Naira, Heart of Flame - Part 7, A Decision...
"That's terribly funny, Lena." he said, looking less than amused. "It was almost convincing, like the time that you said you loved me."
Lena's lips drew together into an unbecoming smirk. Her eyes narrowed, and she shot Naira another dark look. Then suddenly, her manner changed. No longer was she angry, but sad. She looked up at James through her eyelashes, and tilted her head in a way that always reminded Naira of a wounded animal.
"That wasn't very fair, James. You know I adore you!" she stepped forward, to try and touch him. James held out a hand to stop her. Naira felt awkward, but a ray of hope remained as long as he kept his distance from her.
"Don't Lena, just don't," his voice sounded hurt, "you don't care. You dropped me like you'd throw out garbage."
"But, I...." The girl stopped, and bit her lip, looking away. Lena's eye suddenly swelled with tears. She turned around, sniffling. James looked aggravated, rolling his eyes. Why me? Why now? he thought, resisting the urge to grab Naira's hand and make a dash towards the house. Lena turned back, her face splotchy. She reached into the purse hanging from her shoulder, which made Naira think of a burdensome saddlebag, and pulled out her sunglasses. She put them on, and said in a dramatically sorrowful voice, "Then I want my stuff. Could I have all the memories of our life together back please?"
James sighed, defeated. He knew this act, and there was no escaping Lena when she became a drama queen. He walked past Naira, noticing the crushed look on her face. He popped the trunk, pulled out the two bags, and proceeded towards the house. "This way, ladies." he said. Naira was to his right and Lena to his left, both a step behind his long stride. He turned his head toward Naira, and winked. She gave him back a weak smile, but at least it was a smile.
Thankfully, Eli pulled into the driveway at that point. He ran up to the door, and unlocked it for the others. James started upstairs, and said as he walked, "Lena, if you'll please wait in the living room, I'd greatly appreciate it." The smaller girl turned to the right, and bumped into Naira on purpose just as Eli headed upstairs after James. Taken aback, the willowy elf took a step towards the door to balance herself. Lena pulled her sunglasses down an inch and looked at Naira long and hard, up close.
"Sorry," she said with an acidic smile, "didn't mean to squash you."
Her eyes rested on Narya, and the smile faded. She wanted that necklace. Is was magnificent. I wonder if James gave it to her. He's rich enough, she thought. Lena looked at Naira again, cursing inwardly the beautiful woman that James had found. She had thought that this upstart was just a teenager, maybe a friend of Clara's. No, she thought to herself now, she is almost regal. Naira said politely, "Excuse me." She walked up the stairs gracefully, listening for the sound of James's voice.
Lena went into the tastefully decorated living room, which was painted a rich cerulean blue. She sat on the sofa, which was a milky gray. She folded her glasses back up and slipped them into her bag. The puppy dog always works with him, she thought proudly. She pulled out a compact and checked her make-up. Satisfied with what she saw, she made a kissy face at her own reflection and closed it with a snap.
Lena was used to getting what she wanted, and she wanted her dependable James back. Her two weeks without him had proved to her one thing, she might not love James, but he was an exceptionally caring man. And I am going to wrap him around my little finger where he belongs. I could lose him to this Naira, she thought panicking slightly, but I won't.
Naira stopped lightly at the top of the stairs. There were five doors in the hall. Directly ahead was the bathroom, and there were two doors parallel from each other at either end of the hall. The other two doors were in the wall closer to the front of the house. She could hear James talking behind a closed door to her left, but she couldn't catch every word. Eli's voice cut in and said, "Don't throw this away!" The door opened, and Eli walked out, head down. He almost collided with her, but looked up in time, jumping back in surprise.
"Hey, come here." He walked past her and opened the door facing the front of the house to their right. She turned, glancing quickly back to see if James was visible. She couldn't see him, which upset her. She walked through the door into a large bedroom. It had a large bed with elegant cream sheets and tasteful furniture. She heard quiet steps on the stairs. James was going down to talk to that girl.
"We keep this so that my brother or James's sister can stay over. Most of this belonged to James's parents." Eli talked a little more, but she wasn't really listening. She loved their house, and this room was beautiful. The walls were a pale green that reminded her of Lothlórien in the spring. There was a large chair in the corner and all the furniture was a warm, dark wood.
"Eli, this is utterly beautiful," she said earnestly.
"Well, we didn't have to pay for it. James's mother likes to redecorate a lot, so really most of our furniture is incredible hand-me-downs." He laughed, and picked up her bag and put it on the bed.
"I can unpack that, Eli. Thank you though, I'm sure you have your own concerns right now." She smiled, hoping that he couldn't see how distracted she was.
"Okay Naira." He walked out the door saying as left, "I'll give you the grand tour after you're done unpacking."
