The rain tapped a steady rhythm against the window. All I could hear was the rain, the rain and my own breathing. If I buried my head in the pillows, I heard my heartbeat thud above every other noise. I willed the sound to lull me to sleep. Moments. Hours. Nothing.
My throat tightened and my eyes began to sting. No, I wouldn't cry. Self-pity enveloped my heart just as tightly as the quilt I was wrapped in, and I struggled harder to steady my breathing. It grew warmer under the covers and my hand searched for a cool spot beneath my pillow. As I shivered at the change in temperature I felt the knot in my chest loosen. I needed to breath. It was better to do it in one quick movement. How far was my robe? It should be hanging on the armchair.
One. Two. Three….deep breath, and I threw the covers off as I stood and stumbled toward my robe. The chill crept up my skin like icy fingers as I shrugged on my robe and blindly grappled around for slippers. Brrrrr….I shivered as I slinked back to my bed, sitting in the warmth that still radiated there and pulled the quilt around me. The moonlight shone through the drapes, I had forgotten to close them before going to bed. The light was strangely comforting considering I liked to sleep in complete darkness. I watched my shadow shift across the floor as I rocked myself on the bed. As my body blocked the moonlight from hitting the bottom of my bedroom door, I saw a faint yellow light filter through the space beneath the door.
He must still be up, I thought. I felt a faint sense of security knowing that he was also awake at this ungodly hour. Although, his sleep habits were unusual, his being awake at this time of night probably related to some various case or experiment, where as my only reason was insomnia. A sudden bold inspiration seized my mind and before I could stop myself I slipped off the bed and gently eased open my bedroom door trying to counter the squeaky joints by putting pressure into the frame. I slipped through and padded across the hall, up to where the light beneath his door washed over my feet. As bright as the feeble light seemed in the pitch black hallway landing, there was no warmth to it. Was his fire lit? Maybe just candles. I froze, still as a statue with my heart pounding in my ears. What was I doing? Going up to a man's door in the dead of night – and in my nightgown no less!
A nonsensical part of me wanted to knock on the door, to not be alone and have my imagination drag me into a depressed stupor until exhaustion was finally able to cave in my anxious train of thought. But, I knew, although I had never consciously realized it till this moment, that he was not like other men, he would not think me forward or unladylike for going to him. He would either be disgruntled at being interrupted in his thought processes or curious as to what I was up to. Either way, I just wanted to know that I wasn't the only one not sleeping in London at that moment, relatively speaking. I always felt totally alone, even when surrounded by people. Yet, here he was, a few feet beyond, just as awake as I, as evidenced when I heard a scuffle of feet and shuffling of papers. I was oddly comforted, and I couldn't put my finger on why, and as I stood there debating my next move, staring at my feet, the light grew larger as his door opened inward barely an inch with a creek.
My head shot up just as I heard a gravelly voice whisper, "Who goes there? Friend or foe?"
Somehow I channeled the gasp I had suddenly inhaled into a quivering, "Guess." With my heart in my throat I watched his eye appear at the crack, his body block the light, then the door swing open, seemingly in welcome. I was trembling as I stepped across the threshold and I couldn't see him anywhere in front of me.
"Are you accustomed to your enemies announcing themselves?" – I asked quietly as I surveyed his territory. Papers were plastered across the wall above the desk, and anywhere there weren't papers there was writing directly on the wall. Open books and newspapers covered the desk, couch, and floor across the room.
His drapes were drawn and I noticed the fire burned down to embers with scraps of paper no longer of use sentenced to incineration, crumbling within. I sensed more than heard the door close, and his voice was only a couple of feet behind me, "You would be surprised how many of my enemies do announce themselves, whether they mean to or not, men of a negative disposition are always arrogant, and arrogant men love to hear themselves talk. Many a plausible victory has been foiled due to a self-indulgent monologue, giving the hero a chance to overcome the odds."
I don't know if it was simply my lack of sleep but I suddenly felt bold. I decided to tease him. "Bad men aren't the only arrogant ones." I made sure to smile as I said it, as I was always afraid to hurt anyone's feelings, even if the one person I felt I could tease seemed impermeable to anything I could possibly say. He raised an eyebrow, the only show of emotion on his face. I stifled a laugh as I turned and moved toward the fire to warm my hands. My hands shook slightly, and I hoped to God he thought it was from the cold.
