Sitting I began to braid my red, curly hair before I fell asleep. Something was going out outside my apartment building but it really didn't concern me as I watched the police cars line up across the street. Officers and SWAT teams were swarming the New York building and a large crowd had gathered. It had something to do with the note left by him.
He was the greatest thief New York had ever known, as he could seem to sneak into any building take whatever he wanted and even leave a note saying when and where his next heist would be. He was never late, never caught, and always got what he came for. No matter how much security, police and cameras there was the item was always lost and they never got a look at his face.
"M'lady? Your father is worried about your safety with the thief across the street. He doesn't believe that it's wise of you to stay here." Vanessa said without any accent at all and calmly as she walked into the room. Vanessa's only a year older than me, 19, but despite that she's been my bodyguard since I was fifteen. I was never sure why they hired her but she does her job well. I've never been hurt with her around and she's very helpful with my schoolwork because she graduated when she was only fourteen.
Why do I need a bodyguard? When I was little I was nearly kidnapped three times because my father owns one of the largest countries in the world and my mother is the second child of some European royalty. Not like I'm royalty or anything but my parents are rich enough to pay almost any ransom and as their only child I'm worth a lot.
"Just tell him to stop worrying. I've lived in New York my whole life and I'm not gonna stop just because of some crack pot thief!" I said with a huff, "And stop calling me m'lady. Your not in Europe any more!"
With the air of a smile around her tan face Vanessa replied aloofly, "Of course miss Marianna, but I do agree with your father that it might be better for you to stay somewhere else tonight." Vanessa was really pretty, she had long midnight black hair that went down to her hips a slender body and an aloofness that always made her seem so calm and reassuring to be around. She was like a natural chill pill.
"I'm going to bed! I suggest you do too! Anyway isn't tonight your night off?" I said with a huff.
"Indeed it is. That's why I came to check on you before I left. I'll see you in the morning m'lady and don't forget you have a physics lesson at eight." With that Vanessa walked out to do whatever it is on her days off. I started to muse about the idea of her actually having a boyfriend but it just seemed so un-Vanessa. I mean most guys like girls who acted all cute and emotional but I could never see Vanessa even batting an eyelash.
A knock came from the door, the gorilla that works for Vanessa poked his head in and said, "Mam the police have lost the thief across the street and want to check that he's not in your room. They'll only be a few seconds." The gorilla and two police officers came in check for a few seconds and walked back out without a word. The gorilla said goodnight and went back to his post. I opened my window to let the last few breaths of spring into my room as the late May wind began to change to the blazing hot summers that are so common here in New York.
I turned off the light and climbed into my bed. Just as I was nearly asleep I heard a strange sound and work up instantly. I wasn't a heavy sleeper, the exact opposite actually, I wake up to almost anything and all I heard was a whispered swear word coming from the window. Turning on the lamp next to my bed I saw a gun barrel pointed right down my face from across the window.
"Who-who-who is you?" I said hesitantly forcing the words out.
"Names aren't important. Be quiet, don't worry I won't hurt you."
"How-how can I believe you? You've got a gun to my face!" I said quietly.
"Shush." He said with glare, "If anyone knows I'm here I'll go to jail." He looked very familiar. He had dark hair and tan hair and his voice had a faint Spanish accent. He had long hair that feel in his face that he swept out of the way with his gloved hand. He was clothed in all black with the plain black bag in his hand.
"You're him aren't you?" I said excitedly, "The thief that was over in that building earlier tonight. You came to hide in my room because you know they already checked it."
"And you left the window open." He said with a faint smile and a nod.
The gun was still pointed at my face but I ventured to see if I could stop him from hurting me by getting him to talk, "You know that you're hurting a lot of people with all your heists. People who spent their whole lives working on those arts and money. It's not fair that you're taking their things."
It was weird seeing his impression, it was almost as if he was trying not to laugh at me or laugh at my thoughts. "Fair? Fairness doesn't exist in the real world you little princess. I doubt you've rarely been outside of this building." Gesturing to the pile of books on my desk and the white board behind it, "You probably do your schooling with private tutors here in this room. The kitchenette in the room through that door is where you cook and eat all your food. Am I right? How many times have you even been outside of this apartment building?"
"Not very many times… not in at least five years." I said quietly, "The last time that I can remember is when I was thirteen and I went to go see my grandfather's funeral in Sweden, my mother's father."
"You don't know what my life's like princess. Don't try to. Just keep quiet until I can leave. You can go back to sleep. Don't worry I won't hurt you." He said with a small smile as if he was trying to convince me. "This room is soundproof isn't it? The walls are so thick…"
"Yep. I had trouble sleeping a lot when I was little so my dad had the walls soundproofed."
"I hope you realize that leaving your window open isn't going to help at all." His eyes continued to search the room. Looking out the window we both saw the last of all the police cars in front of the street leave. We both just sat looking at them drive away and about fifteen minutes passed without a single word between us.
"Sorry for disturbing your sleep princess. I'll be leaving you now." He kept the gun pointed at my face he began to climb through the window.
"I'm Marianna. Can I know your name?" I said as he was almost out the window.
