The heat of the sun beat down on my skin. I smiled as I tipped my head back the wind blowing through my hair as we moved through the tall grass. The sound of soft laughter met my ears. I opened my eyes and moved my head to look over.
“What?” I smiled at him.
“You’re so beautiful.” He wrapped his arms around my waist before he lifted me and spun me in the air.
I laughed as my hands gripped onto his arms. “Put me down!”
“Your wish is my command, Princess.” He set me down gently before he placed a soft kiss on my lips.
“They’ll never allow this,” I said as I looked anywhere but him.
“Allow what?” I could feel his gaze on me.
“Allow us,” I said my eyes moving back to him. “You’re not the Prince. I’m not supposed to be with anyone but him.” I shook my head.
“They have to.” He frowned. “We’re life mates.”
“I know we are, but that doesn’t matter. They have ways to sever ties and create new ones. It’s twisted magic.” I shuddered at the thought.
“We will make sure that it doesn’t come to that. Besides, magic like that requires a very powerful fey.” He wrapped his arms around me. “Don’t think about it, baby. I won’t be going anywhere.” He kissed the top of my head. I wrapped my arms around him, holding him in a tight hug.
“Promise?” I whispered into his chest.
“Promise, Little Bug.”
Oxygen shot into my lungs like a bullet. I coughed as air moved in and out of my lungs.
“Fucking hell.” I blinked my eyes trying to see where the voices were coming from. The back dots that covered my vision were slowly dissipating.
“I told you not to bring her.” Nix’s voice was clear as day. I looked to my right, she was kneeling on the ground beside me.
“Yes, but you didn’t tell me she would fucking die!” Rupert’s voice was loud. I moved my hand to try and find him.
“I shouldn’t have to tell you.” Nix said. “I’ve never had to use such complicated magic before. I didn’t even know what I was doing was going to work Rupert.” Her voice was low, angry.
“You could have at least told me why you didn’t want her there. Instead of just making it seem like you don’t want a human tagging along.” Clearly, they had not realized that I had woken up.
“That’s just it Rupert! She’s not a god damn human. Look at her!” She waved her hand over my body. I looked at both of them before I looked down at myself in confusion.
I blinked several times as my mind tried to comprehend what I was seeing. My skin was emerald green, my fingers were longer and had long pointed claws rather than my chewed fingernails. My hair had come loose from my braid and now hung loose, but instead of vibrant fire red locks, I found deep burgundy hair that shined beneath the moonlight, almost like ink.
My heart beat frantically in my chest. My breaths came out short and quick. My eyes moved back to Rupert. His face was filled with awe and confusion. I quickly glanced at Nix. She held a stone cold expression like she knew what was going to happen and the sight before her was not a shock.
I tried to open my mouth to speak but no sounds came out. I looked at Rupert liked a gaping fish. He blinked at me as if realizing I was finally awake.
“Just breathe.” He whispered as he ran his hands through my hair at the side of my head.
I felt an overwhelming urge to cry. I wasn’t looking at myself. I was looking at something else. Something else that wasn’t me.
“Ariella. I need you to breathe. Relax your mind and picture yourself as you’ve always been. Your human body.” I looked at him like he had six heads. His words were impossible.
This is just a dream. I thought as I continued to give him a blank look.
“Just try. Please.” He leaned down closer to me.
I closed my eyes, and thought of nothing but the two of us together in his studio tangled in the sheets. I pictured him running his hands through my hair, and trying to count each freckle that covered my cheeks and nose. I pictured his violet eyes looking into my green ones while he told me how beautiful he thought I was.
I felt a blanket of warmth move over my body. I blinked my eyes open and found Rupert looking down at me with a smile on his face.
“Good.” He whispered. He wrapped his arm around my back as I tried to sit myself back up. “Easy.” I looked back down at my hands. I let out a breath when I saw that they were their normal shape and colour.
“W-What happened?” My voice was raw. I cleared my throat.
“Save your questions for later. We need to head back.” Nix’s voice cut in. I didn’t bother to protest, I could tell she was livid. I could also see the light moving over the trees. The sun was rising and we needed to get home.
“Okay.” I whispered as I moved to stand up with Rupert’s help. As I stood all of my blood rushed to my head. I felt dizzy, I could feel myself swaying. Rupert wrapped his arms around me.
“I-I’m okay.” I rubbed the palm of my hand against my forehead. “Let’s go.” I grabbed his hand and took a few wobbly steps.
“Can you walk?” He asked.
I nodded my head, not wanting to talk. My stomach was still turning like my brain was trying to understand the events that took place tonight. I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep breath before I continued to walk.
We walked slowly through the narrow path. Nix and the rest of the group were ahead of us. Rushing to make it back. Rupert had explained that if we make it back after it would be okay. Opening the gates for two people while the sun was up was easier than trying to keep it open for a large group to get through. He had explained that the gates were only ever meant to open while the moon was still in the sky and just as the sun was rising. Any time after that it required more powerful magic and took more energy for the guards to keep the gates open for the many people that would usually need to get through.
