I watched as the fair maiden slipped into the darkness. I was stunned. Had that really been a human I just encountered? She was nothing like our legends said. My thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of my hunting partner and best friend, Arl Ronan. He doubled over, catching his breath. He looked much like me but his hair was blond and he had blue eyes. When he managed to get his breathing under control, he glared at me.
"How many times have I told you to not wander off like that, Elwin?" he lectured. "You could have been stolen by a human!"
"I met one," I breathed and he took a few steps back, looking around in fear.
"Did it try to kidnap you? Did it kill you?"
I rolled my eyes. "Yes, Arl, she killed me," I said sarcastically and he narrowed his eyes at my tone of voice.
"Oh, shut up."
"The legends are wrong, Arl!" I said, grabbing his arm. "They are not giants. They look just like us!"
He frowned. "I don't know, Elwin.... The leaders would not lie to us."
I opened my mouth to argue but a horn in the distance sounded. I sighed and glanced back where Camila had disappeared, hoping she really would come back.
I didn't sleep at all the rest of the night. I paced my bedroom. Once I heard my papa wake up, I changed into the gown I was going to wear to Theodore's for tea and rushed into the main part of the house. My papa was patting his pockets desperately and mumbling to himself.
"Now where did I put it?" he said.
"Papa, you won't believe what happened last night!" I breathed.
"Camila, have you seen my-"
"No, Papa, listen to me. I met a-"
"We'll talk about it later," he said. "Ah! Here it is! Take this, my dear."
He handed me a white silk handkerchief. In red thread, Constantine, had been stitched. My heart plummeted as I looked at his beaming face.
"Papa, why have you given this to me?" I whispered.
He chuckled, leading me to my door. "It is your token, silly."
I nearly dropped it and stopped walking. "My token?" I repeated. "But tokens are only given-"
"Now, remember: try and be on your best behavior. Theodore seems like a kind man," he said, leading me up the road. "For him to send a letter without having met you yet!"
"Yes, Papa," I said sadly.
We reached a door and he knocked on it. It took a few moments, but a tan man with short brown hair opened the door. At first, I thought this was Theodore but then I saw the wedding band on his finger.
"May I help you?" he asked.
"My name is Gerald Constantine," my papa said, "and this is my daughter, Camila. We're here for tea with Theodore Jensen."
"Camila! Yes, of course! Please, come in, and I'll go get my brother."
We walked in and I looked around. The house was large and beautiful. I would certainly be taken care of. The man that answered the door gestured us to a table where a small breakfast had been set up with three places for people to sit. I sat down with a straight back, rubbing my right eyebrow. My father smiled encouragingly at me but I couldn't bring it in me to smile back.
Footsteps announced the arrival of my future husband and I ran a hand through my hair, trying to at least look a little presentable. When he entered the room, though, my heart fell into my stomach.
Theodore Jensen had short blond hair and tan skin. His eyes were a cold blue. He was grinning, revealing brilliantly white teeth and I tried to return it. I couldn't make it look sincere, though. Standing in front of me was my childhood bully. Of course, back then I only knew him as Teddy.
"Gerald!" he said happily, shaking my father's hand. "And dear Camila," he said softly, kissing my hand.
I tried to smile but it came out more as a grimace.
"Thank you for having us over for breakfast," I said quietly as a scone was placed in front of me.
"I'm just honored you accepted!" he said, taking a large bite of his scone. "I know we haven't been in touch in a while but, when I heard you were still alone, I wanted to reconnect." He smiled at my father. "And I've heard your skills with a bow and arrow have increased."
My father smiled modestly. "I do what I can to provide for my dear daughter."
Theodore nodded. "Well, perhaps, after we wed, you will not have to worry anymore."
I took a big gulp of water, trying to ignore what he just said. We ate the rest of our breakfast in silence. Theodore cleared his throat.
"I was wondering, Gerald, if you would be okay with me taking Camila for a small stroll while you finish your breakfast."
We both looked at my papa. His eyes flickered to mine and I felt my heart drop. His eyes were full of sympathy and he knew that I was sad. But he was still going to go through with this.
"Yes, of course," he said quietly.
"Wonderful!" Theodore said and offered his hand.
I took it and we walked down the street in silence. I wondered if maybe he had changed. It would be a nice thought. Maybe we could become friends. When we got to a secluded area, though, he pushed his hand away from mine. I looked up, a little insulted, and saw the angry look on his face.
"This is deplorable," he snarled and I glared.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Here I am, the most desired man in this village, and I'm being forced to marry the ugly duckling."
I glared at him. "No one is making you marry me," I snapped.
"Oh come on, Camila. Even you aren't that stupid. Of course I am! Society demands it!"
"So why pick me?"
His lips curled into an unpleasant smile. He stepped closer to me so I took a few steps back.
"Because you are beautiful. And, unfortunately, you are one of the few single women left in this despicable village."
I clenched my jaw. "I'm not going to marry you," I snapped. "You can go find one of those other single women."
I tried to walk away but he gripped my right wrist painfully. I winced as he spun me around.
"Don't talk to me that way," he snarled. "You will marry me. I need a woman to bear me a real son."
"A real son?" I repeated, trying to push his hand off of me.
He smirked. "I am as handsome as you are beautiful. Do you honestly think that even married women could stay away from me?"
My eyes widened. "You're a cruel and horrid man. No. I will not marry you. Now let me go."
Suddenly, he yanked on my arm and forced his lips onto mine. I tried to push him off but that just made him pull harder. Finally, he let me go and I wiped my lips.
"Don't worry, my dear," he snarled. "As soon as we are married, I will rid you of that rebellious tongue of yours. Accept your fate. Now come."
He let go of my wrist but took my hand again, dragging me back to his house. I tried not to cry. My father was waiting for us outside of Theodore's house. He smiled at us.
"Did you have a good walk?" he asked.
"It was lovely," Theodore said smoothly with a smile.
My father looked at me and Theodore gripped my hand tightly.
"Yes, it was lovely," I whispered.