A Valiant Effort

Loved as she truly was.

To Eveline's parents such a statement was hurtful. She was their daughter and they loved her. Of course they loved her. Parents were supposed to love their children and they were, afterall, very good parents. They did all they could to take care of her, to do what was best for her. Protecting her from herself, from the danger she could get into at night, guiding her dring the day to do all she could to improve herself, be prepared to be a womanwho could find her place in the world. What more was required of them? What more could they do to show their love?

The trouble was that it is difficult for any parent to see their child for all they are. A child is, in the eyes of their parents, always a child. Everything a parent knows is coloured by the baby, the toddler, the child, the teen. Their love was, to some extent, the problem. Wanting the best for their daughter meant they were unwilling to accept that the night was an integral part of their daughter, just as was the day.

Eveline, likewise, found it rather difficult to see herself as a whole. While the sun shone she was shamed and dismayed by her nighttime behaviour; by the light of the stars and moon, she shook her head at how foolish she was to be so bound up during the day. Propriety versus uninhibited. The two selves always at odds, never quite united. Her perspective from within kept her from an honest evaluation of just who she truly was, or could be. And so the nagging feeling that something was missing continued to plague the young woman as she grew, struggling to maintain the selves that seemed to split further and further apart. She learned to keep hidden what she was from everyone but her parents and the fairies who knew the truth of the matter. Her two worlds did not meet and she fought to keep it that way.

During the day, Eveline was the apple of her parents' eye. She excelled at school, finding a love of books that called to some wild part of her, tales of adventure and romance. In that she was hardly different than so many of her contemporaries, and yet there was something about it in her that left her unsatisfied. Nevertheless, she found that her interests lay with a study of people, a desire to understand who they were, how they related to one another. Her kindness drew people to her, and her friends adored her. She enjoyed her life, pleased with her accomplishments, her responsibility and drive, her thoughtfulness and her ambition. Her strength. She was accepted and adored. And yet....

During the night, Eveline did all those things that were off-limits during the day. The wild revels of the fairies changed as did the young woman. From dancing and singing in the forest, climbing trees and making minor mischief, to mad parties, consuming the fairy wine that left her head spinning. She denied herself nothing, whether it was to swim naked or kiss an interesting young man. At times the fairies joined those parties that young people had in the night, mocking and toying with the ordinary youths who were spurred on by the uninhibited fairies to new heights of folly and trickery. Through it all Eveline denied herself nothing and revelled in her freedom. And yet....

Something was missing. Something she could not name. It left her staring blankly out the windows during classes, or sitting sulking on a rock when all around her the wildness raged. How was she to reconcile herself to this? Ever at odds with the one person who should be the most accepting of her life: her very own self.

As the saying goes, Eveline was her own worst critic. From her parents she had learned to regret the life she led at night; from the fairies she had learned to struggle against the bindings that held her during the day. How could she be content with such a life, swaying between two extremes, always wishing to stop time and stay as she was, yet a part of her longing for that other life?

Eveline's parents finally accepted that they would not be able to break the curse on her 18th birthday. They had not admitted defeat, however, not by a long shot. No, they had simply chosen a new avenue to explore: If their love could not bring about the end of this awful malediction, then perhaps they could find an elegible man who could. That was, afterall, how these things went. At least according to the stories. And so Eveline's parents began a seemingly endless parade of boys and men before her. Each day there was a new young man presented to Eveline, a new "friend of the family" or "friend's son" who joined them for lunch or an afternoon outing, or even an early dinner.

The constant barrage was, in the beginning, rather appealing to Eveline. What was not to enjoy about a long list of young men being introduced to her, all of them elegible, attractive, some of them even interesting? It was how things worked in the stories, that one of these men would be the right one, a surprise who would sweep her off her feet. Those who showed clear interest were even invited back a second, or even third, time to give the two young people a chance to get to know one another, to develop a crush or even fall a little in love.

And every day ended with the setting of the sun, and Eveline was once again a wild thing.

