Author's Note: Welcome, all, to Koda's first ORIGINAL story! applause Yeah, its finally up. Hurray! This is the prime example of my writing skills. Not this chapter (this was started April of '06), but the later ones. Anywho, read and enjoy Bohemia, Bohemia.
chapter one: A Walk in the Park
She rode across the field, leaning over her horse, urging it forward. She was almost there, almost to her dear lover…
"How about a walk in the park, my dear?"
Miyoko snapped out of her daydream, reminding herself that she wasn't in the countryside. She was in the dining room talking to her father and supposed to be eating breakfast.
"I'm sorry? What were you saying?"
Her father gave her a concerned look, and then repeated, "A walk in the park. Would you like to go there today?" His grey eyes softened. "You have been rather quiet these past few days. Are you feeling ill?"
She wanted to say that it was the damn corset she was wearing and that she wished that she were horseback riding across a field, but Miyoko knew better. A lady did not say things like that, especially to one's own father.
"No, of course not." She smiled, hoping it looked sincere. She knew he was only concerned. "A walk in the park sounds lovely."
He smiled back; Miyoko could see the relief wash over his face. He's always so worried, she thought. Ever since Mother died…
Miyoko had never really known her mother; she had died of consumption before Miyoko had turned one. But she did know--- from what she had heard from her nurse--- that her mother had been a beautiful lady, the most beautiful in all of Paris. Her nurse really hadn't needed to tell her that, because she'd stared at the portrait of her mother in the library for years. Everyone said that she was the splitting image of her mother, but she disagreed. Her hair was nowhere near as red, her eyes much too dark, her pale skin covered in freckles instead of porcelain. And then there was her smile. Miyoko could never understand how in her portrait her mother could smile in such a manner--- with her lips just barely upturned--- and say so much and look so beautiful so effortlessly. Miyoko must have tried a hundred times to replicate that smile while examining herself in the mirror, and every time she failed. Her nurse Lottie had caught her at it once and told her not to try so hard, so Miyoko gave it up. She would never master that smile.
In a way, Miyoko supposed it pained her father to look at her; Lottie told her that whenever he looked at her, he saw her mother, and Miyoko knew it. His grey eyes, so watery and clear, always dimmed and clouded when he looked at his daughter; the memories of his dear wife were that strong. To Miyoko, the tale of her parents' meeting was her favorite love story. According to the servants, the Duke had come to Paris from England on business, but had stayed when he saw the Lady Roxanne and vowed to marry her. It had been a wild chase, full of wooing and romance. And then, not two years after their marriage, she had died, and he was never the same. And to add to his despair, he had a daughter to bring up who was the ghost of her mother.
Miyoko's life had been an endless line of nurses and governesses, tutors and etiquette instructors. She rarely saw her father, except at meals and the one time a week when he had her brought her into his study. She had grown up being the authority in the household, what with her father always working, and the servants learned quickly enough that they and they alone would be responsible for her upbringing. The household became her family. They taught her the things that her tutors and instructors could never teach her: respect for everyone, how to cook, how to entertain herself. They instilled in her a love for art, for music, for Bohemia. They told her stories of freedom, truth, beauty, and above all, love. It was these things that Miyoko dreamt about, that she wished to be a part of.
She mulled over these things, wondering. Why was her father so worried? Did he think she would suddenly fall down dead?
"Miyoko?" her father asked, the concern returning to his voice when his daughter began to laugh.
"I'm sorry, Father." She wiped away the tears forming at her eyes. "I was just thinking. A walk in the park sounds perfectly lovely. Shall I go tell Lottie?"
"Yes. I'll call the carriage." He stood, and then hesitated.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
Miyoko stood as well. "Yes, Father. I feel perfect."
She waited until the worry cleared from his eyes before she kissed his cheek and ran towards the stairs, calling over her shoulder, "I'll go change!"
The duke stood at the table a moment longer before shaking his head.
'She looks so like her mother…'
If there was one thing Miyoko hated about leaving the house, it was dressing up. Or maybe it was just what she had to wear underneath it all that she hated. Corsets were absolutely horrid contraptions in her mind, but no one really cared what she thought. It was all about marrying well, according to Aunt Elizabeth. If one was expected to marry into a wealthy family, one must do all she could to ensure that marriage, and that included dressing to the occasion.
