4. Bloody Castles
Luckily for Anabelle, dessert was meat free, and full of chocolate, and later, she would reflect that it was the best part of her day. Regretably, once the chocolate cake was done, there was nothing left for the guests to do, but mill about the dining hall, chatting happily. Anabelle stayed for as long as she possibly could before she thought she might actually explode, then ditched out a side door. Wandering aimlessly about the second level for sometime, she finally ran into a housekeeper, who pointed her in the right direction, and sent her on her way. Inspired by a new scene, it went thus:
Dierdre climbed the gothic steps toward her room. Her perfectly laced boots creaking over the carpets and her skirts swishing upon each step. She tugged at her bodice and stopped on the first landing. Chancing a glance behind her, she caught the flicker of his shape in the candlelight, striding purposefully toward her, his hand upon the sheathed sword he wore, with the look of war upon him.
She watched him come, gallant as he was in his fine cravat, but a panic welled in her all the same. She shook her head, saw the confusion on his face as she did so, and rushed up the last rise to her room, hesitating just outside her door. She knew she should lock him out, or moreover, lock herself in, but she couldn’t quite muster the will to do so.
He came bounding up the last few steps to her side. “Dierdre.” He whispered, coming in close to her ear, the small rose tattoo behind his ear plainly visible.
“I can’t.” Deirdre mewled, turning away from the rose.
“I may not return…” He left the implication hanging in the air between them. He smelled of tobacco and sweet herbs and wood smoke and she wanted to taste him, just a little bit. She may have too, but a door in the far hall opened and interrupted them.
“Bloody castles.” Dierdre cursed lowly, pulling away from him and retreating to her room.
As uncomfortable as Anabelle was, she finally stopped scraping her pen, set down her notebook and began to roll a fatty joint. After some internal debate about propriety, she decided to smoke it out on the balcony that overlooked the gardens. So watching the cloud covered moon and leaning upon the brocade railing, she attempted to light the thing, but only accomplished somehow dropping the lighter off into the dark abyss below. A moment later she heard the crack of it landing on the rocks.
After several thrashings through and rifflings and emptying of the luggage later, Anabelle resigned herself to the fact that she’d only had one lighter. Sighing, she grabbed a sweater and approached her door. Cracking it open, and peeking through to the empty, dark hallway, she began to quietly descend through the castle.
As she meandered through the halls lit only by moonlight, and sought staircases that would lead her away from the main part of the living space and toward the more secluded eastern side, she saw no one and no movement. Though she would have been lying if she said she wasn’t a little disappointed, expecting at least a ghost or two.
But it was without incident that she finally wandered out of the castle and into the gardens. Crunching over dead leaves, she craned her neck upward to find her balcony. Realizing a little too late that there were several such balconies in the near vicinity, she tried to recall at least what floor she’d been on, but looking up at the rows upon rows of windows, she couldn’t be quite sure. She didn’t think she was on the top floor, but then, “It’s fucking ridiculous.” She said out loud to herself. “Bloody castles, indeed.”
Feeling a little bit like an inbred lunatic from another planet, Anabelle set out to search among the bushes and rocks for her lighter, at night, in the shadows beneath the labyrinthine monstrosity that dominated the landscape around her, without any real idea of where to look. Muttering and cursing to herself, she bent down and started rummaging.
Meanwhile, Theo August, having just left his father to his guests, and retiring to his favorite room in the entire castle, the greenhouse, rolled himself a cigarette and sat out on the veranda with a cup of steaming tea. Enjoying the dark silence of the night, and the solitude he’d so sorely missed these last few months in America, he took a deep, calming breath of English air and Turkish tobacco and felt at ease for the first time in a long while.
So it was, in all fairness, a particularly inequitable intrusion when an American voice rang out nearby, “Fucking ridiculous. Bloody castles indeed.” Choking on his tea when a snuffling noise sounded to the left, accompanied by muttered curses and rustling bushes, Theo stood up from his seat and peered over the ledge toward the koi pond his father had installed several years ago. He sighed with some measure of equanimity when he recognized the writer kneeling in the bushes below him.
