“When you see her, you’ll know…”
The words of his father echoed in his mind when he saw her.
Her long blonde locks curled down the side of her face and her blue eyes held him captivated the instant they met his. Her button nose and cheeks were sprinkled with freckles and her sparkling smile ended in dimples. She carried herself well, like royalty even though she was common born. Her posture was straight, regal even as she moved and greeted the guests.
Her eyes lingered when they met his and he knew in that instant she had seen him and was assessing him. Her gaze moved on beyond his but the slightest hesitation had been all it took. Her gaze had returned and met his again. He had smiled at her and she had smiled too.
He knew in that instant she would be open to speaking to him and was sure she liked what she had seen despite her knowing that he was beyond her. Or rather, she was beyond him.
He was just a lowly boy who had managed to get entry to tonight’s ball by questionable means. The girl fixed her gaze on someone behind him briefly before it flicked back to him again and again where he stood rooted to the spot, mesmerized by her beauty as she approached him.
As she neared him, she turned to her assistant and dispatched her on an errand. Then she reached him and stopped, looking at him as she offered her hand.
He blushed and bowed then took her hand in his and placed a soft kiss on the back of it all the while gazing into her eyes.
“Good evening. It is an honor to meet you, my lady.”
“The honor is mine,” she responded as diplomatically as she could. “May I ask your name and where you are from?”
“I am Lark,” the boy replied as he blushed and brushed his long curly hair aside.
“Lark?” the girl asked. “As in the bird or a joke?”
She was teasing him but he blushed a deeper shade of red and felt a cold sweat break out on his brow.
“Everyone always asks me that,” he replied softly. He still held her hand and she finally removed it from his.
She smiled, “Where are you from?”
“C… Cage, my lady,” he stuttered.
Her eyes narrowed then as she considered whether he was joking with her or not. Then a small smile curved her mouth.
“The bird has flown the coop then?” she asked.
Lark could not help himself and his response left his mouth before he could even stop it, “What bird would not leave the coop to meet someone as lovely as you my lady?”
It was the girl’s turn to blush then as she struggled to hide her smile. “Chirpy too, I see,” she teased then added, “Thank you for the compliment.”
“If it pleases my lady, perhaps we can talk outside on the terrace if you have a moment?”
She hesitated for a moment. “Perhaps we can. I have more people to greet though so if I happen to find my way to the terrace later, I will surely look for you, Lark.”
And then she was gone, moving as gracefully as ever through the crowd and greeting the guests that her parents had invited to this evening’s ball.
Lark watched her until he could no longer see her clearly and then he made his way outside to the terrace where he wandered between the other guests that were on the terrace. As he did so, he could not help but overhear pieces of conversation from other guest’s discussions. He was not interested though. His mind was elsewhere for he was smitten.
He had come to the party tonight with a purpose and he needed to fulfil that purpose or he most likely would not live to see the lady again after tonight.
Lark was little more than a common pickpocket and his presence tonight had been arranged so he could steal something from the girl’s father. He had never seen the girl before but he had known it was her when he had seen her.
His father had told him so too when he had still been alive. You will know when you see her. His father had been talking about a different matter relating to women though. He had been talking about knowing the woman a man would marry when he first saw her. Love at first sight. Lark had never believed it. Until he had seen her a few minutes ago. Then he knew. He knew he had seen the girl he would marry. He had to rob the same girl’s father. He only hoped she would not see him and he would not be caught. He did not wish to ruin any chance he might have with her.
“Of course”, he told himself. “Nothing in life is ever easy.” Whether or not the girl saw him pickpocket her father, it would be hard enough getting to a point of being permitted to date her never mind asking for her hand in marriage. He had no idea how he would do it but he knew he would.
He marked her father in the room and made his way towards him slowly making sure he did not draw attention to himself. When he was close enough, he decided what he would do and immediately took action before he lost his nerve.
He approached her father and then pretended to stumble and bumped into the girl’s father. In that instant, he achieved two things. He loosened her father’s watch and it fell from his hand to the floor while he relieved her father of the cash in the pocket of his jacket before he collapsed on the floor.
Her father turned and looked at the boy who had fallen at his feet and bent to help him. Lark took his hand and stood.
“Thank you kindly, my lord,” he said bowing slightly. “I am such a clumsy fool. I apologize for running into you.”
The girl’s father, who he had been informed was Eugene Grayston, looked at Lark his face betraying no emotion. “It’s no matter boy. I’m just glad that no-one got hurt.”
“Thank you, sir. And again, I apologize.”
Eugene nodded and smiled dismissively. As he began to turn away Lark pointed to the floor, “Sir, is that yours?”
Eugene stopped and turned back looking to where Lark was pointing. Lark stooped and picked up the item he had pointed out. It was a watch. A very expensive watch.
“Yes, it is mine indeed,” Eugene said frowning.
Lark held it out to him, “Well there you go, Sir.”
Eugene took it from Lark and checked it before strapping it back on his wrist. “Thank you, young man.”
“You are welcome, my lord. I am just glad it is not broken.”
