The cold night air hit Artem like a cold punch in the chest as he stepped outside. The street was almost deserted, apart from the odd person walking home late, something Artem would not have advised in this part of town. There were far too many thieves about.
Why am I letting her get to me? Artem thought as he stormed down the street, anger still pumping through his veins. Why does it matter what she thinks of me anyway? She’s just a stuck up little brat who’s used to talking down to people. What more did I expect of her? He took a kick at a small object, hidden by the darkness, but as soon as his foot met the object, he knew he had been stupid. His foot met the object with a resounding thud and Artem held back an expletive with great effort.
‘What the hell was that?’ He knelt down to see what it was he had tried to attack, only to find that it was only a bit of cobble that was out of place. ‘Stupid thing,’ he muttered as he limped on. The fire was beginning to die inside him by the time he reached the end of the street. I mean, what does she know about it? OK so I’m not an assassin or a hit man or anyone who needs to use violence, but that doesn’t mean I’m not strong. I just use my strength in a different way.
He continued his internal monologue, justifying everything Ena had said, trying to make himself feel better. Then as he passed a house with an open window on the first floor, a reckless idea popped into his head. That’ll prove I’m not just a petty thief he said to himself, smiling. She wouldn’t mock me then.
Looking up at the open window, the room pitch black behind it, he considered his options. In the end, his pride won and he approached the house. By now he’d turned off the main street and down a little road running off it. He looked left and right to check there was nobody around, and then started climbing up the rough brick wall towards the window. He felt the familiar adrenaline rush as he reached the windowsill and swung his legs up and into the room. He landed silently, keeping perfectly still as his eyes adjusted to the darkness and he began to assess the room. It was a bedroom; he could see the dark shape of a bed in the centre of the room and a dressing table against the other wall. That was his target.
Taking his first step, he pressed very lightly down on the floorboards to check for creaks and when there was no noise he progressed slowly and carefully across the room. He reached the dressing table without making a sound. He carefully opened drawer after drawer, looking for something he could steal, something he could give to Ena to prove he was a ‘proper criminal’. When there was nothing in the draws he sighed inwardly in disappointment. Then he spotted the box on the surface.
There was a stirring behind him and Artem froze. He hadn’t realized there was someone sleeping in the bed. Rookie mistake he scolded himself. You’re still safe, they haven’t seen you. Just take the box and leave.
He picked up the small wooden box and crossed the room with the same care as he’d shown the first time. As he reached the window the person in the bed stirred again and he stopped, leg half raised towards the windowsill, the box under his arm. There were a few grunts and sighs, but because there were no exclamations of horror at the sight of someone else in the room, Artem assumed he was safe. He descended the wall with ease, landing on his feet. He strolled off down the street, feeling pleased with himself. Well of course I was going to be able to do it.
‘Stop! Thief!’ With horror in his eyes, Artem turned to see the night watchman running at him, blowing his whistle and shouting for him to stop. Artem began to run. There was no way he would be able to explain the box under his arm, the watchman had obviously seen him climbing out of the window so there was no other way to get out of this was to run. It was a concept Artem wasn’t used to. He hadn’t been caught stealing for years, and it was only his bloated confidence and pride that had caused him to be careless and forget to check the street below before he left the window.
He didn’t know Amea very well and was soon lost as he pounded his way down street after street, taking sharp turns to try and throw his pursuer off his tail. Luckily for Artem, the night watchman was a slightly podgy man in his late fifties, so wasn’t in his peak of fitness like Artem was, and he soon fell behind. But Artem didn’t stop running until he was sure he’d lost him. But when he finally did stop, he had no idea where he was. He wandered along street after street, keeping to the shadows so he couldn’t be seen, hoping that he would eventually find his way back.
It seemed that luck was on Artem’s side that night, as he finally made it onto a street he recognized after only an hour of aimlessly wandering around. Another hour later and he was walking in through the entrance of the inn and up the stairs to bed. He opened the door quietly, unsure if Ena was still awake or not. The room was dark except for the small glow of dying embers from the fire, which gave the room a warm orange colour.
Ena was lying, fast asleep, in her bed, her hair spilling over the side of the mattress and her face calm. Suddenly Artem forgot what they had been fighting about to begin with. It all seemed so petty now, when all his anger had gone and he looked at this girl, so fragile and vulnerable in sleep. He moved across the room and knelt beside Ena’s bed. He leant over and kissed her forehead.
‘I’m sorry Ena. I didn’t mean it.’ He knew he’d have to apologize again the next day, but he felt it was appropriate to say he was sorry now. ‘Good night.’ He walked away from her bed and climbed into his own, hiding the jewellery box under his bed.