It was a load of rubbish.
But there she was, her arms in a vice grip around a bedpost while her nurse Lottie--- a girl no older than herself, and the closest thing Miyoko had to a friend--- tugged on the strings of a corset until her knuckles turned white and she was sure Miyoko couldn't breathe.
"Good Lord, Lottie!" Miyoko exclaimed after a particularly nasty tug, digging her nails into the wood of her bed. "Must you pull so hard?"
"Sorry, miss." She loosened the strings ever so slightly. Miyoko sighed.
"I don't see why I have to wear this wretched thing. It's just a walk in the park."
"Don't you want the gentlemen to notice you? And don't say 'wretched.' It's not becoming of a lady."
"I don't want them to notice me. I want to be an old heiress who writes novels."
Lottie sighed. "Now miss, you know you don't mean that. You want to find a nice handsome young man to settle down with as much as the next young lady."
"I do not," Miyoko insisted, turning around to face her nurse. "They only want you for looks and money. That's all. They don't care about what women think."
Lottie turned her back around to finish lacing the corset. "True as it is, Miss, it's our lot in life. But there are some good gentlemen out there--- stop squirming! --- that will take good care of you." She gave one last tug. 'There. Now which dress do you want to wear?"
Miyoko leaned against the bedpost, looking at the floor. "Do you believe in soul mates, Lottie?"
Her nurse looked over her shoulder at the girl, wondering why she was suddenly so somber.
"Of course, Miss."
Deep brown eyes locked onto hers. "Do you think I have one?"
Lottie put a hand on Miyoko's cheek. "Of course."
The girl was silent a moment, then her eyes brightened.
"I'll wear the green one."
It was a warm, sunny spring day, a perfect day for a walk in the park.
And the perfect day to make some cash.
Ciaren pulled the bowler he'd "borrowed" from Max over his eyes a little more, tilting it at a jaunty angle. He couldn't risk getting caught, not at this stage in his plans. Too much had been sacrificed for him to get where he was, and he couldn't fail now…
From the bench he sat on, he gazed out at the people meandering by: valets walking dogs, nurses pushing prams, ladies with wide hats escorted by gentlemen in top hats and tails. Ciaren allowed himself a brief chuckle. They all looked so prim and proper, the gentlemen, holding their arm out for their wives and ladies, but he knew this was just a daytime façade; at night, they were the money in his pockets.
He was just beginning to pay closer attention to the solitary ladies when someone clapped his shoulder and yanked him around. Down came the mask.
It wasn't necessarily needed, because instead of a police officer, he found himself looking at one of his neighbors.
"Bleedin' Christ!" Ciaren exclaimed as Luc laughed and came around the bench to sit next to him. "You had me thinking you were a bloody cop!"
Luc laughed again, his whole body shaking with it. He was a true Frenchman, down to his toes: he loved his women and he loved his wine. Of course, he was a true Bohemian as well. He'd take both in the middle of the park if the idea happened upon him, which was probably why he was laughing so hard. Such a lawbreaker being mistaken for a cop was only slightly bordering on the ironic.
"Well, if you are thinking that I am a cop," he said, "then you have truly lost your mind."
Ciaren shook his head and went back to examining the ladies accompanied by handmaids only. Luc, who had pulled a cigarette box out of his vest pocket, stuck one in his mouth, the other behind his ear, and then offered it to Ciaren. When he shook his head, the Frenchman shrugged.
"You know, there are better hobbies in the world than thievery," he said, striking a match against the bench and lighting the rolled paper. He took a deep drag off of it, then blew the smoke away.
"Like what? Getting drunk so you have an excuse to go whoring?" Ciaren shoved his hands in his pockets, muttering, "I'll pass."
Luc chuckled and smiled knowingly, taking another drag, and then blowing the smoke in Ciaren's direction. "How old are you now?"
Ciaren was silent; his eyes roamed over Luc's face, reassessing his trust. Narrowing his eyes, he said, "I'll be nineteen next June."
Luc nodded and looked out at the park. "A bit young, I am thinking, for one so ambitious."
Ciaren narrowed his eyes a little more, suddenly suspicious as to why he was here.
"What do you mean?"
