"Hmmm... Hrm... Mmph... Humn... Uh? Eh?" Allan had been having a rather random dream. Nothing made sense, and all he could do was grunt. This eventually woke him up, and led him to look around the room. She's gone? ...Oh. Yeah. I suppose I must have been half asleep when she left... I remember her mentioning it. I think. He stood up and stretched his back, bending over quite far. He sprang back up like a stiff board, then relaxed his body to a normal state. "Hmm... Oh!" Allan turned to the top of the dresser, and his eyes widened. Oh dear! I have to find Leonna, and bring her there! He quickly washed up, changed into his formal clothing, then picked up the boxes, and charged out the door with vigor.
Allan didn't bother to search through the town for Leonna. He figured she would want to be where she was comfortable, where she was more 'at home' then a city. He went straight for the closest exit from the town that he could find, and looked around. It wasn't too long before he spotted a familiar grey cloak. Ah-ha! There she is. She seems to be coming back to town. Allan ran back into town, and hid behind some boxes, waiting for Leonna to come. After a few minutes, he saw her stroll back in, somewhat cautiously, but with a sense of purpose. Allan walked out from behind the boxes, and followed her for a while. She never looked back, but he sensed she knew someone was following her, because her pace increased, and her path became slightly erratic, like she was trying to shake him off. Allan broke off and took a path through an alley-way, which was a shortcut between where Leonna was, and where she would be if she stayed on that path.
Luckily for Allan, she had, so after a minute or so of waiting for her, he saw her turning the corner. As she passed by him, she stopped without looking, then turned slowly. Allan stepped forward and greeted her. "G'day, milady!" He carefully balanced the boxes in his left hand, while bringing his right arm in front of himself, and bowing. "I have a bit of a surprise for you." He rose and held the boxes in front of himself. "However, this is not the place to open them, let us go elsewhere." Without a moment's pause, Allan grabbed Leonna's wrist, and dragged her off, with clear joy.
The journey was a short one, and ended at the ballroom where Leonna had met Allan that second time. There was no one around but a single man outside the main door. Allan requested entrance, and was allowed in. He took Leonna to a table, then set the boxes down. "Now... Just don't faint, or anything, please." Those words puzzled Leonna, but she stood there as Allan opened the first, small box. In this box where two petite silver-colored shoes, each with a diamond on the front, lined by grey feathers.
Allan opened the second box. Inside were a golden necklace with a ruby hanging from the middle, a golden bracelet with small rubies lining it, a silver tiara with thee diamonds on it, and a pair of gold-satin gloves, that would reach up two-thirds of Leonna's arms.
Then... Allan opened up the last, biggest box... Inside, was a gold-colored shawl. Allan removed it, placing it aside, then removed the final item... It was a full-length white ballgown, just as he had seen in his dream, with the golden lace ribbons on the waist and everything. Allan had such a huge smile on his face when he looked at Leonna's now massive eyes. "Would you care to dance?"
"A...Allan, I..." I found it hard to obey Allan's request not to faint. Since my arrival into this town, I had seen many beautiful and fine things, but none of them matched the splendor of what he placed in front of me. I had heard of precious metals and stones, but I had never really imagined that I would see them, much less wear them!
The pirate grinned at my response, obviously pleased with my shock. There was no way I could refuse such a thing after the obvious expenditure Allan had spent, but to accept it? Did he not remember from our last meeting that I could not dance? I would probably end up tripping and tearing the lovely dress, or I would maim the shoes in such a way that all their splendor would be for naught. The very idea of a clumsy person like me wearing such things was absolutely mortifying!
But of course Allan would have none of that. He led me to what he called a 'dressing room', then told me I could change my clothes in there. I went inside obediently, clutching his gift nervously in my hands. After I closed the door behind me, the din of the ballroom was pleasantly muffled, and I found that the room was empty of people, save for a stout maid watering a large plant in the corner. Even in this room, the walls were elegantly painted with delicate patterns of white and gold. The floor itself was not made from wood like most of the other buildings I had seen, but of smooth marble tiles that felt quite cool to the touch. All along the fine walls were dark wooden counters, topped with the same fine stone as the floor, with delicate flowers carved into their wooden surfaces.
Perhaps the most elegant thing in the room, however, was the golden framed mirrors along the long wall to my left. They reached from the ceiling down to the counter, their flawless surfaces reflecting the splendor of the room. I hesitantly stepped in front of one, feeling quite mangy surrounded by such fine things. My face was more pale than usual, but I was relieved to see at least that I was clean. The dirt was gone from my homespun clothes, but they looked like rags when compared to the fine silky dress I held in my arms. My hair still held its golden luster, though it was more prominent in the honeyed light of the candles. As I gazed at the simple braid, I figured I would have to find some way to do it up in a more fitting manner for Allan's gift.
