The Tale of a Loved Soul
There stood a girl facing a pale window. Her reflection was ghostly, her eyes a lime green and her hair a lovely brown. Snowflakes dripped down the window pane as she touched her frail and cold fingers to the glass. The winter had been harsh for the poor girl.
“Valerie?” an old woman whispers as she enters the bare room. The girl didn’t reply to her answer, she kept her continuous gaze out into the dark midnight snow.
“Valerie, answer me” the bony figure pleads once again. Her hair matted, her skin covered in ash and clothed in rags.
The girl changed her position, facing even farther away from the woman than before. Valerie closed her eyes as the horrid memories flashed through her head. Screaming, fire, and the utter feeling of overwhelming cold.
“Yes, mother” she whispered, her voice hoarse and faint.
“I must leave again” the woman said walking toward her and placing her long, skinny fingers on her shoulders. The touch was as if a ghost were stroking her at the very moment.
“And why would you be leaving again mother” Valerie said as anger bubbled inside of her. Her mother would disappear out of nowhere, and then come back weeks later with no excuse or reasonable explanation.
“That is a question that is best not to be answered” she said turning her back to the girl and walking out the room.
“Perfect’ Valerie whispered as she jumped to her toes and ran to her bed. She sifted through the hard mattress until a small bag was toughing her fingertips. She tugged it out and there in her lap sat a tiny knitted bag filled with everything she had worked so hard on. She opened the satchel and looked in it, making sure her possessions were still there. A pouch of gold coins, a pair of gloves, a black insulated cloak, a silver knife, and her gold locket.
She pulled out the cloak and wrapped it around her. The soft velvet touched her freezing skin sending a warm shiver through her body. If she was going to run away, now was the time to do it. She slowly turned the rusty doorknob and entered the inns hallway. Her mother and Valerie had lived there as long as she could remember because the inn keepers were close friends of her mothers and would let them pay only half of the rent. She watched herself carefully as she took long but silent strides trying not to wake anyone up in the middle of the night. If she was caught there was no way mother would ever let her out of her sight. Not that she doesn’t already. Mother never let her go outside with the other children in their village. She was always locked up in her bare room, lonely and depressed. You see Valerie has had an incredibly peculiar lifespan. She looked nothing like her mother, she had pale skin, green eyes and, light brown hair that was very long and silky. But her mother had black hair, tan frail skin, and dark brown eyes. Her father had the same looks as her mother and could possibly even pass as twins. It was around two years ago that her parents were divorced even if it was uncommon and disloyal they signed the papers. She had been strictly given to her mother and has never seen her father since. Her village was in havoc. Nineteen years ago the kingdom went into mutiny against the royal family. Tribulations and arguments seemed to haze like a fire over their country until everything precious and beautiful was burnt to dust. Everyone was poor, everyone was hungry, and everyone was wishing on a shooting star that they will survive the winter.
Once Valerie reached the lobby she made sure to be especially quiet as she heard the innkeeper's snores. She had a leap of courage as she slowly allowed herself to peek over the corner of the wall she was hiding behind. There was the plump innkeeper asleep on the job. His snores were deafening and were equal to a dying cow screams. He held a bottle of old whiskey in his large meaty hand. Valerie could tell the bottle was almost empty, good it would be hard to wake up a drunk man. She tiptoed to the wooden door across the room praying that nobody would spot her get away attempt.
She reached the door and as she slowly turned the doorknob and pushed the entrance bell rang. No! She had forgotten that. All of these weeks of planning and this small bell was her downfall. The innkeepers snores utterly stopped along with Valeries heartbeat.
“Welcome to….to the….sleepers inn…….” The drunk man stuttered as he tried to rehearse the lines that he had spoken to every customer. His eyes were hazy as if he were still stuck in his dreams, he wasn’t fully awake.
She couldn’t walk away, he would notice. But if he recognized her, which was almost a guarantee, then she was a goner. She pulled the cloaks hood tightly over her head, hoping that it would keep her anonymous.
“Is-Is.....there any-anything I can.... get for you” he said, still drunk.
“As a matter of fact, there is, can I get two platters of dried fruit” she said, hiding her voice to sound like a mature, schooled, aristocratic woman. She knew that her order was an odd request but the fruit would be handy if she was able to make it out the door and into the wilderness.
“Alright madam” he slowly lifted himself from his chair and walked like a disoriented donkey over to the small pub that was placed to the side of the room. He still held the whiskey bottle as he teetered to the small door placed at the end of the room. He opened it and surprisingly fit inside of the tight confined room. She sauntered to the tall counter and took a seat on a tall stool, waiting for her order.
After all of these years of living here she knew that was the food storage. Where they kept all the food, wine, and beer for customers, or themselves.
Valerie knew she didn’t have enough money for the food, especially in these rough times an amount of fruit like that would cost a fortune. Valerie was deep in her thoughts when the small entrance bell rang.
Her heart seemed to have stopped and her breathing became staggered as she heard footsteps toward her direction.
