"Camila! Wake up you lazy daughter!"
I groaned and rolled over, putting my pillow over my head. "I'm dead, Papa! Dead people don't work!"
My door opened and my father, Gerald, walked in. He pulled my blankets off of me and I shivered at the cold morning air.
"Wake up! The chickens need to be fed!"
I groaned again and sat up. "Oh fine."
He was about to leave then turned around, his eyes narrowed.
"You went out into the forest again, didn't you?"
"Of course not," I said innocently. "You told me never to go there!"
He sighed and shook his head. "You'll learn your lesson one of these days, dear Camila."
I got dressed into a brown work dress and tried to tame my knotted white blond hair. I splashed some water on my face and went out to the main part of the house.
Our house was small; my father and I weren't wealthy at all. We each had our own room and there was a tiny washroom. The rest of the house was a large room that had a fire with a kettle and rod for a skillet, a little sink to wash the dishes, a place to put the dishes, a tiny table, two chairs, and a small couch. Other than that, it was empty. But we were happy.
Still yawning, I put on my wooden clogs and went outside, filling a bucket with feed for the chickens. As I sprinkled it on the ground, I stared at the forest directly behind our house.
For the last twelve years, I had snuck out to look for the elves. I could never find them, though. They were cleverly hidden. My father always said that they were masters at hiding. But I swore I would find at least one of them. That's all I wanted: to see a little elf.
My papa quickly grew tired of my antics, though. I was now 20 years old; much too old for a woman to be without a husband. I was too odd for the men in the village, though. They wanted a submissive woman. A woman who would wait on them hand and foot. A woman who would polish their shoes, make sure each meal was ready at just the right time, and serve them with her body whenever they wanted to. That life wasn't for me. They certainly didn't want a woman that could wield a sword and that read whenever she had the opportunity.
"Ouch!" I cried.
A hen had gotten too tired of waiting for me to sprinkle more grain. The other chickens descended on the spilled grain and I sighed, not bothering to try and scoop what fell into the bucket. Instead, I put it on the fence and went inside to make breakfast for my father.
My mama had died when I was a little girl from the plague. Ever since then, it had been just me and my papa. I liked it that way, though.
I pulled my hair back and whistled while I put the eggs on the pan. The door opened and I turned. My papa had returned and his eyes were excited.
"What has you so happy?" I asked.
He handed me an envelope. "While I was selling the stallion, a young boy gave this to me. Open it!"
I hesitated but did as he said.
My name is Theodore Jensen. I have sent my youngest brother in hopes that you would accept my request for your daughter's hand in marriage. Please have your response sent in the usual manner.
I stared at the letter in my shaking hands. I pulled my lower lip into my mouth and looked up at my papa. He was looking ecstatic.
"Finally!" he said, taking my hands. "Do you know who Theodore Jensen is?" I shook my head. "He is a rich young man that lives closer to the castle! Oh, Camila, this is wonderful!"
"I.... Yes, I suppose it is," I whispered.
"We will visit him tomorrow," he breathed. "Wash your best dress, my dear!"
"Yes, Papa," I said, turning back to the breakfast.
I tried not to cry. I didn't want to get married; especially to a rich bachelor. My papa wrote his response and hurried to send it. By the time he got back, breakfast was on the table. I pretended to be happy, knowing this is what my papa had wanted.
For me, though, it meant one thing: I would never find them.
That night, when I was certain my papa was asleep, I changed into a pair of his old trousers and an old cotton shirt. I managed to smuggle them into my room before he cut them up to make material for patches. I pulled my hair back with a tie and dug through the back of my closet until I found the sword I had hidden from my papa. I didn't like keeping secrets from him but, if he knew that I was training in secret, he would be terribly angry.
I snuck out of the house, tucking the sword through a large belt loop in the trousers. It was a cool night; fall was coming. It was also a full moon, something that worked in my favor.
Many legends say that elves would come out during the full moon. I went down my usual path, looking at the ground so I wouldn't trip over any roots. Even though everyone said they were small, they never specified how small. I hoped I didn't accidentally kick one in the face. The idea made me giggle. With that and the news of me getting married, I was so distracted I didn't see the arrow flying right at me.
It missed me by centimeters and lodged into the tree just behind me. I squealed and spun to look at it. It was silver and went deep into the bark. Behind me, I heard soft footsteps. I took a deep breath and drew my sword, turning swiftly. What I saw made me almost drop my sword.
It was a man about a foot taller than me. He had an arrow docked but his face was as confused as mine. He had long red hair and eyes the color of mercury. For a while, the only things that moved were the trees, my shirt, and his hair as the cold wind blew through.
I took in the rest of his appearance. He was in skin tight green clothing. He wore a lighter green tunic and his boots were brown leather. Slowly, he lowered his weapons.
"You are a human," he said finally and I gripped my sword tighter.
"What are you?" I whispered. Wind blew his hair up and I saw pointed ears. I gasped and, without thinking about it, I approached him. My hand was extended but, before I could touch his ear, he caught my wrist. I blinked and turned pink. "You're not tiny," I blurted.
"And you aren't a giant," he whispered, tilting his head. "In fact...."
"You look just like me," we said in unison.
"But I was told you were little folk," I breathed.
He certainly wasn't tiny. He was incredibly pale, though, and I wondered if the stories of them being forced into their own colony underground were true.
"And I was told you towered as high as the trees."
I laughed. "No human could ever reach that size."
"I'm confused," he murmured. "What is your name?"
"Oh! I am Camila. What is yours?"
"I am Elwin Morro," he said with a deep bow. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"Yes, the same goes for me."
We stared into each other's eyes for a long time. Suddenly, a twig snapped and Elwin's head snapped to the right while I gasped.
"Elwin!" a voice whispered. "Where have you gone!?"
"I'm not supposed to be here," I breathed.
I made to leave but he grabbed my hand, sending a wave of warmth up my arm.
"Will you be back?" he asked and I hesitated.
The footsteps were getting closer and I looked back into those silver eyes.
"Yes," I said. "Tomorrow night, I will be back."
He let me go with a smile on his face. I slipped among the trees and didn't look back until I reached my home. When I did, I looked behind me. I could still see the tree but Elwin's silver arrow was missing.