Lilac lay in the grey semi-darkness of her bedroom, gazing at her ceiling, her mind absent from the scene, excepting the part which was conscious of her position, location and everything else she perceived in that moment. A few drops of moonlight spilled into the room through the uncovered window, at an angle roughly perpendicular to the girl. Gentle piano music floated into the room, emanated from downstairs where Lilac’s father was playing for her mother, their equivalent of a lullaby or bedtime story. As the melody came to an end, a strange, faint but continuous tapping sound began, but this was not a product of Lord or Lady Alouette who, from the fact of the cessation of the music, were retiring presently.
Lilac frowned, her peace disturbed, as she heard the odd percussive noise, so out of place in the serene mansion which, like its owners, seemed to be going to bed. She sat up slowly, her eyes widening. She strained her eyes and ears for more, expecting more, now knowing what was going to happen. The tapping rose in pace and in volume until out of the blue came three clear knocks on an invisible door (Lilac’s was open enough to see there was no one in the hallway).
Then came the whispering:
“Abra ouver, abra ouver, porter ouver, abra ouver.”
There came a creaking sound, as if two dimensions co-existed in the bedroom and the inhabitant of the one which wasn’t Lilac’s were opening an old, still wooden door in his part of Space.
Lilac watched, rapt, as a shadow appeared on her wall - the shadow of a tall, lean man - and then became a real man walking through it to reach her in this plane. The man was young - no more than twenty - with thick black hair and dark brown eyes. He wore a dusty black coat over dark blue jeans and a dark red T-shirt. His boots were brown and dirty, and looked as though they belonged in a distant century. You could see so many details because he carried a black lantern, with a candle burning inside it which emitted a warm glow.
The man, standing still on the spot, shot a smile at Lilac. In a thick Scottish accent he spoke two words, pitching them so they were quiet but not a whisper and audible from Lilac’s position at the other end of the comfortably-sized bedroom. “Miss Alouette.”
Lilac smiled back.
Terrence took a moment to study her, holding out his lantern so its light was cast on her, before walking to the door and putting the lantern on the floor to remove his coat and hang it on the edge of the door. He then bent down to take off his boots. When he straightened up, he reached into a pocket of the coat he had been wearing and drew out a silvery grey box. He picked up the lantern and walked over to Lilac, who had been watching him silently all the while.
“Permission tae sit on the bed?” Terrence asked, placing the lantern on Lilac’s bedside table.
“Granted,” replied Lilac, moving sideways to make room for the man, noting as ever the difference between her Standard English accent and Terrence’s Scottish one. She looked at the box in Terrence’s hand inquiringly. “Is that for me?”
“How presumptuous are you?” Terrence teased.
Lilac lifted her gaze and met his directly, her heart tangibly becoming a little excited.
“Presumptuous enough,” she answered and leaned in to kiss the man’s mouth.
“Lilac,” Terrence gasped, startled. He pulled away, breathing heavily. “Just ... wait,” he said, though not unkindly. “Don’t you want tae see your present first?”
Lilac bit her lip at her own boldness.
“Oh. Yes. Sorry.”
Terrence shook his head.
“Don’t be. There are times when I want tae...” He trailed off, looking guilty, as though he’d said too much.
“Want to what?” Lilac pressed.
Terrence shook his head again.
“’Tis not for a wee lass tae hear.”
“Terrence,” Lilac said crossly. “I’ve told you about being sexist. I won’t stand for it. And I’m not a child either.”
Terrence looked apologetic.
“Sorry, Li. There are times when I want tae make love tae you.”
Lilac gasped artificially, faking horror.
“You keep your hands off me, you scary man.”
“If I’m scary, does that mean you don’t want your present?” he teased.
“Oh, no, please let me see it,” Lilac begged.
Terrence smiled and handed her the box he had been holding.
Carefully, Lilac opened the box, which was hinged along one side. When fully opened, music began to play - Grieg’s Morning. There was no visible mechanism for the production of the music, and it sounded as good as a CD recording of an orchestra performing the composition. The sound was so clear. And lying on a pale silver cushion was a single, polished, perfectly spherical pearl.
Lilac gasped in amazement.
“Terrence ... this is beautiful.”
“It’s no match for how I feel tae see you so happy,” Terrence murmured.
Lilac looked up. Terrence was looking at her very intensely.
Lilac swallowed, instantly both nervous and desirous.
“One day, Lilac Alouette,” he said, taking the box from her, closing it and putting it on her bedside table - all without once looking away from her - “you are going tae be my wife. I swear it.”
Lilac couldn’t speak. She sat there, paralysed as Terrence leant in towards her, subtly trapping her by laying his hand on the duvet on the other side of her. Her heartbeat accelerated as she felt his breath on her skin. She closed her eyes as his mouth found hers and he kissed her.