A figure sat to the right side of her. She needed to look, for her own pleasure and her own desire. She lifted her head, still making sure her hood was on, and allowed herself to take a look at the person beside her. He was a tall young man, probably around the age of twenty. He wore a brown inverse cape which was quite similar to the likes of Sherlock Holmes. He wore a brown fedora, but you could still see the black wavy hair that flopped out at a few ends.
The man started talking and she jolted her head back hoping he hadn’t seen her.
“So, what is a young woman like you doing at midnight at an inns pub?” he asked sheepishly as he flipped the page of his newspaper.
“And what is a young man like you asking a lady odd questions at midnight at an inns pub?” She said smirking at her comeback, but still keeping her sophisticated accent.
The man didn’t answer the question and continued reading his newspaper.
A few minutes later the plump man stuttered out the door with two plates full of dried fruit, some she recognized and some she had never seen in her whole entire life. He placed the silver platters in front of her and walked away back to his chair and continued his drinking.
“Wow you must be quite the rich young lady to afford food like that” the man said suspiciously eyeing the plates of fruit.
“Maybe and maybe not, but either way it is none of your business’s so go back to reading the bloody paper” she snapped back at him. She didn’t want a witness of the crime she was soon to commit best to leave no evidence.
She slowly I hid the small satchel from under her cloak and started to slowly place dried fruit into the contents of the bag.
She could feel the mans stares as she put the last few pieces in. Oh great.
“If you ever mention anything about tonight, it is a guarantee I will find you and it will not be pretty” she strictly whispered as she held the silver knife to the boys throat.
She decided that tonight was not the night to get blood on her hands and released him, folded the knife back into its casing and ran out of the inn. She could tell the sudden clamber was enough to arouse the drunken man to her crime but she had to get away. It was pitch black outside as she tried to navigate the town with only the faint glow of the candles of the lamp posts. She heard footsteps behind her.
She stopped as she saw the blur of brown behind her. Of course it had to be the boy. Being nineteen and the only boys she had met in her whole life were the innkeeper and her dad, she had no idea how to deal with the..... creatures.
She turned around and the man stopped suddenly, only standing a few inches from her.
“Quite the tricky miss you are” he whispered and she could feel his breathe on her cheek. She didn’t like the feelings, in fact she utterly disliked the feeling and equaled it to the stench of a dead rat.
“I would prefer the rat” she thought in her head as the man winked at her.
Valerie pulled out the knife abruptly and held it to the mans throat, the second time this evening. But his smirk grin didn’t fade.
“Well I guess I am going to have to fulfill my words” she said as she dragged the blunt part of the knife cross his jawline. It didn’t affect him. It was not supposed to draw any blood, it was more of a threat to let the predator back off. Similar to butterflies colorful patterns, beautiful but poisonous.
“I have a proposition to you, that you might be interested in” he said watching the silver knife slowly make its way across his jaw.
“And what may that be” she said smirking
“I saw your….action back there and I am in position of people who may be interested in something more….interesting things than dried fruit” he whispered and Valerie could tell what he was saying.
He wanted her to steal for people. She knew this wasn’t a good route to go down, but she was extremely poor. Valerie agreed to herself that she would accept the offer, but only steal when necessary.
He held out his hand, and Valerie shook it.
“Now that this is settled it is time for me to learn your name” he said while they walked down the street.
“Is that an order I hear?” She said still with her aristocratic accent. It was best to keep as much private as possible.
"Well if you are going to be so stubborn, I will go first, my name is Cedric Wells but I go by Sly” he said.
Valerie almost laughed. Sly! What a clever nickname.
“I go by…..Duchess” she said trying to hide her stuttering as she lied to Cedric.
“Well then, Duchess” he empathized her name and she hated it.
They turned a corner and Valerie found herself in a cold dark alleyway. The brick walls seemed to go up forever, trash and debris covered the floor and black ice hid in random places.
In the alley there was a wooden door and that is where Cedric stopped with no warning or signal. He knocked on the door three times. Until it opened to reveal a old man with stubble covering his whole face, gray balding hair, and an intense look in his eyes. He was tall and muscular, who wore a white shirt covering in ash streaks, and brown pants that were held up by suspenders.
“Sly what in the name of macron are you doing out” he said his voice gruff and Valerie could tell it was the effect of smoking. Oh great tonight she was meeting quite wholesome people. Wasn’t she?
“We have a recruit” he said as he tilted his head, gesturing towards Valerie.
“Well I see you have found yourself a little lady. Huh sly?” The man lifted one eyebrow and Valerie's face seemed to burn as if someone lift it with a match.
“Nu-no sir. This is duchess” he said shyly and Valerie could tell they were both affected by the mans words.
“Why hello duchess. Sly bring her in. No need for pneumonia” he teased and opened the door just a crack so Valerie and Cedric could come in.
The room smelt like rotten sardines and burning trash and Valerie gagged as she got deeper into the room. The roof dripped small pieces of melted snow through the cracks and small droplets of water hit the floor making a splashing sound in the puddles hat were spontaneously forming.
To be continued....