Everyone was nervous after the encounter with the bear. I wanted to move quickly but Kilyn talked me into walking slower for the others. They were clustered in a circle. Eventually, the land evened out and the grass went up to our knees. It itched and I got frustrated. Why did it have to itch? Our grass never itched. It was soft as silk.
Shea and Sindri seemed entertained by our frustrations. Of course, they were used to this grass; we weren't. Perhaps bringing them all was a bad idea. I'd be halfway there by now!
Once again, the blasted sun began to set. This time, we all had to sleep; including the fairies. They slept with their backs against each other, though, much like Kilyn and I. The air was getting cold, something my human body wasn't happy with it.
"We're going to need to light a fire tonight," Kilyn said the next day, keeping an eye on me.
"No we don't," I said though I was shivering a little.
She sighed. "Don't be stubborn, Eroan. Mother told me what happens if your skin is exposed to the cold for too long."
"What happens?" Sindri asked.
Did he ever stop asking questions?
"His skin will freeze," Kilyn answered. "It will turn blue then black. When it turns black...."
"I'll lose it," I finished darkly.
Kilyn dug through her bag until she found the thicker tunic. It had long sleeves. Without even worrying about modesty, I took the other one off and put the thicker one on.
"Let's go," I grumbled.
I averted my eyes as we walked. For a hybrid, he was very good looking; especially his body. Of course, to be able to pierce my skin with an arrow, he'd have to be strong. I glared at the ground. I couldn't be having these thoughts. They were inappropriate.
"Yeah, they are," Sindri muttered and I pushed him hard.
"Stay out of my head!" I yelled and he sighed.
As twins, Sindri and I shared a link. We could read each other's thoughts. It was what made us so good at working together.
"You need my permission," I snapped.
"Not necessarily," he said. "It's just common courtesy." He waited until the elves were far enough ahead of us. "You can't entertain such thoughts, Shea."
"I'm not entertaining them," I argued.
"I know you better than that. And I know you've found him attractive since we met them."
"Finding someone attractive isn't a crime."
"Perhaps not," he agreed, unusually serious. "But the thoughts you've been having are. There's only one way to make more fairies."
I stopped walking and glared at him. "Who said I even want to make more fairies?" I snapped.
By now, the elves had realized we fell behind and were watching us from a distance.
"It's your duty!" he snapped back. "As a female fairy-"
"It takes two," I said. "I'm 70, Sindri, and have yet to be approached."
"Because you're working all the time!" he said. "Look, I love you. You're my sister. But you're not doing the duty each fairy has been tasked with."
"Then maybe I don't want to be a fairy anymore!"
He looked stricken as I flew back to the front of the group. I flew far ahead then touched back down to the earth. It would take them a while to catch up which would give me time to cry. I was so tired of hearing that lecture. I got it from him and from those around me. If it was so important, then why hadn't a male fairy come up to me? Sure I worked a lot, but there were plenty of opportunities for someone to approach me.
I heard footsteps close by. Had they caught up already? I quickly wiped my tears away.
It was the hybrid. He walked beside me in silence. I glanced over my shoulder. The elves and Sindri were still struggling to catch up. How had he gotten here so quickly?
"If it makes you feel any better," he said in a low voice, "I know how you feel."
"No you don't," I snapped. "You're not a fairy."
"No, I'm not," he agreed. "But I am a human and an elf. Kilyn is pure elf. All of my friends are pure elf. Even though I do not know about my real father, I feel in my soul that I shouldn't be a human. I am meant to be an elf. I want to be an elf. More than anything."
"So you resent your humanity," I muttered.
"Yes. Without a doubt."
"But why?" I frowned at him. "It's part of who you are."
He stopped walking and looked at me, one hand on the strap of his bag.
"And being a fairy is part of who you are, Shea," he said quietly. "I don't know what your culture says about procreating, but in mine we are given a choice." He glanced back to his friends. They were getting closer. "In the human culture, it's mandatory to keep our race alive."
"But we can live for so long," I whispered.
"I understand that. So can elves. We can live for 300 years. Humans can't. The oldest human I've heard of lived to 98 years."
"That's so young!" I gasped.
He shrugged. "It's the nature of humans. There comes a time where humans cannot bear children because they've gotten too old." He frowned at me. "Haven't you thought about what it would be like?"
"To make more fairies?" He nodded. "I'm not comfortable talking about that with you," I said bluntly.
He shrugged. "Fair enough." They caught up with us. "Just remember: you're not as misunderstood as you pretend you are."
"Neither are you," I whispered.
He stared back at me before walking forward again. I watched him, my mind confused. The only person I wanted to be that vulnerable with was Sindri. The elves walked by, looking at me curiously. Sindri stood beside me.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I was out of line earlier."
"It's all right," I muttered. "Just... give me some privacy once in a while."
"I will," he promised. He saw me staring at the hybrid - no, Eroan's- back. "What did you speak of?"
"Nothing," I lied. "Let's go. We're getting closer to the mountains which means it will be snowing."
He laughed a little. "Do you think they'll panic about that, too?"
I laughed, too. "Probably."
I jogged to catch up with Eroan, scratching my legs occasionally. When he saw I was trying to catch up, he slowed down for a second.
"What do you need?" he asked, staring ahead.
"She's right, you know," I said.
"About what?" he asked but I knew he already knew the answer.
"Not being misunderstood," I answered.
He groaned. "Could you keep those ears under control?" he grumbled.
I laughed and looped our arms together. I hated having to invade his privacy but, when I saw him hurry to walk with Shea, I got concerned. I was tired of her insulting him. But they actually had a touching conversation. It wasn't normal for Eroan to open up to a stranger. For some reason, he had made an exception with Shea.
And, if what I picked up on was correct, so had she.