I had a love once. A pure one, a happy one. One that was true. I think back to it all the time now and I wonder, Why did I let him go? Well, the story is far more complicated than one might believe. And the best stories come in parts of 3. I remember how it all started.
“Now remember Seraphine, you are to meet Casper at 5 on the dot by the water fountain and you mustn’t be a minute later.”
My father had lectured this to me nearly 10 times today already.
I tried to hold in my sigh, but inevitably fail.
“Yes father I wi…”
“And remember, this is the opportun…”
“The opportunity of a lifetime for our family, yes I know. I also know how much our family needs the money and how important it is that I stay on my best behaviour so I can win the heart of Mister Money Bags and be married off so our family keeps our heads above water… miss anything?”
One of the things I got from my mother was her sass, much to my father’s dismay. He let it slide with her, but he seems to harsher with me about… well, everything.
My father walked up to me, giving me the disappointed look he always does. I hate it when he does that. It’s like he’s staring straight into my soul, judging my every action. He’s only two inches taller than me, but God do those two inches make me feel like I’m a foot tall sometimes.
“Do not blow this… capiche?”
I cowered beneath his stern gaze, sighing in defeat.
The stern look didn’t leave his face, but he sat back down, waving me towards my room.
“Now go get ready. You want to be looking presentable, don’t you?”
I rolled my eyes and made my way upstairs to my room. As soon as the door closed, I took the nearest pillow and screamed into it.
After placing the pillow gently back down on the bed, I glanced down at what I’m wearing. Yellow tunic, green trousers with matching headband, dark brown top with matching boots.
Presentable my ass, I thought to myself. I look perfectly fine.
I grabbed my bag and my lute and opened the window shutters. There was a very big oak tree that grew right outside my window. Carefully, I manoeuvred myself on to the branch as I had dozens of times before and made my way down. It was relatively easy to climb up and down and has become a very good excuse for me to escape the confines of my room for a little while. You know, as long as I returned before anyone noticed I was gone.
As my feet gently hit the ground, I heard something. Tap tap! When I turned towards the sound, I saw my mother staring at me through the window. Well shit, now I’ve been caught red-handed, I thought to myself. I gave my mother a pleading look and she mockingly thought about it for a moment. After which she smiled and drew a little cross over her heart. I smiled in relief and mouthed the word “Thank-you” before running off into the nearby woods.
I revelled in the few times I got to spend by myself. With four other siblings at home, it could get quite… crowded at times. Especially since we didn’t have the biggest house in the world. We made do though. Any time I could go out to perform or practice or write or breathe was a blessing.
I found my usual spot not too far into the woods. I used to just practice my lute under the oak tree by my house, but ever since my father started complaining about my “god awful” singing, I’ve had to move.
My spot had a big oak tree, much like the one next to my house, and a small pond nearby. I sat myself against the tree, placing my bag to my side and picking up my lute. After strumming a few test chords, I slowly got into a rhythm. Once I did, I just smiled, closed my eyes and leaned back against the tree, continuing to play and sing quietly.
That’s when I heard a voice I had never heard before.
“You’re really good, you know that?”
“Thank-you,” I replied instinctively.
Then I abruptly stopped playing, surveying my surroundings. Not a single person was around. At least no one that I could see…
I placed my lute by my bag and got out my sling, ready to fire at whatever may pop out at me. The voice spoke again.
“Oh, and she can defend herself. You’ve got some fight in you, I can tell.”
I sighed, but remained focused on every direction.
“Okay, enough with your little games. Reveal yourself.” I tried to sound as intimidating as possible.
“Oooh, she’s naughty too.”
My face went bright pink.
“Wait, no… not like, that’s not what I… ughh,” I stammered. So much for intimidation, I thought.
“Just, come out of your hiding place already, will you?”
The voice was now directly behind me.
I could hear the smile in his voice. I turned around ready to shoot, then gasped, slowly lowering my sling. Hanging upside down from one of the lower branches of the oak tree was… a human.
He had tanned skin, like he had seen the sun far more in comparison to me with my fair complexion. His hair was a darker brown than mine, and had far more wave and curl to it. And he had the most beautiful chestnut eyes… and a smile that was playful, but genuine.
Before I could even say two words, he sat himself back upright on the branch and dropped his bag to the ground and then himself, sticking the landing. He stood up and started dusting himself off.