Luc took one more drag before tossing the cigarette butt to the ground and smashing it under his boot. Then he turned and locked eyes onto Ciaren's. The look meant business.
The name was enough to make Ciaren blanch.
"He knows about your little plan," Luc continued, "and unless you come out and tell him what you were planning, you will be dead before the morning." He sighed. "And it would be a great shame to lose your a talent at such a young---!"
"How did he find out?" Ciaren said, tightening his grip around Luc's throat as he pushed him to the ground, pinning his arms at his side using his knees. Luc sputtered, his face turning from red to purple, and Ciaren squeezed harder.
"How did Cauchon find out!?" he hissed, his face inches from the Frenchman's. He was vaguely aware of the people gathering around them, of someone shouting for a police officer, of someone trying to pull him off of Luc, who was dark purple from lack of oxygen.
These things might have seemed distant, but the kick to his ribs was anything but.
Through the cloud of pain covering his eyes, he could see men rushing to check Luc's pulse, more coming to hold him down… women were holding their hands over their mouths in shock, whispering to each other with narrowed eyes on him.
Ciaren felt hands go around his upper arms and yank him up, causing a wave of nausea to wash over him so bad, that he doubled over and retched. Men and women quickly backed away. He stared blindly at the ground, his hair hanging in his eyes, and after a while they focused on a pair of shiny black boots.
The officer grabbed onto his hair and jerked his head up, making Ciaren's head spin. He glared for all it was worth.
"You have just committed murder," the cop said, his three chins jiggling violently as he spoke. "Do you have anything to say in your defense?"
"Yeah," Ciaren croaked, his throat raw from puking. "I didn't do it."
There was more muttering from the crowd, gasps from the ladies. One man shouted, "I saw him do it, officer!"
The officer chuckled; Ciaren sneered in disgust. If men this fat were lawmen, Paris was in serious trouble.
"It's quite all right, monsieur," he said, taking a step toward Ciaren. "He knows he's a criminal. In fact…" He narrowed his pig-like eyes at the boy. "Haven't I arrested you before?"
Ciaren grinned wickedly at him. "I dunno, sir. I've been all over the city. Ever been to Montmartre?"
There was a collective gasp as everyone recoiled. One woman even fainted. Ciaren laughed hollowly, earning himself a rough jerk from the men holding him.
The officer seemed to realize that there was a crowd, and began to shoo them away.
"Go on home, madam," he was saying. "Tea is on the table; nothing left to see…"
Ciaren watched them go, some leaving with disgusted expressions, others too far interested to leave. While scanning, his eyes fell on a girl being tugged along by her nurse, and his jaw dropped.
The first thing he noticed was her eyes, because they were locked onto his. He winced internally. She was glaring at him with such an intensity it made his brain hurt. He couldn't look away, though. Her eyes were such a deep brown he felt he could drown in them, were it not for the fiery gaze that held him. He broke his end of the stare long enough to size her up and he found he liked what he saw. Slender neck, small frame--- she couldn't have been any more than five and a half feet tall--- pale skin dotted with freckles across her nose and cheeks. Full lips, beautiful eyes, auburn hair… He shut his mouth and met her gaze again, keeping level with it long enough to throw her off guard when he winked.
The girl, revulsion evident in her beautiful face, took a step back, narrowing her eyes even more, then turned sharply and walked away. Ciaren shrugged.
Shame, he thought. Wouldn't mind getting under her skirts. They sure don't make 'em like that back in London…
Then the officer knocked him out of his evaluation by knocking him upside the head. Ciaren turned at the last moment, letting the blow glance off away from his cheekbone. He didn't need another broken bone; he couldn't breathe as it was with a broken rib.
But as the officer closed handcuffs around his wrist, Ciaren wasn't thinking about how he was going to get out of prison. He was thinking about how he was going to solve his problem with Cauchon knowing his plan.
And he had a feeling he knew exactly how he was going to do it.
"Why on earth would you want to kill someone, Lottie?!"
The nurse shook her head somberly.
"Some men in the world---"
"But he wasn't a man!" Miyoko interrupted loudly. "He was a boy! He couldn't have been any older than me!" She sat down on the edge of her bed. "He wasn't any older than me."
