“Promise you will write to me?”
Idelisa Leolin loved her big sister Nolia. Even though Nolia was the second eldest, she had always had the time for Idelisa’s curious questions. When Rian had touched her in places, her first thought was to ask Nolia why, but her big brother had warned her it was their secret. And after the servant lady had seen them, she realised why. Nolia had cried when Idelisa told her about the things Rian liked to do, and it had been Idelisa who had comforted her. It was their mother who had decided that Idelisa couldn’t live at home anymore. Idelisa had cried a little, but she settled down after climbing into her sister’s lap.
“Of course I will! And when you’re older, you’ll be able to come visit me.”
Idelisa sighed, peering over her shoulder at her sister. “I’ll miss you.”
Nolia smiled, “I’ll miss you more.”
Rian had started visiting her in private after his twin Rionna had been sent away to be married, and Idelisa was worried that he might start visiting Viera or even the new baby after it arrived. She had confessed her fears to Lucan, who had assured her that Rian was going away as well, and that Viera and the new baby would be safe. Idelisa was sad that she wouldn’t get to meet the baby, but her mother had told her they would meet one day.
The sisters turned to the door as it opened, and Idelisa grinned as her mother waddled in. Milena looked tired, but she returned a weary smile for her daughter. “Hello Flower,” she said, using her pet name for Idelisa. “This is Vahnda,” she gestured to the woman behind her.
Idelisa looked at the lady warily; she was very old with plain, drooping features. Her gown was woollen and dyed black; it had a high neckline and was not like anything Idelisa had seen being worn before. The woman smiled at her, the candle light catching in her blue eyes. Her mother had told her that the queen had recommended this lady and her family, who grew their own food and raised their own livestock, living quietly apart from the rest of society. Idelisa was going to live with them until she was grown, and after that it would be her decision whether she wanted to marry or continue living in solitude. She didn’t mind the idea of living away from the noise of the world, but she feared she would miss her siblings. And as for ever getting married – that was something she didn’t like the thought of, though having a baby would be nice.
“Are the horses ready?” Nolia asked.
Milena nodded, “Lucan has a man ready to take you as well.”
Idelisa frowned and looked up at her sister, “You’re going away too?”
“I’m going to stay at court with the queen for a little while,” she said. “Come now, up!”
Nolia patted her on the head and Idelisa grudgingly moved from her lap. She stood awkwardly for a moment, as the woman called Vahnda inspected her. Her mother made a strange sound and placed a hand on her belly, then smiled down at Idelisa.
“Your baby brother wants to say goodbye,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Idelisa grinned, “How do you know it’s a boy?”
“Just a feeling I have.”
The baby inside her mother’s belly was indeed looking for attention, Idelisa could feel powerful little kicks beneath her fingers as she pressed them against Milena’s stomach. She smiled, enchanted by the exchange.
“I wonder if he will look like me,” Idelisa mused.
“Then I would have two flowers for my garden!”
Nolia was not amused, “Do I have to mention again that I am the only child you named for a flower?”
“Oh hush!” Their mother turned to Idelisa, “Now little Flower, give me a hug!”
Idelisa chose to ignore the tears gliding down her cheeks and the choke of her mother’s voice, she reached up eagerly and shut her eyes tightly. She tried to memorise the feel of her mother’s arms around her, and the pressure of her unborn baby brother between them.