While my father stood in the doorway to my room red with anger, I stood near the window to my room, pale as a ghost, holding tightly onto Simon’s hands. If looks could kill, my father’s expression would’ve sliced both Simon and me into pieces. I stepped forward slowly and stood in front of Simon as if my small stature could provide him with any sort of protection.
“Father, I can explain…”
My father raised his hand up to silence me and met my eyes. I had never seen such a look of… pure loathing in his eyes.
“You have one minute to get this one out of here while I go get your mother and siblings so you can properly explain yourself…”
And with that, he left the room swiftly.
I knew I didn’t have much time. Holding in my tears, I lead Simon to the window, much to his struggle and resistance.
“Woah Woah Woah, what are you doing? Do you think I’m leaving you now? With him here? No way, I’m not…”
I didn’t let him finish his sentence before I kissed him deeply, savouring every second of it… in case it was the last time I ever tasted his lips.
I opened up the window and began leading him out of it. I took his hand in mine and held it to my face, looking into his eyes. The look of concern on his face was heartbreaking.
“Simon… run. I promise I will see you again. I don’t know how long it will be… but I promise you I will. Now please, go…”
He seemed to hesitate for a moment… but he sighed and nodded sadly. He kissed my hand quickly before climbing down the giant oak tree and sprinting into the woods.
A few more tears fell from my eyes as I saw Simon dash into the forest. I quickly wiped them away, took a deep breath and turned to face the doorway, awaiting my father’s return.
Almost as quickly as I turned around, my father reappeared in the doorway, along with my mother, two brothers, Davwin and Graser, and my two sisters, Fenhana and Lilla. While the rest of my family looked at me confused, Davwin was the only one who seemed concerned, and my father looked furious. With his hand, he gestured my siblings to look over in my direction.
“I want you all to take a good long look at your sister Seraphine.”
I flinched at his words, his tone was as cold as ice. He shook his head in complete disgust.
“This is what a disappointment looks like… a complete and utter failure, a disgrace to our family name… take a good look, so you know what I don’t expect from you precisely.”
Every word he said cut into me like a knife. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything except cry. I was trying so desperately to gain control of myself and calm down… but I just fell to my knees, covering my face in my hands.
My mother put a gentle hand on my father’s shoulder, but he shrugged it off and walked towards me. I peeked from my hands slightly to see my father storming towards me, anger brushed across his face and hand raised about to strike me. I hid my face back in my hands and cried louder, bracing myself for the impact.
But it never came.
I looked up carefully once more, shocked to see what was before me. Davwin, with all his strength, was holding my father’s hand back. Now my father was turning his rage towards Davwin, who held his ground.
“That’s enough, father! Seraphine did nothing wrong!”
I looked at Davwin, surprised yet grateful at what he was doing for me. He knew how intense my father could be, yet he was putting himself in the line of fire… for me.
My father, however, wasn’t moved. He turned himself to face the rest of my family members with a stern look.
“Darling… children… care to speak your minds on this matter?”
I looked at my mother and the rest of my siblings, almost begging them with my eyes to say something, anything that could persuade my father.
My mother stepped forward and took a deep breath, looking at me as she speaks.
“Seraphine sweetie, I love you with all my heart. And I know you are going to do wonderful things with your writing and music.”
Her words warmed my heart. Maybe this would actually go my way, I thought to myself.
That one word was enough to shatter my hope once more.
“Your father is right, Seraphine. We need the money… maybe this is just a phase. Maybe there is a gnome out there for you that you just haven’t found yet.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing…
My father nodded, satisfied with the response and then turned to face my other siblings, a stern but massive smile on his face as if he already knew where this was going.
“Graser, Fenhana, Lilla… tell me now, do you share the same perspectives as Seraphine and Davwin, or your own parents?”
The three of them looked at my father, then at me, then back at my father again. As if pre-rehearsed, Graser, Fenhana and Lilla all sighed in unison and said the exact same words that my father wanted to hear.
