“Goodnight Lena, Goodnight James!’ Clara effused as she got out of James’s car. Grant slammed his door, hard, and walked away without saying goodbye. James planned on having another talk with Naira when he got home about Grant and his many indiscretions. This archery lesson idea was lunacy! Clara was waving and blew a kiss at her brother as he backed out of the winding driveway of Tony’s house. Lena hadn’t said a word yet, but it was surely the calm before the storm.
“So,” he said uncertainly, “what do you think about that contest at the paper? Could you imagine if I won? It is what I have always wanted to-“
“I thought I was what you always wanted.” Her voice cut him off, sharp as a knife. James tightened his grip on the steering wheel. Here we go, he thought, slightly relieved that she was going to finally say something. It wasn’t natural for Lena to keep silent for any period of time.
“Lena, what on earth do you mean?”
“James, you were acting like a jealous man at dinner tonight. I can just picture you cuddling up with that floozy later tonight with no regard for me whatsoever.” She turned her head, like a haughty cat. James bit his tongue for a moment before replying, “Lena, we’re rebuilding. Don’t start tearing it down. My brother was absolutely horrific to Naira tonight, and I am just supposed to let him paw at her?”
“Well… no, but I still think there is something between you two!” She snapped, and James about lost it.
“Lena, don’t you ever, EVER, accuse me of cheating on you! Remember, we’re only on try number two because you cheated on me! And don’t you ever forget that!” He stopped himself, and refocused on the road. Lena was fervent, her plan was going terribly. This Naira was going to ruin everything!
James dropped her off at her house, and kissed her absently on the lips. Lena slid out of the car, her thoughts stringent. Well, I still have him, she thought. I just need to watch myself to keep it that way.
Saturday dawned bright and early, a clear day with plenty of sun and fresh air. Naira was reading her book on the steps out front, listening to the trees and enjoying nature. The front door opened behind her, and James stepped out, blinking sleepily with a cup of coffee in his hand. He sat down next to her, in hobbit pants and a wrinkled t-shirt.
“You look like you just woke up,” she said warmly.
“Don’t fool yourself, I did!” She giggled a bit, and stretched out her willowy legs. She was wearing a khaki skirt and a flowing, peasant shirt. Her hair was loose, and shimmered in the light. She looked at James, his hair was mussed, the corners of his mouth upturned slightly. They sat in a comfortable silence, James with his coffee and Naira reading her book. She had worked hard all week, and was now able to read the story. It was gripping, full of suspense and action.
She glanced at James again, and smelled the aroma of his coffee. “James, is there more of that drink in the kitchen?”
“Yep, I’ll get you a cup.” He was about to get up, but she was already through the door. “I can do it!” she called sweetly back to him. He laughed, and looked at the book she was reading. James instantly recognizing the binding. It was one of his father’s books.
R. Charles Varden, his father, had been an author. And a very talented one at that. On the back cover, his father’s smiling face looked lovingly out at his son. He had the same curly hair, cut much shorter than James wore his, and the same warm gray eyes. They looked similar too, both handsome men with good hearts. James was going into journalism mostly because of Charles. When he was younger, his father had taken him camping, to museums and introduced him to classic literature and films. He had taught his son the be curious and aware of the world around him. The most important lesson had been that he shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions. His thoughts jumped to Naira and the sweetness about her when she wanted to know something, how rosy her cheeks grew when she blushed.
James was unaware that Naira was in fact behind him, studying him. He reached over, and lovingly traced the face of the man on the back cover. James was clearly lost in thought, and she knew he couldn’t sense her the way she could sense his presence. She glided slowly up to him, extending a slender hand to caress his shoulder. Her fingers brushed the fabric of his shirt lightly, like a gentle breeze. He turned around, and Naira’s heart melted. James was fighting back tears, the pain he was clearly feeling made her heart sore. She sat down next to him, set her mug down beside her, then wrapped her arms around his waist. She buried her face in his chest. James hesitated before placing his arms around her.
“Man prestad?” she asked him what was wrong, forgetting he couldn’t speak Elvish.
“What?” he asked, not understanding her words for the first time.
