There was something strange about him. When I tried to look him in the eye he faltered back into the shadows of the trees. His eyes were like pure pools reflecting a silver full moon. His hands shot forward holding out the soccer ball I had kicked into the woods. His hands briefly brushed mine and sent a warm feeling through me.
“Madeline!” A girl shouted from up the hill, “Hurry up!“
I turned away for a moment. The strange boy had vanished when I looked back into the thick forest. For the rest of gym class, I stared off into the woods. I had two more classes that day. When the final bell rang, I put on my backpack and headed back to the soccer field. It was quiet behind the school. No one was around to see me climb over the fence.
A part of me was hoping he would be right here waiting for me. As I slid down the grassy hill, I noticed a small letter “M” freshly carved on the tree where we had met. “He wants to meet me, I knew it.” I said gleefully.
The mystery around this strange boy had me feeling some weird way I had never felt before. Excitedly I started walking through the woods. I hadn’t told a single person where I was going. I wasn’t sure where I was going. An hour or more had passed and I hadn’t seen any more signs from him. I turned around and around. It was the time of year when it got dark early and I was lost. The clearing I stood in seemed as good a place as any to take a break. I hadn’t lost faith that the boy would want to meet again.
I pulled out my phone and sat down on a large flat rock. The cool breeze swept through my dark brown hair. “No Service” I muttered. My parents worked late so no one would be missing me until later. “He will be here. He will find me.” I wrapped my arms around myself and looked out into the trees. Then I closed my eyes and listened hard, trying to hear cars. “If I can find a road I can figure out where I am.”
“Madeline?” A musical voice said.
My heart skipped several beats, I opened my eyes and he was there, standing before me. The boy from earlier with the moon stone eyes. His accent seemed foreign. He was so close to me, like he was not familiar with personal space. I had never kissed a boy, but I wanted nothing more than to reach for him, and as if he had read my mind, he reached for me. His kiss was soft and sweet.
“I am Gideon, a forest elf. You, Madeline are the most beautiful creature I have seen in my many years.” The boy said. He moved back away again.
“Well Gideon you took my first kiss. I hope you don’t break my heart.” I said. The bold straight forwardness of my words shocked me. I clasped my hands over my mouth.
Gideon grinned. “Anyone who kisses an elf can speak nothing but the truth. Don’t worry it won’t last long. I was not aware a kiss was such a sacred thing to humans. Did you tell anyone about me?”
“Who would believe that I saw such a gorgeous boy in the woods. I don’t have any friends anyway.” I said
Gideon patted my head. “I’m glad that I can trust you, Madeline. You are the only human I have ever revealed myself to. I hope this doesn’t seem too weird, but I have been watching you for a while now. You seem so lonely. Trying so hard to fit in. I want to offer you a different life.”
“That does seem pretty weird.” I said. It feels so warm when he puts his hands on my arms. He pulls me close to his chest. I close my eyes, my head leans into his chest, and I take a deep breath. He smells like earth. I feel safe here.
“Let me show you my home. Then you can decide if you want to stay.” His voice vibrated through his chest. I wondered if maybe he was putting a spell on me. He kissed me again. Longer than the first time. I let him lead me farther into the woods. It seemed that I had come close to discovering his home. He seemed proud of me for that. It was nice feeling like someone cared for once. “I’m no prince or anything. My home is a modest size. I think you may like that I live on the outskirts of town.” He grinned. “I don’t like people either.”
“Oh really. You really have been watching me then.” I said
“We have met before. I don’t expect you to remember though. It was many years ago for you and I haven’t changed much.”
I thought about it for a while and then it came to me. “When I was three years old, I got lost in the woods near the park. My parents were half asleep on a park bench near the playground, but I was more interested in a bunny I saw. You’re the one who found me. You lead me back to my parents.”
“Correct and here we are now at the same stage of maturity. I am one hundred seventeen years old.”
“So I will age more quickly than you. Why would you choose to love me? Wouldn’t that just hurt too much? One day it will look like I am your mother, then your grandmother.” He put a finger to my lips and all the self-doubt left me.
“As long as you are with me you will age like me. We will die together hand in hand after our long life.” He said spinning me around in circles.
We came to a path finally. Then to a city wall. Other elves passed us now, but they all minded their own business unlike humans, so I tried not to stare at them either.
As I expected Gideon lived in a living tree house. I was completely amazed by how beautiful it was. The tree was planted when Gideon was born, and he had been growing it ever since. The tree grew different from others they had passed. She could tell that he was a true artist. They climbed down a staircase made of the tree’s roots. The entrance was through a beautifully carved door. The inside of his home was a little empty. I could tell he lived alone, and I wondered about his parents.
“I wonder what my parents would think if I never came home.” I said.
“I can make them forget you if it would be easier.” He said.
I thought about all the bad things that would happen. They would call the police once they realized I hadn’t been home. The police might search the woods. Did the elves have a way to deter humans from discovering them? Every time I started to voice my worries Gideon would give me a solution as he gave me a tour of his home.
“Our home.” He said to me. He took me in his arms once more and I already felt like a pro at kissing. Our bodies fitting together just perfectly. I was in love, truly.
We had a lovely dinner of venison, wine, and greens. I had never drank before and something tells me this wine was different from humans. The last thing I remembered was being carried upstairs.
The beeping of my alarm woke me up. I sat up in my own bedroom. I could smell coffee brewing in the kitchen. My mom began knocking on my door to make sure I was up. I was confused. I could still smell Gideon too. Taste the sweet wine on my lips.
“Why had he taken me back here?” I mumbled as I got changed. I dumped my school things from my bag and put in my favorite things. When I left the house, I had no plans on ever seeing it again. My mom drove me to school. I gave her a hug for once. I walked into the school and went straight out of the back, to the soccer field. The ground was slick with dew and it was cold enough to see my breath.
I looked for the “M” marked on a tree, but I couldn’t find it. I began to have a sinking feeling. Had it all been a dream? I was sure that I had found love, sure he was the one for me. I didn’t want to turn around. I didn’t want to go back to my old life, so I started into the woods. Hoping to find my love there once more.
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