Cain was an enigma.
There were always signs of his arrival. The flowers on the Tree of Cerise blushed a deeper red. There were whispers in the wind, breathing life into dull stone, the roots slithering their way out of the earth like forgotten dark creatures craving the sun.
It was the only time the Phoenix ever crowed.
The waif thin branch shook dangerously beneath Kun, and her face crumpled with shame. The little twigs were never meant to break under a pixie’s weight. Never before had the climb been so excruciatingly slow, so mind-numbingly tedious. Guilt crawled its way up her throat, tempting her to vomit out the lemon sap she had gorged on earlier. She made her way up, inching slowly, carefully as she stepped onto the bark. A gentle gust of wind threw her off balance, and she held fast onto a dead autumn leaf. Her shoulders ached, the veins of the petal tearing asunder and crumbling to ashes in her fists. Mercifully, the wind soon subsided, leaving her with bruised knees and scraped palms.
Eventually, she reached her hideout, high enough to see the edge of the Arden. A goshawk flew above her, and she shrank behind decaying leaves. When the sound of its wings faded, she stumbled out, resting her chubby thighs on the brown peeling wood. One of these days, the bird would grab her in its claws and feed her to its chicks, delighted for once it had a caught a fat juicy prey. Or the wind would topple her from a great height, and she would hit the earth and crack open like an egg, the darkness in her spilling over for the world to see.
Kun didn’t care anymore. These were all small prices to pay.
She caught a glimmer of gold, and her small heart seized, racing faster than a fallen star speeding through the night sky. He appeared like a ghost in the distance, the edges blurry as if he was made of winter fog. As he drew closer, he shimmered into the light, a real, breathing being, shining green eyes the colour of emeralds and hair a fiery gold. He whistled, and white dandelions flew towards him, circling him in greeting.
Kun wished she could fly then. She wished she was nimble, ivory haired sunlighter Eve, cutting through air like a sawshark through water. But her body was too heavy, her wings an added burden that had bent from neglect. Her mother often teased that she wasn’t truly a pixie, but really a stolen changeling from the filthy black moles that lived beneath the Great White Oak.
Cain spotted her amongst the leaves, and he smiled beautifully. Kun’s heart fluttered, and she hastily crawled back into her hideout and shut her eyes, red with embarrassment. A few moments later, she found herself staring into a pair of giant green eyes, sparkling with amusement.
“Come now, Amara.” Cain laughed. “We are friends, aren’t we?”
Heart in her throat, she simply nodded. She was the only earthseeder in her family, so her father had named her Kun, for she was ‘born of mud’. She despised the name, more so for the truth in it. With Cain, she left her shadow self behind, a butterfly escaping the prison of its silk cocoon. She was Amara, his ‘sweet little love’, and when she grasped his finger and he lifted her into the air, she felt a deep warmth inside her, an incomprehensible joy, as if another self within her was melting like candle wax in the face of the sun.
“I have a gift for you.” he said, reaching into his pocket. It was a strange little thing on the tip of his finger, like hardened water that had taken the shape of a teardrop, far too small in his hand, but large enough to fill her palm.
“They call it an Iris. See how the light bends.” Kun was mesmerised, the colours shining off the glassy surface, a white sky in her hands, tiny rainbows glittering in the sun.
“Iridescent…” she murmured.
“Yes.” Cain smiled. “The gypsies told me sea crystals like these bring great luck. But I only bought it because it reminded me of you.” A wide grin spread across her face, and she stuttered out a shy thanks. She wished he would never leave, but like all wonderful things, it ended too soon. Obeying his call, he gently placed her back into her leafy nest and disappeared into the woods, the evanescence of a dream that lingered like sun drops on fire petals.