Jesus he is tall… although coming from a 3 1/2 ft gnome, that wasn’t saying much. He was not the tallest person I had ever seen, but he was taller than me by at least a foot. I think he realized the height difference and immediately knelt down to meet my eyes.
He stuck out his hand to me.
“The name is Simon. Simon Featherglade. And what might your name be?”
I cautiously shook his hand in return.
“Um, Seraphine. Seraphine Reese.”
He looked at me with his head cocked to one side, a sarcastic smile on his face.
“Hmm, you know, you sound just a bit unsure about that.”
I rolled my eyes and went to pick up my bag and my lute.
“Yeah, well sorry for being slightly cautious when a random guy hanging from a tree in the middle of the woods starts chatting you up.”
Simon chuckled and leaned up against the tree.
“You play an instrument, you sing, you’re tough, naughty, beautiful and you’re smart. You’re a woman of many talents Seraphine.”
I paused and turned to face him again with my eyebrow raised.
“You never said I was beautiful before.”
“I didn’t? Well, then shame on me for not saying it sooner.”
Despite my better judgement, I couldn’t help but smile and blush.
“Well, thank-you. You don’t seem too bad yourself Simon.”
Now he seemed to be the one trying not to blush.
I gestured to the tree.
“So, why exactly were you just hanging up in that tree? I feel like there’s a story to tell here.”
Simon walked up to my side and put a hand on my shoulder, gesturing to the tree with the other.
“This, my dear lady, is my humble abode. I’ve given up the materialistic lifestyle and decided to live off the land. You know, be one with nature.”
I gave him a dubious look and giggled a bit.
“Yeah, okay, and I’m 4 ft tall. Come on, what’s the real reason?”
He sighed and then shrugged.
“Alright, I’m an exile and this was the only tree that didn’t have a family of birds or squirrels living it. Boom, real reason.”
I stopped giggling immediately.
He’s an exile? I thought to myself. I couldn’t imagine what it’d be like to be cast that fate. I know I had just met the guy, but I couldn’t help but feel bad. So I gave him a hug.
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry.”
He hugged me in return and laughed it off.
“Hey, don’t worry about it. It’s been almost a year now since it happened, so I’ve gotten used to just moving from place to place.”
I looked up at Simon.
“Yeah, but it must be lonely at times, right?”
“Yes, it can be… but that just makes me revel in the moments that I get to meet people like you.”
Well, if I wasn’t blushing before, I certainly was now. I felt my chin being tilted up to look at him, his eyes were watching mine intensely.
“Your eyes are gorgeous,” he whispered.
Okay, now I was probably as red as a rose. I didn’t know how to respond, so I just smiled and turned my head away. God, I’m so awkward, I thought to myself.
I turned my head back to see Simon putting his bag on his back. I mimicked his actions, doing the same with my bag.
“Yeah?” I asked expectantly.
“I’m working on a game, because you know, I have all the time to do so. And I need a test subject. Care to be the first subject?”
My smile didn’t fade, but I did raise an eyebrow.
“That depends entirely on what this ‘game’ of yours is about.”
Simon smiled and walked back over to me.
“It’s simple really. I will give you a task. If I say before the task ‘Simon says…’, you perform the task. But if I don’t say ‘Simon says’, then you don’t have to do the task.”
I thought about it for a moment.
“Interesting… what is this game of yours called?”
“I don’t know, maybe “Do as Simon Tells You”… it’s a working name.”
I laughed and nodded.
“Okay Simon, I’ll play your game… but on one condition.”
“And what would your condition be, Seraphine?”
“Just so I’m not the only one having to play, I’ll ask you to do things too, but instead of saying ‘Simon says’, I’ll say ‘Seraphine says’. Fair?”
He thought about it for a moment before taking my hand and shaking it.
“You’ve got yourself a deal. Now, what to choose first…”
He surveyed the area before his eyes landed on the pond, a grin coming to his face. He turned back to face me.
“Simon says… go jump in the lake.”
My eyes went wide… and then I burst out laughing.
“Aww Simon, I hate to burst your bubble on your first turn, but I can’t swim. Try again.”
His face went from amused to confused back to amused.
“Hold that thought… what’s that over there?”
I turned around to see what Simon was talking about but before I could even turn around, I was being lifted up off the ground and carried over Simon’s shoulder.
“Simon! What are you doing? Put me down!”
He brought me down from his shoulder and held me in his arms.
“Hold your breath!”
“What do you mean hold my…”
And then we were under water.
