He held his hand upon the threshold between our worlds. The air shimmered in a ripple of prism light, its motion like the soft wave of the ocean on a calm day. I placed my palm against the gossamer barrier separating us in the same place as his. It had to be my imagination, but I swear I could feel the heat of his skin seep through the thin veil where our hands mirrored each other. That’s new.
He must’ve felt it too. His mouth moved in an excited rush, but there was no sound. He jerked his hand back and signed wildly. We used a rudimentary type of sign language to communicate, though both of us battled frustration. It was easy to point to everyday objects such as trees or rocks and form gestures for them, but thoughts and feelings were harder to convey. It helped that he had an expressive face, or maybe it was wishful thinking on my part, but the way he looked at me sometimes… My heart skipped a beat.
I’d discovered the hidden world on a hike through the mountains. Depression and lethargy had weighed me down after my boyfriend decided he wanted to see someone else. Well, I’d caught him seeing someone else in our bed. After kicking him to the curb—stilettos and Gucci bags included—I’d wallowed in self-pity for weeks. Was I not good enough to keep a man? All I wanted was for someone to love me.
I began to dream of a man with long raven hair and ice-blue eyes and looked forward to going to bed each night. It became the only time of day I was happy.
In my dreams, he begged me to come to the mountains. Soon, his pleas began invading my thoughts during the day, sometimes to the point where an ache in my chest grew so bad, I’d thought I’d had a heart attack. After assurance from the emergency room doctor I wasn’t in danger of leaving here any time soon, I’d come to the conclusion I’d finally lost my mind. Maybe the grief and loneliness had eaten away at me so much I’d created a fictional man to cope. But the pull to hike through the Eidolon Mountains wouldn’t let go. Neither did the dreams.
When they became more erotic—he played my body like a violin—I decided the only way to exercise the demons was to go where my heart led. It may be foolish, but at least I’d know.
I’d taken camping gear and spent days at a time in the woods. For weeks, I’d hiked and explored the trails. I’d soon realized what I was looking for wouldn’t be found on the common trek. I began to venture off the paths and explore deeper into the forest. On one particular day, I’d almost given up and turned to go home when I saw the reflection of light where there shouldn’t have been any.
Fear and excitement had warred within me as I’d approached the shimmering wall, but I was drawn as if by an invisible string. Stones marked with runes lined each side of the anomaly in a distinct pattern. They’d flared to life the closer I’d gotten. I’d reached up to touch the barrier when he appeared, startling me, and I fell backward. He’d banged on the partition so hard I was sure he’d shatter it. When I’d righted myself and stood up, he stopped. We’d stared at each other in awe. It felt right being there with him.
Thus began our affair.
He was beautiful in an otherworldly way. He usually wore his long dark hair in a top-knot high on his head. It showcased his pointy ears and accentuated his pale skin and sharp jawline. Full, red lips mouthed words I couldn’t make out, and long, dark lashes framed ice-blue eyes. At times they flashed in an almost unperceivable twinkle I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been staring.
I hiked the path to the wall every chance I got. When I wasn’t with him, I dreamed about him. In my dreams, we spoke the same language. I’d wake up hard and wanting, and the need to see him tugged at my insides until I made the trip. Maybe I really had lost it.
But today was different. Today, I felt the warmth of his hand through the barrier. I didn’t know what it meant. I only hoped soon it thinned enough I could feel his skin against mine like I longed to do.
I didn’t know when I fell in love with him. It could have been at night where we could touch and communicate and share our lives. Or maybe when we were here, it forced us to design better, more intimate ways to learn about one another.
I knew he liked to read. Sometimes while he waited for me to arrive, he’d sit by the barrier engrossed in a book written in a language I couldn’t understand. Other times, he’d bring his bow and arrow and show off his hunting skills. Then I’d sit and patiently watch him tan the hide to make boots or a cloak.
I often wondered what I had to offer him. A boring life in a stuffy apartment in the city? Average income and average skills? Mousy brown hair and common brown eyes? When I looked in the mirror, I saw nothing spectacular, nothing but ordinary. When I looked at him, I saw brilliance and grandeur, everything extraordinary. We were as different as night and day.
The barrier rippled again as he tapped on it, brow knitted. I pushed my morose thoughts away and smiled to ease his mind. He placed his palm flat against the wall and motioned for me to do the same.
His heat seeped through, sending a shiver down my spine. His lips moved, and I strained to hear the muffled sound. Could it be the divider between our two worlds was fading?
The name he used in my dreams spilled from my lips. “Eldin.”
He cocked his head to the side and smiled. Had he heard me?
