Once again, this installment has taken me far too long, but it is finally here. Hope you enjoy!
Start at the beginning.
“You know,” I mused as we walked back into the hotel room, “it’s a good thing Mediavalville taught me to stop wearing makeup and pull my hair up. I’m hardly recognizable as the little sixteen-year-old everyone is on the lookout for.”
“You are even more beautiful now, Evangelia.” Luca stated matter-of-factly, as though that solved the issue.
“You have never seen me with makeup on, Luca. How would you know?” I teased, pulling out the eggs and a frying pan as promised.
“What did you look like when you lived here?” He asked, cocking his head in curiosity. I looked up, weighing my choices but I decided there would be no harm in it. I grabbed my phone off of the counter and opened my photos app. The first picture was a typical teenager-y duck-faced selfie. I was wearing pretty thick mascara and sparkly eyeliner and holding up a cone of gelato.
“I looked a little like this.” I handed the phone to Luca. His eyebrows shot up but he didn’t say anything. He glanced up at me as if he was surveying all of the differences between the picture and the girl in front of him.
“I think I prefer my Lia.” He said softly, setting the phone down.
“Me too.” I agreed, fighting down another wave of longing for the castello. I turned toward the tiny glass stovetop and cracked a couple of eggs into the pan. Luca stood behind me, watching as the eggs cooked.
“There’s no fire.” He said after a bit, leaning down next to the burner.
“Careful” I held him back from touching it. “There may not be fire but it is still hot. Like the metal when you are forging a sword and take it out of the fire.”
“You use that to cook?” Luca asked, amazed.
“Not quite. It’s a wee bit more complicated than that.” I laughed. “Would you like to try?”
“I’m no blacksmith.” He raised his hands and took a step back. “And probably an even worse cook.”
“Even bad cooks can make scrambled eggs.” I said, turning the handle toward Luca. He took it gingerly for a second and then shrugged at me. I laughed and finished cooking the eggs as Luca watched, still entranced by the fact that the eggs were cooking without any fire.
As his wide eyes drank in every detail of the phenomenon from every angle possible, I began to see him as a kid. The little blond boy gazing open-mouthed in wonder around the castello which would become his home. The inexperienced squire bravely, gingerly hefting a sword and giving it a swing when he thought no one was looking. A child so eager to become a knight that he could occasionally forget how utterly terrifying that new and gigantic world really was.
“Why are you smiling?” Luca asked, standing up away from the burner.
“I just – AARGH!” I screamed as my hand bumped the edge of the frying pan and seared in pain.
“What happened? Are you hurt? What can I do to help?” Luca was there in an instant, wrenching me away from the stove and examining my burnt hand.
“I’m fine, Luca.” I grimaced, turning toward the faucet and shoving my hand under the cold water. “It’s just a little burn.”
“If you are fine, you shouldn’t scream like that. You nearly gave me a heart attack.” Luca chided.
“I’m sorry, it just surprised – Hang on!” I paused, Luca’s comment dawning on me. “I gave you a what?”
“I thought that was what people say here.” He replied sheepishly. “Don’t they?”
“Well, yeah, but how did you know that?” I queried, wracking my brain for something that would have taught him that phrase. I felt a little like a mother trying to figure out where her toddler learned to swear like a sailor.
“You.” I almost missed his reply in my reverie.
“You say that to Gabriella pretty often when she makes you nervous. I guess I just thought…” He trailed off.
“You thought what?” I asked, my burnt hand completely forgotten.
“The eggs, Lia!” Luca cried, pointing helplessly at the stove as the smell of burnt eggs wafted out of the pan. I rushed to turn the stove off and throw the burnt eggs into the sink. In all the melee we both began to laugh uncontrollably.
I sprinted over to the fire alarm to fan the smoke away before we ended up in a real crisis. I had had too many experiences with fire alarms in apartments in the past. Let’s just say we never tried to cook anything too elaborate to avoid the neighbor’s spite. As I finally set the towel down and controlled my laughter, I heard a knock at the door. I looked up at Luca and his face clearly said that he heard it too.
