Fantasy Fiction Romance

He walked up to the mirror with a gloomy sigh. His pale hair fell into his eyes as he looked down at the floor. Even though it had been six years since that night, mirrors were always a fear to him – a reminder of what took place. The dimmed light of his bedroom only granted faint shadows of objects, and he kept it that way on purpose.

When he sucked in a breath, he looked up. The right side of his face was as it always had been; a beautifully blemish free cheekbone and jawline that sparkled with its unique and ghostly complexion. The left side of his face, though, was an entirely different story. It was scarred over with a permanent depth. His tortured flesh was stuck in ringlets of loosened skin. Then, there were faint lines from a lack of contact. He wasn’t sure how there were portions spared by the flames, but he wished it wasn’t so. In fact, he wished he’d collapsed into the floorboards and given up.

His fingers traced along his face, and he winced at the feel of the mark’s textures. At times, when the tips brushed along the skin, he felt the phantom sear of it, and a pain in his chest overtook him. He’d always shake it off with a determined force because the pain in his cheek and jaw was enough without the emotion.

Carefully, he slid the shattered porcelain mask over his eye. It was an antique gifted to him by the Woodland Fae. They were one of the many reasons he chose to wear the disguise. Woodland Fae with their dagger-like ears, pale skin, and bright eyes were meant to carry themselves with beauty and grace. Everything about them was meant to be pure and right, but when the destruction of his home befell him, he’d lost the beauty and grace meant for him.

The beginning of the fire had always remained a mystery despite countless theories and suggestions. Six years of wonder was slowly transforming into a bitter numbness, because he was sure no one cared anymore. Unsolved the fire would always be, so why bother hanging onto it? Things would stay as they were. His face was stuck a horrid and disfigured mass of reminders.

The string of the cracked shroud over the side of his face clung to the back of his pointed ear. If he chose to walk the city without it, he felt like a stranger in his own body. The mask, whether he found comfort in it or not, became part of him. It was as if the thing was sewn into the painful ringlets, but of course, it hadn’t been.

Slowly, another breath escaped him before he turned away from the mirror. Despite his low confidence, he ventured out of his home with his held high as a Woodland Fae was supposed to. The twisted stares of disapproval became something else to ignore., and it’d been easier than he imagined, because the normalcy of them allowed the glares and distaste to mute itself.

As one would expect, the area around his home was adorned with signs of nature and life. Newly built, it shined against the sunlight that pressed its warmth into his skin. He never found use in locking the front door tight, because who would bother visiting the undesirable outcast?

Three steps down a stone pathway were all it took for him to enter the streets. The glide of his body against the breeze brought him peace. He welcomed the sunlight despite the increased heat through the cutout of the mask against the burns. The air always tasted like the greenery of the forest that surrounded his city, and he loved it. The air and trees around him never looked down on his blemishes, and they never requested him to stay out of sight.

Lost in thought, the young Fae walked into the back of someone on the street. He shot himself back out of fear. Along with the stares, the Fae was subjected to an absurd amount of cruelty for his ugliness.

“Oh, Shiloh!” It was a girl which made him shrink back farther and look away from her.

“S…Sorry,” he mumbled as he stared at his feet.

“There’s no need! I was hoping to see you again.”

Shiloh raised his eyebrows, and the shock was clear to the girl by the half of his face she could see. Why would someone, especially a girl, want to see him?

“You don’t get that very often, do you?” She asked quietly.

Shiloh shook his head still stunned into his silence.

“Oh,” she showed a sadness at that, “well, I guess I have to change that.”

Shiloh’s shock mutated into curiosity and confusion. Why? Why would someone of the Woodland Fae want to change his city-wide shunning.

“Look, I gather whatever is under that mask is why no one talks to you, but I’m not like that. I don’t care about looks.”

Shiloh opened his mouth to respond, but words still didn’t allow him the ability to speak.

“I can tell you’re not used to that since a Siren’s got your tongue. This might seem forward and sudden, but would you like a friend?” The girl’s smile was soft and sweet, and it did not hold a hidden malice.

“You…” was all he could say.

The girl giggled, “yes. I want to be your friend.”

Shiloh only shook his head and backed away from her. Something felt wrong about it. It’d been six years since anyone had looked at him with anything other than disgust. Furthermore, the pretty Fae girl before him wanted to be his friend. Sure, he’d always wanted one, but he never thought the opportunity would arise, because he was so… out of place.

“I scared you,” she observed.

Again, Shiloh shook his head. Why couldn’t he find his words? He’d dreamt of the day for attention other than the negative. Here was the chance to have someone like him, and he was speechless.

