"You have a visitor, Master." The butler announced, his crisp, articulate voice echoing through the hall. There was no answer made. He sighed a little impatiently this time and stared down the airy corridor with some disdain. "Master?" Still no answer.
His bald head shone as he scuttled down the main corridor to where the library was located, no doubt his Master was still buried in one of his ancient novels that he insisted upon spending hours with. He pushed open the grand oak door, overwhelmed with the smell of dusty paper and spilt wine, "Master?"
"Yes." The answer came and a shadow moved, rustling papers as it shifted.
Fighting the urge to roll his eyes, he again repeated, "You have a visitor, sire. They are waiting for you in the parlor. Shall I show them in here or do you wish to meet with them there?" He questioned, slightly annoyed with this disturbance in his day. He had been quite content lounging in the gardens until the carriage had rumbled up bearing a guest.
She was beautiful, he was surprised to find when he ambled towards the great door to see who on Earth was calling, though hidden beneath her tattered cloak. It was caked with dirt, but she nevertheless was beautiful. He pushed away the thought, wondering vaguely if Master would assign him to removing the dirt in the carpeting.
"Who is it?" Rustle. Crumple. Rustle.
"They did not specify, I am afraid." Honestly, could one not enjoy a fine row of basil or tomatoes anymore for being interrupted? Who honestly wanted to visit with his Master? He was a disagreeable man and though many sought his fortune, it was rare for anyone, but business partners to call upon him in his home.
"I shall receive them in the parlor, send for tea, will you?" He asked, standing now, dust pouring from his shoulders and hair. He watched his Master's silhouette and wondered briefly if he would one day become another artifact to add to his own collection. The thought dropped like a forgotten book to the floor.
"It shall be my pleasure, sire." You dumb prat, not only do I not want to fetch your precious tea, I would much rather be employed as the gardener or cook. Perhaps not the cook, you oversized hog, but he nodded and marched away, shoes clicking when they reached the shined marble of the hall.
Alfred Lunar was not only a disagreeable man, but also an obsessive compulsive drunk. While society was charmed by his business savvy, in private, he was a twisted alcoholic who spent his time dwindling away over numbers and books from years long past. While some called it passion, others madness, Lunar lived in a world completely separate and yet completely dependent on the outside reality. He was contained by society's rules and yet seemed to believe they applied to him only in certain circumstances.
He was balding, like most middle-aged men and yet hid it well with a winning smile and what some described as "sparkling" blue eyes. He was pale, probably from spending so much time in his precious library, but he wore his weight well and many female members of the society clambered for his attention. Made a widow after only four months of marriage, Lunar had neither heir nor wife and hadn't seemed interested in anyone since her death.
She had been amazingly stunning, his dead wife, young and everything any man would hope to marry. She was always giggling, making jokes and telling wildly extravagant stories about her years spent traveling as a child, no one ever imagined Alfred would end up marrying someone like her. While they were both charming members of society, everyone imagined that she would fall in love with someone dashing and dangerous, like the characters in all the stories she spun. But in the end, she had married Alfred, with his books and quirky habits.
He shuffled awkwardly down the hall and reached the doorway, straightening his back, ready to assume the face he painted for the outside world. His mouth fell slack at the sight of his visitor, sitting with a stiff back on the sofa.
"Danica." He almost hissed, his breath drawing in and releasing with a snake-like sound.
The visitor sat silently, watching his eyes sweep over her face, down to her hands, and back to her face. She smiled gently as if giving him time to reason through her visit, her intentions, but instead of reasoning as he usually did, Alfred exploded.
"What are you doing here?" He demanded.
"Alfred." She began, but was cut off from the murderous gleam in his glare. Her lips pressed into a thin line and she watched him pace the floor, like a cornered panther, back and forth, back and forth.
"Well?" He insisted again.
"Alfred." She countered with a weak attempt at a smile. It slid from her lips and fell into ashes in her lap. She folded her hands neatly.
"I…" He started lamely and trickled off. The words fell onto the polished floor.
She stared at them, the sticky imprint they left behind and then glanced up at him again with saddened eyes, "I know this is a surprise." Her voice was accented, lightly, and like a knife twisting.
"What made you think you could come here like this?" His voice echoed through the large room. She sat back patiently, though her eyes grew larger with each explosive movement of his hands.
"I had to. It was a matter of necessity, Alfred. I would think a business man like yourself would understand necessity." She tested lightly, pressing with a smirk, tone dripping with sarcasm.
He frowned, "I, Madam, am a business man while you are nothing more than…"
"A what? You certainly never complained. I have not come to battle with you, Alfred, merely to inform you of a fact that cannot escape your attention." She stood, almost as tall as him still, he noted with some confusion. She was a rather tall woman.
"You left." He accused.
"People do that, Alfred. People leave…people abandon and people betray." She sighed, "I really wish I could make this easier for you to understand. You made it perfectly clear what you wanted and you know that I was unable to accept such an offer."
"I would have made you comfortable." It slipped from him before he could stop it and watched the familiar heat burn in her eyes, the anger.
"I can take care of myself, something you seemed very often to forget. I am not a weak woman, like the ones society honors with their gentle smiles and coiled hair." She spun a piece of her raven locks around her finger with a wicked smile, "I am stronger than many men."
"Danica…" He started warningly.
"Alfred." She smirked.
"I do wish you would arrive at your point. Drudging through the past does little for my current headache, and if your matter is one of necessity…"
"Then, I shall arrive. I am with child, Alfred, your child."
Alfred Lunar was accustomed to taking rather shocking news into stride with a curt nod of his head and panic, if any, was well concealed under a calculating demeanor. This was not an occasion however for Alfred to nod and conceal, instead, he sank to a chair studying the carpet patterns intently.
She said nothing more, only sank into another chair and studied with him as if they could find the solution to their problems lying in the threaded color. There was no answer, she shortly discovered, and her eyes rose to his face.
It was blank, completely devoid of any emotion. She watched confusion brush by, denial, anger and finally, a look she dreaded the most, calculating calm. He had a solution in mind. She closed her eyes.
"It will be taken care of." He stated.
"Our child?" She questioned.
"The pregnancy." He said with a decided air and she felt her stomach roll.
"You disgust me." She stood, her full height and he watched her eyes flash with passion, passion he had once admired and sought. He had once loved her passionate side and now he could see his honor spiraling with it to the midst of Hell. She spoke heatedly and he finally caught some of what she was saying as she drifted back into English, "I did not come for money or for your pathetic solutions to the problem, I came to inform you of my state of being, and now I shall depart."
"Danica." He hissed, barely controlling his temper, once again, she seemed to almost tempt his disgruntled side. He frowned. "I did not wish to upset you, however, I am a prominent figure in society and a illegitimate son."
"Or daughter." She cut in wickedly.
"Or daughter," He repeated as though he had tasted something foul, "Cannot endure. Either my reputation lives or the child, our options, I am afraid are limited."
"Do not mock me." She bit down on her lip, "I am perfectly prepared to raise the child on my own, no one need ever know that he or she is yours."
"Our options stand. Either my reputation falters with the birth of this child or the child never is." He sat and stared.
"The child already is. It is growing inside me as we speak." Her hand pressed fondly against her stomach, where he could suddenly see the slight bump in her clothing. It was no trick, she was with child and there was no escaping it. Not with her hard head and determined spirit, he thought, shaking his head, what was he going to do?
"Danica." He stated again as if her name could change what was taking place.
"Alfred. The child will live."