Gabriel's birthday party promised to be something of a formal façade where people pretended to have fun, celebrating Gabriel's eighteenth year, whilst showcasing their own wealth.
Lazarus was nervous. A concert involved him being on a stage, cut off from the rich people in a comfortable manner that meant he could show them his talent and slip away before they or his father could collar him and berate him for something or other. The arrangement for the ballroom, however, was completely different. The grand piano from the music room was moved to one end of the ballroom, opposite the buffet at the other end.
He'd been working hard to compose lively pieces for dancing, with accompaniments that would be standing nearby. But his heart sunk slightly, despite the energetic music in his mind, as he saw where he would be, so close to the people attending the party.
With a sigh, he greeted the other musicians, running through their music together before people were due to arrive. Gabriel watched with a smile as servants set out the cold foods and decorations and as Lazarus swore vehemently a violinist who hadn't practiced.
Green drapes with the family emblem emblazoned in gold upon them were hung proudly around the room, and candles in sparkling glass lanterns were set around the walls, creating an almost ethereal sense to the place. Lazarus half expected the fairies of childhood tales to creep out and start dancing, instead of people.
When people finally arrived, Lazarus' stomach was in knots. He hoped that no one paid more attention to him than appreciation in the backs of their minds for the music.
At first, Gabriel was busy greeting his guests, making small talk and mingling and they were all too busy eyeing up the buffet. Lazarus watched them all coming in as he played, almost whole families with daughters of a similar age trying to arrange Gabriel's marriage for him.
One family had brought their youngest daughter, who could be no older than six or seven. She was looking around at the musicians with interest lighting her eyes. Lazarus could see the fascination in her expression even from where he was sat. A few minutes passed before she slipped away from her family when no one was looking at her. She stood watching him play with gleeful eyes and a grin that stretched from one ear to the other.
Glancing at her, he smiled, before turning back to his score, wondering why she was staring.
"You're really good," she mumbled sheepishly, and he looked at her in surprise.
"Th-thank you," he let another smile curve his lips as he, along with the other musicians, changed the melody smoothly.
"Oh uh-" she blushed, stepping back a little, "you're welcome. It's umm... beautiful to listen to."
"Then you're possibly one of maybe three people appreciating it. No one else is paying attention," he laughed slightly, nodding over at the guests milling around near Gabriel, "they're supposed to be dancing."
"He's very popular, even amongst us. It's stupid," She blushed a little more, taking another step away from him she curtseyed. "I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to be rude."
"It's fine. Keep moving back away from me and I'll be talking to you from across the room," he smiled, his accent slipping ever so slightly.
"I-I'm afraid you'll hit me sir, I haven't quite learnt my proper respects yet. I do not wish to be rude by making mistakes," she murmured, earning a raised eyebrow from Lazarus.
"Hit you? Hitting people for what they do wrong doesn't help anyone," he muttered sullenly, his expression darkening a little.
"I know! But, it makes my fingers quicken on my bow I must admit," she laughed a little, slowly shuffling closer again each time his gaze returned to the score.
"What d'you play?"
"You don't need to call me ‘sir'," he muttered with a slight smile, remembering when he told Gabriel's maid, Emily, the same thing.
"Then what shall I call you, sir?" she asked tilting her head slightly.
"Lazarus is what most people call me," he laughed.
"Melissa," she curtseyed again, "but most people call me Miss Rose. It annoys me really," she sighed, not letting her gaze fall from his fingers dancing over the keys with a natural ease.
"Ahh, a pretty name for a pretty girl, hmm?" a smile tugged at his lips as he felt the knots in his stomach loosening just a little. So far no one besides Melissa had so much as glanced in his direction, let alone spoken to him.
"Oh," she blushed again, "thank you, si- Lazarus."
"Don't mention it," he murmured, turning the page of his score with one hand, while he continued the melody with his other, the practiced move looking as effortless as the playing itself.
"You truly are a wonderful player," she grinned again, "you must remember me when you become immortal." He looked at her curiously, recalling his conversation before about becoming immortal.
"Famous, it's just my way with words, apologies."
"Oh. No need. I doubt I'll be famous. But thank you anyway."
"Oh, aim high, Lazarus," she smiled, putting her hand into her brown curls she pulled out a small hairpin with a rose upon it and pearls hanging from it in a simple design, "and remember me, when you're famous," she continued to grin handing him the hairpin, even as a lock of her hair fell onto her face.
"I'll remember you," he nodded, smiling as he put the pin carefully in his pocket. Though the smile quickly faded as an angry man stormed over, reminding him of his father as he towered over Melissa irritably.
Her face fell as he grabbed her arm irritably, "what happened to meeting Gabriel hmm? You're meant to speak to the rich aristocrats, not petty street rats!" he raged. Lazarus' stomach twisted again, almost painfully and he was sure his dinner was about to reappear. How did the man know he was from the lower class? What else might he know? He felt as though his heart had not just sunk, but fallen out of his chest altogether, the hollow feeling of total fear paralysing him.
Melissa looked to Lazarus and scowled, turning to her father, "he is not a street rat, far from it! You've heard him play, he's a beautiful..." her sentence was cut off by a sharp slap as her father landed a blow on her cheek, knocking her back. She whimpered and Lazarus chewed on his lip a little.
"Apologies, sir. I must have distracted her," he muttered, bowing his head, though he didn't stop playing.
"He did nothing!" he objected furiously as he struck her again. She fell to the floor, holding her cheek and her father snarled, yanking her arm he pulled her up and out of the room. Lazarus wanted to follow and confront the man, but he was frozen. He couldn't move, even if he wanted to.