the liquid sloshing sound of water bumping up against the docks broke through the London fog as she sat, kicking her legs off the side, trousers rolled up to her knees. She waited, staring blankly down at the water when suddenly the firm rim of something tapped onto her head, encircling it. She felt at her head with a confused look painted onto her face that wiped itself off when she pulled the black top hat off, shiny and black like the ones you could see at Kensington or North London, riding the heads of wealthy men and ladies; sometimes accompanied by cigar in the case of Ara looking through the window of a gentleman's club. When someone in a fine grey suit with a mint green cravat sat next to her she snapped her head up. shaggy brown hair hid his face as he looked down at the water like she had done.
"I'm not a whore." she said with a feeling that she was misunderstanding. He didn't approach her as if she were a door knocker. She turned the top hat over in her hands.
"who are you, a bounty hunter? I don't have a bounty on my head." she lied. He still didn't say anything as Aurelian turned his head to her, his eyes sad, his burn scar showing slightly in the moonlight as he shook his hair out of his face. "I almost thought you were the leather apron." She goofed and then looked back at the top hat. "Did you rob a north end clothing shop?"
"No." He replied. "I bought it."
"So you've gotten back into pick pocketing? Aurelian, what happened to your factory job?" Ara scooted herself towards him.
"I bought these clothes with my own money." he answered further. Ara still stared at him puzzled. "uh," he looked back at the water and glanced at a few boats, thinking of what to say. "Brielle said that you were waiting to see if the Widow showed up at the Thames so I came because I thought you could see my house while we waited."
"I don't quite understand. It's a little late for adoption. Hell, you didn't like the foster homes they gave you. You'd always run back to Leander." Ara chuckled. Aurelian smiled.
"I don't think you're getting it."
"I don't think you're really explaining this well. I don't understand what you mean by "your house"." she made finger quotations in the air. The fog on the docks shifted around as though ghosts were stirring it.
"Ara, since we last saw each other, I've been working my way up in the opium business. I live in Kensington." Ara scanned him up and down as though the fine grey suit had just suddenly appeared on his body. she searched his eyes for a joke but couldn't find one.
"you serious?" she asked, "You selling me a dog, mate?" she ducked her head forward with bright eyes and a smile of disbelief.
"No, I ain't sellin' you a dog. It's the truth, yeah." Aurelian said, almost with a defensive tone. "ara grunted,
"So what, you all posh now?" she patted his back like a proud father.
"No I ain't posh." He scoffed, "You comin' or not?" He stood and let his hand fall forward for her to take. She stared at it, hesitantly before nodding and taking it as she pulled herself up and brushed off her clothes. He grabbed her hand like a delighted little boy and pulled her along.
"You talk posh with your business partners?" She asked as they rushed along. all of a sudden coming to a black carriage with two horses leading it. The driver tipped his hat. "This ain't yours is it?"
"I worked a long time on talking like the big boys." Aurelian opened the door for Ara and she stepped in, looking around like a little girl in a fairy castle. Aurelian followed after and sat across from her. They swayed slightly as they rode over the cobblestone streets. "I sell opium, tea, tobacco, and i've even got a share with the Indian trading companies."
"when did all this happen?" Asked Ara,
"the coffee houses. professors and high end business men of all sorts go and give talks there. You can stay as long as you get tea or coffee for a penny. It's like free college."
"Ain't it, though? Ara looked out the window. "These things are right fancy, mate." she said, breath taken. After about thirty minutes. they passed into Kensington and arrived at a flat building with two white stone pillars outside the front stairs that held up a balcony above the door. "You married or something?" Ara sued as they got out.
"I'm checking out the idea." He replied as they walked up the steps to his front door while she gawked around at the neighborhood.
"I've turtled that house before," she sighed, "and that one…also that one," As aurelian pulled her into the flat, she almost fainted. marbled floors, red and black carpeted stairways, mahogany doors…it was everything that Ara's mother would have wanted to keep after father had died.
"Did you have dinner?" Aurelian asked before addressing a well postured woman in a shiny black suit with a white rose on her lapel.
"Yes," said Ara,
"Have you had dessert?"
"do I look like I've had dessert in the past few years?" Ara raised her eyebrow as Aurelian looked her up and down.
