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Lily & Ida

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Ida

I trudged through the wet sand, completely uncaring for the condition of my boots or my clothes. My hair kept flying in my eyes, too short to be held back in any permanent way.

My eyes raked the seas, searching for a sign. For a body, for a ship, for a drifting piece of wood…

I walked to exhaustion, finally falling to my knees in the sand and letting my tears fall into the rushing and receding ocean. It was made of the same sort of water, right? My tears belonged there. I could let them go there.

An image of my father, fuzzy and time-faded, filled my mind’s eye. I’d been young when he left, so my image of him was incomplete, ideal. I’d seen pictures, of course, but they could never seem to replace the imperfect memory I had of him. A strong desire to see him, to be with him, overwhelmed me and I stood up, starting off again down the beach. I let my thoughts pound with the thrum of the waves, repetitive and unchanging.

A figure in the distance broke my reverie. It was lying on the sand and not moving. I ran toward it, my legs aching with overuse, and thought that it might be another survivor from the shipwreck.

As I drew closer, I saw it was a middle-aged man, his face turned away from me. His arms were sprawled out, as though in desperation. I ran faster, falling to my knees once I reached his side.

“Sir,” I said, shaking him. I braced myself, attempting to roll him onto his back. I was rewarded with a groan. “Sir, can you get up?”

The man batted me away with a limp arm before, groggy and weak, he pushed himself up. He wiped the sand from his face and shook some water out of his ear. Then, he turned to me.

“Where am I?” he asked.

“The shores of Crete,” I replied. “Greece.”

“Greece? Crete?” His eyes lit up and there was something familiar about them. He was suddenly filled with energy and he asked,

“Do you know the daughter of the general?”

“Know her?” I answered. “I am she.”

The man smiled wide, coming toward me with such force that he nearly knocked me to the ground. He was kissing my cheek repeatedly, saying, “My girl, my little girl.”

All the anguish, all the grief of the last hour melted away, replaced with an exuberant joy. It flooded me and, giddy with it, I hugged the man, my father, with all the strength I had.

“Father! They thought you were dead! I’m so glad you’re alive!”

Then, suddenly, he pushed me away. He moved away from me with a supernatural alacrity.

“No,” he said. The single word hung in the air between us and confusion fogged my brain.

“What?”

“Get away from me!” he yelled. “I didn’t see you. You didn’t see me. None of this happened! Do not follow me— I forbid it!”

“But, Father, it’s me! What’s going on?”

“Get away!” he repeated and ran off, racing with the desperation of a madman.

I wanted to follow him, but my grief and exhaustion kept my feet in place. I couldn’t think what I had done to elicit such a response.

My feet were leaden as I walked back the way I’d come and drove back to the solitude of my home.

XxxXxx

I was just through the front door, car keys jingling in my hand, when I heard a male voice call,

“Ida?”

I held in a groan. Orestes.

The man stood in the entrance hall, a prim fedora in his hands. He had his fake glasses on today, along with a shirt, tie, sports jacket, and jeans. The pretension of his outfit matched perfectly with the pretentious wallpaper of my foyer. I wanted more than anything to ignore him, but I knew my social obligations required otherwise.

He started toward me, his arms outstretched, but I took a step back, asking,

“How can I help you, Orestes?”

He had enough sense to let his arms drop, all prospects of physical contact abandoned for the moment.

“I just came by to see you. It seems that I can’t go a day without looking upon your beautiful face.”

“Must be torture,” I commented.

“The worst sort,” he replied earnestly. I wanted to puke.

He took a step closer and lowered his eyes in a compassionate gesture.

“I heard the news,” he said. “I’m very sorry for your loss. Is there anything I can do to—“

“My father is not dead,” I interjected.

Genuine surprise overtook Orestes’ face and it stopped his words for a moment. Finally, he composed himself and he said,

“Surely you’re delusional. The stress, the emotional stress… You must be in denial.”

“I am no such thing,” I shot back. “I saw him as surely as I see you now. He was washed up on the beach. He survived.”

“Then where is he now?” Orestes asked, suspicion lacing his words.

“He ran from me. I’m sure he’ll turn up soon enough.”

“He ran away from you?” Orestes echoed. “That makes no sense. And it’s rather convenient for your story’s sake. Surely, if he were alive, he’d be here right now, with you.”

“Think what you like,” I said, taking an aggressive step toward him, “but I know what happened.”

He stepped back, then shook his head and seemed to regroup. He reached for my arm and beseechingly said,

“Ida, darling, please don’t be so irrational. I’m here for you. We can grieve together.”

