I slapped both my hands over my mouth and shut my eyes as if that would help. “Ilesias? Ilesias Aan is that you? Come out of wherever you are hiding ahem, this instant young man!” I fumbled with the listening tube plug and shut out Ailadas’s voice demanding I come out.
Oh, Ten… I was in trouble.
I wiggled out of the hidey hole with Jiaklem following me with his slippey slappy noises as he pulled himself along the stone and if I could really see him I’d guess he looked worried. I waited until there was nobody below and shinnied down the carvings to the floor, with Jia on my back and then ran for my rooms.
I’d barely skidded into the Heir’s rooms and slid to a stop in front of a book case, yanking out something… a bunch all around me as if I’d been reading, when Ailadas came in. I tried to look innocent but the book in my hands wasn’t a reading book it was a book of weird arithmetic tables and I couldn’t really pretend.
“Young man…” He paused and took in the clutter of books and then looked at me and I tried really hard to look innocent. “I heard you.”
“Heard me? Where? How? I didn’t hear anything about you and Sera Eren getting married at all!”
There. That should tell him. Jia hid behind the bookcase, going flat flat flat to fit.
“And who would have told you? I just now asked the Sera and there was no one else in the room.” He wasn’t coughing. It was serious.
“I… um… guessed? You two have been together lots. Did you ask her? Is she going to?”
“Ilesias Aan!” He crossed his arms and stood very tall. Ailadas was very tall. I just never kind of noticed it. I hung my head. “You were listening! I heard you and you embarrassed me! I am concerned that you would fib about listening.”
“I’m sorry, Ailadas,” I better own up at least a little. “I was listening. I’m sorry. I was hiding and didn’t want to show you my hiding place. I promise I won’t do it again.” At least not this eight day.
He stared at me. How did he get that tall? He was an old man! He shouldn’t be that scary! I quit looking at him and looked instead at the cover of the book I’d closed up in my hand. Twelve Place Logarithmic Tables wasn’t something I’d ever really look at. I put it back on the shelf.
He was still staring at me. Why was I so hot? It was hot in here, but I felt like my head was going to explode with hot. Why do grownups have such a big stare? It’s like it’s loading coals of shame onto my head.
“I’M SORRY!” I say it too loud, and have to repeat it. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have listened in on you. I’m sorry.”
It was a long… long moment later before he unlocked his arms and nodded at me. “I accept your apology. Yes, you heard rightly. I asked Sera Eren to marry me and she accepted. She shall be elevated by it of course so we will have to do all of that paperwork.”
“You can’t ask her father for her hand… she’s old and her dad is dead years and years ago.”
“And her first husband as well… yes. That is why I was free to ask her. Would you be our ring bearer, Ili?”
I bounced right up and flung my arms around his waist where he stood. He wasn't so scary tall anymore. “Oh, yeah! That would be perfect. I won’t drop them or give them to Jiaklem or show them to Nuni or anybody! I’ll keep them perfectly safe… I even promise not to swallow them to keep them safe, that’d be gross!”
“Ahem. Yes. Ahem, that would, indeed, be too much! Ahem.”
“I’ll just carry them nice and steady on a pillow with my gloves sewn tight to it so I can’t drop it and give it to you at the right time. Are you going to have Minis stand up with you? Are you going to have Kyriala stand up with you? Are you going to wait till Gan and Farasha get back from the road and have everybody there? Is Sera Eren’s family going to want to….”
“Enough, Ili… enough… take a breath. Ahem. We have decided nothing yet.”
“Hey, can I have Jia there or will he be too much?”
“AHEM! Ili we will let you know what you need to know immediately. Do not, ahem, worry. It is the prerogative of the bride to care for the wedding details, if she has no father or mother to attend to them for her. You shall have to work with my affianced, ahem, to straighten out your part. I am assuming that both Jia and Ribbons shall have significant presence in this wedding.”
“I bet.” Oh, good, he’s not going to keep asking how I heard him, how I heard them. It was sooooooo bad that I made a noise in the secret spot. Maybe I shouldn’t show Nuni it. Maybe I shouldn’t show anybody.
“Ailadas. This is going to be so much fun.”
“Ahem. Ilesias. Since we are of such age, it shall be a small affair and shall not be an enormous outlay of capital. Perhaps for your next assignment we should cost out how much various weddings cost, hmmm?”
“That sounds good! I like that idea. You should get Minis to pay for part of it. That would help. He’d like to do that, too.”
“Ahem!” He drew himself up. “Ahem. Young man that is entirely inappropriate! You are spending your big brother’s fortune without regard! Very, very improper.”
But I know Min. He’d like it. I’ll just ask him. “Yes, ser.”
“Better. Now… no asking your big brother, mind you.”
“I won’t ask.” I won’t. I’ll just tell him all about it and let him decide to do the right thing. “I like Sera Trathila. And Ribbons. You did good, honoured tutor.”
He grinned at me. Not just a smile, a real grin. “Ahem. Thank you, Ili. This is going to be an interesting year.”