Thomas sat alone in his penthouse apartment, pondering his life, his long life. His thoughts drifted back to when he was just a street urchin in the cobbled streets and alleyways of London town. Hanging about in the dim, foggy streets waiting for anyone with a little money and just about ripe to be parted from it. He always stood a better chance if there was an older man with a younger woman. The women inevitably took pity on poor, helpless Thomas, the emaciated little waif, an orphan on the cruel streets as he wasted away.
He knew all the tricks, the little tremble of the chin, his head tilted slightly to one side and hope they would look deep into those sorrowful puppy-dog eyes, if they did then that was usually that.
“Oh my God, the poor little wretch” they’d say “I bet you haven’t eaten in days have you my dear?’
“I can’t remember Miss” Thomas would innocently whimper, then he would wait for something along the lines of….”My poor lamb, you must give him some money Charles, here go and get yourself something warm to eat”. Then quick as he could he’d be off before any of the other little thugs, beggars or thieves could rob him of his gains.
A couple of years earlier he had very nearly starved to death. Orphaned at birth, his mother dying in labour, his father unknown to anyone, least of all Thomas’ mother. He had spent most of his young life on the streets. Most children, girls as well as boys, fought for everything they could get whether it be food, clothing, shelter or a few stray coins thrown from the carriages of the wealthy, more often than not just to clear the scum and filth away from their oncoming horses. Usually those carriages contained rich young men out to impress their new fancies with their generosity on their way to the better parts of the City, meanwhile the children literally fought for mere survival in the gutters.
For a long time Thomas was barely surviving at all until he was genuinely taken pity upon by a broody young woman out with her new beau. Ever since that night he had tried his luck with his sympathy routine, some days it worked perfectly, other days not at all, just as long as he could get away from the other kids he knew that he could survive for a few more days at least.
The older he got, the stronger he became and also much more streetwise. He learned how to bully the young and the old alike, he had no choice he always told himself. Become stronger and live or grow weak and perish in the squalor and filth. He had gradually, painfully become a young man and young men don’t want to die, irrespective of their conditions. Thomas had heard all the stories about people with money, notably men with money, the big houses and estates, the grand parties and lifestyles and of course he had spied longingly at the beautiful and elegantly adorned women. These were the dreams that had kept Thomas sane, they kept him going and he wasn’t about to give up on his dreams without a fight, life could change at any time he always told himself.
Sitting now in his penthouse, Thomas smiled grimly at his distant recollections and his over exuberant, youthful longing to go everywhere and see everything. In his wildest dreams of adolescence he could never have imagined what his fate would be, or just what an elongated future life, where all his dreams and nightmares were soon to be within his grasp. If destiny can lead you along a pre-set pathway, that path can also lead along the left-hand side. These bittersweet memories eventually and inevitably brought him to his encounter with the beautiful creature who was to change and end his life. The deliciously seductive mystery that was Arabella. Prowling the streets and alleyways like a bitch in heat, scenting out fresh, tender young flesh and finding……….Thomas.
He shivered as he recalled how she came out of nowhere. It had been the middle of December and must have been five below zero. He had been huddled in a doorway, trying to keep in at least some vestige of warmth, then the temperature suddenly seemed to take a dramatic drop even further and he found himself looking into her liquid, almost silver eyes. He was frozen to the spot but not by the horrendous cold, where had this animal-esque beauty come from? She was absolutely breathtaking with her hypnotic stare and long fiery copper locks. Then there was the subtle flash of her stunningly white, if slightly overlong, teeth framed by her lusciously tempting lips. She had seemed to have lulled him with her soft velvet voice, yet even now he couldn’t recall anything she initially said to him. However, he easily brought to mind how her seductive tones seemed to warm him to his very soul and drive that chill from his bones.
As a child he heard stories of people flying on enchanted carpets through and above hot far away magical cities, the feeling radiating through him was surely how that warmth and magic must feel. This woman could have seduced any man or woman, any age, colour or creed simply with her hushed and honeyed voice and dream-like eyes, it made him feel ever more special in that she had chosen him. That, however, was her game. Seduce a Lord or Lady one night, maybe bewitch a child the night after, followed by a rough young street dweller like Thomas. They were all very different people yet all the same to her, victims, very easy prey.
Thomas remembered very little of the immediate hours after his encounter with Arabella, he did remember her kiss and her stunningly pale body in the moonlight and the amazing smoothness of her skin. So cold, so sleek, like marble. He also vaguely recalled the pain, a sharp pain on his wrist, followed by her long crimson nails across his throat, but after that it was all a blank.
The next thing he could remember was waking up, presumably the following night, though he couldn’t be sure. He was lying in the deep undergrowth of trees and bushes at the edge of what appeared to be a park. He had a very stiff neck and as he rubbed at it to soothe the aching, he felt dried scabs of a wound and the same on his wrist. Thomas wandered around in a daze for a while but found himself being drawn to a location but still didn’t know where he was. Then he saw a figure standing by a large expanse of water, he tentatively approach the figure.
Long wild red hair was the first thing that stood out to him, gently moving back and forth in the light breeze. His recognition of her made him move more forcefully to her but then he stopped and hesitated albeit briefly. He wanted to gather her up in his arms as much as he felt she was an enemy to be struck down, the two opposites colliding in his mind and confusing the hell out of him. He approached cautiously but she made no move to either threaten or embrace him. Thomas needed explanations at least but as he now stood next to her he could only breathe a sigh of wonder at this creature in his presence. She did not look up with any acknowledgement of him at all. She simply said
“You are in Hyde Park, this is the Serpentine, an exquisite name I think, isn’t the water beautiful by moonlight?”
He stared at her not knowing of a response, he was just a street urchin after all, he had no way with words. So as she turned to him he just shrugged his indifference
“Water is water” he muttered
Not even trying to feign her annoyance she looked deep into his eyes and grabbed him by the throat, lifting him an inch or two above the ground and snarled into his face
“Water by moonlight is a very beautiful thing, elegant and calm, yet if you asked the drowned man he would tell you otherwise I think, he would tell you of the dangers and fear to be had within its depths. My name is Arabella, think deep upon what I have just said.”
She released him to the ground, Thomas coughing and spluttering as he stumbled while she turned away. He clambered to his feet and clumsily ran after her.
“You are a fledgling, boy” Arabella spoke in soft tones in direct contrast to the controlled violence she had just produced “You will realize in time what I have just said. And time……” she smiled seductively “Is what you have plenty of now my dear, enjoy” and with that she was gone.
C. William Giles
In Darkness & Fire