Cautiously, I tiptoed over to the peephole only to see Emiliana glamorously toss her hair over her shoulder. I froze, trying and failing not to panic. My mind immediately went into overdrive wondering how in the heck she found us. Was she from the police? Did Manero send her? How had he tracked us down so quickly?
“What’s happening?” Luca whispered.
“It’s the girl from the market.” I whispered back.
“We’ll have to face it together.” He said out loud, stepping across the room to wrap his arm around my arm. He reached for the door handle and I laid my hand on top of his. We pushed it open together and stared her down with our best warrior faces. We had handled far worse than a stranger turning up at our doorstep and we always came out alright on the other side.
If Emiliana was startled by the two of us looking like we could wade into a Medieval battle, she didn’t show it. Instead, she brushed past us and perched herself on the arm of the recliner. I glanced at Luca and he shrugged.
“Are you two going to join me?” Emiliana asked, her earlier sweetness frosted with a layer of condescencion.
“How did you find us?” I asked, closing the door warily.
“It wasn’t difficult. I just followed you here and then asked for your room. Honestly I would think Evangelia Betarrini would want to keep herself a little more hidden. Dr. Manero has a pretty big reward out for you. Although I suppose at least you’ve kept your mother hidden. She’s the one who could really get into trouble.”
“What are you talking about?” Luca asked, tightening his grip around my shoulders. We had both refused to move away from the door.
“My questions is,” she pressed on, ignoring Luca, “How did you manage to change your appearance so much in just a few days? The Betarrini family didn’t strike me as the type to know crazy disguise tactics. But then again, you would never have been the family I would have expected to disappear when you got yourself backed into a legal corner eiher.”
“You mean that archaeology family?” I asked, putting on my best confused face. “The one that has been all over the news?”
“Stop with your little charade. You aren’t fooling anyone. Honestly sit down.” Emiliana quipped.
“The girl on the news may look like L-essa, but we aren’t involved.” Luca said, catching himself just in time. I glanced at Emiliana to see if she noticed and her smug grin said it all. We were in big trouble.
“Sit, Lia.” Emiliana commanded. Finally, I sat on the sofa, feeling completely exposed. This was supposed to be a little break from our usual hectic life of keeping the peace between battles. There was to be no worry or stress here. Just good old… normalcy.
“Where did you pick him up?” Emiliana flicked her hand at Luca. “I’ve researched your family quite thoroughly over the past few days but the only man that shows up is your father, but he has been dead for a few years now, hasn’t he?”
“Yes.” I answered tensely.
“So where did you find yourself a strapping young man who speaks Dante’s Italian?” She asked, clearly enjoying the tension in the room.
“Listen, none of this matters.” Luca said standing behind me and placing a hand on my shoulder again. “We’ll be gone again in an instant – forever this time – if you just leave us be. You can have all of the credit and we won’t bother you. I promise.”
“Cute.” Emiliana laughed mirthlessly. “I’m afraid that is not going to be an option, m’lord.”
“Either tell us why you’re here or go report us to Manero, but this isn’t doing anyone any good.” I quipped.
“Report you to Manero? Now why on earth would I do that?” Her perfect eyebrows shot up in surprise. “I can’t stand that man. Nobody can. What we’ve got to do is figure out what to do with you. Because obviously I can’t just let you exploit your criminal genius somewhere else.”
“The best way to get rid of us is just to let us disappear.” I reiterated Luca’s futile line, but what else could I say.
“Why?” Emiliana leaned forward, intense curiosity alight in her dark eyes.
“You would never believe us.” Luca said.
“No.” I cut in. The point was for us to disappear without drawing attention to ourselves. If anyone knew we could time-travel… We had no chance but to trust her at this point, but there was no way we could tell her everything. “Just trust us. We need to get back to the tomb without being seen. That is all we can tell you. You have to trust us.”
“We wish only to travel peacefully to our home.” Luca lowered his voice. “To a place very far away from here.”
“You mean time travel.” Emiliana declared triumphantly.