She stared at the closed door, wishing with all her might that James would walk through it at that moment. Naira sighed and sank onto the soft bed. She looked at the ceiling for a moment, collecting her thoughts.
She said to herself quietly, "I'm on Earth now, where my entire world is contained in a book. Somehow, I am real, and Gandalf sent me here with Narya. Life is so different, and I like it here... with James. Why am I such a fool? He won't choose you. He'll go back to her. She is mortal, she is beautiful, and he knows how she feels." She sat up and pounded her fist into one of the pillows.
"I should have told him!" She fought back a sob, she got up and started sorting out where her borrowed clothes would go, trying to fight the sick feeling in her stomach when she thought about James and Lena in the room below.
"What is she doing here?" Eli had asked, frantic to know why Lena had suddenly appeared at their house. He had James cornered in his bedroom with the door shut. He wanted answers. James had just shrugged, and added, "I think she wants to make up. But I am not going to. It didn't work before, and I don't know if I want it to work now. There are other people out there -"
"Like who? Right now, who is waiting for you?" Brilliant green eyes flashed in James's memory, but he tried to put them out of his mind.
"No one, that I know of," he said dejectedly. "I had thought there might be someone... But I am not going to take Lena back after the way she treated me! It isn't worth it, not now." If only he knew how Naira felt, even one encouraging word would have been enough. "I just don't know how to handle this. I wasn't expecting her to be here, even after being together for three years! Sometimes I don't even know what I saw in her."
"Go sort this out with her. I'll show Naira her room, but listen to me!" His best friend looked at him with a steady gaze that meant business. "Don't throw this away!" He flung open the door and James heard Eli talking to Naira. If only he knew what he might be throwing away with Naira... Once they moved into the guest room, he crept down the stairs. He walked into the living room where Lena sat waiting.
"I don't think you have anything here, Lena." he said frankly. "And to be quite honest, we never had a life together. Just me jumping through hoops."
"How can you say that, James? That is horrible!" James felt his temper flare.
"No, horrible is cheating on your boyfriend of three years and dumping him for someone with a higher profile!" He spat the words angrily at her. His anger had been brewing, the hurt hadn't gone away altogether yet. He had trusted her, and she had ripped his heart out in one fell swoop.
"Oh, baby..." she got up and walked to him. She stopped in front of him, her large eyes overflowing with tears. "I made a mistake. I know it, I am so incredibly sorry. I saw you with that girl out front, and that proved to me what I already knew!"
She reached out two perfectly manicured hands and lightly held his face so that he looked into her eyes. "I was scared James, scared of how deeply I love you!" He looked shocked and Lena seized her moment of opportunity and planted a deep kiss on his lips. He pulled back almost instantly, but he did linger for a moment. James looked at her, his honest eyes narrowed in confusion.
"James, I do love you. I do, you know that I do! I hate admitting when I make a mistake, but what I did was inexcusable... I was wrong! Somewhere in that glorious heart of yours, is there room for me still?" She placed her hands on his chest and leaned against him. James could hear Eli saying "Don't throw this away!" clearly in his head. He thought of Naira, but he reminded himself that she was not his to take. She was higher than he was, more heavenly than he could ever dream to attain. Naira was a star, with a fire so fierce that it blinded him. And like the stars, she would outshine him. He had Lena, his first love, saying all the right words, and she seemed genuine enough.
"I don't know..." he said quietly. James looked at her long and hard, hoping to see into her heart. All he could see were anxious eyes, tears and a girl that he had worshipped, once.
"But, perhaps there could be again."
Lena's face lit up at his words. She jumped up, wrapping her legs around his torso. She was holding him as though her life depended on it. Jackpot, she thought to herself.
A knock sounded on Naira's door about half an hour after Eli left. She figured it was just him coming to check in on her progress. "Come in," she said, fully expecting to see her smaller friend. Instead, she found all six and a half feet of James consuming the doorway. He looked apprehensive, but she was smiling so broadly that it made him feel suddenly at ease.
"I just wanted to tell you that Lena and I had broken up for the past two weeks, but, we're together again. I don't know what else to say." He said this all without looking at her. If he had, he would have seen the hope die in her eyes.
"Oh... I am happy for you." There was a note of sadness in her voice, and it clutched at his heart. She walked over to him, her slender figure full of grace and poise. Naira looked at him, surprised to see that his eyes were those of a man in pain, not of a man in love. Before she knew it, she was in his arms, holding him to her as firmly as he was holding her. He pulled back a little, his eyes studying her face, marveling at its perfection.
If ever there was a moment between them where a kiss belonged, it was here. But James let her go, his face ashen. He won't kiss me, she knew, because of Lena. I let him slip through my fingers.
"Would you mind if Lena and I spent some time alone?" he asked the floor, although the question was directed to her.
