Walter found Rifka still lying in the grass beside the fountain, staring up at the sky. She looked like she was in a better mood, possibly more bored now than depressed. With a polite smile, Walter bowed to her and offered her a covered silver dish, when he set beside her on the fountain's wall.
Rifka watched him curiously, slowly sitting up. She lifted the cover, revealing a dark meat in a thick, hearty curry sauce, poured over a mound of fluffy white rice. Steam rose from the food and she pressed a hand to her stomach when it growled in response. She looked up at Walter. He offered her a fork.
"I think that's what I needed," she told him after she had practically cleared the plate, "that was divine, Walter. I feel a little better now."
He bowed again, pleased. "I hoped I had guessed correctly."
She nodded, moving to sit comfortably with the wall behind her. "Is your mission accomplished, then?" Her dark eyes were still gazing out over the perfectly manicured fields.
He glanced at her thoughtfully, surprised by the question. He hadn't expected her to be so casual about their careful handling of her. "Yes, My Lady… The first part of my mission has been accomplished, and successfully, but I am not quite finished."
"What's the next part?"
"I am to provide you with a less antagonistic conversation partner."
A smile spread over her face, lightening her expression and caused the darkness that seemed to surround her to recede. She began to laugh, and Walter couldn't help but smile at her as she did. She started getting to her feet, and he put his hand out to her. She considered him for a moment before she accepted his hand.
"Shall we go inside?" He asked her. She nodded, and picked up the plate.
"All right, Walter. Maybe we can find something interesting to do."
A brief pit-stop in the kitchens left the old plate with the staff, and they left with a basket of fresh bread and cheese. Rifka sank her teeth into a soft, ripe peach, humming happily and closing her eyes as she followed Walter around the castle. She didn't know where they were going, but right now, she didn't really care. She was well distracted.
Right up until she heard the music.
Her eyes opened and she searched for the source. It was muffled, but with her altered hearing she could tell it was close by. She watched as Walter opened a pair of French doors and revealed a splendid music room.
A young woman was at the piano, her back to them, playing something beautiful. She was dressed in a long burgundy skirt and a crisp white blouse, her copper-red hair pulled up into a bun at the back of her head.
Rifka stared from the doorway. Walter used his superior Butler skills to meld into the background, watching her closely as he had been ordered to do. There was an odd expression on the dark-haired woman's face; she seemed uncertain… but also thoughtful. The woman gave them a friendly smile from the piano.
"I… I think I know this song…" Rifka shook her head and slowly walked into the music room. Beside the piano was a microphone, but there were other instruments lined up around the piano, including a rhythm guitar, a violin, a flute and even a cello.
Given what Alucard had reported, Walter expected Rifka to move toward the microphone to sing, and was surprised when she picked up the guitar and sat down on the chair it had been resting on. The expression on her face changed to something serene and relaxed, and her fingers moved over the chords, effortlessly joining the piano.
He couldn't hear her, but Walter could see her lips were moving as she played, her eyes lowered, her mind somewhere else completely. At the end of the song she lifted the guitar and gazed at it, still lost in thought. The pianist rose and bowed to her, getting a brief glance and a nod in return before Rifka was once more taken in by her instrument.
The redhead made as though to leave the room and Walter stepped out with her.
"Well?" He asked her, expectantly.
"She's definitely a classically trained mezzo-soprano, and I don't need to speak Russian to know she has perfect pitch. I don't know if she's realized it yet, but she never missed a single note."
Walter nodded and thanked the woman, stepping aside to allow her to leave down the hallway. He looked at Rifka for a moment before walking over to her. He bowed and waited for her attention.
"I remember this…" Rifka murmured as she lifted her head to look up at him, "I remember I loved this… the sound of a guitar. I feel… I feel as though my life surrounded it." She sighed, looking away. "My life before I was taken. Before my parents were murdered by the… the ghouls. We were all on our way home from the opera house; I had just been in a grand performance, my first big show. It would have made all the difference in my future. If I could handle being on a stage that big… it would have started my career."
"How intriguing! What sort of career?"
"Soloist: guitar and voice." She smiled, almost shyly. "I sing, too."
"You're very full of surprises, my lady."
"And you're very full of compliments, Walter." She smiled again, and her cheeks blushed pink. Walter could see the youthful aristocrat now, highborn and wealthy but not spoiled, and talented. Her parents must have been very proud of their daughter, whoever they were.
