Chapter 4: In And Out The Window

But if he's found another love,

and he and she both married be;

I wish them health and happiness,

wherein they dwell across the sea...

Lila slung the handle of her sewing basket over one shoulder, draped her father's britches over the other shoulder, picked up her skirt and climbed the ladder to the loft where the cottage's two bed chambers were separated by a thin, wicker partition. Lila went to her own side of the loft and placed the basket on her cot. Then she plopped herself down on the other, unslept-in cot and gazed out the window whose frames were bracketed by thin muslin curtains. The stars were plentiful in the night sky, the view facing northwest to the hills of Lower Macedonia.

Lila dangled the britches in front of her, gave them a vigorous shake and looked critically at the torn seam. She'd need to cut a patch from scrap and baste it into the crotch, then cross-stitch the patch and hope it would hold. As Lila sat on the low cot with its heavy wool blankets stowed in summer storage, her mind drifted back to the conversation which she and Alexis, before they'd settled down to do the week's scrubbing and drubbing, had had with Tyldus, the Centaur, who'd come to town in the hope of attracting young recruits to the new Warrior Training Academy staffed by the Centaurs.

With the Ixion stone safely back in Tyldus' possession and a truce in force between the Centaurs and the Amazons, the Argive general staff had approved the creation of a Warrior Training Academy to be headed by a Centaur upon whose practical skills and good judgment the generals felt they could rely. Tyldus had proven his mettle at the Battle of Corinth where his Centaurs had nearly defeated a superior force led by the redoubtable Warrior Princess. The generals had lately given the go ahead to Tyldus and Chiron, Tyldus' loyal assistant, to organize a war college for the purpose of training enlistees for what was turning out to be a lengthy and expensive Trojan campaign. At Tyldus' insistence and as part of the truce provisions in effect with the Amazons, the Academy was to be open to promising young women who would train and drill on a par with the young men. Ephiny, Solari, Eponin, Chilappa and Messalina had each benefitted from Tyldus' expertise, and now the veteran Centaur had his seasoned eye on the nimble, headstrong Amarice.

Representatives from the Academy had been canvassing the length and breadth of Northern Hellas, from Illyria in the west to Thrace in the east with Macedonia between, on the lookout for suitable applicants. To this end, Tyldus and members of the faculty had set up information booths at various town marketplaces for the purpose of publicizing the Academy's various programs. Lila and Alexis had stopped to chat and had come away intrigued by the wide range of possibilities that the Academy had to offer.

A dull thud brought Lila back to the present. A bundle of white linen came flying up to the loft and landed with a splat on the floor. A turn of the sandglass later, Alexis came bustling up the ladder.

"Ta dah!" Alexis burst in, spread her arms wide and twirled with a flourish. She was wearing a flowery gingham skirt and a low cut blouse with short puffy sleeves below the shoulders. Her hair was partly done up in a top knot, partly left loose to dangle down the nape of her shapely neck.

"What's in the bundle?" Lila looked up from her needlework.

"My sewing," Alexis untied the bundle which turned out to be a mass of bedsheets the ends of which were bound together in a series of knots.

"Your sewing? There's nothing here but a bunch of rolled up bedsh...," Lila frowned.

"Yes, my sewing," Alexis placed a cautionary finger on her puffy, kissable lips.

"How'd you get out of the house? "Lila gave Alexis an exasperated look. "Your Dad doesn't like you running loose at night."

"I told them you were going to show me some advanced crochet moves," Alexis looped and knotted the remaining bedsheets.

"On a bunch of knotted up bedsheets?" Lila raised an eyebrow.

"That was so I could weasel my way over here, dum dum. Catch!" Alexis tossed Lila the bundle which unfurled to become a length of firmly knotted sheeting.

"Lexie, would you mind clueing me in on exactly what you’re up to," Lila stuck her hands on her hips.

"I’d rather spare you the gory details," Alexis said. "Besides, I want your mom to think I'm up here."

"You are up here," Lila shook her head at this apparent spate of nonsense.

"Not for long, I’m not," Alexis twiddled her fine, reddish eyebrows. "Hold on and don't let go."

As Lila clung to one end of the bedsheets, Alexis gave a hard tug on the other end and the knots contracted.

"Did you hear what they did to Mickey?" Lila resisted as Alexis tugged.

"Dad said he got maxed out by Latrinus’ goons," Alexis cinched the knots more firmly. "Okay, that ought to do it," Alexis rolled up the length of knotted bedsheet, then pushed the table against the window, its top edge pressing snugly against the lip of the sill. Bending down, Alexis hitched the sheet's leader to one of the table legs and then wrapped the next few hand lengths of sheeting around the table's other legs. Finally, she scooped up the rest of the bundle and tossed it out the window where it unfurled nearly to the ground.

"Lex, I wanna know what’s going on," Lila huffed.

"Simple: we're doing our crocheting," Alexis hopped onto the window sill and grabbed hold of a wad of bedsheet. "Ta..."

Out the window she went and, with the soles of her feet bouncing against the ribs of the cottage, she gingerly lowered herself to the ground.

Lila dashed to the window and, in a hoarse whisper that she hoped Hecuba wouldn't hear, she cried, "Lexie! Where do you think you're going?"

"I got a date with an angel!" Alexis cackled and lit out for the haystacks that were piled under nets in the meadow.

"Lee...!" Lila heard Hecuba calling from the foot of the ladder.

Zeus on a zither, how'm'I gonna cover for Lexie now... "Um, yeah, Mom...?"

"Were you not hearin' some awful bangin' outside? I'm wonderin' if your father may have taken a spill on his way in from the byre," Hecuba looked up to the dim pall cast by the lit candles at the entrance to Lila's bed chamber.

"It's just me and Lexie, Mom. We're, um, moving stuff around," Lila called down to Hecuba.

"Draggin' cots and tables?"

"Yeah. We're, ahh, crocheting."

"'Twere a lively racket for twa’ young ladies what were hookin' yarn with needles," Hecuba called back, puzzled.

"We’re experimenting with a new technique," Lila said. "It's called, er..., action crochet."

"Action crochet?"

"It's a reverse process where you, um, hold the hooks steady and work the yarn back and forth," Lila ad libbed. "It gives the finished product a twillier look."

Hecuba shrugged. "Might you and Alexis be carin' for a tray of grapes and filo leaves? Your father were headin’ out to look in on poor Mick."

"Thanks. I'll be down in the turn of a sandglass to get it," Lila scurried over to the table and piled her sewing on top of it, grabbed an afghan off the cot and swept it around the table legs to cover the swatch of incriminating bedsheet that ran up and over the sill.

Continued - Chapter 5

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