"Need some help?" The maid had turned away from the deep green plant, smiling reassuringly at my desperate expression. When I nodded, she came over to me at once, as if I had given her a direct order. Though I was embarrassed for needing help dressing, the woman seemed to think it was completely normal, and with her help, I was soon in the silky white dress. I was surprised to see how many buttons it took to keep the thing on, and it felt strange to have something covering my back so completely.
"So, who's the lucky young man?" The maid asked casually as she clasped Allan's ruby pendant around my neck. Before I could answer, she leaned out from behind me, looked at the mirror I was standing in front of and clicked her tongue. "Oh, no, no, no! That hair simply won't do!"
Before I could protest, the woman pulled out my braid, not bothering to be gentle. After a few minutes of straining and tearing at even the small, sensitive hairs on the back of my neck, the maid had my hair up in an elegant bun. She had left a few curly strands to dangle at the back of my neck and around my face, but everything else felt like she had tied it in a tight knot. As a final touch, the maid put on the sparkling tiara, and I had to bend down to allow her to put it on properly.
"There, now, don't you look lovely?" The maid turned me around to face the mirrors again, and this time, I hardly recognized myself. My skin seemed to be a richer peach against the pure white of the dress, and I saw that my blue eyes were even more obvious with them shining along with the fine jewelry Allan had given me. The plain bodice of the dress fit snugly against me, but the skirt billowed out from the waist, emphasizing the curve there. While most of the dress was plain, it was very shapely, the folds of the dress looking elegant as they swept to the floor. This design was also complimented by the golden ribbons tied about the waist, which sparkled like stars against the lustrous fabric.
There was just one problem with all of this beauty. It was terribly uncomfortable, but not for the reasons I had expected. The silk fabric of the dress was incredibly light and smooth, feeling almost like water against my skin. Not being the sturdy woolen clothes I was used to, the dress made me feel cold and vulnerable, and I was terribly afraid of tripping over its long skirt. The fine shoes beneath it felt just as delicate, and I felt guilty for having to scrape such beautiful things against the floor. Once I had the gloves, bracelet and shawl on, I was afraid that Allan had made a terrible mistake. Such things were for ladies of his kind, not dusty hermits who never would have dreamed of being in such finery!
"Oh, come now! Don't be looking so nervous. Though I must say, that blush of yours suits you nicely. I think your man will be pleased." The maid seemed quite pleased with herself, and she gathered my cloak, staff, and clothes in her arms. "These will be waiting here once you're through."
"W...wait! I do not have a man! Nor can I...I cannot dance!" This confession came out rather awkwardly, as I found myself stuttering and again feeling quite faint.
The maid merely rolled her eyes as she set my things on a nearby counter. "What, you mean you just came here to sit? What sort of lady doesn't know how to dance?"
"A rational one!" I turned and stormed out indignantly, using every bit of my concentration to not trip over the dress. Upon exiting, I was met again by the music playing somewhere within the brightly lit room, and the laughter of couples as they talked and danced across the floor. I had expected that Allan would be waiting for me, but even if a hundred years had passed, I still would not be ready. He was leaning against the wall quite casually, the golden buttons of his coat gleaming elegantly in the warm light. I could not help but notice how well he seemed to fit in here, so elegant and lively at the same time. His sharp eyes went straight to me as I approached him, and I was unable to think of a time when I had been more nervous. I stopped right in my tracks, clasping my hands together anxiously, and tried very hard not to think about what might happen next.
Once Allan's mind registered that this beautiful woman before him was Leonna, he shot straight up, and nearly stumbled to the ground. He regained his composure, and stood in front of Leonna, offering her his hand. Smiling, he bowed for a moment, then asked that question.
"May I have this dance, milady?" Leonna seemed a bit flustered, but after Allan reassured her this dance would be slower, she took his hand, walking with him to one side of the room, away from the tables. Allan moved in slow enough circles that Leonna could keep her feet steady, but fast enough that he didn't look like a snail. He quietly explained how to move in circles, while keeping her feet off the dress, and after a short time of this, started to go a tad faster. Each time he went fast, he allowed Leonna to adjust, then sped up again. Eventually the two were dancing, albeit simply, at the same pace as the other couples on the floor.
