His hair was golden and it curved around his face like the petals of a flower. His eyes were an incredible shade of and gray, steely and cool like the blade of a newly forged knife. The music of the celebration wafted around him, but he heard only noise as he searched the room. He had come for one reason and he searched the guests for her. As he walked through the ballroom, the guests turned to stare at him. His beauty radiated like the cool light of the moon and he carried himself with such power and grace, slowly circling the floor, nodding to his associates with his lips pressed into a thin smile. And all the time he watched. Looking for the one.
She stood by herself, foot tapping to the rhythm of the music. She wanted to dance, but no one had noticed her. She was not dressed in paint and glamour like many of the other girls there tonight. She had a simple beauty that came from a pure and lovely heart. Her dark brown eyes sparkled in the candlelight and her dark brown hair flowed like a waterfall of soft curls down her back. She watched as the drunken ladies struggled to keep their footing while flirting with the dapper young men. She watched their brazenness and was embarrassed for them and amazed at their boldness at the same time. Perhaps if she drank the sparkling liquid on the silver trays someone would finally notice her.
As she lifted her delicate hand to summon one of the waitstaff over with the trays, a strong and gentle hand caught hers mid air and brought it to a pair of soft lips for a kiss. Surprised at the handsome man bowing before her, her other hand fluttered to her throat and self consciously pulled at a curl of her hair. He rose to meet her gaze and continued to hold her hand.
“May I have this dance?” he asked, his voice deep and rich. Unable to answer from her surprise, she simply nodded her head and felt her feet move her to the floor, almost as if they were separate from her body. It was as if the bones in her feet were magnets drawn by an invisible force to follow this beautiful creature wherever he might take her.
His eyes held hers, and though decorum said she should look away, she was captured there. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. His body felt strong and lean and he moved her around the dance floor like a master puppeteer moving her body with his to the rhythm of the music. Dance after dance, without rest, they swayed and circled and stepped and glided. All the while his deep gaze upon her. Finally, as the music slowed, he moved his head to break the hypnotic gaze and started to whisper in her ear.
His voice was like honey, sweet and thick and full of golden promise. He told her how special she was, how she was much better than the other girls. She was more clever and deserved to be treated as such. Then he went on to list the sins of each of the painted beautiful girls at the party. See that one there, he said, she lusts after one that is already married. That one there, she has sold her purity for that gilded gown and the jewels she wears. And that one, she has taken what does not belong to her with no regard for the pain she has caused because of it.
“But you,” he breathed sweetly, “you are special. Your purity shows through your face and your actions. I can reward you for this. You deserve it, you should be above all the others here tonight. Come with me and I will make you the one they speak of at parties to come. I will dress you in the finest silks and adorn you with diamonds and silver.” His eyes flashed cold gray flames within them as he looked deep into hers, “Just say that you will be mine forever. That you will offer me your lovely and pure soul for eternity.”
Her head was spinning and her heart felt as if it would burst from her chest. To be noticed! To be treasured and valued. To be thought of as worthy. It was all she had ever wanted. But the price, to offer was dear. And yet . . .
Just then, he came from the shadows. He had been watching intently. Standing on the edges of it all, waiting for this moment. He must move quickly, like a thief in the night. But not to steal what was not his, but to protect it from one who would openly steal what did not belong to him. He moved toward the couple and stood silently as they swayed to the last bars of music. As the song ended, the couple turned to see him standing close, still and strong, the gaze of his dark brown eyes holding them both.
Her partner stiffened in her arms and a flash of fear passed like a fast moving shadow across his face. “I see I am too late, another has come to claim you.” His eyes looked back into hers for a moment and she understood the message of the cold hard gaze. You have already chosen him, but I can still offer you more.
With a strong and powerful act of will, she broke her gaze with the gentleman and gave him a curt and simple bow and as she did, her beloved reached across and gently clasped her hand in his. It was worn and rough, a carpenter’s hand, a hand that served others. His simple suit bore no resemblance to the finery of her partner, but the strength that came from within him seemed to fill the room and extinguish the flames of the gentleman’s presence. The fine young dandy stared at his rival for a moment, then turned and walked quickly from the dance floor and disappeared into the shadows. Without his treasure, without his prize, his anger and frustration burned inside his soul and formed itself into a cluster of hateful accusations upon his partner. He slithered up to one of the painted ladies with particularly darkly lined eyes rimmed with drunkenness and whispered in her ear, “Look at that one over there. Isn’t she plain as a squirrel in the trees.” They snickered together. “And him, surely he has lost his way. The servants should be in the stables, slopping the muck from our fine animals.” The woman fell into a fit of snorts and giggles, dribbling her drink down the front of her beautifully embroidered gown, leaving stains of red against the gold and silver threads. He continued to fill her willing ears with lies and accusations, feeling the familiar power rise within him like the molten rock of a birthing volcano. The one he wanted had not chosen him, but there were many others who would choose to follow him. It was just a matter of finding their weakness. This one seemed to love the taste of gossip. She would be an easy prize to win.
As the music began again, the maiden felt her true partner’s strong arms circle her waist and hold her not too tightly, but in a way that spoke security and peace to her heart. The painted couples did not notice them, but she felt his fierce and devoted love for her. She knew that he would give his life for her and ask for nothing but her love in return. He would offer the gifts of the spirit, not of the flesh for her commitment and devotion. And he would give her worth and value beyond being one of the painted ladies at the dance. He had stolen her life, only to give it back to her with more. More love, more worth, more peace and more joy. She smiled as she looked in his eyes. She saw her future there, filled with love and care, with no promises of finery and wealth, but promises of eternal love and value and she thought, I have chosen my true partner. This is the one I am meant to be with. He is the one I love. And the music played, and they began the dance that would be their life together.