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Lilia followed her sister up another set of marble stairs to the mezzanine while taking in the intricately tiled floors, rich wood paneling, and high ceilings. She slowed her pace, admiring every detail before her. Lilia watched Ermides pull open a metal-framed glass door and step into what appeared to be a dark and cold-looking box built into the wall.

     “Well? Are you coming?” 

Lilia looked over at the stately staircase to her left and back at her sister. She felt confused and utterly disoriented.              

     “What is that?”

Ermides smiled, thinking back to her own many firsts years ago. “It’s called a lift. It’s a genius invention, and besides, the stairs take too long. However, on the days we have bags of groceries, we’ll take the walk-up, as there isn’t enough room in here—we must be considerate of the other tenants and visitors.” Ermides motioned her in. “Come. It’s safe!” 

Lilia timidly stepped inside. Her throat tightened as the door clanged shut. Ermides pushed a button with the number five on it and the lift began to move. Startled, Lilia lost her footing and stumbled against the back wall as the floor began to ascend, higher and higher. Lilia’s heart raced as she braced herself, her eyes riding up while each passing floors rode down. 

     The lift ground to a halt. “Ta-da! We’re here! See, Lilia? It’s like magic!” Ermides pushed the door opened, and Lilia quickly leaped out, throwing her sister into a fit of laughter.

     “You’ll get used to it. I find it fascinating how random people share this tiny space. Some are friendly, while others don’t say a word, especially to the staff.”

     Ermides unlocked the front door as Lilia ran her hand over the brass lion’s head knocker. She tingled with excitement upon entering the large foyer of this magnificent home—it was grander than any journey Lilia had experienced from reading her fairy tale books. She turned in circles, letting her eyes roam over the vast, opulent space. Dazzling art hung on every wall. Lovely arched windows were framed with thick baroque drapery, and Persian carpets covered the polished wooden floors that poured across each room. A chandelier with an array of branches, encrusted in teardrop-shaped crystals, illuminated the dining room and an exquisite table that seated a small army. It was covered in a hand-woven linen cloth and adorned with porcelain and silver. The living room was richly decorated with antiques, silk lamps, and pillows, and furniture enveloped in luxurious upholstery. 

     Ermides observed the moment with thankfulness as Lilia stood speechless, her bewildered gaze traveling around the house. Not only was Ermides grateful to have her little sister’s helping hand, but she also wanted to save Lilia from a continued life of hardship in Mussons and the guise of their strict and unforgiving mother. 

     “That’s a sofa, Lilia. Go on, sit on it.” 

Lilia fell back into the soft seating and gently stroked the velvet armrest. She gazed up at the plaster embellished and frescoed ceiling with luminous and delighted eyes.

     “You live here!”

     “And now, so do you.” 

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