The ride to the field, which was called Sherwood Forest, was short. Naira liked the name Sherwood Forest. Apparently, it was taken from a book about a man reknowned for his archery. Perhaps I shall read it, she thought happily. The sun was shining brightly, and the two girls were in high spirits. However, the sight of Grant darkened the day and their moods. He was cross and agitated the whole lesson. Grant was a good shot, she had to admit, but shaky. Clara needed a sight, her aim unsure at times.
“That’s better, Clara. Try again.” Naira encouraged the younger girl, then turned to Grant. He was slouched as usual, a lazy grin on his face. As he took aim, Naira out her hands on his back to straighten his spine.
“If you stood up straight, your aim would probably improve. Also, you move your bow to the right when you fire.” She spoke in a businesslike tone, not noticing the glint in Grant’s eye. He ran his hand down the back of her neck, tracing her spine under her shirt.
“So lovely…” he whispered, enamored. Naira shook him off, feeling dirty where he had touched her. She focused on Clara from that point on, making comments to Grant from as great a distance as was possible. They had been there about an half-an hour when Clara began to look pale, her skin glistening with a cold sweat.
“I don’t feel well…” She sat down on a bench. Naira didn’t understand what was wrong. Was she upset? Had she said something to make her feel bad? What had caused this drastic change?
“You’re sick again, aren’t you?” Grant walked over, sounding a little condescending, yet there was a note of concern. He felt her forehead, and pulled his hand back quickly.
“You certainly have a fever. The driver is taking you back right now… I’ll take Naira back to James’s house.” His voice held a note Naira didn’t approve of. If only I knew how to get in contact with James, she thought desperately, unsure what to do.
They walked back to the car, and Clara slid limply into the backseat. Naira hugged her friend as Grant hefted the shopping bags to his sports car. As Clara drove away, the panic Naira had been feeling swept over her. Sickness? She had never known anyone who had taken ill like this. James’s father had died, and his sister was sick. Not only that, Clara looked like she was in excruciating pain. How do humans deal with all this? She was afraid for her new friend.
“She’ll be okay, she always is.” The arrogance in Grant’s voice was back, but it didn’t hide the fact that he did actually care a bit about his step-sister.
Naira was extremely uncomfortable being alone with Grant. He leered at her like a wolf and he drove recklessly. Soon, though, they were in front of James’s welcoming house.
“Well, gorgeous, here ya go. Home…sweet… home.” His voice was seeping with filth, and Naira felt like she was being suffocated. She was fumbling with the seat-belt, trying to get out as fast as possible, when two clawing hands gripped her arms and a scaly mouth pressed onto hers. Naira wrangled a hand free and plucked an arrow from the quiver between her feet. She held the tip to Grant’s throat, his vermin-like lips loosing their hold. His beady eyes bugged out in surprise. As she drove the head into his skin, just enough to pierce the surface of his double chin below his jaw, he released her, slowly moving his hands away.
“Grant, that was terribly foolish. My brother taught me how to shoot a bow, but he also taught me how to kill.” Her voice was eerily calm, her eyes darkening in fury. “Believe me, there are more uses for an arrow than target practice. I swear that if you touch me again like that, or even look at me in a manner that I deem unacceptable, I will shed more than just a drop of your blood.”
She kept him at bay with one hand, and with the other unbuckled the seatbelt and opened the door. She saw Eli walking towards them quickly, and she breathed a sigh of relief. He reached the car, and pulled her out. He knew that she was fine, but he didn’t trust Grant within an inch of his life.
“Pop the trunk, Grant.” Eli was obviously furious, and Grant complied. Grant had almost soiled himself and was quite shaken. No girl had ever defended herself from him, blood running down his neck. In a flash, Eli had her bags, and Naira gave Grant a long, hard judging look. He was filth, despite the care he had for Clara, he was still a rotten person. She looked at the arrow in her hand, its tip soiled with blood. She tossed it into the car, and it landed with the tip piercing the dead center of the passenger seat. His eyes held fear, panic clearly painted in them. I hate that he is going home to Clara, she deserves better… She deserves how James treats her.
“A reminder, Grant.” Her voice was regal, and her poise rivaled the finest elf-maidens. She shut the door, and walked with Eli back to the house.
“Are you alright?” Eli was thinking of how James would react when he heard this. Naira nodded, and then suddenly started to laugh.
“What in the name of all that is holy could you possibly find funny?” Eli was stunned. Naira’s eyes were bright, her clear laugh echoing through the spring night. They stepped through the door, and proceeded up the stairs to Naira’s room with her new possessions as she spoke:
“I’ve seen hobbits that have scared me more than Grant, don’t worry Eli. It is very amusing, however, that I had to leave Middle-earth to be… I believe the word you use is hit-on, for the first time! And of all the living creatures in either world, I get my unofficial first kiss from Grant!”
Eli dropped the bags he was carrying, looking at her in disbelief. He started to laugh, realizing the humor in what should be a serious situation. Naira never ceased to amaze him, that was certain. James is lucky, he thought, but I don’t think I could ever keep up with Naira. He liked girls who were a little less fiery, and didn’t carry arrows.