He may have hailed her first off, but she snarled viciously and began to rhyme to herself, “Bushes and stones braise my bones but lighters cannot be found. In a world of matches and scones, and fat american crones, it is a bitter, empty ground.”
“So you are a poet.” He said above her head.
Startled, she reared, whinnied, stumbled, and like an inexperienced rider, tumbled over backward into the pond with a huge splash! and an oomph! Groaning inwardly, Theo vaulted the ledge and reached in to pull her out. She came up sputtering and flailing her arms like a drunken sailor drowning in a bathtub.
“Let me help you out.” He said, amused.
“Fiddling farting fraternizing rats!” She cursed as he hauled her bodily from the water, bits of lily and scum clinging to her here and there. She immediately began to shiver, clutching at her arms and turning around in hesitant circles.
Removing his sweater, he began forcing it over her head. She was enveloped by wool and felt minutely better, though still a little too wet and cold, and her teeth began to chatter. “Thank you but how do I get out of here?” She said with a violent shiver.
“I’ll take you.” He offered, stepping aside and gesturing her down the path toward a door in the ledge. He led her through the greenhouse and looked back longingly at the side table where his tea sat, untouched.
She caught him looking and cleared her throat, “I can find my way, thanks.”
“It’s no trouble.” He assured her.
She wasn’t sure there was any polite way to get out of it, so she stayed as silent as a dripping wet, shivering drowned rat could possibly be, and followed him up a long staircase.
However, for their credit, drowned rats, shivering or no, are apparently not very quiet, and they hadn’t made it half of a flight before she started in with a tart, “Shitting turtles I’m completely, ridiculously, unbelievably freezing my balls off!”
“Has anyone ever told you use too many adjectives?” He asked with a dull, detached voice. “Or that you have no balls?”
She shrugged. “I’m a writer, not an editor.”
He declined to comment further, and once they’d ascended the third flight, she stopped in front of her slightly ajar door, mumbled “the vanquished heroine returns!” under her breath, and waited for an awkward moment, then said, rather loudly, “Okay then, goodbye.”
“Is there any other way I can be of service?” He asked before she could leave, “Perhaps more blankets?”
“You got a lighter?” She asked, mouth set in a hard straight line, eyes glinting.
Theo patted his pockets, realizing his own lighter was still downstairs. “Aren’t there matches–” He began, but was cut off when she slipped in through the door and shut it behind her. Theo stood there for another awkward moment, staring at the oak paneled victorian filigreed door, before walking away down the hall.
Making his way back through the castle, he stopped on the veranda, grabbed his tea, and on a whim stepped back out into the garden. Pacing toward the outer edges, he looked back up at the castle above him and scanned for the window he sought.
A shadow passed across the lace curtains in an upper corner of the nearest wing.
Walking back toward the walls he scanned the ground. And there, between the lavender and the mint, was a baby blue bic lighter. Her rhyming became suddenly more logical.
As it were, the owner of said baby blue bic, was still rhyming, even as she drew herself a bath, up in her room, beyond the lace curtain in the corner of the nearest wing. “Wash the ears and wash the feet and wash the buttox, too.” She said to herself. “Think no more of silly things, like English eyes so blue. Wash the hair, wash the head and wash the neck as well, think no more of ridiculous things, like english chaps so swell. Wash the tits and wash the cooch and wash the belly button last, think no more on embarrassing things, like retarded actions passed.”
Having turned a pleasing rhyme, and all around calming down, even without the aid of a joint, Anabelle stripped starkers and dipped in. She sank into the deep tub and felt the cold ache in her muscles begin to loosen. She smiled to herself, farted, and finally started to relax for the first time since she drove to L.A. those long several weeks ago. So it was, as anticipated, that moment, of course, when a knock sounded on her bedroom door, disturbing her peace and making her incredibly cranky.
