I wander out on the veranda, escaping the crush of people and perfume. I stroll to where the rail meets the wall and creates a small alcove to hide in. Shadows cover me as I stare out into the garden.
Couples are slipping off farther down the paths. Some part of me wonders what they do in the darkness, away from prying eyes. I have no experience with the opposite sex, not that I want any. I've found to my pain that my interest lies in another direction.
A boot scuffing the stone steps catches my attention and I shrink closer to the wall, praying that the ivy will hide me.
A man stands just outside the doors. He stares out over the garden and sighs. If I were anyone else, I would ask him why he sighs with such melancholy. Instead I pray he doesn't see me.
A gentle breeze blows towards me. I catch the scent of whiskey and man. My body tenses and I press farther into the shadows. This aroma has caught my attention before, but always in the midst of a crowd in a ballroom. My eyes strain to see the face of this elusive man.
Another man joins him on the veranda and I bite my lip to keep from whimpering. I can't be seen. If my father knew I snuck away from the ball, he'd punish me.
"Why are you out here instead of fending off the ambitious mothers back in there?" The newcomer gestures back to the house.
"I can't think while I'm in there, Harry. There's too much noise and it's far too hot for me." The first man looks up into the night sky.
"Thinking? What's bothering you that you need to run away to think about it?" Harry glances over his shoulder. "You can't spend too much time out here. Someone will come and drag you back in soon."
"An angel, Harry. I'm thinking about an angel." The longing in the man's voice brings tears to my eyes.
"Do you really think one exists?" Harry squeezes the man's shoulder.
"You found yours. My angel eludes me at every turn. But some day, I'll be able to hold mine. I know it." He glances up at the stars once more and turns to face the ballroom. "Let's go back in. I have no wish to be dragged back by some simpering maid."
I edge from my hiding place as they walk through the door. I want to look at this man who longs for an angel. The light bathes his blond hair, turning it to glistening gold. He's tall and masculine, dressed in black. He turns as if he knows I'm watching. Our eyes meet. His brilliant sky blue eyes light up with joy. He takes a step towards me and I whirl around, running from the veranda and into the dark garden.
I know I'm being foolish. The joy in his eyes is not for me. He must have seen another friend or a lady he loves. I can't control the shivers racing down my spine. It would be my ultimate dream to have a man such as him look at me with that much joy in his face.
I drop to my knees, retching as fear tangles in my heart. My back begins to ache. I can't think those thoughts. Father would chain me in my room for days if he knew I'd grown hard at the sight of that stranger. My father calls me a monster and I think he's right. For only a possessed man would wish for the touch of another man.
Yet a voice deep from my soul tells me that love is the most precious thing in the world. It doesn't matter who the lovers are as long as they love. It's hard to believe that when the wounds on my back begin to throb.
I climb to my feet, shaking with fear and despair. Love is not for me. I'm chained to this dark world and haven't the courage to break the links holding me down. An image of a golden god with blue eyes flashes through my mind and I know I'll always have a secret fantasy of someone loving me, no matter who or what I am.