AUTHOR'S NOTE – This is a bit of an experiment for me, so bear with me. Our protagonist is Caspian, and the story is told in first-person, from Caspian's point of view. This is a multi-chaptered story, and I promise to update it as often as my time allows. As always, all feedback and comments are welcome! If you read and review me, I will gladly read and review you. Enjoy!
Here Enters The Enigma
In the first moment I saw her, the dark-haired woman at the bus stop brought to my mind the image of a sugar-coated icicle. The sight of her was like a confection for my eyes, and I must confess – though I don't usually let myself think this way – that she might have been equally wonderful to touch and smell, and maybe even taste. The problem, of course, was that my foreknowledge told me spun sugar melts quickly when you handle it, and I guessed I wouldn't like what I found under the sweet veneer.
Her eyes betrayed her. It it hadn't been for those wolfish grey eyes, I might have been deceived into labeling her right away as one of those women I wanted but would most likely never have.
She pretended not to notice me as I lit a cigarette, but I could tell she was watching me. Her face was exquisitely impassive, but her eyes were alive, and it wasn't curiosity that enlivened them. Waves of contempt seemed to radiate from her, and if I hadn't already been freezing from the snow and wind, the cold disdain in her eyes would have sent a chill through me.
I'll be the first to admit I'm not much to look at. I remember the first time I realized the face in the mirror was my own. I was only three when I'd worked out that puzzle for myself. Every so often, I still see that startled little face, but mostly I see me as I am now, a scruffy man with too-long hair and a chin dotted with golden-brown stubble that has grandiose visions of being a beard. I'm thirty-five years old and doubtless this mediocrity is as good as my appearance will get. I don't think I'll improve with age.
The bus came, and the woman got on. I got on behind her and showed the driver my pass. The woman sat near the front of the bus, and I sat near the back so I could keep on studying her without her being able to return the courtesy. I stopped staring at her for a bit when we passed a dry cleaner's shop and I remembered I had meant to pick up my robes. I'd need them on Saturday. The robe is part of my wizard costume.
I'm a writer by profession, but among my many talents I'm also good at magic. Some people believe I'm a mage, not just a magician who does tricks at children's birthday parties, but a real magician. Maybe that's true. I could tell you about some strange things that have happened to me, the reasons for which were always completely indiscernible. But that bit is for later.
Before I go on with this story, I really should introduce myself. My name is Caspian Prince. Let me forestall your laughter by assuring you that I didn't choose it for myself. Caspian Prince is my real name, the one my parents gave me on the day I entered the world. Their names are Roger and Brenda Prince, my parents, and they were young and foolish in the seventies when I was born. They grew out of the youthfulness, though the foolishness hung on. My younger brother is called Samwise, and my younger sister is Guinevere.
I've learned to deal with the not-so-secret amusement of most people who learn this fact about us. My sister and brother haven't quite got the hang of it yet, but then they were always more self-conscious about their names than me. They go by Sam and Gwen these days, now that they've finally left home.
Me? I think I've always liked being Caspian.
I once met an elderly woman on the bus who sat beside me and asked my name. When I told her, she said it reminded her of magic carpets and mysteries. She said my name flowed over her mind like a spiced breeze. I wondered where she'd been in her youth, but I hadn't inquired. Instead, I told her how my brother and sister were named after people in stories as well, and she asked me which ones. When I answered her, she laughed and said our parents probably did a lot of things in the seventies they shouldn't have done, but they did read a lot of good books. I liked that old lady on the bus. I've always regretted not asking her name.
I was still thinking about my costume when the bus turned onto my street. I'd almost forgotten about the dark-haired woman until my stop came. I rang the bell, and when the bus lurched to a halt at the stop half a block from my building, I hustled out the back door. I was in a hurry to get home because it was so cold. I didn't want to be outside any longer than I had to be.
Fortunately for me, I was paying attention to my surroundings. The dark-haired woman had emerged from the front door of the bus just as I'd exited it through the rear door, and I would've collided with her, at the speed I was going, if I hadn't spotted her in time. She didn't seem to know I was behind her, so I stopped and let her get several metres ahead of me. I followed her for a while. When she reached my building, she turned and went straight up to the door. She produced a key and let herself in.
I stood on the sidewalk, stupidly gawking at her, or rather at the place where she'd been. It occurred to me suddenly, this woman was my new neighbour. Someone had moved into the building three days ago. I had this from my neighbour across the hall, since I hadn't gone to rubberneck with the others. I'd been sick, as luck would have it, and had spent most of that day in bed.
Our apartment building is small. It's only got six units. There are two apartments on the ground floor, two in the middle, and two on top. My apartment is number five, on the top floor, on the left of the building if you're facing it from the street like I was at that very moment. The dark-haired woman must've moved into number three, directly below me. It was the only place that had been vacant.
I can't say I was really happy about having her living downstairs. You see, our building is special. We're less like co-tenants than we are like a family. We are all friends and know each other as well as you can ever know anyone who doesn't sleep in your bed at night. I wondered if the presence of this new somebody would put frayed edges on our closely-knit group. I was deeply concerned that if she turned out to be as frosty as she looked, the experience of having her live near us wouldn't be very pleasant at all.