Meanwhile, James was watching Lena’s mouth move without hearing a word she was saying. I feel like I am being slowly crushed by a boa constrictor, he thought. They were at a nice restaurant in honor of their first official date as boyfriend and girlfriend since getting back together. I don’t think I’ve listened to two words she said tonight, he bemusedly thought as she smiled sweetly at him. They would have been back together a week tomorrow. Suddenly, a voice in James’s head said: The most miserable week of your life.
The problem was that he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about Naira. If only she wasn’t so real, he wished, so eager to adopt to the ways of his life. If only this morning hadn’t happened. It had taken every ounce of his willpower to not follow Naira up the stairs when she left him. But that didn’t stop her from being immortal, either, or change the fact the she may someday have to go back. But even when he and Lena had just broken up, he hadn’t been as unhappy as he was being tortured to death by her cattiness and incessant babble. This wasn’t worth it, not when he could spend the time he had with Naira actually with her, not looking at Lena’s face and wishing for her emerald eyes.
He tuned back into Lena’s uninterrupted broadcast in time to hear her say, “You know honey, David Flynn next door proposed to his girlfriend last Thursday, and he’s only 19. I know we’re young, but I think it is time to consider marriage.” James looked in her eyes and found no warmth or care. Just cold, calculating manipulation. He stomach clenched into a giant knot, unable to believe his own stupidity. Her face was hard, unfamiliar and James knew that he had cared for a girl who had all but died two years ago.
“Lena,” he said, his voice like stone, “I can’t even begin to comprehend spending the rest of my life with you, when the thought of finishing this meal makes me sick.”
Her face fell, her red lips parting in sheer disbelief.
“James, you can’t mean that! You love me! I love you!” Her eyes were darting around the room, looking for help but finding none. Her face held no emotion, but she reminded James at that moment or a rat trying to swim out of a sinking ship. Her words held no meaning, they were just sounds.
“Lena, I think I may have loved you once before you became this shell of a person I am looking at now. You were happy, had friends, actually enjoyed people… enjoyed being with me. Now I am just a sure thing, a famous name and a big bank account.” He stopped, his jaw set. His words had hit her hard, and her face was cold and hard, silent.
“I am sorry, I just can’t do this anymore. It isn’t fair to myself. You deserve someone just as ruthless and self-absorbed as you have become.” He pulled out a bill from his wallet and put it on the table.
“That should cover dinner and your cab ride home. Good-bye Lena. I hope you’re happy.” James took a step, but her razor-sharp voice cut him off guard.
“I won’t lose you this easily, James Varden. Not to her, that cheap idiot Naira! What does she have that I don’t?” Her voice was dripping with hate and disappointment. James leaned in, his stormy eyes boring into hers.
“For a start, Lena, she has a heart. People find life very lonely who stop using theirs. And you did lose me, you lost me the day you lost yourself. But they say you never appreciate you had until it is gone.” He stood back up, and brushed his hair out of his face.
“We’re over Lena.”
Lena didn’t turn to watch him leave. She had lost, and she knew that he was going to go home to Naira now. It didn’t hurt though, but Lena hated losing. She wanted to just think of James as a little game, nothing important. But his words had pierced her heart, and he was right about it all. She had been the girlfriend of an amazing man, and she hadn’t seen that until it was too late. A single teat slid down her cheek, but she wiped it away. Stop crying, she ordered herself. If you cry, it makes him right…. For the first time in almost three years, Lena was feeling a true emotion; she had just lost the only person in the world who ever really cared about her.
James felt like he had been freed. Nothing mattered now but Naira. How do I tell her how big of an idiot I was? He was alone with his thoughts for a few minutes more before reaching his house. He loved that house, he had bought it for himself on his twentieth birthday. His dad had lived there as a child. James had fond memories of spending time with his grandparents there before they passed on. He had mainly bought it because of his father, using the money he inherited after he had died. He missed his father… Don’t go there, now is not the time for all that, he thought wearily.
A moment later he walked through the door to his own home. Every nook and cranny was full of a feeling of comfort and safety. He loved how it looked, despite his mother and Tony having donated most of the furnishings. The house had been built in the thirties, with lead-pane windows and lots of built-shelves.
He wasn’t tired yet, and he assumed that Eli and Naira were asleep because the door had been locked, the house still with a sense of peace. James felt slightly
discouraged, and debated whether or not to wake her up while he walked into the kitchen. He got a pop out of the refrigerator and decided to go back out into the balmy night.
He walked out the door, and his heart almost stopped. Framed in the moonlight stood Naira. Her golden hair was frosted with the light of the stars, her skin drinking the paleness of the moon. She had donned the gown she arrived in. James hadn’t noticed before how beautiful it was since it had been a watery mess when he had rescued her. Her profile was visible, her lips weaving a song into the night. A flood of emotions flooded James. He adored her, she was the most beautiful woman in the world, and he didn’t care if she was an Elf.
