Lucy, telephone!” Mel called to the storefront girl.
“Coming,” she chimed back, her red curls bouncing with the day’s energy. The rush was finally subsiding, but her adrenaline was still pumping. Lucy wiped away the small bits of flour from her fingertips before picking up the phone. “Hullo?”
“Lucy! Darling! It’s Mrs. Giles from Medford Square.”
“Oh of course, hello!” she repeated, this time with more acknowledgement.
“Hello, darling. Listen, Mr. Giles had a fantastic idea of taking little Adrian to the theatre tonight. You don’t mind, do you?”
Lucy laughed. “I don’t know if I’d quite call him ‘little’ anymore. He’s actually taller than me now. But I’m sure Mum wouldn’t mind-”
“-only we definitely wouldn’t be able to have his suit ready in time.”
“Oh, no trouble, dear. Mr. Giles has one from his younger years. Adrian can wear that,” Mrs. Giles gushed.
The Giles absolutely loved Lucy’s brother. They never had children of their own, even with their vast wealth. So, as these couples often do, they found one they could become his benefactors. It had definitely come as a great surprise to the O’Rourke family that one of their own was chosen to be spoiled. Lucy, personally, believed it was because Mrs. Giles loved her mother’s seamstress skills. However, Stacy knew it had more to do with his bloodline than her talent with the needle.
“Alright, I suppose you’d prefer for me to phone Mum and let her know?” Lucy smiled to herself. She was happy for her brother. He might actually move forward in his life and have the support that would allow him to be anything he wished. There was still hope for him.
“Thank you, Lucy,” Mrs. Giles said sincerely. “That would be lovely. You know how I hate to bother her as she winds down from her busy seasons.”
Lucy hung up, and, at the start of her second break, she rung her mother to explain the situation. Her mum promised to send the boy off as soon as he returned home from school.
She had a bounce to her step as she returned to the front counter, not remembering that fate always found a way to sneak in and snap her back to her true path. All it took was for her to look out the window.
Rain had now taken over the sky, falling in a steady downpour. Gone was the morning sun as umbrellas popped up from the resting arms of middle class while servants quickly threw their own over masters and aristocrats. Women rushed for cover, cursing their maids for not being quick enough. That’s when she saw him. They passed so unremarkably by the bakery’s warmly lit front, and yet she could not have mistaken him for anyone else.
“I- I have to go, Mel. I’ll be back!” Lucy shouted to the baker. Her face continued to pale as she struggled with the buttons on her coat.
“Lucy? What’s wrong?” Mel asked quickly.
“I have to go. I have to… to go. I’m sorry but-” She curtsied clumsily before running out of the ringing door.
Lynd’n’s downpour instantly collected on her curls, weighting them down against her eyes and cheeks. Yet, she forced them from vision. Nothing would get in her way.
Was it possible. . . was he really with one of those God-awful nightmares?
Black umbrellas flooded the street as frustration boiled under her skin. It was sheer torture not to scream at them to move. But Lucy was a clever girl and knew that with one whisper – the chance to truly know would vanish like a dandelion on the wind. Instead, she daringly followed them as gentlemen and ladies eyed the girl’s odd behavior. Lucy felt their gossiping lips flicker against the back of her neck, but she didn’t care. All that mattered was if it was him.
The city’s fog began to snake in, but Lucy was a smart girl. If he was really wearing the miserable piece of a suit, if he was truly one of them, then he must be heading to the one place the Society called home:
The Clock Tower.
She broke off into a run. Past them or from them, she honestly couldn’t tell. Her heart pounded in her chest. Her breath begged her to stop, but her heart drove on.
Down she went through the Embankment, hugging along the edge of the Times. It poured against her drumming feet as the heavy showers collected itself into the nearby murky waters. Men laughed to themselves on their way to pubs and clubs as they loosened their tight scarves, while women flaunted their displays of silk and wealth to try to catch a gentleman’s eye – even as their false smiles cracked under each wet puddle. Yet, it still hardly phased the improper girl.
The two clocks of Lynd’n came into view: The Queen’s Bell, set proudly as the country’s symbol of patriotism; directly behind it was its boldly standing shadow, brooding building known only as the Clock Tower, beside it lay its intricately designed dormitory, ballroom, and God knows what else lay within the lengthy ominous windows that contained its mystery. Yet, her gaze couldn’t break from the tower itself; its large dark wood and steel structure serving as a constant reminder to demons the power within the Top Hat Society.
Horses whinnied as men cursed at Lucy, when she dodged her way across the street.
The Clock Tower continued to manifest itself against the stained grey sky. The hands within the first clock face read the same as that of the face of all clocks within the city. On top of it lay a curious dragon curled about itself, watching the world with yellow, pupil-less eyes. Every hour it would lean up to the sky and toll to the world that it still remained. Within the middle of this golden face, was a smaller silver clock. On top of it was a still sleeping phoenix guarding the frozen hands. It had been over a century since they had moved, and many believed the clock to be broken or dead. Along the outside of clock faces were various star constellations and detailed sculptures of famous demon hunters from the most ancient of times – men from across the East, West, North and South. Their solemn faces snapped even the most mischievous children into shape. These men were the original Top Hats, those whom dared to rise up and fight against the evil. It was both awe-inspiring but always carried a chill to it.
Lucy stared up at the Clock Tower, as she tried to catch her breath. Her eyes locking with the man of the North, his familiar mask posed smartly over a somber smile. The rain was falling harder in the city as if it were desperately telling her to leave -warning her of the danger. But she didn’t listen.
The sound of footsteps echoed off the high walls as three figures emerged from the dark. The first Top Hat was covered by a thick grey scarf and startling reflective glasses. The only distinct feature Lucy could discern was a glimpse of silver hair peeking from his hat. The rest of his body was properly buttoned into the Society’s gentleman attire from the tip of his shining black hat to the carefully tucked white gloves.
The second man was in deep conversation with the first. He couldn’t be but a handful of years older than Lucy. She watched as his mischievous eyes flickered between green and yellow and a clever grin slid slyly onto the corners of his dimpled cheeks. The man clearly prided himself in his smooth steps and well posed back. Even his bout of blonde hair was precisely tied behind him, free of rain thanks to the umbrella being carried above it by a boy with familiar dark hair, who was without the iconic headwear.
Lucy felt her lips tremble. The boy’s hair had grown longer, barely brushing his shoulders. Yet, Lucy imagined that when it was dry, the hair took every chance it could to defy gravity – just as Adrian’s did. His features were growing to look a lot like his: a careful pointed nose, thick eyebrows, and a sharp jaw line. At the corners of his ears were trimmed sideburns – something completely foreign to her memory. After all, he was supposed to be dead.
Without thinking of principle, or even possible consequences, Lucy’s voice found itself calling out a single name: “Sebastian!”
The two older Top Hats came to a stop and turned. The blonde-haired man smiled his apprentice. “Is this someone you know?”
The boy turned his green eyes to Lucy’s – the one thing she knew he had inherited from their mother. Their bored demeanor suddenly snapped wide in shock.
“Lucy. . .” he gasped, the umbrella twitched in his pale hand.
The lie, that had taken root deep into her childhood, was beheaded. The truth took back its throne, and once more Lucy was left utterly lost – utterly broken.
©2016 E. M. Vick