On light feet, Spook ran over to where Anna stood stunned, wondering just what it was she had done. Anna was looking at the slim silver ring that Matt had pressed onto her finger, and she was very pale, as though in shock.
“Congratulations!” she said, hugging her friend. Matt had got back to his feet, and was standing there looking awkward and embarrassed. Neither of them had ever seen him like that before, and it was a surprise. He always seemed so in control, in the past. But then again, he had never had to deal with issues of the heart in the past. He had never fallen in love before.
“Thanks,” said Anna. Her mind was far away.
“I knew you were close, but I never expected this! When’s the wedding?” Spook’s excited chatter brought Anna back to reality with a bump.
A wedding?!?! Somehow it hadn’t quite sunk in before just what getting married meant. Would she have to wear a white dress?
“When we know, I’ll tell you,” promised Matt, smiling. “You can be bridesmaid, if you want.” Spook beamed. Though a bit of a tomboy, she loved the idea of being something important at a wedding, as she never had before.
“And Delorfinde? Can she, too?” Spook persisted. Anna looked up.
“I need to tell Kathryn, and Callie.” Since she had left school, and Kat had gone off to university, Anna hadn’t been in touch with her friends so much. However, she was sure they wouldn’t mind if Spook and Del took the bridesmaids’ jobs. They weren’t like that.
“Good point,” said Matt, looking stricken. He realised that he knew nothing of Anna’s life nowadays. Who was she friends with now? He did not have a clue, to be completely honest.
While Anna ran off to phone her two childhood friends, Spook stayed and looked Matt squarely in the eye.
“You will honour this marriage, won’t you?” she said seriously. “Anna’s a good person - if you mess her around, I’ll mess up your face.” She raised a hand, and Shifted ever so slightly so that she had claws instead of fingernails. “I’m serious.”
“I know you are,” said Matt, softly. He saw the fierce loyalty in Spook’s eyes. How was he to know how close the two girls had got during his absence, as Spook coaxed Anna awake each night during horrific nightmares? How was he to know what bonds had been forged as the two girls fought to overcome the grief they both felt after the loss of their parents? The truth was that he didn’t.
Anna returned. “Matt?” she said, cautiously.
“What is it, my darling?” he said.
“Urgh! Don’t say that!” she protested, and he laughed.
“All right, I won’t. But what’s your question?”
“How old are you?” she asked. He went pale suddenly. It was a question he had been expecting for a long time, but had hoped never to have to answer.
“I was human for fifteen years,” he began. “The Celryn Turned me when I was fifteen years and three months old.” His face wore a faraway expression, as he gazed back over the years to a time long gone. “I remained as one of them for ten years, before the Telcontar Turned me to what I am now. That was twenty years ago, or will be tomorrow. I have had an existence for forty five years, but among my people I would only be counted as nineteen years old. Twenty tomorrow, in fact.”
Anna nodded. “Well, I’m nineteen today, so we’re about the same age.” She grinned. “I know you don’t get any older, not as fast as a human, anyway, so it’s probably a good thing I’m half fairy.”
With a wicked smile, she lit a flame in her hand and pulled his chin so that his mouth was open. Breathing the fire gently into his mouth, she closed his lips gently, sealing them with a kiss. Spook looked away, embarrassed.
And Matt gasped. Because the flame that his beloved placed inside the casket of his mouth was pure, unadulterated love.
She had quite literally given him her heart. For as everyone knows, the heart of a fairy - even one who is half human - is made of fire, and their soul of stars.