Monday, April 15, 2019
As I watched the Fairy girl disappear behind shelves of goods, my stomach twisted almost —though not quite— painfully in a way that felt eerily familiar, though I could not place it. I was still reeling from the heart-stopping sight of one of her wings bent cleanly, nauseatingly, at an absolutely unnatural angle, and it was all I could do to sort the strange sensation away for later analysis. That compilation had quickly become larger than I’d have liked since this morning; even when I did manage to distract myself from that image, I certainly had a good few other moments to unpack before I considered worrying about my stomach being upset.
I was fascinated by the strange mixture of emotions that radiated from Laurel when she saw me; yes, I had felt the same swell of anxiousness and curiosity that had been present when she had spoken to me yesterday, but there was something new and volatile, fragile even, laying below her emotions this time. The feeling was less so negative or acute as it was pressing; humming like a mosquito, not allowing itself to be missed, despite being hidden under layers upon layers of other flitting accents that I had been caught too off guard to really understand, and too focused to recall with due accuracy.
I released a deep breath of air, rubbing my forehead with one hand while the other thumbed the spine of an old book. Distantly, I could hear Rose talking to Laurel, but their words were too muddled to make sense of, drowning in a sea of traffic and ambient chatter, and they themselves were too far away for me to glean emotions from. I could, however, feel a lingering sense of Rose’s confusion; it was wild, but warm where I felt it pressing against my senses, though at the same time floating just out of reach.
Sighing again, I reached into the pocket of my coat and went to check if I’d gotten any word from my colleague on her travels; her flight had been scheduled to land earlier in the afternoon, but I’d been too involved with Rose to remember. Now, I just needed something to stop myself from thinking about how breathless the sight of the Fairy’s broken wing had made me; I’d seen my share of the gory and gruesome, and I considered myself fairly well able to handle it by now, and I found myself absolutely burning with curiosity about how that particular situation had somehow been so drastically different. I rationed that it was perhaps the prospect of the girl being grounded that had made my lungs collapse in on themselves.
I was thinking about it again.
This time mildly annoyed that I had been distracted, I opened my phone and found that my colleague had sent me two messages, as well as a call and subsequent voicemail that I had clearly missed.
>Finally off that bloody flight. What’s the address?
>Love, you had better answer me soon or I’m swimming back home. Address?
I rolled my eyes, but sent her a reply anyway.
>I was with a new client. I’ll forward you the address in a second. Remind me, do you know much about Fairies?
As I went over to google and copied the street address and bird’s-eye view of the small ïér-mïren I was staying in, I scolded myself for indulging my curiosity; less so because of the feeling itself, and more because I could not seem to stop myself from having the Fairy in the forefront of my mind.
I stared at my phone for a few seconds after sending her the two messages, before breathing out shortly through my teeth and shoving the device pointedly into my pocket.
It wasn’t like me to be invested in anything but my work; for it to come secondary to anything was curious, if not also uncomfortable. I was, irritatingly, also avidly intrigued by the prospect that I had found myself in a situation where, in an infinitesimally small timeframe, something had taken such a prominent place in my mind. More interesting was the fact that while Rose blurred lines between business and leisure, I found myself unable to direct my thoughts from her as she was, through her as a resource, to my work as a whole, despite the stepping stones being laid out in a clear path.
Interesting, yes, but also potentially problematic.
It wasn’t at all that I regretted putting myself in a somewhat doomed situation, in fact I considered my contentment part of the growing issue; I knew logically that, in the long term, this would certainly be easier if lines were drawn and boundaries were immediately defined.
Attachment grew problematic very quickly for Elves, especially where those with shorter lives were concerned.
I forced myself out of my thoughts and added the book in my hands to my pile. As I came back into my senses, I became acutely aware of the steady thump of a heartbeat behind me; the unmistakable smell of potting soil and flora was all I needed to identify its source.
“Helena.” I stated by way of acknowledgement.
“Elf.” She replied in the same deadpan tone. “I take it the meeting went poorly?” Her voice returned to its usual softness, like worn wood, and a mixture of sympathy and worry rolled off her in a thick cloud.
“No, it went well,” I paused, then added with a condemning chuckle, “for the most part.”
“Then why are you moping?” The woman huffed and moved to stand in front of me, hands affixed firmly to her hips and her wide, brown eyes meeting mine with a brazen gleam to them.
“I’m not moping.” I fought a smile as I stared back at the woman. She was only barely taller than me when I sat, and her constitution was undeniably mature, yet somehow almost laughably childlike.
