Drake (Book 1)

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[34]-Araby

6:03 p.m.

The entertainment district left Lyn dumbstruck as she stumbled upon it. As the sun set and shadows lengthened, the night came alive, and she found it no different from the day. In fact, much livelier as workers set up massive white tents with red stripes where the top formed an umbrella-like shape. They displayed exotic animals in caged wagons where children gathered with popcorn and candy.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, apart from the clowns or the people with extraordinary flexibility, was a darker world. The underworld of the district, separated only by a bazaar owned by immigrants from the far east. It served as a tunnel connecting the two districts, with a gate on each side that was always left open. If you walked down one end, you found yourself in a world of crime, prostitution, and trafficking. But if you went the other way, there would be clowns, men who breathed fire or ballerinas performing live.

In between, both were excessively clarion merchants mostly hustling tourists for a quick dime. They set up stalls that housed their goods, showcasing their exotic attributes that only came from the far east. A few gypsies set up shop as well, giving false tarot readings or selling bootleg merchandise. Although perhaps; if you don’t know you’re being scammed, what’s really the harm?

But the entertainment district was a gestalt, made of tourism, prostitution and a façade of western freedom. The politicians and lawyers would leave their children and wives at the circus, take a stroll through the bazaar, end up on the other side and be taken away by courtesans conveniently waiting near the entrance.

Lyn sat on the bleachers with Godfrey by her side as they watched a group of ballerinas perform. A group of girls from her school that she had coached. Lyn’s face glowed at their performance, finally seeing her work come to fruition. The song stopped, and the girls bowed. Then the audience stood and applauded them, tossing roses onto the stage.

Then the girls retreated backstage as the curtains closed behind them. A soft adagio resumed from the band and the audience settled in their seats for the next act. Lyn opened her golden clam, its one half still hanging askew from her bout with Rain. She looked at her reflection in its cracked mirror and gasped.

Godfrey turned to her.

She fumbled the clam, nearly dropping it in the dirt. She looked in its tiny mirror again, her eyes fervently wide. Drake. There he was, walking down the street behind her. His blue eyes glowed, and she knew they were irrefutable. Her heart melted, and she closed the clam before stuffing it in her coat and leaving the bleachers.

Godfrey reached for her. “Where are you going-?”

He blinked, and she had already merged with a passing crowd.

Godfrey sighed. He leaned back and continued to munch on a bag of popcorn.

Splendid! he thought.

She pushed through the crowds and kept her eyes fixed ahead. She could see him just over the shoulders of a few people shorter than her. But other people merged from the sidewalks, in this case a few men much taller. Then all she could see were black and brown coats with a few hats. Fierce determination filled her rain colored eyes, and she pressed on, taking a more aggressive approach. A few people yelled and cursed as she tore past them but she didn’t care.

The crowd seemed endless as she continued carving a path to Drake. Lyn wanted to use her abnormal strength to move them, though she knew it wouldn’t be right. She fought the urge to do so and moved and ran as any other human would. She lost her footing and stumbled forward. The ground looked closer than usual, but something stopped her right before her face hit stone.

The pair of hands snaking around her waist felt large and rigid. The man lifted her to her feet and stared sullenly. Then he said to her: “Are you okay?”

He released her, and she stepped back, though she couldn’t speak. Instead, she studied him from the top down. It felt like a dream. She would have been convinced if not for the bloody scrape on her knee. Drake noticed it as well.

“You’re bleeding,” he said, “let me put something on it-”

Lyn blushed and flustered her words. “N-No really… It- It’s quite okay. I wasn’t paying attention!”

He tilted his head and looked at a bench by the sidewalk. “I insist.”

She took a seat on the bench as he set down his case and opened it. He pulled out fresh gauze and rinsed her wound with water before applying ointment. Lyn winced from the stinging sensation and shortly after the wound healed.

Drake’s face was perplexed, and he looked at her. “It’s gone,” he said.

Lyn giggled. “See? No need.”

He closed the briefcase and stood. Then he extended a hand. “I’m Drake.”

“Lyn,” she replied, standing to shake his hand. “Why do you keep that stuff in your briefcase?”

“Well, to be honest. My useless assistant is always hurting herself somehow. So, I keep it on me specifically for her. Honestly, they let anyone take law classes these days…”

Lyn’s face was a hundred shades of red. “That’s thoughtful of you.”

Drake formed a grin and scoffed.

“You’re a lawyer?”

“Yeah and you?”

“I own the ballet studio near Piccadilly. My girls are performing tonight.”

Lyn pointed down the street at a pair of iron gates where lights illuminated a little park. The music was faint but still traveled down the street, touching all ears. A few drunks stumbled down the sidewalk behind them and across the street, a vendor sold freshly made fish and chips.

“How long have you been in London?” Drake asked.

Lyn looked down. She twiddled her thumbs and fingers and couldn’t look him in the face. “I had a falling out with someone. Someone who was precious to me. I came back here to apologize although-” She wasn’t sure if she could continue. “-now, I’m not sure if I can face him. He probably hates me…”

Drake smiled and gazed at the clear night sky where stars burned bright. “Do what your heart tells you. You won’t know until you try, right? I bet he misses you too.”

He placed a hand on her shoulder and turned away. Before he left, he looked over his shoulder and said: “It was nice meeting you Lyn.”

She raised a hand to wave, but stopped. He continued walking down the street until disappearing around a corner. She burst into tears and sat back on the bench, burying her face in her palms. Godfrey sprinted from across the street to her side, hopping over a deep puddle of water.

“There you are!”

Lyn continued to sob, and Godfrey formed a frown. He sat next to her and pulled her into his chest. He rubbed her shoulders as her tears soaked his suit.

“Godfrey, he doesn’t remember me!” she cried, choking between words like a child.

He patted her back. “He will, Lady Lyn…”

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