None of the young men saw more than the pretty and proper girl of the day. Not until a particular one.

His name was Darian and he was all the things Eveline thought she should want. Handsome, intelligent, responsible, ambitious. He was even occasionally funny, some might even say witty. Not the perfection of manhood, but certainly the sort of young man who would make a good husband and wonderful partner. Clean-cut and well on his way to a splendid career. She thought perhaps he even loved her, at least a little. He had been at her house multiple times, and her parents heartily approved of him. After a couple years of trying they were rather hoping he would be as finding new young men was getting a little more difficult.

And so one day Darian received an invitation for supper, an invitation he was more than happy to accept. It was later than the usual invitations, something that surprised him as he had been told that the evenings were exceptionally busy for the young Eveline. He arrived at the house, noting that the sun was hovering low in the sky, its descent toward the horizon nearly finished. His careful grasp enclosed the stem of a rose, a perfect white rose that embodied all the things he thought best about Eveline.

The door opened and Eveline's father welcomed him inside, although with a good deal more nervousness than Darian had expected. Likewise Eveline's mother seemed rather ill-a-ease, sloshing her glass of wine as they all sat at the dinner table. Eveline was the only one who seemed mostly at ease, and even she seemed restless, eyes constantly straying either to the clock or the window as though waiting for something.

"Is all well, Eveline?" Darian asked with a certain amount of concern and an equal measure of trepidation. All the signs certainly suggested this was even less an ordinary meeting than he had anticipated. He reached out and lightly touched her hand, then recoiled with surprise. She practically vibrated with energy and, as the sun finally sank beneath the horizon, a change swept over her.

It was, all things considered, not that drastic. Her hair was more unruly, the waves in the mahogany lockes a little more pronounced, a distinct suggestion of tangles evident although how that could be he had no idea. The angle of her brows was just a little sharper, just a little more ... other. Her cheeks were rosier, lips quirked in an expression he had never seen before. And her eyes... well, within her eyes lurked a knowledge and wickedness that made him nearly fall out of his chair. Everything about her was just a tiny bit different. Clearly the same girl, and yet so very, very different.

"All is most definitely well, dear, upright, boring Darian," taunted the fey girl who was suddenly his dinner partner. He barely heard the gasps of her parents, the sharp exclamation of her father. Looking at her, the young man found himself frowning just a little, trying to catalogue just what had changed. Mostly, he was trying to avoid the all-too-knowing look in her eyes. A look that suggested Eveline knew quite a few things he might find rather intriguing, and even more he might not.

A dark brow lifted and she tilted her head to the side, catching his gaze. "Surprise." There was a distinct pause, no sound of dinnerware, no whispers of conversation from her parents. Only the endless ticking of a clock. Or perhaps it was the beating of his heart. Darian felt like he was encountering a wild beast, something that very well might bite him. Probably much more likely than that she would kiss him and show him some of the wicked things that her eyes and lips promised.

It was that thought, the confusion and horror that the very wonderful young woman he had gotten to know might not be quite as innocent, quite as sweet and responsible and dutiful as he'd thought, that had him scrambling from his chair. "I... need to... should... have things...." He could not find a way to finish that sentence, especially not once she stood and he discovered that the change had also rippled through her clothing. The skirt suddenly a little more sheer, the top tighter and lower cut, tears in the cloth showing flashes of skin that looked less like the result of carelessness than an enchanting distressing that was all too alluring.

He bolted. And Eveline's laughter followed him, mocking and taunting.

Not at all the sort of young man who was going to embrace Eveline as she was, day and night both. He would never be able to accept the wildness that lurked within her.

And Eveline's parents let out slow sighs, heads hanging dejectedly as their beloved daughter, a girl now partially a stranger to them, looked at them both with accusations in her eyes. And she too raced out of the house, the diamond glitter of a tear falling across her cheek reflecting the first star of the evening as her laughter joined with that of the fae who had come to gather her.

The End

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