“Brooding. Whatever you’d like to call it.” She sighed. I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath to put together my thoughts. To almost anyone else, I would have immediately deemed the conversation inappropriate, but I’d found quite pleasant refuge in Helena, and I deeply valued her advice. To have someone whose lifespan dwarfed mine, and who also exemplified an entirely different, far more caring, culture, was by no means a blessing I would ever dismiss.
“I’ve gotten myself into an uncomfortable position with a Fairy girl.” I did try to blot the embarrassment from my voice, but found it shaky despite my effort. Helena chortled with equal parts affection and amusement, bringing her hands together excitedly because she surely noticed that I’d been intentionally vague; she knew there were very few topics I had yet to grow comfortable with. “Her entire life, at most, is hardly a tenth of mine.” The woman snorted and waved me off carelessly.
“Mine is indefinite, and I am still here with you, granted, the similarities begin and end there, but the sentiment remains: I love you now, knowing that I will love you still when you return to the earth. It’s an unfortunate lesson that all races with the potential to grow ancient must learn, more often than not, earlier in their youth.” Helena shrugged and the wooden floorboards below her creaked as a root slithered up and joined with two others to form a small stool that she quickly collected; it broke from the floor with a quiet snap and she set the item in front of me, sitting on top of it and watching on intently. Her sympathy, now tinged with an odd combination of wistfulness and mischief, settled into the room like a warm, heavy fog.
“Her wing broke during our meeting and—“
“How did you manage that?” She leaned in, her dark eyes wide and her enthusiasm flaring. Her lips quirked up at one side amusedly.
“I’m not entirely sure. She’s been having trouble with her magic lately and it sparked particularly badly—”
“Sparking? Interesting. What sort of trouble?” A strange sort of giddiness bubbled below the thick cloud of more heavy emotions like a beast waking from deep slumber.
I huffed at her manners; it sometimes annoyed me to no ends, but her sheer lack of Elven etiquette was always inexhaustibly refreshing.
“Yes, sparking. At first, I’d thought it was simply a lapse in control, but she has made it clear that that’s not the whole issue; personally, I’m under the impression that it only happens around me, and, quite possibly, is worst upon skin contact.”
Helena rushed a jumble of words through a radiant grin; she’d spoken in a language I only barely recognized because she had explained it to me once, decades ago, as her native tongue. Suffice to say, it was old and rare enough for me to neglect learning it.
Her aura fluttered with sharp flashes of vicarious excitement, happiness, and relief of all things, and it was all I could do to scowl back at her against the roiling onslaught.
“Would you like to explain the sudden enthusiasm?”
“By the sun, no. You’ll understand when the time comes.” If possible, or perhaps just by way of her eyes, her smile widened. “You Elves are always so serious; just see where this all takes you. I have a suspicion it’s all for the best.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder and grinned in that way that made her look deceptively young. “Next time you decide to bring her here, I insist you introduce me. I do love Fairies.”
“I suppose asking you if you know anything about her condition would be useless?”
“Of course. If I thought it would be best for you to know, you’d know.” I sifted through the pulsating waves of each emotion I could identify off her. To my relief, if not also disappointment, there was nothing definitive to be found, save for that she clearly had no qualms about the situation. The notion was reassuring, but also spawned a number of new and pressing questions that I was sure would occupy my mind for a good while.
“Was Miss Ridley’s flight not meant to land today?” Helena leaned back with her eyes still glinting knowingly. I was certain the change in subject was intended to end our conversation about Rose, but I knew her better than to bother mentioning it.
“It got in late, though I would expect her to arrive at the ïér-mïren no later than sundown. Unless, of course, she would like to find accommodations for the night elsewhere.” I folded my arms over my chest, somewhat distractedly. I was still far more focused on picking apart each layer of her emotions or body language, trying to find some semblance of an answer, even when I knew full well that I would find no more than Helena wanted me to. She was far too old, and knew me far too well, to give away anything more than what she intended.
“Of course.” The older woman huffed sarcastically. “Shepherd her over here, would you? It’s been too long since I last saw her.”
“I’ll let her know. For now,” I put my hand atop my collection of books and drummed my fingers against the soft cover of the one on top. “For now, I think I’ve done more than enough shopping.”
“I’ll ring you up.” Helena rolled her eyes teasingly, and added the new stool to a growing collection of wooden furniture she was selling as she stood.