As soon as he heard Eva’s soft singing, he knew she was alone. It was a sound he had not heard in a few days and he deluded himself in thinking he had forgotten about her talent. The truth was, her singing followed him everywhere, even making an appearance in his dreams. Maybe he had got it wrong. Maybe she wasn’t an imp, but a siren.
He rounded the corner of the hallway and leaned against the living-room arch. There she sat at the table, practising her calligraphy. The evening’s fire cast an orange halo around her body, and she looked as radiant as a little glow-worm in the night.
He tilted his head and smiled.
As usual, she was singing a song he did not recognize. She dipped her pen in the ink and hovered over the paper. A vulgar curse came from her lips. With a frown, she brought the pen to the ink jar and tapped it furiously against the glass a couple of times to remove the excess ink.
The song she sang was about freedom. Or at least, that was what he understood until it took a melancholic turn. His smile slipped and a tide of sadness filled his chest. Why did she always sing sad songs? He must have made a sound of disapproval since she turned and observed him with a bemused expression.
“Didn’t I tell you not to creep up on me?” she said. “Keep it up and I’ll put a bell on you like a barn cat.”
“I heard you singing,” he said. Why did he say that? He cleared his throat. “I thought I’d check that everything was all right.”
“Yes, everything is fine.”
Her eyes searched his face for something.
His blood warmed. If she continued to look at him that way, he would blush harder than a schoolgirl. Why does he feel jittery? Is it because he could smell her faint lilac essence in the room of ash and dust? Or was it because she was wearing a dress he had picked … because she was wearing the undergarments he had imagined her in…
“Lottie said I should practise my handwriting but it’s harder than I thought.” She frowned, returning to her work. “I have trouble grasping the darn pen.”
“The trick is to use your arm, rather than your fingers,” he said.
“That tells me nothing.”
The edges of his lips twitched. “May I show you?”
“If you promise not to laugh at what I’ve done.”
He took a seat next to her. “That would be rude of me.”
“And gentlemen are never rude.”
“Precisely,” he said. “Gentleladies, on the other hand…”
She handed him the pen and clasped her hands on the table. “Good thing I am not a gentlelady.” A wicked smile crossed her face.