“I said no Maid Service!” She cried through the several layers of wall and door that lay between her bath, and whoever dared interrupt it.
The knock was louder the second time.
“Go the fuck away.” She muttered to herself.
But the knock, as you well know knocks tend to do, came again.
“Oh beetlejuicing vegans on gummi bears!” She muttered, feeling suddenly very vulnerable, and very cold, and irritated as she stepped out, wrapped herself in an overly large smock thingy conveniently hanging above the sink and shivered violently once more. Planning to open the door a crack, and send the intruder on their way, she exited the bathroom.
Out in the hall, having rapped several times to no avail, and thinking perhaps his guest had gotten hypothermia or gone off in search of another mode of fire, Theo August opened the door.
Screeching to halt when she saw him, a half naked Anabelle sputtered once, shuffled backwards indignantly, caught her smock on the corner of an antique table corralling the seating area, slipped on her wet feet and went down, smockless, to the cold, hard floor.
Her lungs devoid of air, she could do nothing but turn blue as Theo knelt down to right her, covering her modestly with the smock as he did so. Gallantry aside, she glared at him, half contemptuously, half mortifiably, and declined any further assistance as she fought to pull breath in and out.
“Are you okay?” He asked her. “That was quite a fall. Shall I assist you into your bed.”
For some reason his words made her shiver even harder than before, wracking her body with a cough. “What?” She hacked.
“Can I light your fire?” He asked, leaning down next to her.
She sat there and stared at him for a moment, briefly conjuring the image of ripped clothing, naked torsos, and various acrobatic positions, then blinked back the spots in front of her eyes, and shook her head. “Excuse me?” She asked, suddenly confused.
“I asked why you didn’t have a fire.” He repeated.
Anabelle looked around herself, saw the empty, lifeless, stone fireplace and it all clicked into place. “Fireplace. Fire. Right. No, I never thought about it.” She answered, rubbing a tender spot on the back of her head gingerly.
“Did someone not build you one?” He inquired.
Anabelle shrugged defiantly, “I may have not so timidly requested absolutely no waiting on me.”
“You did what?” He clarified.
“No servants.” Anabelle shook her head. “I told that chick that I didn’t want anyone to wait on me. Despite what it may look like, I’m actually fairly capable of taking care of myself.” She said contritely, looking down at her smock-swathed form gooping on the floor, realizing she was still naked beneath said swathing smock, and blanched.
With a strangled little eep!, she was hauling herself up, batting his hand away, and disappearing back into the bathroom from whence she came.
“Go away!” She called through the door. “I have to bathe now!”
If she had x-ray vision she could have watched Theo laugh despite himself, but sadly, she did not, so she only growled at the wall and waited for him to leave.
“Let me build you this fire first.” He countered, his voice muffled.
“No! I’m fine. Just go away, please. Thank you.” She added, hoping politeness was appropriate for a situation such as she was in.
“You will freeze!” Theo protested. “You bathe, I’ll make a fire, and by the time you are done, I’ll be gone and your room will be warm. You have frost on the inside of your windows already, castles don’t have centralized heating.” He reasoned.
Grumbling, Anabelle frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. “Fine. But hurry!” She added, glaring daggers at the empty wall.
Waiting for some sign of intrusion, she stood by the tub and listened to the sounds of fire making in the other room, and tapped her foot impatiently. “You’d think if you could afford a castle, you could afford a room heater.” She grumbled to herself. Finally, after some foot tapping later, Anabelle heard the outer door of her room click shut.
Turning to her bath, she was dismayed to find it almost cold. Quickly washing her hair, she scrubbed down as best as possible and said the hell with it. Climbing back out and grabbing a towel.
Upon leaving the bathroom, she stopped short, caught off guard by the baby blue bic lighter sitting on the edge of the side table. Finding herself grinning like a loon, she grabbed the extra blankets so thoughtfully left on the edge of the bed, went back out on the balcony, sat beneath the stars, and finished what she started.