The night was still young, the two friends were obsessively seeking for new tricks, they were performing in a small pub just a few hours before midnight. They were so not looking forward to seeing all of those drunk faces. Same old faces always, the ones who wanted to forget their concerns and the ones who wanted to create some. They were drinking cheap wine and expecting to be entertained. Their idea of entertainment was the illusion of causing pain to somebody else. But wasn’t them all along seeking for hope of the impossible into non existent realities by trying to create them from scratch? Looking as if they were creating the impossible made the two friends feel they really did. They hated performing for those drunks, in the trashy pubs of London, hidden in dirty, dark alleys, where only middle aged men with missing tooth and disease spreading prostitutes knew the way to. No, they had bigger plans. Theatre, big stages with audience who would wear their haute couture, at that time, clothes and watch their show with their breaths taken away. They wanted the elite but they were well aware of the starting point. They had no family to sustain, but they had to survive themselves. It was hard not to starve at those dark and greasy times of London.
Carter was a tall man around 24 years of age. He was born in a village in Scotland, his mother passed while giving birth to him. His father was a drunken, he gave him away to a millers’ family in order to raise him and when he was old enough put him to work. He was 8 years old when he decided to run away. Ralph was 21 but their main difference was that he was “highborn.” His family was one of the richest of London, invested money in many constructions of the town back in the days. They were on their way back from a construction in Cornwall when they were attacked from thieves. They murdered his parents and stole their carriage. Ralph was 6 years old, the construction they had signed to invest in was completed but they were never able to pay the money, consequently their fortune was seized and little Ralph was sent in an orphanage, that’s where he met Carter, after he had searched for a shelter in some farmers house, they sold him in a traveling group of magicians who wanted him as a part of their show, they taught him about illusions until they couldn’t feed him anymore and one day left him outside of the big wooden door of the London orphanage a year after. The two kids were connected and little Ralph has been given the spark of magic, a gift from his brotherly friend. Once they had come of age they were released from the orphanage, responsible for their own future paths, which they decided to unite into a common road.
It was a rainy night, the dirty men in the pub brought along mud. The different scents of mud, wine and humans who didn’t wash themselves very often were combined and while emerging in the hectic little pub it made it very difficult to work. The screams of the men, the women, usually ugly or mediocre looking, walking around the room with their dress’s torso lowered leaving their breasts exposed and no panties, providing easy, immediate access to any drunk man who could afford the cheap price of a disgusting prostitute. Those scenes always brought back memories for Ralph, memories of drinking tea from porcelain teacups when he was still 5 years old, vain memories. Sometimes he used to look at this scum people and pity them, not for their financial misfortune, because himself wasn’t in a good position, but for their animalistic lifestyle. He did the same that night, he looked at every single one of them and everyone provoked the feeling of vomit except of one. She came in front of the tiny makeshift stage and looked at them with excitement while everyone else was yelling like cannibals and acting like they were in a ancient Roman fiest, only with diseases served instead of grapes. She had a bit of dirt on her clothes but her face was clean. Her breast was covered, she had red hair in curls falling over her shoulders and big but a bit hazel brown eyes with big eyelashes. What was she doing in a place like this? He couldn’t talk to her, he was performing. Soon enough a skinny guy around 30 years of age, young compared to others in the pub, grabbed her arm and sticked some money in the torso of her dress, then he pushed her on a wooden table, pulled up her dress and roughly penetrated inside of her. She didn’t make a sound, she turned her head away from him and looked at the rotten ceiling and Ralph could do absolutely nothing to stop it.
He went back to that pub, did multiple performances but she wasn’t there and he had never talked to anybody about her, not even to Carter, his brother, friend and according to him, his guardian angel. It’s been weeks that internally he wished he would come across her but he didn’t, until that night. Their savings were enough to buy themselves a better equipment and the mayor had agreed to let them perform for an upcoming celebration in the main square. Ralph was coming home late in the afternoon, he had gone to make amends with some constructors of their stage. He never expected he would come home to find Carter with a woman. He always knew that he would pay for girls from time to time, only the good-looking and clean ones, sometimes he saved food money in order to do that, but he had never seen him with one. The woman was completely naked and Carters’ body was hiding her face. When Carter quickly got up to cover himself, Ralph was surprised to see the face of the redhead he was looking for all of those weeks. Her hair was messy this time but her eyes still hazel. He was shocked as he didn’t expect to see her again while a man was paying for her services. She got up, looked at him in the eyes, got dressed and left. She did everything slowly, like she wasn’t ashamed, like a lady, but the look in her eyes was confusing, it showed a bit of shame and a bit of helplessness as well. It was the look that made him follow her out the door, Carter hopelessly tried to stop him by saying it was just a whore but Ralph didn’t listen. He went out, asked her to stop, he said his name was Ralph and asked hers. Her name was Roxanne she was 19 years old and she was from Ireland, she had travelled in Britain on her own, left her family behind and sent them money every month. He asked if she liked this job and he proposed a better one, working with them on their performances. She gladly agreed but they had both forgotten to include Carter in this arrangement.