After a moment, Allan pulled two, elegant, gold and silver masks, topped with white feathers, out of his coat, and placed one over Leonna's face, and the other over his own. While not looking like anything in particular, the masks, which only covered the top of their faces, had the feel of a bird's features. Allan had also made sure that these masks were easy to see through, unlike the pirate mask he'd grabbed before. "Leonna, you are an amazing woman. Before I leave... I have one request to make of you..." The two stopped dancing, and looked at each-other.
I stared at Allan in complete confusion, surprised by both his compliment and request. He wanted me to keep dancing? Then why had we stopped?
"Ah...I am not sure...what you meant." Was he speaking metaphorically or literally? It was terribly dull of me to ruin the moment like I was, but in all fairness, it did not make much sense. Against better reason, I wanted to keep dancing with him, though I felt awfully nervous. His strong arms were the only things keeping me from drowning in the crowd of elegant skirts and boots swirling all around us. Allan had such a pleasant smell, too, now that I thought about it. I could smell the warm ocean on him, though I felt this was more of his essence, not his physical scent. He had never admitted to liking the ocean, but it seemed so much a part of him. His sun touched skin and strong body seemed as if they had been formed by the ocean itself, and in a sense, that was true. Living on a boat, especially as a pirate, required all of the features that Allan had, and these had been given to him by his parents and his life on the sea.
And then Allan started moving again. I followed his dance steps as best as I could, moving much more gracefully than before. I found that I was breathing rather heavily, but it was not from the physical exertion of dancing. Despite Allan's calm and reassuring expression, my heart was pounding, mostly because it was so overwhelming to be surrounded by such grandeur. Though I was doing my best to stay calm and together, I began to feel a familiar dizziness make its way into my head...
"I mean... I want you to dance, even when I leave. I want you to practice, to participate. You can be such a good dancer... I can tell now. For me, please... Keep practicing!" He twirled Leonna around twice, right to a table, then sat her down, for she clearly had become dizzy. He glanced at the main door, having caught a glimpse of someone he knew there. It was Jothan, and he waved to Allan. "Leonna, I have to go now, admittedly, much sooner than expected. Please, keep the dress and everything, and keep dancing, for me. I can't anymore. When you healed my leg, it strengthened the bone, but now it's back to the way it was... Just this dance was hard enough for me, but worth it. I doubt I'll ever see you again, but I must take my leave.... Farewell, Leonna, I won't forget you!" He took the glove off her right arm, then kissed her hand, before bowing to her, and turning away, mixing into the crowd... out of sight.
----- ------ -----
On the way back to the inn, Allan was completely silent, which Jothan thought odd. Allan was saddened, but kept his face stern, not wanting to show how he really felt. The walk felt so long... Weren't they there yet? It took longer than Allan expected, but he had finally reached the inn, and went right for his room. He quickly collected his things, and had two of his crew take them to the ship. He walked into the lobby, and then to the clerk, asking for a small container. He was handed a little container, made of glass, and shaped like a tube. It had a lid that could be clamped on, and this pleased Allan. He ran back to his room, then scooped up as much of the sand that had fallen from Leonna's boots as her could, then closed the top, and locked it. The container was small enough that Allan could secure a string to it, and wear it as a necklace, and he did just that. "I won't forget you..." He walked out of the inn slowly, then trekked off to his ship, not wanting to leave, but knowing he had to go.
----- ----- -----
Everything was ready. The anchors were up. The ship was untied. It was moving slowly out of its place in the dock. Allan looked absentmindedly at the port, lost in thought. But he was pulled back into reality when he saw a certain someone, waving at him. He perked up, smiled, and waved back. Once he could no longer see Leonna in the crowd, he turned around, and went to his cabin, sitting down on his bunk, and looking at the sand. "I won't forget you..."
I watched the ship sail off from the rickety dock with a heavy heart, though I had known this moment would come. Allan belonged to the sea, and I had instinctively known where he had meant to go when he said goodbye. Whatever circumstances had caused him to leave so early left me sad and puzzled, but there was also a strange happiness within me. In my bag, where I had stuffed all of my clothes into in my hurry to leave the dance, there was still Allan's shell, and I reached in to touch it as I watched the boat move away.
Clutching the smooth pink shell in my left hand, I touched the back of my bare right hand where Allan had kissed me. I hugged both to my chest, not forgetting for a moment all of the kind things Allan had done for me. I was still wearing the lovely dress he had given me, though my cloak was now covering the silky material. For a moment, just the slightest one, it almost felt as if Allan was with me, holding me in his arms and telling me not to be afraid.
"No matter where you are, if you put a shell like that to your ear, you can hear the waves of the ocean. Keep it with you, and you'll never be far from the ocean."