“What mother said…”
Cowards, I thought to myself. Nothing but a bunch of cowards.
Of course, this was precisely what my father wanted and expected to hear, and thus turned his attention back towards Davwin, who was looking just as ashamed in my other siblings as I was.
“Now Davwin, if I’ve counted correctly, that makes it five against two.”
Before Davwin could even respond, my father punched him square in the face, knocking him to the floor, unconscious. I cried out in pain as I saw him lying there motionless, blood gushing from his nose, no doubt being broken. My father chuckled to himself.
“Now it is five against one.”
My mother and siblings rushed over to Davwin to help him up, Fenhana already tearing off a bit of her skirt to help stop the bleeding.
My father then turned back to face me and snapped his fingers to get my family’s attention.
“Tend to Davwin’s injuries in his bedroom, please. I’d like to speak with Seraphine alone now.”
As if like perfectly trained dogs, my mother and Graser helped carry Davwin out of the room while Fenhana and Lilla tended to the bleeding. And with that, my father and I were alone… just the way he wanted it to be.
He walked towards me again, a bit slower this time. He raised his hand once more, and I closed my eyes once again, preparing myself for the painful blow.
Yet once again, it didn’t come.
Instead, I felt a hand petting my head… gently. I opened my eyes and turned to see my father, sitting beside me on the floor, sure enough stroking my hair gently with his hand. He looked at me like he was upset, but for once it wasn’t directed at me. He looked just… sad. I almost pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming or going crazy.
Suddenly, he… hugged me, and continued petting my hair with his hand.
“I’m sorry, Seraphine.”
I… didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t even remember the last time my father hugged me. It wasn’t… normal, at all. But regardless of what just occurred, no matter how many times he had hurt me in the past or called me a disgrace, I hugged him back, crying into his shoulder.
Was this what I had been missing all these years? Is this what fathers and daughters usually do? I had never experienced this before, and I didn’t want it to end. But then my father pulled away gently and tilted my chin up, so my eyes met his.
“Do you want to know why I am so insistent on you marrying Casper? More than it just being about the money?”
Curious, I shook my head.
He sighed and looked down.
“When I was a young gnome much like yourself, I was constantly ridiculed for my height, like I know you sometimes are. I was always being told I would never amount to anything. When your mother and I had you and your siblings, I made a vow. I vowed that I would make sure you all had the best lives possible, making sure you had steady work and finding partners who love you. That’s why I wanted you to become an artisan like your mother and I or labourers like your siblings. Music is a passion, yes, but the last thing I want is you living on the streets because you’re making little pay playing in taverns or on street corners… which is why I always insisted on it to be a hobby of yours instead.”
I thought about it for a moment. I guess I hadn’t considered that. What if I wasn’t good enough to make a living out of this?
He turned my face back to his.
“As for Simon, he seems like a nice young man. But you and I both know I’m not the only one who sees it. The height difference Seraphine… people would more than likely mistake you for his daughter, not his partner. That’s what you and Casper have in common, neither of you will stand out in a crowd if you’re together. He is protective and means well. He really cares about you and wants to take care of you. And Simon seems like… a wanderer. I don’t want you to wake up one morning and have him leaving you in the dust without even a goodbye.”
I was so confused now. This was all new information to me. I stood up from my father’s embrace and walked towards my bedroom window, looking out into the distance. This was my home. I grew up here, and I know all the people here. Here is safe for me, but out there with Simon… who knows what we would face? I turned back to meet my father, looking down at my feet.
“I… I had no idea that was what you really thought.”
He walked back towards me and hugged me again.
“I just want what is best for you, Seraphine.”
I hugged him back, enjoying the feeling of his arms around me, comforting me, not knowing how long it would last. He pulled back and looked me dead in the eyes, smiling softly.
“I think I have treated you poorly for far too long, Seraphine. And I think we need to talk it out and find some common ground on this whole marriage thing, giving you more of a say in the matter. So if you want, I have an unbiased third party who can help us sort out our differences and help rebuild our relationship as father and daughter… if that would make you happy, that is.”