This new level of aggravating behavior was too much, even for my social training. His insolence, in combination with Lily’s rejection, my Father’s death, my Father’s resurrection, and then his strange behavior, caused my blood to boil and I could handle it no longer.

“I’m sorry, but I must go,” I said. “Please see yourself out.” With that, I stormed out of the foyer to the safety of my room.

XxxXxx

Lily

I sat in my room on my bed, knotting the sheets in my hands. My anger toward Ida had dissipated a while ago, replaced by a genuine compassion and something else that I couldn’t quite identify. The one thing I knew was that I’d never felt such a connection with anyone else before. Was it because she had saved me from death? Or because she was still protecting me, keeping me from jail or worse? It seemed crazy to me because I’d only known her for a day. No, less than a day. How could I feel so strongly about someone that I hardly knew?

Guilt played at the edges of my conscience. Ida had just lost her father and I was in here, doing nothing. She probably thought that I was still mad at her. Maybe even that I hated her. But, truthfully, I was grateful and I found hate hard to hold onto, no matter how much I thought that I should. She was the enemy after all. Her people had destroyed my home, my family. I should hate her. How could I have such pleasant feelings toward her? How could I be such a traitor?

And yet…

All I wanted to do was run to her and comfort her in her grief. I’d lost my father less than a week ago. I knew what it felt like. I knew all too well the hole that opened up in my heart and the emptiness that awakened me to tears in the night. I should be with her. I was the one person who could relate, who could understand how she felt. It was my duty to go to her, to help her. She had saved me. It was the least I could do.

I stood from the bed, straightened my dress and hair in the mirror, and went to my door. With a deep breath to gain my courage, I slowly opened the door and ventured out into the hallway.

I walked aimlessly through the lavish house, trying to find someone who could help me. I had wandered into a trophy room of sorts when I saw Ida’s housekeeper.

“Excuse me,” I called. E looked up at me, dark eyes suspicious, and asked,

“What are you doing out here?”

“I’m sorry,” I responded automatically. “I just wanted to find Ida. Could you show me to her room?”

E lifted an eyebrow, suspicion replaced by subtle amusement.

“I can bring you there,” she said. “But you really shouldn’t be wandering around. Ida has explicitly asked to keep you under wraps. She doesn’t want the wrong person to catch sight of you.”

“I understand,” I said.

She looked me up and down, as though judging my character or motives or breeding, and then, finding me passable, nodded, saying,

“Follow me.”

XxxXxx

E knocked on Ida’s door, saying,

“Excuse me, miss. Lily’s here to see you.”

“Let her in,” came the answer from inside.

E gave me a glare, as though to warn me to behave, and then she opened the door. I stepped in and she closed the door behind me.

Ida’s room was functional and serene. It was all blacks and whites, a few smatterings of color taking residence in tastefully hung artwork. A work desk sat by a huge window, its sliding panels leading out onto a balcony. A large, four-poster bed took up the middle of the room and an ornamented wooden wardrobe resided next to the door I’d come in through.

I stood beside the wardrobe and Ida sat cross-legged on the bed, her boots left carelessly on the floor. Small piles of sand surrounded the boots and more sand decorated Ida’s black pants and shirt. Her hair was wind-tousled and imperfect. She was rather dirty but she didn’t seem to notice or care.

She didn’t look at me when I came in. Instead, she whispered,

“Did you come to continue yelling at me?”

“No. I’m here to see if you’re okay. Since your father…”

Ida looked away, out the window, and said,

“Thank you.”

There was a warmth in her voice that gave me courage. I stepped closer to the bed, avoiding her boots and the sand. I stood at the bedpost, holding it for support, and waited for a sign. A moment later, Ida looked at me, her eyes red-rimmed and her face drawn. Her eyes…those dark, seductive eyes seemed to call me to her. There was a depth to her that attracted me more than anything. And there was her palpable pain. That drew me, too.

Slowly, I walked alongside the bed toward her and, when she didn’t pull away, I climbed onto it, watching to be sure that she didn’t object. I edged closer to her, my body feeling small beside hers. She didn’t move, didn’t speak. Even in her sorrow, she was majestic.

I reached up, gently brushing hair from her eyes with my fingers. She tolerated my touch, but didn’t look at me.

“I’m sorry,” I said. I thought I was saying that I was sorry that she had lost her father, but when I heard myself say the phrase, it sounded more like an apology. I continued to run my fingers through her hair, comforted by the softness of it and by the repetition of the gesture. We were comfortably silent for a long while. I listened to her breathe, the inhalations growing slower the longer I played with her hair. Finally, she said, quietly and without preamble,

“He’s not dead.”

