Eira

A Modern Fairytale

I closed my book in a hurry. The door on the other side of the room slam shut. My brother was looking for me. I knew he was – he always hunted me down like a hawk to a prey. I knew I had made him angry – no, beyond furious with me. I won't tell you why now but let me start with introductions.

I had two brothers, one a few years older than me and the other several years younger than me. I was stuck in the middle. My parents didn't know it but my older brother, Thomas, often took his anger out on me and either physically or verbally abused me. We would get into fights over nothing sometimes. He blamed me for a lot of his problems – especially when our parents weren't home. Whenever they were home, he would be the perfect son but still send me that dark glare that I was going to get it good when our parents weren't looking.

'Eira!' he called out. 'Come over to me, Eira. I've got something of yours. If you want it back, then get your sorry arse over here.'

'I'm sorry, Thomas, I didn't mean to—,' I said, coming out of my hiding place.

He grabbed me by my braided hair and shoved me against the bookshelf. The back of my head hit the sharp corner of the case. There was a stinging pain in my skull after the contact. I cried out in shock as he did so.

'That's what happens when you mess around with me and my things, brat.' Thomas snarled.

'I didn't do anything! Get off me!' I screamed at him before shoving him out of my way.

I bolted from that library. I ignored his shouts and the fact he was chasing me. I ran as fast as I could to my room. I locked my door behind me and pushed my dresser against the door. My heart pounded wildly in my chest. I dropped to my knees and stared up at the ceiling. This happened a lot, by the way. My parents never knew and if they would have known, I doubt they would have cared much.

My parents were a part of the socially elite group of people and prosperous. That meant they weren't home often and we had to look out for ourselves – yes, we had a couple of servants and a main housekeeper to help out but we rarely saw our parents. And if they were home, they hosted a party and we had to stay to mingle and have tête-a-tête with the other wealthy families. I really despised doing that only because I was socially awkward like Mr. Darcy. I didn't know how to correspond with those people, unlike my brother. He was an expert at it and I was only a neophyte. I would have rather stayed hidden behind the crowd. If I didn't socialize, my brother would hit me and drag me back.

I suppose it wasn't all that bad since I had met someone one evening. The person who I'd met looked like a prince ripped out of one of my books. He was stunning, disheveled dark hair and matching dark eyes. I suppose I was glad my parents were home this weekend, I wouldn't have met him. He made me smile and when he smiled at me, my heart melted.

'If you're not otherwise engaged, could I have the next two dances?' my handsome stranger asked.

'I'd like that, thank you. Although, I apologise before hand for my clumsy feet – I'm not the best dancer in the world.'

The dark haired stranger laughed and shook his head.

'There is no need to apologise,' he replied, honest to goodness his voice was rich and suave. 'I'm Fredrick,'

'Eira,' I answered.

Fredrick offered me his hand and I took it slowly. I am a total sucker for feelings. I love the feeling of his hand in mine. I thought. His hand had a gentle touch to it, despite the roughness of his skin. My heart fluttered in my chest as we took the stance for a waltz.

'You are Heinrich and Ella's daughter then?'

'Yeah, their only daughter, but I have two brothers as well.'

'I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas. A bit snobbish if you don't mind my saying.'

'A bit – you're giving him slack, Fredrick. He's more than a little bit of a snob.' I continued, with laughter.

Fredrick spun me around and caught me by the waist. I stifled back a gasp as he grasped my waist. We stopped swaying a brief moment before resuming. Fredrick had a certain look in his eyes as he watched me.

'You are beautiful, Eira.' Fredrick said his voice gentle and soft.

He gave me a small smile as I glanced up at him, dumbfounded. No one had ever called me beautiful. Honestly, when he told me that I thought he'd been messing with my head.

'You hardly know me, Fredrick.' I replied.

'I don't have the liberty to think that you are beautiful?' he asked as he gave me a puzzled look.

'Well, I – but you—,' I stopped and huffed in aggravation.

Fredrick's smile grew and he laughed. I shook my head as a smile formed on my face as well.

'Do you have a boyfriend?'

'What?' I cried. 'No, I don't have one. I've never had a boyfriend. And I don't think it'll happen anytime soon.'

Another charming smile. Fredrick looked my way again, a questioning look across his features.

'You would be surprised how often times change and how people change, Eira Winthrop.'

I managed a small chuckle of amusement and sighed. I had not really changed at all in my life. I was still the same person – the quiet, awkward child who would have rather stayed hidden in dark corners and live in a world completely of my own feral imagination. In that world there was no brother who would lash out on me violently or verbally and suddenly turn blasé at the sight of our parents.

'Not everyone,' I said, my newly discovered happiness seeping away. 'My brothers are still the same and so are my parents. We haven't changed really.'