The world had started to value the extraordinary talents of Carter and Ralph, surely the company of a beautiful smiling assistant was helpful. The income was raising, small theatre owners wanted to purchase performances and the three partners were studying new tricks and illusions. The audience wanted to flirt with danger, to feel as if someone’s life was threatened and in the end achieve the feeling of redemption, that everything was an illusion and nobody was really in danger. Amongst rusty sets, backdrops and other useless broken stuff, there was a metallic safe, about 1.70 tall, in the basement of the small theatre. It was Roxanne’s idea, she had seen it when she was younger while she sneaked in an old theatre back in Ireland. They could make her vanish, she would enter the safe, they would seal it and when they would open it again for the world to see Roxanne would have vanished, only to come back the second time they opened the safe. Carter hated Roxanne, he hated that it was her idea, that she would be the centre of attention in this illusion, but most of all he hated the obvious emotional and sexual tension between her and Ralph. The two of them were having fun modifying the old safe together while Carter was researching ways for the illusion to be conducted and presented. His head was boiling in hatred and jealousy but he had to admit Roxanne was very profitable so he wouldn’t dare fire her, he could only advice Ralph multiple times not to get involved with her.
It was their opening night in the small theatre. Roxanne was wearing a black corsage leaving her well shaped legs uncovered. Her red curls over her shoulders, so long that they were reaching up to her hips. Her lipstick was red too and when she looked into Ralph’s eyes they both knew it was inevitable. He complimented her, took her hand and kneeled while tenderly kissing it. The performance was majestic, even though the theatre was quite small it was surprisingly full of people. Cleaner people this time and better dressed. When Roxanne came out of the old safe the audience was speechless, she was stunning and everyone started cheering out of excitement. It didn’t take long after the performance that a big theatre’s owner came along with his proposal to grant them his space in exchange of 40% of their profits. It was the best deal they could ever find so they signed the contract, which of course included all three of them.
Ralph insisted to walk Roxanne to her house, the night was too dark and dangerous for a beautiful girl like her. Even though she was used to drunken men, those days of her life were over. Her place was small, but enough for a girl like her, she didn’t spend so much time in her house. They were standing there, right outside her door, Ralph was telling her about how beautiful and amazing she was but when she looked at him with those hazel eyes he couldn’t help himself but touching her lips with his. It was tender the first time but as he looked at her again the next kiss became more passionate and he felt every inch of his body pulling him towards her. She quickly opened her door and Ralph pushed her against the wall without stop kissing her for a second, only when she was kissing his neck. She led him to the bed where he pushed her on while removing each other’s clothes. He touched and kissed every inch of her body before starting making love to her. It was hot and sweaty even though it was cold outside. It was nothing like Roxanne has ever experienced before. He didn’t care about not being her first and she actually felt like he was. It was perfect for both of them. They made love again and again until the morning light, until it was bodily impossible to make love again.
The more times Roxanne was coming out of that old safe looking like a red fire, the more Ralph was falling in love with her over and over again and the more Carter was growing that hatred inside of his heart. He advised Ralph, he told him this is reckless, that they were both kids and that she was a dirty prostitute but in Ralph’s eyes she was nothing less than a red princess who had stolen his heart. Soon came the day of their marriage and Ralph with Roxanne moved in together in a new, bigger house while Carter was left with no smile on his face and even though plenty of women that enjoyed their performances were practically throwing themselves at him he didn’t even have the mood and the energy for them. He himself had started to become confused, why was he feeling such jealousy for his childhood friend? Was it because he was feeling abandoned once again, just like with his father or was it something more than that? Carter brought back memories of how sleeping with any of the women he had wasn’t emotionally fulfilling for him, in contrast with the feeling his friend Ralph was giving him. He became even more confused as it had never crossed his mind that his feelings for Ralph could ever take a turn like that, and how could a man desire another man? Even the thought of it caused him unconditional shame and disgrace.
