, miraculously not stolen yet proving this IS a better part of town. “Uncle, if you will excuse us?” Ilaria turns to her cousin, “Let’s go to your room!”
Alaia’s father looks bemused even as she takes you by your hand and points up the marble staircase. “Come on! And your room will be close to mine!”
Ilaria grins at her uncle and allows herself to be tugged up the stairs after her favourite cousin.
Alaia leads you into a pretty pink and white and gold bedroom, with thick pink carpet underfoot. The room is dominated by a large mirror encased in wrought iron painted white, and with vines and flowers around it. She flops down on the large bed. “WHAT are you doing here?”
Alaia asks: Are you having the wedding here?
Alaia exclaims: I’m so confused!
Ilaria closes the door tightly behind them. She flops down next to her cousin on the bed while being careful to keep her dusty sandals off the coverlet. She looks her cousin in the eyes, “Secrets! Officially, as far as the rest of this household will know, I sent a letter that didn’t arrive saying I would come to visit. That Ma thought it would be good for me to have some time for girlish confidences before I am a married woman.”
Alaia frowns slightly, taking this in. “And unofficially?”
Knowing she can trust her cousin to keep it, Ilaria confides, “The wedding is off. You know I wasn’t in love with Nico. You know I would never be content to be the little wife. And before you worry, Nico is fine! Actually…” and here she breaks off with a laugh, “when I confessed to him, he admitted he didn’t really want to marry me either!”
Alaia opens her eyes wide at this revelation. “But! But! BUT! I had new clothes!” She wails before she flops down on the bed herself and pouts. “Well, if you were going to be unhappy then what’s the point?” She sticks her tongue out.
“We”ll just have to find somewhere else for you to wear them,” Ilaria replies.
Alaia sits up, her eyes shining. “And you can totally stay here! I mean, they would rather you were staying safely in your uncle’s house than getting into trouble somewhere anyway!” She giggles. “This is going to be so much fun!”
“Your father won’t kick me out, will he, when he learns the truth?” Ilaria worries.
Alaia waves this worry aside airily. “You know papa is old-fashioned and won’t want you out there fending for yourself. You’re family!” She thinks for a second. “Actually, now you’re here you can help me persuade him! I want him to let me go live in a flat near the guild. It’ll be much easier for me and I want to be independent.” She sighs. “He’s making SUCH a fuss! I’m going to be in the same city!”
Ilaria rolls her eyes at her uncle’s attitude. “For heavens sake, you’ve passed your exam. You are a GRADUATED ASSASSIN. It wouldn’t do to still live at home!”
Alaia nods fervently at you. “Exactly! They still treat me like I’m a child”, she says, forgetting she’s only seventeen. She fidgets with her skirt. “All the time I was writing to you and wishing you were here and now you finally are!”
Ilaria winks at Alaia. “Careful what you wish for: you might get sick of me being around all the time.”
Alaia hugs you as the maid brings in jasmine tea and delicious almond biscuits. “Never!”