"No," she lied, "I will be fine alone."
"Eli is here..." he said quickly.
"I know," she said with a fake smile. He turned to go, and was surprised when he heard her ask, "Is there somewhere I can get a bow and arrow?"
He laughed, placing an arm on the doorway for support. He looked away, and then at her, and she could swear that there was a tear in his eye. "I actually have one you can use and I know the perfect spot to go. I'll ask Eli to take you."
He was gone. And I let him go, she thought in despair.
She fired arrow after arrow into the dead center of the bull's-eye. She hated herself for doing it, but she imagined that each time she fired her shot, that it was heading for Lena. I have to get over this, she said to herself, just work it out of your system. Her hair was bound up into a bun, with smaller braids above her ears. She was wearing a t-shirt and jeans with her flip-flops. She adored this archery range, James had been right, it was perfect.
She knew Eli was watching her nervously a few feet behind her. After I tried to attack him with Narsil, I don't blame him. But that had also been a collector's item. These were real weapons, and Eli could tell that Naira was miffed about something. Her aim was perfect, each shot effortless. If he wasn't seeing her fire arrow after arrow perfectly, he would have never thought it possible. He was trying to think about what could have upset her so. She had only gotten this way after Lena. Lena! Suddenly, it dawned on him. Naira liked James...
I am an idiot, idiot, idiot! He was screaming inside. First I tell her that she is a fictional character in the most traumatic way possible, and I just convinced my best friend to go back to that cheating cow! Someone else, he had said someone else. The pieces fit together with perfect clarity. James liked Naira too, the attraction was mutual! How didn't I see it before? How can I be so blind all the time? There's no apologizing for this.
Eli's heart sank. He felt terrible, and knew that there was really no way to fix it now. He had interfered, if he hadn't James probably would have told Lena off. I've hurt them both, again. That's what he gets for listening to me, Eli thought sadly.
While Eli and Naira dealt with their unhappiness, a pair of dark, beady eyes were watching her intently from across the archery field. He was noting her flawless technique, and that she was firing unaided by a sight. Her figure was flawless as well. The young man licked his lips hungrily. But what on earth was his step-brother's stupid roommate doing with her?
Grant slinked over to the gate where Naira was rapidly firing arrows at a bulls-eye chock full of perfect hits. Shattered arrow shafts littered the ground. She had fire, and that made Grant want her all the more.
"So, Eli, aren't you going to introduce me to your lovely companion?" his voice was slick and oily. Eli turned, his nose wrinkling like he had smelt something foul. It was Grant. The last person he wanted to see at that moment was there, and leering at Naira like he was going to devour her.
Naira stopped firing, and turned around to see who was talking to Eli. He was shorter than she was by an inch, with dark hair kept short and his face wasn't unattractive, but it held resemblance to a small rodent. However, he was muscular and held a bow in his hand. It was unequipped with the odd accessories she had seen the other arches on the field using, like hers. Well, at least this earthling isn't unskilled, she thought.
"Uhh, well, this is our... new roommate, Naira." Eli mumbled, clearly startled.
"Pleased to meet you, Naira. I'm Grant Roy, James's step-brother." He took her hand and placed a dry kiss on the top of it. So, this little weasel was the infamous Grant.
"I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Grant." She had learned quickly that in Michigan, you didn't use last names or titles. There was a large lack or formality, which in some aspects was a breath of fresh air. Still, it felt odd calling people by just one name.
She pulled her hand back gently, trying not to notice how he was looking at her.
"I don't remember James mentioning you were taking in a new roomie," Grant said with a jeering tone, giving Eli a dirty look. Eli looked as though he were being pinched, his distaste for Grant apparent.
"She is a friend of mine from back home. She is just getting out in the world for the first time, and we're helping her out." Eli's voice was smug, and Naira resisted the urge to laugh at his inside joke to her.
"Oh, well that's nice." Grant ignored Eli and turned back to Naira. "So, what are you into, besides archery?"
She thought for a second before saying dryly, "Literary classics mostly." Eli let out a laugh, and pretended to cough to try and cover it up. Grant shot him a dark look. "Well, it was lovely to have met you, but I do believe Eli and I are late for an important lesson. Goodbye Grant. We'll give James your regards."
She swept past him, her effortless movements mesmerizing to the young man. Eli jumped up from the bench that he had been sitting on, and had to jog to keep up with her. "What lesson are we late for?" He was confused, but glad to be rid of Grant.
"I've decided to make the most of my stay, so tonight you're starting to teach me how to cook with that marvelous stove." She said, with a joking royalty in her voice.
Eli laughed heartily, and it was contagious. Naira joined him, a little laughter spilling into her eyes. Grant was transfixed by her. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and if there was one thing he hated, it was for James to have nice things.