A cool breeze blew by, lightly rustling his velvet cloak as he strolled through the outskirts of town. The sun's last rays washed the western sky with a warm pink that faded to the soft, grayish blue on the opposite horizon. It was Ferdinand's favorite part of the day. The streets were empty of townspeople, and everything was cast in a surreal gray. He often went walking at this hour just to get away from the world and the people in it.
His town was the small and rural sort, where nothing exciting ever really happened, except, perhaps, when one of the local families' beloved pets got lost or stuck in a tree. Ferdinand always felt this place was too small for him. Everyone else seemed so content with their simple lives while he was always dreaming of something else, something more. He just didn't fit in and, frankly, he was grateful.
Something up ahead caught his eye and drew him out of his meditative state. He stalled for a minute. It was a man, much older than he, leaning against a tree some yards away, smoking a pipe, and looking directly at him. It was obvious that he wasn't from this town, or anywhere near here for that matter. He wore a deep purple cloak, even nicer than his own. No one around here would ever wear anything like it. Except for maybe Ferdinand. He continued on with his stroll, glancing now and then at the stranger that never seemed to take his eyes off him. Curiosity began to hound him. He found himself wishing the stranger wasn't standing so far out of his way. He'd have to deliberately change course to get close enough to talk to him. He slowed his pace to give himself more time to figure out what to do. But then the passing point came and there was nothing left to do but walk on. So he stopped. He lifted his head and looked squarely at the stranger, staring at him as he had done.
The older gentleman smiled to himself and took his cue. He straightened himself and walked casually but confidently towards the young boy, pipe still in hand. When they were finally close enough, he extended his hand with another smile.
"So sorry if I've made you nervous, young man. Name's Nickodemus. And yours would be?"
"I'm sorry?" This answer seemed to take the man by surprise, which immensely pleased Ferdinand. A sly smile crept onto his generally solemn face.
"Curious, not nervous." He explained, finally taking Nickodemus's outstretched hand. "And my name would be Ferdinand." At last the man caught on and could not help but be amused.
"Well, Ferdinand, it certainly is a pleasant night for a walk. Join me, or I'll join you as it were, and we'll see if I can't placate this curiosity of yours." He said, his smile matching that of his young counterpart. Ferdinand turned smugly in the direction he had been heading.
"I usually enjoy taking my evening strolls without the unnecessary company of others. I'm sure you could understand." Nickodemus stiffened. It was an insult and meant to be so. Clearly the young man did not understand who he was dealing with.
"Unnecessary company you say?" The older man raised his eyebrow skillfully with face of near-hidden wisdom.