"Names Alex. But don't worry you won't ever need it." and he disappeared. I never told anyone that I'd seen him, not even Vanessa but I kept thinking about him. So when it was revealed by the press that his next heist was a block away from me three days after this one I was sort of happy. Maybe we would be able to talk more with him. I couldn't get him out of my mind and it was easy for Vanessa to tell.
"Snap out of it!" a slap resounded around the back of my head, "Your anagrams are wrong you need to continue to divide until the thousandth, not the hundredth." Math was my least favorite subject so when Vanessa was mean in it I just knew it was because she was frustrated with me. Tonight Alex would make another heist. How can math compare to that?
The day continued at a snails pace. So when night finally came I was so happy. 9:30 the clock said. Vanessa's shift ended every night at ten and the heist was at eleven. A few minutes later Vanessa got me ready for bed and departed. The night gorilla came on and stood outside my door and Vanessa went downstairs to her apartment, which I've actually never seen. I wonder what it looks like? Is it like mine? Comfy but a little lifeless? It was so hard to stay awake and I slowly fell into a REM cycle.
Sitting up suddenly I saw my light was still off but I could dimly make out some one just sitting there, looking at me. I turned on my lamp and saw Alex just sitting in my desk chair watching me sleep. "Hello princess."
Over the next four months I saw Alex two or three times whenever he had a heist on this side of town. Talking to him was like the breath of fresh air I wasn't supposed to have. It was just invigorating to listen to him talk about the outside world. And his family that was so different from mine.
"I'm the oldest in my family, with eight kids and no father I'm basically the man of the house." He revealed one night in late July.
"What happened to your father?"
Looking at me with a small smile he replied, "He died back when I was I5. Since then I've always had to take care of my brothers and sisters and mother. That's the reason I steal princess."
"Wait so he died when you were 15? How old are you now?" I said eagerly.
"That's none of your concern princess!" He had replied with a laugh.
I loved spending time with him. Vanessa was nice but she communicated and was with me because she was paid to, but Alex choose to. That was something even my parents couldn't do for me. Vanessa even almost came in on us. I had been sitting with my computer on when she rushed open the door. Alex had come early that night and we had been talking through the window where he was latched above my thirty-story apartment; he has no fear of heights apparently. Vanessa had come in saying that she'd heard voices. She checked my room and left muttering that she was just tired. She went off duty ten minutes later so we were okay that night.
As Halloween came closer and closer our conversations started to focus on it. Alex was always so kind sounding when he talked about his siblings; there was always a special look in his eyes. It was so easy to tell that he was good with children and that he absolutely adored them.
"Hannah wants to be a princess. She is so cute. She has long curly dark hair, but her skins a lot paler than mine, so she looks a lot like a fairy tale snow white. Not the Disney one of course." He said with a laugh.
"I've never done anything with Halloween," I said.
"No Trick or Treating?"
"Not even dressing up?"
"Nope." I said with a shrug.
"Damn. You really are a princess!" he stayed silent for a second and then continued, "Well my next heist is on Halloween! Why don't I take you to a Halloween party? It'll be fun!"
Blushing I replied, "Are you sure? We could get in a lot of trouble?"
Unabashed his reply came with a smile that made my heart melt, "I'm sure!" By that time I'd already known that I was in love with Alex. I couldn't help it. He was the worst possible guy for me. We had nothing in common, I'd never worked in my life, and he'd spent his whole life working for others. I'd rarely been outside my high-class apartment while he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. But I was still in love with him.
Halloween took a long time to come. And Vanessa was getting impatient with me more than ever. I was having more and more trouble focusing on my schooling and it was easy to see that Vanessa's aloof attitude was starting to crack from frustration. I knew I was making her job harder for her than it needed it to be but I couldn't help it. Eventually she figured it out.
"You're in love aren't you?" she said as my mind wandered off our chemistry lesson, "Don't worry I won't tell anyone but if you need any advice you can ask me. But I'm curious who is it? One of those people you talk to on the internet, because if it is girl you are in for a world of hate."
Blushing I started to work on my homework and Vanessa kept quiet for about thirty minutes. But then she said the unthinkable, "I wonder how your father with see this. I think you can tell him yourself when you see him on the thirty-first."
"The thirty-first? You mean of October?"
"Of course what else would I mean? Of November?" Vanessa said, "He'll get here at about five for dinner with you. I would plan my words carefully."
"Please don't tell him. Please I beg of you."
"He already knows." Gasping I struggled to figure out how he could already. Vanessa continued, "I've been guessing it since early September and when he heard of your lowering performance in school and your lack of focus that's what he guessed as well. I had nothing to do with it. Of course I got yelled at for all my trouble."
We both worked with the least amount of conversation possible. Later that night I was still worried and I wanted to talk to Alex so badly but there was no way to unless he came and he wouldn't until he Halloween and then my father would catch him. It seemed so hopeless. I sat with my head against the wall. Vanessa had just left and forgotten to close the door. Maybe I could run away, I thought as I heard the gorilla and Vanessa start to converse.
"I heard you're getting the can." The gorilla said almost happily.
"Yes I am being fired. I've already been paid up to the thirty-first so I'm just here to work off my last two weeks."