My hand stilled immediately and I said,

“What?”

“My father,” she clarified. “I saw him, on the beach. I went to him. I hugged him. And he kissed me and called me his daughter. It was just like I had imagined it would be. But…”

I was confused. She still seemed to be in a state of grief. If her father truly was alive, then why was she so upset?

“But what?” I pressed. “I don’t understand.”

“But then he suddenly pushed me away. He ran away like a madman and forbade me to follow. He said that we couldn’t see each other anymore. I don’t understand why he’d do that…”

This was puzzling indeed.

“Maybe he’s sick,” I suggested. “Or confused. He did just survive a shipwreck.”

“I don’t know,” Ida said, her voice laced with pain. “I’m so happy that he’s alive, but his rejection…I don’t understand it.”

Now Ida looked up at me, her eyes meeting mine. She seemed to lose her breath at the onset of this connection, because her chest bucked strangely and her eyes widened. Her hand moved, reaching up as though to touch my face, but it didn’t finish its intended movement. Instead, it dropped to her side and she looked away.

“Lily…” she said, and the sound of my name in her voice was enchanting. “I…”

But she couldn’t seem to bring herself to finish the sentence. Giving up on that, she restarted, saying,

“I’m sorry you lost your father.”

The genuine emotion in her voice hit me, bringing tears to my eyes immediately. I didn’t want her to see them, to think that I was weak, so I tried to hold them in.

“It was very kind of you to come here,” she added. “I very much appreciate it.”

Then she took my hand, bringing it to her lips and kissing it. Her lips were so soft and gentle. Her gesture made it even harder to hold in my tears.

“You’re welcome,” I got out. She must have heard something in my voice because she said,

“Oh, no. Have I upset you?”

I shook my head, knowing that if I opened my mouth to answer, I’d start crying in earnest.

And just like she had on the beach, she drew me into her arms. She held me close, rocking me slightly and resting her chin on the top of my head. Here, my tears came slowly, cathartically without all the violence of full-on grief. I felt abundantly safe with her arms around me and my face buried in her shoulder. It was the most natural thing in the world.

I lingered there a moment, soaking in the wonderful feeling, but then I pulled away when a thought popped into my mind.

“I know how I can make you feel better,” I said.

Ida loosened her grip and looked at me, her expression quizzical.

“I’ll go talk to your father,” I said. “If he won’t see you, he’ll see me. I can ask him why he acted that way and get to the bottom of this. I’m sure he’ll return here soon. I’ll ask him then and you won’t have to wonder anymore.”

“No,” Ida answered, shaking her head vigorously. “No, he cannot see you. He’ll lock you up for sure! I can’t let that happen.”

“Ida,” I said, my tone serious, “you can’t hide me forever. This is his house. He’s going to figure it out eventually. I’d rather face him head on than sneak around and get caught.”

She didn’t answer right away. Instead, she ran a finger over the back of my hand, watching the hypnotic movement.

“I’m going with you, though,” she said. “I’m going to wait outside the door while you talk to him. And if anything happens to you, I’ll—“

“You’ll be right there to stop it,” I finished.

“Exactly.”

She continued to run her finger along the back of my hand and I watched, her fingers long and strong. Finally, she said,

“Are you sure you’d do this for me? For… an enemy?”

I nodded, saying,

“Yes, I’m sure.”

With a rush of gratitude or affection, Ida put her hands on either side of my face and leaned my forehead against her own. Her fingertips were buried in my hair, her palms against my cheeks. She was so close to me, the heat of her breath on my lips. I was surprised by her nearness, by her fearlessness in this moment. It seemed as though she was trying to tell me something very profound, very important, using her body instead of her words. I tried to read the book of her actions, tried to decipher her language.

Tendrils of several emotions snaked through my mind at once: fear, guilt, excitement, and something else too fuzzy to distinguish. Gratitude? Infatuation? Could it possibly be? But she was my enemy. Her father had killed mine. How could I feel this way about her? Nevertheless, my heart was beating fast in my chest at her touch.

Before I could fully understand it, a knock came at the door. Ida reluctantly released me and said,

“Yes?”

“Your father has returned,” a voice from the other side of the door announced. “He is in his study.”

Ida looked straight at me, her mood completely changed. Now, something desperate clawed at the edges of her expression. She looked at me as though I could free her from whatever demon haunted her. In my attempt to do so, I said,

“It’s time.”