At this point, I figured Nix would be happy if we got stuck behind. It would mean she could avoid the questions that I knew she had the answers to. As we walked I tried to make sense of the things that had taken place during the ceremony. Had Nix attacked me with magic before my world shook beneath me? The dreams that I had were they figments of my imagination? What have I become? All of these questions I knew Nix could answer. It would just turn into the next question, would she even answer them?
Rupert had little to say as we made our way back. For that, I was thankful. There wasn’t much that I wanted to say. My body hurt, my mind was tired. I wanted to curl up into my bed and sleep the day away. I couldn’t wait to make it back to my bed, the questions could wait once we got home. I needed time to myself, time to sleep, time to think.
I pulled my cloak closer to my body as the wind began to blow between the trees. I turned my head away from the wind as my hair blew up into my eyes. I released one side of my cloak and pushed my hair away before I pulled the hood back up. I looked around as the trees suddenly were cast into darkness. I looked up to the sky, confused as to the sudden darkness. The sun was still high in the sky, the tops of the trees still, as if the wind wasn’t moving through them.
I looked over at Rupert, he was walking, unphased by the things happening around us. I frowned, pulling my cloak back around me as another gust whipped through the base of the trees. I stopped moving and turned to look back behind me. The hair at the back of my neck stood on end.
“Ariella?” Rupert turned back to see why I had stopped. “You okay?”
I stood looking back behind me while he talked. I looked out into the trees, and down the path that we had just walked. I saw nothing.
I shook my head. “Y-Yeah.” I turned back to face him.
“What’s going on?” He moved back towards me.
“Nothing. It’s fine. Just my mind playing tricks on me.” I shrugged my shoulders and continued down the path.
We walked a few more paces before another gust of wind blew through me. “Are you not seeing this?” I looked around.
The wind had blown in a fresh cloud of fog. It moved slowly over the grass, through the thick bushes and twisted around the bases of the trees.
“What?” Rupert looked at me confused.
“That!” I pointed to the fog. “The giant cloud of fog moving towards us? The massive wind that’s hitting us right now? The fact that the sun is still out but it’s dark where we are?” I looked at him wide-eyed.
Am I losing my mind? I thought as he looked at me like I was crazy.
“No.” He put his hand on the side of my face and moved it up against my forehead. “Are you feeling okay?”
“I’m fine. I swear that -” I was cut off by the sound of my name. I whipped my head to the side and glared into the darkness of the trees.
“Ariella!” The wind carried my name. I turned back the way we had just come. I looked down the path to see who it was that was calling my name.
“Shh. Do you hear that?” I said as I continued to walk away from him.
“Hear what?” He said. “Ariella, there’s nothing there.”
“Ariella!” I heard the voice clear this time.
“Hello?” I called, my pace had turned into a brisk walk.
“Ariella, where are you going?” Rupert moved to catch up to me. “There’s nothing there.”
“Ariella! Ari!” The voice boomed through the trees.
I stopped to look around us. Spinning in a full circle.
That voice. I thought. I know that voice.
“Griff?” I whispered. I watched as a tall form turned down the bend in the path we had just walked. He was tall, his shirt and pants stained with dirt. His dark hair that was once trimmed close to his head was now a long curly mop on the top of his head.
“Griffin?” I rushed his name out of my mouth. Not believing the sight that was in front of me. “Griffin!” I moved towards him, my pace turned into a slow jog, before I quickened my pace into a full run.
“Ariella!” Rupert’s voice called after me, but I barely heard him.
“Griffin,” I whispered as he came within arms reach of me. I held out my hands to grab him. He looked different. His skin was lighter, his cheeks were flushed red. His eyes held dark circles under them. He looked lighter than when I last saw him.
“Ari. Where have you been?” He looked at me wide-eyed as he reached his own hands out to grab mine.
I shot forward. I let out a small scream as arms wrapped around my body, pushing my arms down away from my old friend. Rupert’s arms trapped me, he pulled me back against his chest.
“What are you doing?” I raised my voice, panic set in. “Let me go!”
“Ariella?” Griffin dropped his arms down. He looked around him confused. “Ari?” His voice turned into a whisper. He looked so lost like the final straw had been cut. He looked like he had just lost the last piece that was holding himself together.
“Griff.” I fought against Rupert’s hold. “Let me go!” I said to him. “Griffin! I’m here. I’m right here!” My voice cracked as I tried to push Rupert away from me. “What have you done?” I clawed at his arms.
“What I should have been doing this whole time.” His voice was low, threatening as he focused on the space in front of us. I watched as a dusting of golden light flickered around us.
