There were only four of us at the start of the latest Steampunk Convention, unless you count the two ladies engaged in the tea duel, who speak to no one, but fix each other with steely stares over their cow biscuits and cups of tea, or the Samurai warrior who stands transfixed in some Zen-like meditative state. Just four – myself and the three gentlemen.
I am Alice. I was Mrs S’s first ever makeover. I permit myself to believe that I will always hold a special place in her heart for that reason alone. Then there was Bertie, the military gent who made maps of uncharted lands for the Ordnance Survey, Lars, the mysterious inventor who never removed those dark glasses and William, the rather aloof and dapper man with the dart-launcher chained to his arm.
We stood in a casual group on the stall, all secretly wishing that a new owner would arrive and transport us to a permanent home, ending our nomadic existence.
Bertie was the first to leave. Just imagine his delight when he discovered that his new guardian was to be the very same lady who had, on a previous occasion, purchased Leonora. A match made in heaven, we all agreed. We could imagine those two intrepid explorers heading off to discover new lands and treasures together. How could we be anything but delighted?
Lars was the next to depart. His new guardian was also a returning customer. The young man had bought that very worrying time machine with the flashing lights. I was glad to see that go. It made me nervous. Now here he was again, eyeing each of us intently and trying to decide which of us would be the machine’s inventor. Well clearly it had to be Lars. William would never get his hands grubby with oil or grease and – well – do I look like the kind of person who would go galivanting around in a time machine? Obviously not.
So by the end of the day, only William and I remained.
“Just you and myself, then Madam, it would seem,” he said, in a slightly strained voice.
“Indeed,” I replied, permitting myself to look into his eyes and notice that there was a certain softness in his expression which I hadn’t noticed before.
“Charming about Bertie and Leonora,” he said.
“It is,” I agreed, and found myself wondering, fleetingly, how it would feel to end up in the same home as William. Not too disagreeable, I felt.
“I never really got to know Lars,” I told him.
“Hmmph,” he snorted. “Very odd chap. Brilliant inventor, of course, but not – you know – someone I warmed to. We had, er, business dealings, but that was all.”
I nodded. I’d never before thought of William warming to anyone. But who can say?