The gorilla continued without even seeming to listen to Vanessa response, "Boss says I get your job."
"Are you sure you can deal with her?"
"What are you talking about all she does all day is play on her computer?" the gorilla said with an almost insulting tone.
"Yes when your normally on duty but when I'm on duty I have to make sure she does her schooling and exercises, eats right and gets all of music lessons done. That requires knowing how to do all of those things I hope you realize." Vanessa said calmly. Now I know why Vanessa got the job! She's a bodyguard and a teacher all in one!
It was easy to tell that the guard was now dumbfounded but I now had an idea. What if I could get Vanessa to help me find Alex? She might have an idea. Or if she couldn't what if she waited for him and got him away before father found him? That could work.
At first it was obvious that Vanessa didn't believe me. But as I spoke with her more and more she said she could run a check to see if anyone cleared with that information.
Two days later we got a hit.
There were two families who had lived in New York during the last twenty years that had nine children, a dead father and at least one person in their family named Alex. Both families also had the names the other siblings that had fit the names of Alex's other siblings that I knew of.
The day of Halloween Vanessa went out to both families and to find my Alex. I never heard her side of the story about talking to the families because just seconds after she got to the apartment, so did my father.
He came up to my apartment immediately. At first we avoided the upcoming conversation. We had a very quiet dinner with Vanessa standing by the side of the table ready to help with anything. I'd had trouble seeing how Vanessa could do this job. It involved taking care of others for no recognition. She almost seemed like a servant in some aspects. With her pride and ability to just still seem above everything made it seem like she could never be happy doing this job but I'd never even seen her doubt doing this job.
I was so scared. What would father do? I don't think I could survive without my family, I know I don't see them much but I've never been without someone to help me. I know I can leave this apartment now that I'm eighteen. Technically I've already finished high school. My tutors have been for college for the last two months but I don't need that to be happy, do I?
But would I be able to survive in the 'real' world as Alex calls it. I don't think I could unless I had help and I still don't know where Alex is and soon Vanessa will be gone.
When dinner finished Vanessa announced that I need a shower immediately because my father had come just as she finished her daily exercises. I didn't doubt what Vanessa said so father stepped out and Vanessa got some clothes together and stopped me from climbing into the shower just yet.
"I found him. I had to wait a few hours but I found him. I couldn't stop him from coming later tonight but he asked me to give you this. He says he'll be here at midnight and for you to be ready to leave and that you'll understand when you open it." Vanessa said quickly and quietly as she handed me a small package and started my shower.
I opened the small brown pack carefully and inside was a small plain box and a letter. Taking the letter I unfolded it to reveal Alex's handwriting, exactly the ones from the notes he left at the heists. It was simple and short.
Excuse me that I can't say this to your face,
but I don't want to wait any longer or let your
father hurt you in any way. Marianna, my naïve
little princess, would you marry me? I love you.
I stared at the note in my hand started to cry. It almost felt to good to be true, I couldn't believe we felt the same way. We'd never even kissed and all of a sudden he wanted me to marry him. I opened the small box and found a small ring, it wasn't big or even very pretty but I loved it all the same. Sliding it onto my finger I got into a quick shower and got ready to face my father. Just before Vanessa let him in I stole a glance at the clock. Eleven thirty. Thirty minutes to get out of here.
"Marianna, as the sole heir to my company we need to make sure that whoever you marry is ready to take over the company so I have arranged for you to be married to one of the youngest members of the board at my company. He's only thirty-two or so it's not a big deal and he's good at business. He would be an excellent owner of the business someday. We'll arrange a meeting for the two of you sometime next month."
"No!" I shouted. Hearing my voice practically made father and Vanessa jump backwards, "I can't marry-ma-marry him…"
"Why? Because you fell in love with someone over the Internet? Don't you realize that they're only predators on there?" Father scoffed at me, "Idiot girl. I've arranged a good man for you so deal with it."
"I'm not some internet predator." Growled Alex from the window, he had his gun out and pointed at my father's head. "Sorry that I'm early princess and miss Vanessa but traffic was actually quite light tonight. Not to mention that the heist had less security than usual because it's Halloween."
"Vanessa! Take him out!" My father basically yelled.
"Sir I hope you're not referring to me," Vanessa said calmly, "My final shift under your employment ended two hours ago. Technically I don't have to do anything."
"Marianna," Alex reached out his hand to me and pulled me up. Bring me close to him lightly kissed my lips. "I should have said this sooner, but I love you." With a gun still pointed at my father he kissed me again.
* * * * * * * * * *
"Vanessa! Ella! Ben! Mark! Time for dinner!" I called out holding baby Alice. Ben, a kindergartener, came in holding a soccer ball that he had been playing with and went upstairs to put it in his room. Close on his heels was two-year-old Vanessa who came in and went straight to her father. Alex, with his eyes sparkling picked her up and spun her around. The twins, Ella and Ben came in holding hands like they did everywhere they went. They took Vanessa and went to wash their hands. Alex, Alice and I were the only ones in the room at this moment.
"Marianna," Alex said very suddenly with a very serious look, "I want you to know that you will always be my one and only princess."
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