“Indeed,” replied Eugene as he checked the watch again. Satisfied that it was working he looked at Lark taking in his clothes as he did so. His frown remained fixed on his forehead. The boy was neatly dressed but his clothes were not of the finest material. They were far from it. The party was primarily for the wealthy but it was of course a possibility that some less fortunate people would have been invited too. Either by his staff or as guests of guests that were attending the ball tonight.
He decided to let the boy go. He seemed nice and honest enough. “If you will excuse me,” Eugene said politely as he turned and began speaking to other guests.
Lark made his way to the terrace where he found some shadows and quickly counted the money he had stolen from Eugene. It was a fortune! It seemed that his luck was finally changing. There was more than a hundred quid! He sat down on a low wall and raised his left foot resting it on his right knee. He opened the hole in the heel of his shoe and pushed the money in. No-one would ever find it there.
His excitement was short-lived though. The money wasn’t for him. He had to give most of it to a man he needed to settle his debt with. Easy come, easy go, he sighed as he thought of it.
“So Lark, how much did you get?” a girl’s voice said.
He felt his blood run cold. There was only one girl who knew his name at this party. The girl he had met inside. The girl. The one he was going to marry. But she knew he had stolen money from her father. He felt himself turn red again in the dark as she stepped around the bush he was sitting behind.
He couldn’t lie to this girl. Not if he wanted to marry her.
He stood hastily and looked at her. “I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
She laughed softly, “Of course you meant to, Lark. I saw you. You planned it and executed it very well.”
“Okay, but I’m sorry. I’ll give it back. Here, let me get it from my…”
The girl laughed again. Her laughter was soft, happy, carefree, and beautiful.
“Never mind, Lark. You need it more than we do.”
“Yes… but…” Lark trailed off.
The girl stepped closer, “But what?” she asked looking into his eyes.
“I never wanted you to see me for a thief. I’m trying not to be a thief anymore. I want to be better…”
“You never wanted me to see you for a thief? Why?” the girl asked.
“Because, because, then you’ll be disappointed in me and you’ll never want to go out with me.”
She was tempted to burst out in laughter at the absurdity of what Lark had just said but she tempered her mirth and held it in. If she were to laugh she would have been nothing but cruel.
“You want me to go out with you?” she asked, the surprise on her face clear.
“I would be honored. I would give anything to go out with you my lady,” Lark said.
“You do not even know my name,” she replied.
“Oh,.. yes… forgive my bad manners, my lady. Please would you share your name with me?” Lark said blushing again.
She had moved closer to him and now stood before him. Her scent was intoxicating and he breathed deeply inhaling as much of it as he could.
“My name is Erin. I would be happy to go out with you.”
“Really?” Lark asked in disbelief.
“Why not? You interest me. Much more than the boring men my father brings home for me to visit with.”
“I am flattered. Truly I am my lady,” Lark said. “Would your father permit it though?” It was a question he didn’t want to ask, much less wanted the answer to. He had already decided that he was going to marry this girl.
As they stood there someone called Erin’s name.
Erin looked around quickly but the tree behind which they stood obstructed their view. Erin knew the voice though. It was her father.
She looked back at Lark, panic in her eyes, and in that instant, she made a decision. She raised her hands and pulled Lark’s face to hers. Her lips found his and his eyes widened in shock and surprise. It was only a moment before he responded and kissed her back bringing his hands up to take hold of her on either side of her chest.
Their tongues found each other and explored hungrily yet hastily as their breathing accelerated and they sounded like two horses that had just finished a hard run.
Then, just like that, Erin pulled away. She dabbed her lips with her hand. “Thank you. I would like to see you again,” she said, and then she was gone.
“Yes father,” she said as she rounded the tree.
“Oh, there you are,” Eugene said when he saw her.
Erin climbed the steps and stopped before her father.
“What are you doing out here in the dark?” Eugene asked concerned.
“Nothing father. It is such a lovely clear night that I wanted to see the stars. They are more visible from the dark than with the light here on the terrace.”
Eugene nodded. “I would like you to meet Harold,” he said.
Erin offered her hand and Harold took it. He kissed her hand and said, “It is a pleasure to meet you, my lady.”
“It is my pleasure too,” Erin replied as she pulled her hand back.
Lark left the shadows of the tree hoping that he wouldn’t be noticed, but Eugene saw the movement and his eyes narrowed as he realized that Lark had emerged from the same place where Erin had been. What was he doing with Erin in the shadows, Eugene wondered. He recognized the boy as the same one that had collided with him earlier.
“Excuse me,” Eugene said. He left Erin and Harold and motioned to a guard. The guard moved quickly to reach Eugene.
“Yes, my lord,” he said expecting orders.
Eugene pointed to Lark who was making his way toward the exit doors. “That boy, dressed in the poor man’s clothing. I want him caught and detained with the minimum amount of disruption. Take him to the dungeons. Go now!”
The guard took off as fast as he could following Lark.
Erin did not know what her father had told the guard but she feared it might have had something to do with Lark although she had not seen him leave the shadow of the tree where she had kissed him.