"Right," he murmured as whispered into the suited woman's ear. The woman, with wavy pink hair that fell to her shoulders, nodded, bowed to Ara, and left the foyer. Ara then followed Aurelian up the stairs as he gave her a grand tour of the house. After about an hour, they finally settled into the dining room, a mahogany table with a green striped table cloth that stretched down its length. at the end of the table sat a lithe china dish with lemon cream pie sitting on it neatly and patiently. To the side of it was a china teacup of what could only have been fine ginger tea. "Go for it," Aurelian walked down and sat in the chair diagonal to the pie seat. Ara stared and then looked to Aurelian with a gleeful smile.
"You spoiled little rich kid," she giggled and he grinned back. She sat down and took the silver fork in her hand, before savoring the soft, cold bite of tangy goodness.
"Ara, I was thinking." Aurelian began, "How would you like to live with me. We could be room mates. I might be able to even teach you the business, you know? We could live like sovereigns. We could both get married. You'll have a sister in law and you could find a good husband or wife.. you wouldn't have to steal or hurt people." Ara chewed slowly as she set the silver fork down.
"i'll teach you how to do business, I will. You would be able to stay out of trouble." He looked down more, playing with the green table cloth. "What do you say?" he said now, looking up. Ara looked at the matching green curtains and the china dishes. She shuffled the taste of lemon cake around in her mouth. "Life is so easy for me, Arabella. It could be like that for you too. Think about how happy Leander would be if her were here." Ara looked into Aurelian's soft hazel eyes.
"When did you even grow up?" She whispered. Aurelian furrowed his eyebrows and shook his head slightly as he leaned in.
"What?" She thought about the pink haired woman and the mahogany furnishing. She thought of the horse drawn carriage and the shiny black top hat that Aurelian had dropped on her head.
"No," Ara whispered further. Aurelian sat back.
"I don't understand." He crossed his legs. She took a deep breath with every difficult word that she formulated in her mind to say to him. He was offering the world that remained as a memory from America when she was eight. He was offering a world she couldn't return to.
"the crown owes more than 100,000,000 pounds to whoever gets me hanged. I have built a life for myself that damns the system and you expect me to join it?" she stood with her hands firmly on the table.
"I didn't mean any offense. You're my sister, I want what's best,"
"No, I know you mean well. and I thank you for that. I've never been offered anything like this in my life."
"but you're turning it down."
"I've built my life!"
"On crime instead of hard work!" He shot up and they stared face to face. "If you want to drag yourself through iron bars and die on a noose, that's all fine and dandy for you but it's not fine with me! What will you do when you're too old to run?" he shouted. "huh? what will you do? and where's your beloved captain right now? Was she there when you were found sun burnt and dying of dehydration in Egypt?"
"How do you know about that?" Ara asked,
"Do you think she'll be there for you when you're too old to work for her and do her dirty work?"
"You keep Captain Charlotte out of this right now!" Ara shouted back. She grabbed her bag. "and you can keep me out of this too."
"you can change your name!"
"Don't call on me again till you think about the situation." She called back, slamming the door. She stood for a moment outside, staring, frustrated at the houses she'd always robbed. Was she expected to mingle with the people that lived there as though she didn't have their diamond rings and fancy clothes in her closet? Was she supposed to look them in the eye and pretend she was a lady? It took what felt like forever to get back to the docks where the Silver Widow waited, rocking up and down in the Thames. This was her home. She got on board,
"Arabella,"Her captain called over, she ignored the young girl and went strait to her room, ignoring everyone else too. Aury was right with some things but he wasn't completely correct. Dominique marched into the room after Ara as she was climbing up the ladder and into her hammock.
"What goes on?" Dominique asked in corrupted english.
"What happened? Nothing. I lost you in a sandstorm in Cairo and ended up sunburnt and dying in Siwa until I was taken in by a ship that wanted my bounty and saved by a merciful man who I don't even know. which leads me to the question of WHERE WERE YOU?" Ara yelled.Dominique looked up at her with a jaw that jutted out, saying "I'm not up for this." Ara crossed her arms and ignored the slamming door behind her as Dominique left the room. "and where the hell is Jabber?" she thought. "where's Zachary or Samuel. where the hell is David even?" She flopped her head into her pillow, realizing how annoyingly angsty she was being. "cheer up," she said to herself, "you're being a t***." When early morning came, Ara made her way to the Rejected Gear and stormed right to an open bedroom with a bottle of bourbon until she was cheerful again.