“What is the matter?” Her voice was so sweet and melodic, he wanted to tell her everything. He looked down at her, weighing his options.. He gave her a tight squeeze and pulled himself out of her embrace. He gave her a sad smile before saying, “I’m fine, really. I just didn’t expect to find you reading this.” He held the book out, his fingers grasping it tightly, as though it was his father’s hand.
“My dad was an author. He wrote books, fictional stories for other people to read.” Naira nodded in understanding, eager to hear more. “He was working on one about the environment and pollution when he died. That was eight years ago, I was twelve. That is also when I met Lena.” She had been so different then, though. Fun, content with life and didn’t hide behind a mask of make-up. Naira had picked up her coffee, taking tiny, elegant sips, making a note to ask about pollution later. “Her father owns a factory not far outside of town. He gave dad information about pollution and statistics about their output. Then, dad …died. But Lena and I still hung out. We dated on and off during high school, but we only got serious a little over three years ago.”
He laughed, looking at the yard. “That must seem like no time at all to you.”
“Not at all. Every day is a gift.” Her eyes were practically glowing in the soft sunbeams, emeralds in a sea of light. James gazed into their depths, yearning for some ancient wisdom to take the pain out of his heart. He held the book tighter.
“How old are you, by the way?” It suddenly dawned on him that she could be as old as Galadriel. Naira looked at him in surprise, and let out an amused laugh. Her laugh was like music, a soft bell in the morning. Her smile held the starlight, and James was drawn further into her spell.
“Oh James,” she said in a merry voice, “I am little more than a child to the Elves. You needn’t worry, I am not as old as dirt.”
“Well, then, kindly answer the question milady.” His eyes were bright, happiness spreading through him.
“I am 1,019 years old. I have just come of age, but besides my skill with a bow, I seem to have proven to be less than satisfactory.” Her voice held a note of bitterness.
“How so?” James urged her on, the journalist in him coming out.
“Well, I am the youngest of four children. We are set apart by a considerable span of time. My brother, Encaitar is 2,835 years old. He had already been of age for over 800 years when I was born. My family has always seen me as a child.”
She stopped here, unsure how to say the next part. She set the mug down, the bitter coffee leaving a bad taste in her mouth. She had taken it black, and disliked it immensely.
“There is another matter. Oricon and Ainon have both faced numerous marriage proposals during their time, even before they had come of age. Oricon was just married about a hundred years ago, and Ainon is, well, she doesn’t have to worry….”
“How is that a problem for you?” He asked quickly, dreading terrible news that Naira was already engaged or betrothed from birth.
“I’ve never even been so much as paid a compliment by any other elf outside my family. My own parents think me plain, though they tell me otherwise every so often… And is it hard to be plain when you’re an elf. My brother once told me that I was handsome when I came of age, and that has been the extent of my experience with flattery. Until, you said that-”
She stopped, realizing what she was about to say. James was floored. How could anyone think she was plain?
“Naira, you’re beautiful!” He blurted out. Naira pulled away, standing up and walking a few feet out into the front yard.
“How did your father die James?” she asked, her voice soft. James still held the book, and a single tear fell onto the photo.
“I don’t want to talk about this, Naira.” His voice was full of sorrow and grief. She glided back over, and knelt in front of him. She placed her elegant hands on top of his, pulling them to her, ignoring the book still clutched in his hand. Her heart was overflowing with emotions she had never felt before. She forgot about Lena, about Grant, about him being mortal or that she came from different world. This man made her feel alive.
“Lasto beth nin, sídh, sídh. (Listen to my word, peace, peace.)” She spoke in Elvish, her words coming fast and breathless. She looked deeply into his eyes, and lovingly wiped a tear off of his cheek. She ran her hand along his face, easing the sorrow in his heart. “An le nunen, James. (I mourn with you, James.)”
James closed his eyes, lost in her touch and the Elvish comforted him like a blanket. She leaned close, her forehead against his. Her lips crept to his forehead, and bestowed a delicate kiss upon his brow. A tear slid down her cheek at the realization of what she truly felt for James. “Aranno nin! (Forgive me!)” She was suddenly gone, the cold morning air filling the space where her warm body had been. He opened his eyes, the tears were gone now, but so was Naira.
Naira sat in the chair in her room, rocking back and forth, trying to comfort herself. She was shaking, startled and frightened. This couldn’t be anything like love, could it?