Chapter 5:

Interlude: Nora and Theo part II

Shadows of the Elite

Theodore graduated early from the university, and it appeared that his friendship with Eleanor had not ended well. As a graduating physicist, chemist, and detective, he embarked on his own journey to explore the world, which lasted for three years.

While he was resting in a town in the south of the kingdom, waiting for his train, his eyes fell upon a man in a black cloak, obscuring his face. Theodore's curiosity got the better of him, and he followed the man for a while. The man walked in circles, sometimes passing the same streets twice, avoiding the crowds at times and using them as a cover on other occasions. However, he couldn't escape Theodore's curious gaze.

Finally, the man stopped next to a carriage and took a gun out of his cloak's pocket.

"Show your face, or you won't need to," Theodore calmly stated.

Theodore walked casually towards the man. "Don't worry, I'm here in peace. I was curious when I saw you from afar," he stopped and then asked, "What do you sell here?"

The man put away his gun and smiled. "A client? You could have said that from the beginning," he walked towards the carriage and opened a door, then yelled, "Get out!"

A young girl, around her early twenties, dark-skinned, with brown hair and light grey eyes, got out. She was barely wearing anything, and from the context, one would conclude she was a slave.

"From India, you'll never see such a masterpiece elsewhere," the man declared.

Theodore took some money from his pocket and gave it to the man, then turned to the girl. "Do you speak any English?"

She nodded.

"Great, let's leave this place."

He took her hand and walked as fast as he could. He wasn't a man with overflowing purses, but he was a man of intuition. He thought excitedly that he might teach her what he knew, a joy only ones like him could understand. More than that, Theodore wanted someone to talk to about something he had kept to himself.

They walked together, bought her some food and clothes, and after many tries, he got her to speak. She was actually the one to initiate the conversation.

"S... sir..."

"Call me Theodore."

Shyly, she continued, "Sir, can you let go of my hand, please?"

He realized that he hadn't released her hand since he first took it. "What's your name?"

She didn't answer. Many slaves had spent so much time in servitude that they had forgotten their families, homeland, and even their names.

They both maintained an awkward silence before she spoke, "I'm sorry, I don't know what I'm supposed to do from now on."

"It's okay. I'll tell you everything at dinner."

They spent the whole day together, and Theodore ended up missing his train, so he stayed until the next day.

He bought some meat for dinner, nearly exhausting the last of his money. However, he didn't care about money. He'd steal or work as if there was no difference between the two. While eating, the girl kept staring at him before he spoke.

"It'd be better if I gave you a name."

She nodded, unable to hide her happiness. "Layla, I'll be calling you that from now on."

"Thank you very much, sir."

"So, Layla, I bet you have a lot of questions, and I'll answer all of them, just don't interrupt me," he thought, "as if she'd say anything."

She started looking at him with excitement for the story.

"When I was younger, I lo-" he paused thoughtfully, "indeed, I loved a woman, inexplicably, to the deepest point imaginable. Call it folly, call it obsession, I have no words to express it. As a scientist, my domain isn't feelings. We would look at each other, and I asked her to be my rival, and I asked her to be my ally. We would sit next to each other, but she wouldn't ask for help, even if she needed it. She wouldn't ask for anything, and I couldn't figure it out on my own. She could address a whole crowd, telling them what they should do, but she would never tell me what I was supposed to do.

The closer I stayed to her, the more I wanted to get closer, but when I distanced myself from her, I started to understand the limits of my desire and surpassed them.

The day I had to leave, I realized we would never be together. It was the first time I asked her to do something. It's really embarrassing the way I said it, but she was smarter and stronger than me. Eleanor knows that her dream is worth more than a friend."

"Why can't you both be together and help each other to achieve your dreams?" Layla asked.

Theodore gave a poetic smile and closed his eyes. "We're both so twisted to be together."

Theodore's attention was caught by a police officer talking to a shopkeeper. The shopkeeper pointed at Theodore, and the officer looked at him and started walking toward his direction.

"Alright, let's move," Theodore said, taking Layla's hand, and they began running and hiding from the police.

It's true that he was a detective, but when you got to know that man well, you could predict which methods he'd employ to achieve his goals, as "twisted" as he'd say.

He walked for a few minutes before seeing a poster of himself. After reading the poster, he angrily threw it away, while Layla looked at him with an intrigued expression.

"Apparently, I murdered someone... I need more information. I'll solve this case for you!"

Layla continued to watch Theodore, wondering who he was talking to but having a strong feeling that deep inside, she knew the answer.