“No! No!” I stomped my foot down on his. “Please, just let me - just let me say goodbye.” I could feel the tears slowly trail down my cheeks. “You don’t understand.” My voice came out quiet even though I felt like I was yelling. “He needs to know I’m okay. I-I need him to know.”
“That’s not a choice you get to make.” Rupert’s voice was low, threatening in my ear.
I felt the anger that was boiling inside me snap. I kicked my foot down again, while I jabbed my elbow against his stomach.
“I never get to make a choice with you!” I yelled. “Let me, the fuck, go!” My sadden tears were quickly turning into tears of rage.
“Ari!” Griffin yelled my name again. He threw his arms in the air, before they came down to the top of his head. His fingers threaded through his hair while he continued to turn in circles.
“Ariella, love. I can’t let him see you. I’m sorry. He can’t know.”
“Please.” I cried. “Please, even if he thinks it’s just in his head. I need him to know.” I reached my hand out and touched the wall of golden magic that stood between myself and Griffin.
“Who is he?”
“The only person who’s ever loved me.” I whispered. ” I haven’t seen him in years.” I pressed my fingers against the magic. My hand pushed against it like I was pressing against a glass window.
I felt Rupert’s arms drop from around my body. I stumbled forward, not expecting him to drop me. I turned back to look at him confused. A facial expression that I had never seen before crossed his face. His eyebrows were pulled together, his eyes looked at me like I wasn’t there. His arms were to his side, his hands balled into fists.
“You love him.” He said. I stepped back from him, shocked at his sudden words.
“What?” I whispered
“You love him.” He looked at me like I was nothing.
“Of course I do!” I shouted. “He’s the only person who’s ever been in my life. I’ve been on my own for years. He was the only one there for me when I needed someone!” I spun away from Rupert and stepped towards the magic veil.
“Griffin.” I said, stepping as close to the veil as I could get. “I’m okay. I promise.” I said, knowing he couldn’t hear a single word I said.
I watched as he fell knees first into the soil beneath him. I covered my mouth with my free hand, while my other hand stayed pressed against the invisible wall.
I watched him as his hands left his hair and ran over his face. My heart broke into pieces as I watched him break in front of me. I fell to my knees beside him and cried as I watched his mind slowly break into pieces like I had seen it do so many years ago.
“Griff.” I whispered. I wanted so badly to hold him.
“Ari.” His voice was rough as he turned to face me. I frowned in confusion. I reached out towards him again. Instead of being stopped by the wall of magic, my hand passed through and touched his shoulder.
I looked at him surprised. I scrambled towards him and wrapped my arms around his body as I pulled myself against him. I cried into his shoulder as I felt his warm body against mine. I took in a deep breath, taking in his musky scent.
“Ari.” His voice seemed uncertain.
“I’m here.” I pulled back to look into his dark chocolate eyes. “I’m here. I’m okay.” I brushed his hair back from his face.
“I’ve been looking for you.” His shaking hands came up and cupped my cheeks.
“So have I.” I smiled. “I need you to listen to me.” I kept his gaze locked with mine. “I need you to know that I’m okay. I promise I’m okay.” I wiped the dirt from his rosy, sunken cheeks.
“How will I know?” He looked at me confused.
“Look at me. I never break promises. I’m okay, but this will be the only time I’ll visit you.” I kept my one hand on the side of his face while my other pressed against his chest, over his racing heart. A movement I had done with him a million times.
“You need to go home, Griff.” I pressed my forehead against his and closed my eyes as I breathed him in. “I need you to get better for me.” I opened my eyes. “Get better for me. Promise me.”
“Promise.” He gave me a weak smile.
“We never break our promises. Remember that I’m okay. I’m safe and happy.” I leaned in and pressed a kiss to the side of his face. “Go home, my love. Find someone who will love you and make you happy. Okay?”
He looked at me. His eyes scanned over my face like he was remembering each fine detail. “Okay.” He nodded his head.
“Okay.” I smiled. “Good-bye Griff.” I pressed a light kiss to his lips before I leaned back and pulled away from him. I ran my hand down his arm, catching his hand, giving it one final squeeze before I leaned back enough for Rupert to finish the wall I felt him creating.
I cradled my hands to my chest as I let out a silent sob. I hung my head as I let the tears fall from my eyes.
“Thank you.” I whispered.
Rupert didn’t reply. I cried for him, knowing how much I had just hurt him. I cried for Griffin and the things that I left behind. I took a deep breath, looking back up at Griffin one last time before Rupert finished his wall of trees. I squeezed my hands together before I dropped them to my knees. I pushed myself off the ground. I pulled up my hood, that had once again fallen at some point during my run towards Griffin. I wrapped myself in the warmth of my layers before I turned back towards Rupert.
I kept my gaze straight ahead, fearful of the look I would see on his face. I moved past him, wanting to get home. My mind, and body exhausted from the nights events. I needed my time, and I knew now that Rupert would need his.