Fredrick took his hand into mine and gave it a squeeze.

'Eira, if you ever need to escape, you are more than welcome to be my guest. My large estate is quite lonely since my parents died. I wouldn't mind the company.' Fredrick said, with a small nod. 'There's plenty of history in that old house and secret passage ways and mysteries to be solved.'

I laughed a little and he smiled as I did.

'How can I turn an old house with such an analysis? Sounds like quite a thrilling, gothic tale out of Mrs. Radcliff's books.'

'You've read The Mysteries of Udolpho?' Fredrick inquired, surprised.

'I found interest in Mrs. Radcliff after reading Miss Austen's Northanger Abbey. I do happen to view myself a little like Catherine Morland. I read too many novels and the ramifications of such actions have led me to have a feral imagination which drives my brother mad.' I exclaimed, with hints of a dramatic tone.

Fredrick raised his dark brows at me in wonder.

'You have a very strong opinion of yourself, Miss Winthrop.' Fredrick commented.

'I'm just quoting my parents about my wild imagination and my apparent behavior towards Thomas.'

'Ah,' Fredrick said. 'But what is your own opinion of yourself, Eira?'

'Quite ill and negative I'm afraid,'

Fredrick gently grasped my arm.

'You shouldn't think like that.'

I was about to respond when I saw Thomas walking our way. I took a step back as he stopped beside me and Fredrick. He gave me a look and I lowered my gaze from him, praying he wouldn't do anything to me in front of Fredrick.

'Freddie Barnes? Christ it's been forever since I've seen you man.'

'I don't go by Freddie anymore, Tom. It's Fredrick.'

'Yeah, since you left ten years ago to move to London.' Thomas scoffed. 'You're talking to this freak?'

Thomas glanced at me and then back at Fredrick.

'Enough, Thomas, leave her be.'

'Or what,' Thomas spat, 'what are you gonna do to me? Huh?'

'Thomas, please,' I said, quietly. 'I'll go if you want me to.'

'Shut it, Eira!'

He advanced towards me – however, Fredrick stepped between us. He glared at Thomas.

'You really want to cause a scene with all these people here?' Fredrick asked, coolly.

'Why don't you just piss off back to England?'

'You've been drinking again.' Fredrick remarked.

'Shove it,' Thomas snarled, pushing Fredrick back.

Fredrick stumbled but I settled my hands gently on his back as he took a few steps towards me. Thomas mumbled incoherently before departing. Fredrick turned his attention to me. His gaze softened as he took hold of my hand again.

'You didn't have to do that.'

'I know I didn't have to but I did. You shouldn't have to put up with that. Come stay with me for a while, Eira.'

'My parents would never let me – I – Thomas is in charge when they're not here. He's twenty-one, I'm only seventeen – I don't have any rights until my birthday. Even then I don't think Thomas would ever let me go that easily. Plus, I only just met you. Isn't that rather strange?'

Fredrick shrugged and nodded.

'You're right, and I should be better acquainted with you and you with me before anything like that happens.'

We both laughed a little.

'We still have another dance,' I reminded him as the musicians began to play.

'Quite right, Eira,' he said, offering me his hand again.

I slipped my hand into his and we took our stance.

'Again, refer to my previous apology over my clumsiness.'

Fredrick gave me a good chuckle and led the waltz. Perhaps dancing was in fact a good way to know someone and enjoy their company. No wonder Jane Austen's world had so much dancing involved.

'Besides reading, Eira, what are your other interests?' Fredrick asked, twirling me around.

I rested my hand on his shoulder before answering,

'Music, I guess…history, watching movies, exploring downtown Manhattan, the idea of traveling all around the world. I like photography. What about you?'

'I study history and literature back home. Traveling is on my list of things to do once I finish university. We could travel to the ends of the earth, exploring every last bit of it.'

'Even the places where the islands have cannibals?' I exclaimed, in mild horror. 'They would eat us alive!'

'Alright then, not every inch of the earth,' Fredrick agreed. 'But a vast majority of it,'

The waltz ended and there was strangely a comfortable silence between us.

'I should probably go see my parents and mingle around some more. But it was nice to meet you, Fredrick. You are more than welcome to come visit my brother and me for however long you're here.'

'Thank you for your invitation, Miss Winthrop. Could we meet for tea or coffee perhaps tomorrow?'

I smiled, feeling a blush creeping up my cheeks.

'I'd like that. What time?'

'Noon?'

Noon was good for both of us. After arranging a non-date, I left him – in search of my parents. That never happened to me! I was no longer the invisible sister of Thomas Winthrop. Fredrick noticed me and though I tried to stay in my hidden corner, I was drawn to him. I would have wanted to stay near him the whole night of the party. But, I wouldn't allow myself to grow too attached. Not yet.