"Do you remember anything else about your music? Would you like to continue to play?"
It was remarkable, how guarded she seemed to become at what he had assumed would be an innocent question. He didn't sweat though – he'd been subjected to many steely gazes in his time, and while Rifka's fathomless, dark brown gaze certainly had a knack for piercing your heart or drawing you into the abyss, right now she seemed somewhere in between.
And then, in the next beating of his heart, her expression shifted. She smiled a little, lowering her gaze to the guitar again. "I think I remember the song I was going to perform at the opera house."
Walter smiled again. "I would very much like to hear it, my Lady."
She nodded softly and he drew back, moving one of the other instruments and taking a seat. Rifka lowered her head, closed her eyes, and then gently began to strum the chords to life. She seemed to lure him in with the first few notes, and then she opened her eyes, and speared him with her haunting gaze.
"I can feel the knife carving… your love into my heart…
You promised you wouldn't harm a hair
On this frail body no, that's not fair
But how can I trust you?
How can I trust you…?
With my heart, in your hands, closing your grip
I'm so afraid that you'll leave me cold
With my heart, in your hands, closing your grip..."
(Dommin, My Heart, Your Hands (abridged lyrics)
A silence fell as the last note faded into the walls of the music room. Walter was briefly stunned. He had already figured the girl possessed a wide emotional range, but it was quite a different thing to have such emotion be sung to him with unwavering clarity. He snapped out of his daze and applauded.
"That was marvelous, Lady Rifka. Your voice is stunning!"
Rifka blushed under his praise and leaned her head forward, letting her hair hide her eyes.
"I may even have to change your nickname, Catwoman."
Walter and Rifka both looked up in surprise when Alucard entered the music room, by way of the wall to their left. The pleased blush on Rifka's cheeks was quite fetching; it put a glow in her chocolate-brown eyes that he found very…
"Oh really…?" Rifka's voice was terse, interrupting his thoughts. Her jaw tightened. Walter saw her shoulders drawing back as well. "And what would you change it to?"
The Vampire's imposing figure loomed silently over Rifka, his gloved hand gently lifting her chin. From behind his yellow shades he stared into her eyes, and his fingertips gently caressed down her throat and along the rim of her collar, which she had cleverly hidden behind the lapels of her blouse.
"Enchantress…" He purred the word at her and smiled when she shivered and swallowed.
Walter had spoken the name firmly, almost seeming to turn it into a command; Almost. Still, it was enough to distract him from his torment of the pretty maiden, and he looked over at his old friend. It was almost as though a silent conversation was held between them, at the end of which Alucard turned his attention back to Rifka. He bent down, bringing his lips to her ear.
"My master ordered me not to drive you insane… but I see no such order was given to you, my Enchantress. I think I now know why Lord Vandella wanted you so badly… He must have been at the Opera House that day." Smiling, Alucard slipped away from her, and vanished through the floor.
Rifka's face flushed dark and the tremor in her hand almost made her drop the guitar. She took a moment to get herself back under control, and Walter pretended not to notice how flustered she was. He didn't look over at her until she abruptly stood.
"I – I think I'd like to go back to my room now, Walter. Can…" she paused, glancing up at him uncertainly, "can I keep this?" She indicated the guitar, her eyes hopeful.
He smiled at her. "I'm sure Sir Integra would have no objections to letting you keep the guitar. Certainly not if it helps so well with your… therapy…" For a moment he worried that she would consider the statement insensitive, but then remembered that she was fully aware of, and rather grounded about, her situation.
"It does. I think music is what I have been missing. I haven't sung anything since he changed me… probably because I thought I couldn't." Her hand slid meaningfully over her throat.
"And how do you feel now?" Walter went to the door and motioned Rifka out into the hallway. He walked with her back to her room in the guest wing.
Rifka was quiet for a moment, gazing off into the distance somewhere. Walter took advantage of her distraction to study her closely. "I feel relieved, to be honest. It's wonderful, Walter, to know that there's something else he never managed to take from me. You've given me an irreplaceable gift. Thank you…"
Walter opened the door to her room and bowed. "It was my simple pleasure, My Lady…"
"Even so," Rifka murmured as she stepped inside. She glanced back at him, her voice softening, "it's still very complicated for me. Goodnight, Walter."
"Goodnight, Miss Rifka."
Walter bowed again, but watched as Rifka closed the door, able to catch a glimpse of her face before she turned away. He was happy to note that she seemed thoughtful now, instead of sad.