I woke with a start in my bed and looked around the room wildly as I took in familiar surroundings. The bright moonlight from outside the circular window shone down on the floor on the other side of the bed. I was cold, freezing in fact, what with deciding to sleep in the nude for close to ten hours.
I panted for breath like a staggering mutt from the streets. I didn't know what woke me up, whether it was a nightmare or just a spontaneous lapse of fright. Either way, I felt so scared and my heart was beating so belligerently inside my chest that it would be a while before I could faze back to sleep.
I laid back on the bed, trying vainly to gain some air. I forced my body to relax as I slid back underneath the thick, feathery covers. While my breathing regulated itself automatically, I sensed another presence in the room.
I held my breath, waiting for whatever killer or masqueraded man to slink out of the shadows. I knew better than to believe old nursery tales about stalkers hiding among the cloaks of shadows, but it still frightened me to no end, despite my older age.
The thing leapt out. "Ahh!"
I could've sworn I jumped a meter in the air. I was that tense and on edge the entire time I waited for it to coax itself from the shadowy corner.
"Harry, you devil," I sighed in relief. His wide grin just became wider.
"Oh my God, Louis, your fa-ace!" he guffawed, clutching his stomach.
I pulled up as serious a face as I could've mustered, although I felt the tips of my ears growing white-hot with embarrassment. Unfortunately, Harry noticed and stood laughing so hard that he became mute. I just buried my head shamefully in the covers.
"How and why are you in here, Harold?" I said once the laughter died down. "Dahlia has eyes behind her head, and I doubt you just crept through the window."
Harry wove a hand at me in dismissal. "Ach, she was a piece of cake. Really, she succumbed pretty quickly to my charm."
I snorted, but didn't say anything regarding his ways of getting what he wanted. What I did consider was why he bothered showing up here. Why he took so big of an interest in me, a spoiled-rotten member of the Elite.
"And in reality, I think she likes seeing us two—" Harry pulled really close to me, "—together."
I was confused. Partly because it seemed that Dahlia actually talked to Harry, whom she didn't appear to like as much the first time she encountered Harry. "Why would you assume that?"
"No, no, it's not assumption. She said so herself. 'Sir, you are quite the gentleman. And Louis does seem to like being around you quite a lot these last few days.'"
"I don't know how you derived the conclusion that she likes seeing us together, when clearly, she said that I like being around you," I said.
"So you like being around me, then?" he said, suddenly drawing closer me. "I can see I had some influence on your choice of night-wear."
"What night—?" Oh, that's right. My choice to sleep naked. "Oh, yes. Damn you, Harold."
He broke out into laughter again, which, strangely enough, brought a smile to my face. It was odd being with someone so carefree about life. I honestly didn't have the slightest care when someone in my family was happy, because all they were happy about was themselves. Investing big bucks in the American stock market, getting a shiny new tea set from the local shop, receiving a handmade doll from a relative . . .
Nobody ever became happy around me, or because of me. Nobody even wanted to know how I was doing. And if they did, it was all part of a vague and apathetic routine.