More days passed by, long lonely days. Not the loneliness of someone lost out to sea, but the loneliness of being in a crowd and knowing that you have no one who really knows you, no one you really cares about or even want to talk to. I was always waiting to catch a glimpse of him, I started to think maybe he was a figment of my imagination, something I dreamed up trying to keep myself sane, something to give me enough hope to carry on.
After four days I finally saw him again. I was taking a walk through park near the center of the city, for once I was only surrounded by a few people. Probably since it was rather dreary out and it just had rained... anyway, as I walked with six of my followers I noticed him sitting alone on a bench. I asked then to go find me something to eat and hurried over to where he sat.
"I'm surprised to see you here." I said as I sat down beside him. He smiled.
"Hello." He said and I smiled back.
"So how have you been?" I asked.
"Good." I waited for him to say something else, but of course he didn't. So we sat in a semi-awkward silence until my followers returned and I had to say goodbye.
From that day on I made sure to come to the park every day, if only for a little bit. I tried my hardest to escape my followers so some times I managed to get away alone, and every day he was there! Each day I would try and try to get him to talk, sometimes I got so annoyed with him for his silence that I wanted to hit him, but I didn't of course. And I always came back. Spending time with him in the park because my time of peace, a time when I didn't have to hide anything- except the way I felt for him...
The first time he really talked to me, I mean he said more than a few sentences, was about a month after I started going to the park. It was one of the few times that I had escaped alone and I was in a particularly bad mood because my mother kept pressuring me to spend time with her best friend's son.
"I have something I want to show you." He said after I had said hello.
"What?" I asked curiously, trying not to show my surprise and happiness that he was actually talking.
"Come and I'll show you." He offered me his arm and we walked off together towards the other side of the park. I was practically humming with happiness because he was talking to me AND holding my arm.
When we got out of the park he continued on into one of the poorer parts of town and continued until we reached Vermilion Street, I was starting to get nervous. Vermilion Street was infamous for being the most dangerous and uncouth part of London.
"Tristan?" I whispered, hoping for an explanation.
"Don't worry, no one's going to hurt you when you're with me. Just look around, what do you see?" I looked around, what did I see? Well for a start everything that I had been warned of, and everything that people prayed they would never have to endure.
"I see prostitutes, thieves, and thugs. I see hungry children and mothers clothed in rags, I see pain. I see hunger...and," I paused, "…I see freedom." I finished quietly.
"Freedom? You call this freedom?" He asked looking straight into my eyes, I could tell he has surprised by my answer.
"Yes. They have the freedom to come or go, to make their own way, to work where or how they choose. They aren't subject to society's stupid rules, this is raw freedom. Nly think they are subject to is their own needs. They might not have money or food or even clothing but they have the ability to choose how they will live...I would give everything to be this free, even if it meant that I would have to live in the streets." I looked down, suddenly embarrassed by my speech.
"Freedom, is that all you want?"
"Not all, but it is foremost."
"That's interesting; I wouldn't have expected that from you."
"Well you should know I'm not what you or anyone else expects!" I said angrily y and turned away, did he too think I was stupid? I thought he was different!
"I didn't mean it as an insult." He smiled and reached out for my hand, "Please don't be angrily with me." I smiled back, I couldn't stay angry with him for more than a moment, not when he asked like that.
"Sorry," I said, "I'm sensitive about that...Everyone thinks I am stupid and mindless."
"Hmmmm, I don't think so. They just think you are beautiful, they don't think you have room for anything else but they don't consider you stupid."
"I still hate it. I hate all of it."
"Why? You have everything!" He looked at me, I could tell he was testing me. But why?
"I don't want everything! I want to have to work for something, I want to be challenged! I hate being followed around by all those puppy dogs who claim they love me! I hate being surrounded my people I loathe! I hate how I'm stuck in this hell and can't get out!" I stopped, I was breathing hard and my face was flushed. He was quiet.
"Don't you understand?" I asked after a few moments.
"More than you think." He smiled, suddenly not serious, "Now come, I have a few people I want you to meet!" He took my arm again and led me forward.
"This is Nicky." He introduced me to a pretty girl who was obviously a prostitute. Nicky smiled,
"Nice to meet you darling!" As soon as Nicky answered I realized that she was a he...
"I'm Deirdre." I said and smiled, trying not to act surprised. Tristan introduced me to a few other people, some beggars, some drunks, an inn keeper. All were kind people, I was surprised because all my life I had been warned to stay away from such people but they seemed so genuine, so real that I found I liked them more than anyone in my own class...except for Tristan. This place felt more like home and I had been here for less then an hour. People didn't act the same here, I mean yeah some of them stared and commented on my beauty but they didn't really treat me much differently then anyone else. They talked with me, asked me to dance, asked where I was from, offered me food and drinks, they treated me like a normal person.
I couldn't help myself, I laughed and sang and danced around with some of the men in the bar while Tristan talked to the owner. I gave the little children candy, I felt so alive! So new! I couldn't stop smiling, I had never really believed a place like this existed. It was dirty and cruel, yes, but people didn't hide their feelings or say things they didn't mean. This was the real world I had always dreamed of finding. And I'm not saying everything was good or perfect here, I saw fights, robbers, and all kinds of other "uncouth" people but there was something about the badness that made everything good seem so much better. The way they laughed and danced seems so much more pure because they were doing it because they wanted to, because they were happy; not because that was what was expected of them.
I was heart broken when Tristan said we should be getting back. I wished that I could stay on Vermilion Street forever, I could get a job as a maid or a waitress in a bar, or something! Maybe I could live there and forget all about my past life, no one would think to look for me here, and maybe Tristan and I could get married… I laughed to myself, I was letting my imagination run away with me.
"Now you have seen how the other half lives!" Tristan said as we reentered the park.
"Yes," I sighed and looked over my shoulder, "I think they have the better half."
"I think they would disagree with you."
"I know, I wish there was a middle. You could have money enough to live comfortably and have such joy and openness."
"Aye, but in this day that's something hard to come by, but somehow some people figure it out." I nodded.
"Can we go again?" I asked hopefully.
"Yes, but only when you come alone. It would be too hard with others here. Besides if they came back to find you and I were gone nasty rumors would start."
"Like I care..."
"Well you should, hey cheer up! Don't look so sad." He laughed, I smiled back.
"I'll see you tomorrow?" I asked.
"Not tomorrow, but the day after. I have some business to attend to tomorrow."
"Alright," I tried not to show how sad I was, "I'll see you then!"
"Good-bye!" He bowed and started walking off in the opposite direction. I sighed and head home, I knew my mother would probably be furious that I had been gone so long- I have a party to prepare for. But I wasn't worried, I had something to look forward to now, sometime real. And a plan was beginning to form in my head. Maybe this time I could escape for good.