I was surprised that my father was considering being reasonable with me. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to gain a say in who I want to be with and also get a more caring relationship with my father, so I nodded eagerly.
My father smiled and started to head out of my bedroom.
“Come to the kitchen in an hour, and we shall have our first meeting.”
Before he closed the door behind him, he turned to me and smiled.
“I think this will be wonderful for both of us Seraphine.”
For the first time in my life, it seemed like my father, and I were finally agreeing in something.
An hour later, I made my way downstairs to the kitchen, and I see my father sitting at the table with another person. As he saw me coming down the stairs, he smiled and whispered to the person sitting at the table. I couldn’t see their face because they had a hood covering their head. When they stood up, the hood was pushed gently back, and she smiled at me.
She was a tan-skinned gnome, with dark black and occasional grey curls cascading down to her mid back. She had bright, blue, knowing eyes and a sweet smile. Almost matching her eyes, a blue robe with gold accents hugged her body tightly. She looked to be near my father’s age, if not a few years older. As she approached me, her smile only grew, and she extended her hand to shake mine.
“Ezora Oqinn, at your service. And you must be Seraphine. Your father has told me so much about you.”
She had a very soothing voice as well. It was sweet too, like honeysuckle. She seemed like such a kind lady. I was surprised she knew my father… but regardless, I shook her hand and smiled in return.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ezora.”
She leads my father and me to sit on the edge of my bed before pulling up a chair for her to sit in. She clapped her hands a few times before looking at the two of us.
“Now, I’ve been told that you two have some… a difference of opinions on certain matters, the main one being who you marry. Seraphine, how about I hear your side first, then we’ll hear your father’s side. After that, we’ll come to a compromise that makes both people happy, deal?”
My father and I both nodded. Ezora clapped her hands together happily and turned to face me.
“Excellent! Now Seraphine, tell me what it is you want.”
I sat and thought about it for a moment before answering her question.
“I just want to be with someone who makes me feel happy and loves me exactly how I am. I feel like Simon might be that person.”
She looked at me, intrigued by my answer.
“Interesting, you used the word ‘might’… any reason why?”
I looked at my father.
“Well, my father made some interesting points earlier today that I hadn’t considered before.”
Ezora then turned to face my father.
“And what were those points?”
My father straightened himself in his chair.
“I told her that it might be better for her to be with someone, like Casper, who she wouldn’t stand out like a sore thumb within a crowd. He does care for her and will take care of her, and there is no possibility of him leaving her, unlike with Simon.”
She turned her attention back to me once more.
“It seems like you have an underlying desire to please your father, Seraphine. Am I right?”
I turned to my father once more, sighing. I knew I had to be honest with him.
“Yes… I’ve always wanted to make my father proud of me. But it seems no matter what I do, I can never please him, I just…”
Before I knew it, I was crying. Both my father and Ezora placed a gentle hand on each of my shoulders, comforting me. It was Ezora then who tilted my face up to meet her eyes.
“Now now, don’t cry Seraphine, it’s okay. Listen to me, dear. What if I told you there was a way you could make your father proud of you?”
The one word stuck out to me like a gold coin in a pile of coppers. My father… proud, of me? The mere idea of it seemed impossible but… what if she could help me achieve it?
“Please Ezora, tell me.”
She smiled that gentle smile at my words and took my hand in hers, looking deep into my eyes.
“Break up with that Simon fellow. And do not come back home until you have made sure things are over between you two.”
Suddenly, it was almost as if a flip switched inside my head. I stood up and immediately left the house, and began walking towards the forest and the tree Simon was at. There was only one option. I had to end things with Simon.
I quickly made my way into the woods, determination buzzing through my head. I had a goal set in mind, and I was gonna fulfil it. Sure enough, Simon was lying on one of the branches up in our tree. As soon as he saw me, his eyes widened in both surprise and pure joy. He swung off the branch, landing perfectly on the ground and ran to me, hugging me tightly in your arms. I could hear him crying into my shoulder.