“Even quiet, I like you already. So, feel free to come with me anytime. I hide in the forest most times, because I like books, and you know how it is here. We’re supposed to learn from our surroundings and what nature provides for us. Books are for the owls and gnomes, which, clearly, I am neither.”

Her softened explanation brought a smile to Shiloh’s face. The curve of his lips was a foreign feeling. His face had always been stuck into a blank, unreadable expression. He never expressed his loneliness or the sadness the pain of his burns caused him, because it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t worth letting the others see the torture he endured.

“So, you can smile. That’s a relief,” she joked, “because I was beginning to think you were part Golem!”

Shiloh’s smile widened. The disgusted faces of passersby blended into blurry waves more than they had before. The girl in front of him was just as immune to them. If what she’d said about her books was true, Shiloh knew she’d be just as used to them. Even though she was beautiful with the rare lavender to her eyes and snow-blonde locks that drifted to her lower waist, her love of books was an impurity. She was more accepted, he thought, because her uniqueness was not something that could be seen, but it didn’t matter to him.

“Sure,” he finally found his nerve to speak.

“Wait,” she blinked, "really?”

“Why not?” He shrugged.

“Well, I could give you several reasons–.”

“That don’t matter,” he finished for her.

Her ears twitched at that, but she replaced her surprise with a kind grin.

“Even if you’re luring me to my death,” he found a hitch in his throat meant to be laughter, “”it doesn’t matter, because no one gives a damn about me anyway.”

“Hmph,” her ears twitched again in thought, “you have a point.”

“Can I have your name? You know mine.”

“Terra!” She said cheerfully.

“Terra,” he repeated.

For several months, Shiloh and Terra snuck into the forests. The seclusion was just as peaceful as the taste of the air near the outer edges of Shiloh’s home. The cracked porcelain of his mask was beginning to feel like a nuisance, but it only felt as such when he was with her. The way she read and laughed reminded him of the symphonies played by Bards in the taverns. It was always full of life and sweetness.

           He strode the tall grass of their favorite place casually as she appeared from the opposite side. Today would be the day, he thought. The icy harshness of his mask would be removed in a risky symbol of his trust.

           When Terra’s eyes landed on Shiloh, her walk became a graceful skip. She was such a gorgeous oddity, and he loved her even more for it. All those months that had passed were proof enough that he would not be judged for the ruin in his face. His jaw shifted with nervousness as she closed the distance between them.

           Shiloh’s nerves built until they were one of the tallest towers above his head. Why was he so nervous? She’d accepted him with his mask and physical secrets. What was the harm in revealing them? Losing her, he decided. The pain from losing her would be too much to bear, but how would he know if she loved him too if he didn’t try?

           “Shiloh,” Terra’s voice pulled him from his nervous fear, “what’s got your brain? You look as scared as Bard without his flute.”

           “Terra,” he breathed, “I have something to show you.”

           “Alright,” she huffed.

           “You might hate it,” he added.

           “We’ll see.” She picked at the frill in her pants.

           When Terra looked away, Shiloh rose a shaking hand to pull away the porcelain shroud against his burns. Before he lost himself, he yanked it away and waited for Terra to look back up at him. He felt naked – like he was fully exposed to her from the neck down. However, that wasn’t it at all. It was only the entirety of his face.

           Terra’s eyes finally wandered upward, and she blinked a few times in surprise at the reveal. She was not terrified, and she was not disgusted. The shock came from the gesture. She never thought he’d trust her with such a thing, but there Shiloh was. His scarred face glowed a heated reddish pink, and she found herself stepping even closer to the frightened Woodland Fae before her.

           Cautiously, her hand reached out, and Shiloh allowed her cold fingers to trace the sagging skin on his cheek. It was an act of kindness because her fingertips did not press into the wounded skin. Instead, they only brushed it lightly. The textures in the blemish he’d always hated left her mesmerized. Even though she knew Shiloh found it ugly, Terra found the mark on his face to be beautiful – a symbol of strength and survival. Perfection, she thought, was proof one had never lived. Shiloh had. He’d lived painfully, and she hoped that as her hand fell away, the kindness would offer him a relief he’d never been granted.

           “It’s ugly–.”

           “Beautiful,” she corrected with a slightly raised voice.

           Shiloh was taken aback by the abruptness of her word for him.

           “Beautiful,” she said again and touched the left side of his face again.

           Shiloh’s face softened when she repeated herself for a form of emphasis.

           Suddenly, he cupped her face while a silence passed. Carefully, he pressed his lips to hers. Never again would he allow the hateful faces of their city keep him in a permanent sadness. Terra showed him that he was worth something no matter what he looked like, and as long as she would have him, he would keep 

December 03, 2021 20:33

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