The situation was getting worse along with the time that was going by. Carter wanted her gone, he was barely even talking to her when it didn’t have to do with work and even then his words were sharp and rude. A few months after Roxanne’s belly started to grow, her and Ralph were flying in the seven heavens, their happiness was beyond everything they have ever imagined. It has been 2 years after their first meeting and everything was so different, their artistic success was perfectly accompanied from their interpersonal one. Even Carter was happier, not because of their upcoming child but because they would have to find a new assistant which meant he didn’t have to interact with Roxanne daily. The following months went by smoothly in every domain, the performances were not as successful as with Roxanne as the star of the show but they were profitable enough. The nine months went by and a beautiful little girl was brought into this world, spreading some light in dark London, named Bridget. To his surprise even Carter couldn’t resist to loving this child. She was a distraction to him and helped him suppress whatever he was feeling for Ralph. It is mother natures’ way of providing means to survival to every newborn creature of any kind, making them cute, so that they become protected.
That’s pretty much how everything was flowing until Bridget was old enough and Roxanne has gotten her shape back, so she could return in the theatre and the performances with her black corsage and her magic old safe. That brought back the hot spark between her and Ralph but also the spark of jealousy in Carter’s heart. Every time she was coming out of that safe, stunning as she was, and Ralph was looking at her as his own personal goddess, Carter wished she would just vanish as she was supposed to in some alternate reality and never come out of that safe again, because the more time was passing, the more he realised that he was looking at Ralph the same way Ralph was looking at Roxanne. It was the last show of the first week that Roxanne has returned to the theatre. She has gone home right after the performance to prepare her young Bridget for bed, leaving the two friends to celebrate. She always turned her head into Carter’s hatred, pretending she didn’t know. The two friends had consumed enormous amounts of wine, therefore they were drunk, and Carter felt as if his emotions were becoming this huge torrent of water that couldn’t be held back anymore. As Ralph was speaking about his daughter and his love for her his eyes were glowing like amber, Carter couldn’t help it, he followed his drunk instinct and he moved his face towards Ralph’s reaching for a kiss. Ralph was agitated, he quickly pushed him away, they both got up and he punched him, then he left the theatre. His mind couldn’t process such information, that his one and only best childhood friend could possibly view him in that way. How could he look him in the eyes ever again?
After that day they were strictly professional, no further interactions. Carter was slowly dying inside and shutting himself from everything while Ralph and Roxanne were perfectly happy with their little girl. It was eating him up inside, it transformed him, it consumed him, until one day he decided that he couldn’t hurt anymore no matter who else did. The illusion with the safe worked in a simple way. It was connected with the floor and the floor had a trap door to the basement. Roxanne would step in, press a lever to open the trap door and fall on a big inflated bag, then use a ladder to quickly climb up again. Carter was blind of jealousy, minutes before the illusion he removed the inflated bag, replacing it with the big water tank they used for other tricks.
Ralph was looking at his red fire smiling, inserting in her old safe, everybody had his eyes on her, everybody wanted her but he was the only one who had her. He was happy, she was happy too. The door of the safe was sealed and she pressed the lever, but when Ralph opened it Roxanne was nowhere to be seen and gunfire sound was coming from down bellow. Ralph quickly rushed at the basement and what he saw neither his eyes nor his heart would ever forget. Carter’s lifeless body was fallen on the floor while his brains and blood were painting the basement wall in morbid pattern. Roxanne was hovering in the water tank with her eyes opened and her soul long gone from her body. He screamed, he cried, he took the gun and shot at Carter’s body again and again until it was full of holes and the river of his blood reached Ralph’s shoes. He approached his body and wished him to go to hell while he was still sobbing.
Ralph took all of their life savings and his four year old Bridget and vanished from London. He would never return to this graveyard of people he loved or used to love. His daughter looked just like her, her hair were red and curly and her eyes were big and brown. She was all he had now, and he promised to protect her from any pain for the rest of his lonely and miserable life, she would be the only light.
The government took everything from the theatre, all of the machines and the sets along with the old safe which was modified and used from the police as a storage for files. Later it was sold to a junk dealer and was left to be rotten. That’s how this safe, like everything glorious in this world, went from the centre of attention to junk. It went from having all eyes on it, from everyone’s heart pounding while the red princess was expected to pop out, from being the symbol of a great love, from being glorious, to a meaningless junk which was left to be rotten and was found centuries later in a dirty alley of London.