It was Christmas Eve, there was a lot of food and drinks, spread over a long table, tempting with the multicolored presentation and flagrant smell; on another table there was a mountain of cookies and cakes as well as a chocolate fountain which was surrounded by marshmallows on the sides, and music was heard on the balcony mixed with peoples voices, and from time to time, coming from the street, with a hum of voices and carols getting louder and then softly disappearing, as groups of family and friends were passing in the front of the house.
Inside the house there was a big commotion, servants running everywhere, like little bees next to a beehive, catering to the needs of the guests. The latter were laughing and dancing, some out on the balcony with their sweethearts, others, gathered in groups, were telling stories of other Christmas holidays and funny happenings from the previous year’s party; meanwhile, some old people had gathered together and started discussing their grandchildren’s hope for the future and how good things had been when they were young, reminiscing their youth.
When seen from afar, the house had all the lights on and shined brightly like the stars on the sky, illuminating a part of the street much more than the street lights. At about 12 o’clock one could have seen a shadow entering the yard, and swiftly entering the back door of the house. Then, after half an hour, the same shadow went from the door, through the yard, and out the gate, but this time, unaware of its pursuer. Following them, we arrived at a dark corner of an alley, where the unknown shadow, finally realizing he was being followed, hid after a corner, until its pursuer stopped and looked around puzzled. When a car passed the street, he could see his pursuer was only a little girl, at around age 10, with blonde curly hair, and blue eyes that sparked with life. Dressed in a crimson red dress she seemed like a porcelain doll out of the shelf of a toy store. Her small body looked even flimsier under the moon light, like at the most gentle touch she could break and shatter into little pieces, and her skin was as white as snow, with a pinch of red in the cheeks because of the cold wind.
She looked around for a few minutes then started walking on the street in front of her. He waited for her to be a little further then started following her. While walking behind her, as he passed several street lights, you could see he was a man around the age of 20, with black hair and blue eyes which shone with intelligence and a slim build, moving gracefully in a suit that looked especially made to fit him perfectly. The girl started to quicken the pace, looking desperate as she passed streets she didn’t recognized and going down a road with fewer lights and no people in sight. Realizing what had happened the man took a turn and dropped the cape in a corner, then started walking on a street right towards the girl, until he became visible to her. Seeing a person the girl stopped and tried to distinguish the man in front of her, but due to the scarcity of light she couldn’t see him well, so she approached him shyly until she was standing in front of him. Then she said:
“Excuse me sir, I believe I’m a little lost, could you please tell me how to reach the main boulevard from here?”
He stared a little at her and then smiling faintly he answered:
“Yes, of course, little lady, I will lead you back…but can I ask what you are doing at such a late hour without an escort in this neighborhood? Are you perhaps looking for someone?”
“Ah no!” she quickly replied while looking at the ground, “I was just taking a walk and I got a little lost…”
“Ah, I see,” he said smiling, “Next time you should ask someone to accompany you, missy, when you go on a walk so you won’t get a “little” lost.” And he started laughing.
The girl turned red and replied:
“Oh never mind, I can find my way back alone, I’m sorry I disturbed you sir.” And she started walking fast moving away from him, swinging her fists furiously through the air.
Still chuckling he started after her and when he was at her right side he said:
“Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t intended to offend you, it was just some advice, please let me escort you back”.
She turned to him while walking but before she could reply anything she tripped and fell on the ground, grazing her knee. A few seconds passed till she realized what had just happened, and as tears was starting to ooze down her face, the man got out a white handkerchief with green lacing and after handing it to her, he picked her up in his arms and started walking slowly on to the main boulevard, without saying anything, while she was hiding her face in the handkerchief, she was desperately trying to retain her tears from falling.
“You should cry if it hurts”, the man said when they reached the main boulevard, “and after you finish crying stand up and raise your head, and walk forward no matter the what.”
She looked up at him and said in a trembling voice:
“You can put me down now, we reached the main boulevard and I can walk on my own now, I’m sorry for such a shameful presentation.”
“It’s ok” he said smiling, “I’ll escort you all the way to the house since it was my fault you tripped” She looked at him confused for a few seconds and then started laughing.
“How was it your fault?” she asked, “It was my clumsiness that was at fault, if anything you helped me, so please accept my thank you”.
He looked at her a little in awe and then started laughing.
“You really don’t act like a little girl” he said.
“Why do you say that?” she asked.
“Well you are too polite and restrained, you should laugh and cry more easily” he replied. She stared a little at him and then exclaimed:
“But a real Lady doesn’t do things like that!”
He started laughing even harder.
“Ah, I see…”
She pouted and looked away.
“That’s more like it” he said while looking gently at her.
Despite herself, she smiled.
“Can I ask your name?” he said.
“It’s Elisa” she answered, “Elisa Romanov. What’s yours if I may ask?”
“Oh, my name is not of such importance” he said looking a little sad.
“But…” she started but he interrupted her: “We’re here” he said looking at her parents coming before them in the yard.
Her mother, Joan was a small thin woman, around the age of 35, with brown hair and brown eyes, dressed in a blue silk dress that accentuated her paleness, while her dad, Henry was a sturdy man, with brown hair and blue eyes, a thick beard and a mustache to go with, dressed in a black suit, custom made; you could tell he had a good lineage and was well educated.
“Where have you been?” the mother asked while she was hugging Elisa, “You just disappeared, and you know it’s dangerous to go out alone at night,”
“It’s ok mother, this sir helped me back, I was just taking a walk when I got a little lost” she said and looked at the man but he wasn’t looking back, he was staring at her father, and even Elisa could feel some tension between them.
When the mother looked up at the man she froze, and didn’t said anything anymore. Elisa was confused, why were her parents acting like this? Was there something wrong?
“Nice to meet you, but I’m afraid I have to leave now, I’m expected somewhere else”, the man said after a few moments of awkward silence, and left without saying anything else.
“Hey wait!” Elisa shouted, “You didn’t tell me your name”
He stopped and turned around “I told you it’s not important” and smiling he left and disappeared at the end of the road.
After a few seconds, Henry took Elisa in his arms, and asked trying to sound casual:
“What did you talk about with that man?” Then Elisa told her parents how she had met him, and what they had talked about.
That next day Henry and Joan were having a conversation in the living room, while drinking their coffee. Elisa had just woken up and went down to greet them, but before entering the room she suddenly stopped when she heard her parent’s grave voice.
“We should have been more careful, we can’t risk her finding the truth, it will only make her suffer,” her mother said while grabbing the cup of coffee that had gone cold.
“Yes, I didn’t think he would try to approach her, since he had agreed himself it was not a good thing to shock her, but maybe he’s thinking of taking her with him” he said while holding a cigar between his index and middle finger.
“But he can’t, right? She would be even more confused and could start asking questions, then how could we answer her?” she said in a crying tone.
But before he could answer anything one of the maids walked in carrying with her more hot coffee.
Elisa decided to make use of the interruption and made her way to her mother’s chair.
“Good morning mother, father!”
Her parents jerked a little but it remained unnoticed by Elisa.
“Ah good morning dear, did you sleep well?” her mother asked.
“Yes” she answered. “I’m going to have breakfast and go in the garden for some fresh air afterwards.”
“Ok honey, don’t go out of the garden please, we wouldn’t want you to get lost again” her mother said, smiling.
“Yes mother” she answered and left. Something wasn’t right, she thought, but after a few days passed and nothing new happened, she even forgot about the conversation she had heard. Everything was as always, normal days, filled with happiness.