There wouldn't be time to meet Aiden. Lorelei realized this with a mental sigh, keeping her face tranquil.

Cynthia was distracted, making snide remarks towards the servant who was fiddling with her blonde curls. They had to fall over her shoulder just so. As the heir to the throne, Cynthia had an appearance to keep up, a fact of which she was all too aware. Sometimes it seemed as though this was all she cared about, but Lorelei knew there was something more underneath the vain, self-focused exterior. At least, she hoped there was.

Cynthia wasn't paying attention, so Lorelei edged toward the open door and ducked through into the hallway before she was noticed. If she couldn't meet Aiden, at least she could leave him a note.

She ran on tiptoe through the stone corridor, gathering the folds of her skirt around her so they wouldn't sweep the dusty stone floor. She hadn't wanted to wear such a long and cumbersome dress to the ball, but Cynthia had insisted. Lori guessed, correctly, that this dress was the exact shade of blue to make Cynthia's yellow dress stand out like a star against the sky. Still, it was lovely; full and shimmering, translucent layers of the thinnest silk. It was lovely but difficult to run in.

She was taking the servants' hallways she was so familiar with. This part of the castle felt hauntingly empty. They were all preparing for the ball.

A nearly unnoticeable, completely unremarkable wooden door stood lonely at the end of the hall. To Lori it was beautiful, her portal to freedom and sunshine. She had bribed the head housekeeper for the only key. She lifted her dress indiscreetly and pulled it out of the pouch hidden under her clothes. It clicked into place in the simple metal opening and the door swung open.

The sun shone through, warm and golden, liquid light. Lori closed her eyes and drank it in for a moment before stepping out into the grass with a smile. Her bare feet sunk into the cool earth. The hill rolled away from the door in the castle wall and met another, whose gradual slope was pressed against the blur of the distant woods.

Lori turned left and walked along the side of the castle with an unladylike whistle. There were no windows on this side. Apparently someone thought servants didn't deserve windows.

She glanced at each stone on the eye-level row of the wall as she passed. Ten strides from the door, she stopped. A tiny blue smudge had caught her eye. The outline was slightly more defined than the rest of the stones, having been removed several times a week for the last ten years. She pulled it out easily and reached into the cool, dark space, pulling out a scrap of dingy paper and a stub of a lead pencil. The paper already had tiny scribbles all over it. She quickly checked for any new messages, then scrawled her own note.

Ct tdy- C nds me.

Can't today. Cynthia needs me.

With a last lingering gaze at the sky, Lori stepped back through the door into reality. Cynthia would soon realize she was gone.

The End

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