Lottie broke into a motherly moment and sat down next to her and began to pull pins out of her hair.
"Some people are not born as lucky as you, Miss," she said. "Some have no family, others no money. It doesn't mean they're bad people. They're just not as lucky."
"But that doesn't explain why he killed a man," Miyoko muttered, looking at her hands.
Lottie began braiding her hair. "I'm sure he had a reason. But it doesn't make it right."
Miyoko sat in silence while Lottie finished braiding her hair, thinking.
"Why does it bother you so, Miss?" Lottie asked after she tied up Miyoko's hair. "People die on the streets every day."
Miyoko shook her head. "It just doesn't seem right, that's all. Don't worry, I'm all right." She kissed Lottie on the cheek. "Good night."
Lottie tucked her into bed, then blew out the gas lamps.
She waited until she heard the door click shut before she rolled over beneath the blankets and buried her face in the pillow.
It wasn't watching someone die hat bothered her. It had nothing to do with death. It was that boy's face. It wouldn't leave her mind.
Miyoko hadn't seen what started the struggle. She'd been talking with Lottie when someone started yelling for the police. Glancing over, she'd seen the boy with his hands around some man's throat. But the rest of the details were hazy; she'd been too busy watching the boy.
Miyoko hadn't seen much of his face; his head had been hanging down. But when the officer had shown up and grabbed his shaggy hair, she did see his face, and was instantly captured.
His eyes had been such a rare shade of blue-green it was hard to look at anything but them. They seemed so ageless, set in a face stuck between boyhood and manhood. But it was a very attractive face, she had to admit. What might have once been a straight nose--- it looked like it had been broken once or twice; he had a set jaw, strong chin, but a surprisingly boyish curve to his cheeks and lips. All set in a dirty scrubby face, capped with shaggy light blond curls.
To be honest, he was the finest thing she had ever seen.
And then, he'd realized that she had been staring at him and he'd winced. She hadn't known why, but she guessed later that it must have been because she was glaring at him. He'd held her gaze for a moment, then let his gaze roam over her figure like all the other boys did. Only he didn't try to hide it. She'd wanted to glare harder but she had found that she couldn't, so Miyoko scowled at him instead. So the boy winked at her, and she had finally lost all nerve and left.
Now, she couldn't get his face out of her head. Odd, really, that she couldn't even remember the names of the gentlemen that courted her but she had memorized every facial feature of a boy she didn't even know.
Why am I even thinking about him? she thought. He's a criminal, no less!
Miyoko sighed. Lottie had said there had been a reason. What if he really was innocent?
She quickly shook the thought from her head. It was absurd. Why should she care?
It was the look he gave me. Like he was telling me something…
But that was silly.
Not really, she tried to convince herself. He could have been asking for help. He looked like he knew me.
But he's a criminal! her conscience screamed.
He might be innocent.
He killed a man.
He might have had a reason. What if the other man stole something from him? It might have been self-defense; an accident!
And that's when the idea hit her. She could bail him out of jail with money she'd saved. She would go to the police, saying that the man had stolen her coin purse, and the boy, seeing the theft, went after him. It happened often enough, right?
It was crazy enough, too. No one would expect a girl to bail him out.
Getting out of bed before she could change her mind, Miyoko began to pull on her clothes, not an easy task without Lottie, but it was managed. Then, grabbing a coin purse from the bottom of her armoire, she snuck downstairs and out of the house. It was almost too easy.
It was dark outside; no one was walking the sidewalks. Miyoko looked around, keeping her eyes peeled for thieves and possibly a carriage to take her to the police. As luck would have it, a cabby had just dropped off a couple down the street and was now coming her way. She grinned, and flagged him down.
Climbing in, she said to the cabby, "The police station, please," then proceeded to wonder if she had lost her mind.
Author's Note: ugh, finally, the first chapter is done… That was such a chore to write, really. I always hate introducing the story. First impressions and all that. But I hope the revising I did made it a little more enjoyable. I hope you like the characters, too. They're my babies. Or more, me and my boyfriend's alter egos. Funny part is I wrote Ciaren WAY before I met my bf. Can you say destiny or what? Anywho, please review and tell me what you think. I don't have a computer, so it might be a while until the next chapter, No Place for a Lady, is up. Thanks.