A slight breeze rustled my jacket, and I watched in awe as Eldin’s cloak fluttered in response. His face lit up in excitement. He ran his hands along the outer edge of the wall as if looking for a flaw, something he could chip away at until it fell. I did the same without much luck.
He sat down and crossed his legs, and I followed suit. Would we forever be separated? Pain speared my chest at the thought, and I rubbed where my heart beat in a frantic rhythm. He frowned and rubbed his as if he could feel it too.
We sat like that for a while, both of us lost in our thoughts. The sun began to disappear behind the mountains, and I knew the temperatures would soon drop.
The days I came up here, I made sure to bring my camping gear and stay as many nights as possible. Eldin had a pallet of furs he’d arrange, and we’d lay facing each other and fall asleep with our hands pressed together. Those nights, my dreams were the most erotic, where we’d come together in a tangle of lips and limbs.
I loathed the days I had to return to reality. My job as an accountant allowed me to make my own hours, so I pushed myself to finish a week’s worth of work in three days so I could spend more time up here with Eldin. He seemed always to know when I was coming and was waiting for me when I arrived.
I laid my sleeping bag as close to the barrier as possible. He did the same with his furs, and we lay, facing each other, hands outstretched. I relished the heat seeping through and drifted off, imagining I could feel his skin.
When the first ray of morning sun danced across my eyelids, waking me, I realized I’d slept dreamless and deeper than I had in months. What changed?
Warm arms tightened around me from behind, and I jolted, panic racing through me. I stared at the barrier. Eldin was gone. Fear gripped me, and my heart thundered in my chest. Had someone come upon us last night? Was he hurt?
I struggled against the tight band around me.
“Shh, Leo. It’s me,” a honeyed voice whispered in my ear as the arms loosened.
I flipped around to face Eldin. “What? How?”
“I do not know. Sometime during the night, I woke and clasped your hand in mine. I did not want to take any chance the portal would close, so I dared not tarry and crossed to your side. You do not know how long I have waited to hold you, to touch you in truth and not only in my dreams.”
I ran a finger down his face and over his lips. “Is it really you? I’m not dreaming?”
“I am here, my love.”
We clashed in a frenzy of teeth and tongues, desire building to a near frantic level. A chuckle startled us from our haze.
“I see I made the right decision.” A woman stood in the doorway between our worlds, her ethereal beauty almost too bright to stare at, and I shielded my eyes against the light.
“Mother!” Eldin jumped from the furs covering us.
“You didn’t waste any time, my son,” she said with an amused twinkle in her eyes.
I stood with Eldin and gave a slight bow. Somehow I knew she was someone important in their world, and I wanted her to like me.
Eldin took my hand in his. “Mother, this is Leo.”
“I know, son. I have been watching you two.”
“What do you mean, ma’am?” I asked.
“Who do you think connected you in your dreams?”
Eldin let out a gasp. “It was you that bade me come to the gate?”
“Yes.” She looked at me. “And your pull to come to the mountains.”
“But why, mother?” Eldin tightened his grip on my hand.
A sad smile graced her lips. “You have been alone for far too long, my son. I have seen your heart’s desire but wanted to make sure the person you found was right for you. When I discovered Leo, I knew he was the one, but you had to fall in love on your own. It is why the barrier between our realms did not fade until now. It only fell away when your love was true.”
I gasped and turned to Eldin. “You love me?”
He drew my hand to his lips and kissed my knuckles. “Of course I do. I think I loved you the moment you invaded my dreams.”
I smiled. “I believe it was you who invaded mine first.”
He pulled me into his arms. “It does not matter the hows or the whys. You are here with me now.”
He kissed me, and I relished the feel of his lips on mine. I didn’t know what was in store for us—we came from entirely different words—but I knew there was nowhere I’d rather be than with Eldin.
****One year later****
I anxiously watched the portal from the altar. The fairies had outdone themselves. Vines wrapped around the columns on each side, and flowers of every color decorated the dais. The feast later would be the same extravagance. Mother stood with me in the center as we waited for Leo’s arrival. Every being in Eidolon had come to offer their support and welcome Leo.
Leo and I had agreed we would prepare in our own realms, but the ceremony would be performed in mine. He had chosen to leave his world behind and live with me. I had assured him I would go wherever he was, but he claimed he had nothing in his home he cared about more than me.
A hush fell over the crowd. Leo stood in the doorway between our realms. He wore the ceremonial robes mother gifted him with when he accepted my marriage proposal. He was beautiful.
Though it was considered poor form, I rushed from the dais and down the aisle to greet him. Chortles and snorts followed in my wake. I could not help it. I wanted to forever be by his side and last night was the first night we had spent apart since the barrier had vanished.
He smiled when I reached him and took my hand. We walked to the dais and our new life. Together, forever.