I turned back to him, "Are you the hero?" He stood with his hands behind his back, and I noticed his bow protruding from behind him. "Hardly. A hero, as I see the term in relation to Greek and Roman myth, relates to a strapping youth, blessed by the gods with immense strength, bravery, magic weapons, and he usually has a guide, who provides him with every available lead. He hardly has to think for himself, and in the end he receives prizes in the form of kingships or women or wealth. His quest ends cleanly and the people shower him with gifts and drink and few of these 'heroes', if any, deserve the recognition bestowed upon them. Their fame is a result of chance and circumstance. Greek myth, as I am sure you are aware, rarely involves logic, the only real trait a man need possess to accomplish great feats."
I blinked as he finished his speech and digested what he said. He always spoke so quickly. Often I had to pause momentarily to absorb his words, so what might seem a speech for another man simply sounded as necessary and succinct coming from his lips. His lips – by this time he had circled me once and was again facing me, his back to the door. It never ceased to amaze me how a man who was so sardonic, rarely genuinely smiled. But, he still appeared to communicate his amusement through his eyes. He could smile just with his eyes and every other muscle in his face would be still as stone, as he did now.
He was taking a risk assuming I knew anything about Greek myth; a simple girl from a small town in Texas with no formal education had no reason to ever come across such tales. But, I corrected myself, I was anything but simple, even I knew that, and could admit it without arrogance. It made me smile that somehow he knew this, and guessed I would be familiar with Greek and Roman history. I decided I would attempt to pry an indirect compliment from him.
"How would I be familiar with Greek myth? I've no formal education, as you are aware."
At this he began to pace around the room, I could sense the self-satisfied aura he projected before launching into a discussion of his methods. Sure enough he said, "You are obviously well read, which means you were self taught or, someone close to you, probably a family member, aided in your education and intellectual pursuits. The classics would have been a likely choice in literature…" I broke in here, and I couldn't help but smile as I said, "You're line of thought is logical, but you are missing a knowledge of rural American culture and custom. You are close, but you haven't hit the nail on the head yet."
"Perhaps I could if I wasn't rudely interrupted."
"I hardly think I interrupted you, you did pause." He turned toward me, certainly to object, but I took the rare opportunity to make a deduction of my own. "I can see how you would refer to Greek heroes either to impress or educate me, but you said you were sure I was aware, and I find it interesting that you would make such an assumption. There was no need to."
Here he squared his shoulders, and seemed to decide to skip his lecture in favor of cutting right to the quick, "I am sure you are aware of Greek myth because I happen to know you possess a book on the matter." At this I gasped, "How on earth could you know? You've never been in my room…" but I suddenly realized my mistake. Of course he had been in my room, the twit.
"I cannot believe you snuck into my room without my permission, and to what purpose?"
"Purely scientific inquiry, I assure you. Your manner of speech and topics of conversation are not the vapid airs of condescension purported by most women. Knowing the elements of your background you have freely spoken of, I wanted to know how you came to possess these elements of education, as your habits deviate from the stereotypical manners of a woman raised in the country. You are a lady, one prone to curiosity and inquisitiveness, unusual traits to be sure. All of that and…"
"You were bored," I finished for him.
"I would not put it so vulgarly, I genuinely wanted to see if you would be of use as an addition to the household."
My indignation at his intrusion into my privacy switched to feeling insulted. "Of use?," I inquired, with slightly more bite than I intended, then it dawned on me. "Ah, I see, you had just lost Watson as a partner, he was no longer at your beck and call, so you wanted to see if I would be of use to you. You got used to having someone to discuss your cases with." He narrowed his gaze at me. "Am I close to guessing your aim?"
He shifted his gaze to what looked like a pile of clothing and books in the corner but as he sat down before it, I noticed it to be a camouflaged piano. He began playing Fur Elise and I instantly calmed, my eyelids began to flutter. After a few seconds of playing I decided to give up my mission of fishing a compliment from him. He had only indicated he thought me intelligent after I found out he snuck into my room because he wanted to know if I would be useful. Hmph. Men.
"How is the case going?" I knew I struck a nerve because his shoulders stiffened. He must be tired, I thought, he is usually so inscrutable. It was then that he stopped playing but still faced away from me as he said, "I have a job for you."
From the author: Any thoughts? I have a plan of what I'm thinking but would love any input. More to come.