Street rat. Street rat. Why do these words bother me so much? Lazarus asked himself. A brooding expression darkened his face as he leant across the table, his head resting in one hand, another book in the other. His blank gaze was fixed on his door from where he was sat at his table. He flipped the book over, laying it with the pages pressed to the wood, the leather spine groaning slightly as he pushed it down. Why am I always too distracted to practice my reading? Why-? His thought was cut off by a knock on the door. A scowl creased his brow as he rose. And why so many visitors, hmm? Why me?
"Yes?" He called, slowly sauntering over to the door, a lazy slouch marring his usually stiff, upright posture.
"It's me, you dolt," Annabelle replied. He could almost hear her rolling her eyes and as he opened the door, he smiled.
"Always so pleasant, Annie."
"Don't call me that," she growled, pushing past him.
"Why not? Annie is just as good as Anna, or Annabelle," he watched as she flopped into the chair he had just vacated, and sat on the piano stool instead, ignoring the loud creak it made as he perched on its edge.
"I just don't like it," she muttered, wrinkling her nose.
"I do," he sighed, leaning forward so his elbows were on his knees and his head was back in his hand again, his eyes following Annabelle's to the hairpin Melissa had given him.
"Attract the attention of a pretty lady last night, did you?" she smirked, picking it up and inspecting it.
"Yes, but I wouldn't say she's my type," he laughed slightly, "far too young. Even if she had been my age, I wouldn't have done anything about the attention I attracted. I'm James'," he reminded her and she nodded, running a thumb over the thin metal, making the pearls wobble delicately.
"Mmm... You could sell this, y'know. Must be worth a fortune."
"You can sell it. I make enough money from my music, now." She nodded thoughtfully, apparently already wondering where she might get the best price for the clip.
"Thank you," she murmured, pocketing the clip without further argument.
"Don't mention it. Has dad said anything about me lately?" he enquired, attempting to make his tone casual, as though only mildly interested. Though he hated to admit it, earning such thorough hatred from his father seemed only to make him want to please the man again, to be the good son he once strived to be. Annie smiled knowingly, brushing a lock of honey blonde hair from her face before even considering her answer.
"Only to curse your existence in a drunken rage. Though he won't be able to do even that soon. We're almost out of money. He lost his job at the oast houses and mending shoes isn't making much money at the moment." Lazarus nodded thoughtfully, rising and walking over to his bed where he laid down on his stomach, hanging off the end of one bed. His hand slipped under the rough mattress, prying up a loose floorboard to reveal a wooden box James had crafted for him. A rough inlay of other polished woods to form a pattern over its sides exposed an unpracticed hand attempting something new. But Lazarus loved it all the same. He unhooked the catch and scooped out a handful of his savings, passing them to Annabelle.
"Take it. But you are in charge of how it is spent. Don't let dad get his stupid hands on it, or that will have been a week of my life wasted in the pub." Annabelle's eyes widened as she silently accepted his gift with a nod. Smiling, he put the box back, replacing the floorboard over it. "I'm hungry, let's go buy dinner together," he said, taking her hand and pulling her up out of her seat.
The local market, while small, was a bewildering array of smells and sounds and sights. The smell of salted fish, lukewarm pies and fresh baked bread mingled with the stink of a heaving mass of villagers that clamored for the best bargain, vendors shouting out prices and customers desperately haggling for the best at a price they could afford. Lazarus pulled Annabelle through, looking at the stalls dubiously as a chicken clucked indignantly, avoiding people's feet with a clumsy skill.
"I know somewhere better," Lazarus said after a while, refusing to spend any money at any of the stalls.
"There's a servant at the Emerson's estate that's taken quite a shine to me, if you get my drift. I'm sure she'll slip us something good if I ask nicely."
"Ask nicely?" Annabelle snorted, "you? I don't think I've ever heard you ask anyone for anything nicely before." She paused dubiously as Lazarus tugged on her arm, trying to lead her in the direction of the estate. "I feel like a beggar already, and we're not even there!"
"It's not begging," Lazarus muttered, though he wasn't sure if it was Annabelle he was trying to convince. Street rat. He shuddered slightly, as though from a sudden chill.
"Of course," she sighed, giving in and letting him pull her away. "It's asking nicely, right?"