As soon as we resurfaced, I started frantically splashing around, shouting at Simon.
“Simon, what the hell?! What part of ‘I can’t swim’ didn’t you get?!”
“Are you crazy?! Oh God, this isn’t how I wanted to go!”
He took my face between his hands.
“Two things. One, I am still holding on to you. And two, you can stand up.”
And he was right. I carefully placed my feet on the floor of the pond, and low and behold, the water came up to my shoulders.
Suddenly, I felt him move his hands from my face down to my hands, taking them in his.
“You said you couldn’t swim, but since I said ‘Simon says’, the game requires you to jump in the pond. However, the rules don’t say anything about not being able to help a player complete a task, if
they need the support. Which is what I helped you do.”
Now it was my turn for my face to go from confused to amused.
“Why do I feel like you’re making up these rules as you go along?”
He shrugged and smiled.
“Hey, like I said, I’m working on it. It’s a process.”
I laughed, shaking my head.
“I… I don’t know what to say Simon. Oh wait, now I do. Seraphine says, close your eyes.”
Simon smirked and did as I said.
I tried not to giggle and I slowly took my hands from his and brought them towards me.
Then with all my strength, I splashed some water at his face. His eyes shot open, looking surprised as I started laughing hysterically. He smiled.
“Not bad Seraphine, not bad. Okay, my turn.”
What should have been an hour of me practicing my lute turned into a good few hours of Simon and I going back and forth playing “Simon or Seraphine says”, cloud gazing, climbing the tree. I was still slightly damp from going in the pond, my hair dripping occasionally.
Now Simon and I are leaned up against the tree, watching the sun begin to set above the trees.
And then I suddenly remembered.
I jumped up, scaring Simon I’m sure and immediately started gathering up my things. God, I had one job, how could I forget?
“Casper? Who’s that?”
I looked at Simon, who was looking at me confused. I sighed.
“Casper is… the guy who my father wants me to marry. I was supposed to meet him by the water fountain in town at 5 p.m. I had to make a good impression for my father’s sake, but now I’m probably late and I’m still damp and…”
Simon stood up and took my hand in his again.
“Woah hey, Seraphine, slow down. Breathe for a moment. It’s okay. Come on, we still have some time. I’ll walk you back towards town.”
I looked at Simon as he started picking up his stuff and turned to face me.
“You want to walk me back home?”
“Yeah, I want to make sure you make it home okay.”
I smiled and gave Simon a hug.
“You’re welcome, Seraphine.”
I let go of Simon and we started making our way back towards town.
Sure enough, when we got to the water fountain, Casper was nowhere to be found. I asked a lady at one of the shops nearby what time it was. She said it was around 6 or 7 p.m. I just stood staring at the fountain, mouth agape. Oh God, what have I done?
Simon walked up beside me and held my hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. I looked up at him, giving him a small smile and sighing. Then I turned the both of us around and we made our way back to my house
Eventually, we arrived by the oak tree outside my house.
“Thank-you again for walking me home.”
Simon smiled and shrugged.
“I’d feel better knowing you got home safe.”
I smiled, staring at my feet, not knowing what to say. There was a moment of silence before he spoke up again.
“So… um, what are you going to tell your father about Casper?”
I sigh3, thinking of the consequences.
“I’ll… I’ll be fine. I’m sure he’ll just schedule another meeting for us. Not that I really want to go, but I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
Simon got down on one knee and took my hand in his, looking me in the eye.
“You always have a choice, Seraphine.”
Blushing very hard, I tightened my grip on his hand. And then a playful smile came to my face.
“Seraphine says, promise me you’ll be safe travelling back to your tree tonight.”
Simon chuckled and then smiled.
“I promise. Now, one more round for me.”
He thought about it for a moment before brushing my hair from my face with his free hand.
My eyes went wide, and my face went pink.
“You didn’t say ‘Simon says’ Simon.”
“I know, because I want you to have the choice to do so.”
I smiled and looked at those pretty chestnut eyes. I started to lean in.
Then at the last second, I turned his head to the side, pecking his cheek.
“Maybe after we see each other again?”
Now he was the one blushing. He gave a smile and kissed my hand.
“Then it’s a date. Goodnight, Seraphine.”
I waited for him to start walking back towards the woods before going back inside. As I stealthily made my way upstairs to my room, without waking up my parents or siblings, I went to sleep with a smile on my face and one person in my mind.