Narya glimmered around her neck, its red catching on fire. It fell just at her heart, and James realized that from the first day he had met her, that Naira had taken hold of his heart as well. He put the can down on the counter and walked out to her. She turned, her beauty increasing with every step.
Naira was shocked to see James home so soon. She had been certain that he would have stayed with Lena longer. Eli had gone to bed only a bit ago, and she had thought she would have some time to herself. James looked different somehow, his demeanor had changed. He looked at peace, happy almost. Probably because of Lena… His eyes were so incredible in the moonlight, his smile touching her heart.
“You look amazing…” His voice was soft, and he stopped less than a foot from her. James’s gaze was deep, gazing at every lash and curve of her face. Her heart was in her throat, her blood rising to her face.
“I just wanted to wear it again. I enjoy your clothes, but I do miss some of my dresses.” She laughed at herself, turning her head away.
“Do you miss you home terribly?” She thought of her parents, her siblings, all that she had known. Naira turned her green eyes to James’s face, and her heart murmured to her the feelings that she had in her heart for him.
“I was fond of my home, it is true. The land mainly, I suppose. But I am not pining for anyone… there.”
“Then they were blind. You are incredible, Naira, like a star. And all I can see is you, feel you burning me!” He stepped closer to her, she didn’t move away.
“James, I…” She stopped, her mouth suddenly wouldn’t work properly.
“Grant kissed me tonight, but I took care of it. He knows not to touch me again.”
James face darkened, his hands protectively sheltering both of hers. He rubbed his thumbs across the tops of her hands, she reveled in his touch.
“Are you alright?” His voice held a quiet anger, his eyes dark.
“Yes, don’t worry. I made my point. Arrows are rather useful tools.”
She saw the surprise in his face, and laughed again.
“I didn’t really hurt him, I just cut his chin. He is a vile, vile person. But, James, why is Clara sick?” He still held her hands in his, and she was afraid he would let go of them.
“They don’t know. Apparently she isn’t the only one with the same symptoms in the area. Some days are just better than others. Did it scare you?”
She nodded, fighting back tears.
“Oh James, how do you deal with it? Sickness and death and terrible pain! I never imagined…”
“How do you never get angry or despair about your situation? I find that more incredible than sickness or death. They are natural, they hurt, but from that pain comes growth. Just like you have blossomed since you arrived here. I see it everyday. Your humor, your caring heart, your beauty -“
“Goodnight, James.” She said quickly and turned to go. James lunged and caught her hand. The look on his face was hard to read, yet there was a genuine concern in it.
“Naira, I mean that, and any man who doesn’t think so is a fool.”
He intertwined his fingers with hers, and pulled her close to him, Naira still stunned at his words. She tired not to look at him, even when one of his long fingers traced the outline of her face. His hand cupped her chin, and he tilted her head up to look at him. Their eyes met, and James could clearly read in her jewel-colored eyes the emotions in her heart. His lips brushed the top of her head, and then he kissed her gently on the forehead, with even more care than when he had done so on the beach. Naira felt as though her legs would collapse under her.
“Yes?” He was so close, so warm and loving. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back down to the ground.
“Ind nin an le gwestin. (I promise my heart to you.)” She murmured, not wanting to look at him again.
” I don’t understand.” She looked at him, her longing losing to the goodness of her heart.
“This isn’t fair to Lena.” she said. Her heart was near to breaking she wanted to kiss him so badly. Yet, her honor kept her from doing so. He had a girlfriend, and it wasn’t right. Even if it was her darling James, and even if Lena was despicable. Again, he caught her hands, and pulled her back. His large hands captured her hand over his heart.
“My heart doesn’t belong to Lena. It hasn’t for two weeks now…” A hand cupped her chin and she looked into his loving eyes. “I cut my ties with Lena tonight, it’s over. I want you to know that I have been enchanted with you since the moment I met you. And I don’t care that this may not last. I have one life, Naira, and I want you to be as big a part of it as possible.”
Naira’s heart melted, and she flung her arms around his neck. Here, in his arms, was where she had wanted to be so badly. James wanted her! Her dear James wanted her. Tears of joy fell from her eyes. James pulled back ever so slightly. His hands wiped the tears from her face.
“Why are you crying?”
“For the first time in my life, I feel like I am alive. I can feel my heart beat, and I know that it beats for you. It always will.”
Her elegant hands gently rose to his face, and she leaned towards him. Their mouths met and the world disappeared. The pent up emotions in their hearts flowed free and their arms encircled each other. From the bathroom window, Eli was smiling down at his friends. Well, it was meant to be, he thought, and went to bed.
When the kiss ended, Naira rested her head on James’s chest, her heart racing. James kissed the top of her head, and rested his chin on her hair. He closed his eyes, letting the moment sweep over him. Naira whispered into the night, “Tell me what you’re thinking, James.”
“About how beautiful you are.”
“Oh, be quiet.” And with that, she kissed him again. Gandalf was right, she thought dreamily, I have found happiness.