“Oh, Seraphine… I missed you so much. I’m so glad you’re okay.”
I broke the hug and took his hands in mine.
“Simon, we need to…”
But he cut me off before I could continue.
“Before you go on, I need to ask you something…”
And suddenly, Simon was getting down on one knee, holding out a necklace to me. It was a beautiful green gemstone threaded on a long silver chain. It nearly matched my eyes.
“I don’t have the money at the moment for a ring… but I want to give you something as a promise.”
He stood then and went behind me, moving the hair gently from the back of my neck so he could place the necklace around me.
“It was one of the few things I managed to steal from my home before I was exiled. It belonged to my mother, and she wanted me to give it to the woman whom I would marry.”
He came back around to face the front on me and pulled me gently into his arms.
“Seraphine Reese, I may not be able to give you a big home or a ton of riches… but I can give you the one thing you deserve. An adventure of a lifetime with someone who loves you forever and unconditionally. Please, will you do me the honour of promising yourself to me?”
I stood staring up at Simon, his eyes full of love and a genuine smile across his face. I sighed and pulled myself away.
“Simon, I’m sorry… we can’t be together.”
He looked at me confused for a moment and chuckled a bit.
“Ah, I get it. This is you just trying to scare me momentarily to get back at me for when we first met, then you’re going to say ‘Of course I’…”
This time it was my turn to cut him off.
“No Simon, I really mean it. We can’t be together.”
His face drops for a second, then he takes me gently back into his arms.
“Listen to me Seraphine, if your father has put you up to this at all, you don’t have to listen to him. You should be with who you want to be with.”
I pushed him back again, a bit harder this time.
“I don’t want to be with you Simon, end of story.”
And with that, I turned to walk away… but Simon wasn’t through with me yet.
“Now, wait just a minute.”
I huffed and turned back around to face him. He walked a bit closer to me, his arms folded.
“Yesterday, it seemed you, and I were both in love and ready to seize the world together. Now today, conveniently after your father confronted you about it, you don’t want to be together. Now, call me crazy, but that seems a bit odd.”
I mimicked his stance and folded my arms.
“You’re crazy. I don’t want to be with you… I just want to have the best life for me.”
I was having the weirdest sense of déjà vu right then…
Simon looked hurt, but then hardened his gaze.
“You don’t think I can give you the best life? A life where you can pursue your passions and not be pressured by your father?”
My answers… there were all practically regurgitated…
I rolled my eyes and looked deadpan at Simon.
“You’re a wanderer. You might leave me one day without saying goodbye.”
These weren’t my answers…
Simon looked like he was starting to get really pissed off.
“Okay, now I know your father put you up to this. This isn’t the real Seraphine talking here. This is the sad, scared little girl Seraphine who cares too much about obeying her father.”
How could I have done anything?
As soon as he finished his sentence, I ran at him, pushing him to the ground, holding him to the ground with my foot and pulling my sling out on him, aiming it right between his eyes.
“Don’t you FUCKING DARE call me little, you hear me? That’s why we shouldn’t be together. I’d stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd standing next to you… people would more than likely mistake me for your DAUGHTER than your partner!”
How could I have known?
Simon looked me dead in the eyes, both surprised and completely calm.
“Are you really going to hurt me, Seraphine?”
I had no control…
I pulled my sling away from his head and took my foot off his chest, looking down on him for once.
“No… but I’m going to do this.”
I had been under a spell…
I pushed my hair forward and untied the necklace he put around my neck mere minutes ago. I looked at it in disdain before throwing it at his feet and turned away to walk back home. I only uttered two words that were enough to break him as I left him on the ground.
I stumbled slowly along into the forest, tears streaming down my face, my hand pressing my headband hard against the back of my neck to help stop the bleeding.
What happened over the last hour was all a blur to me. Ezora, being exiled, my father… Simon…
I knelt down at the edge of the pond near… my tree and dampened my headband before placing it again on the back of my neck. I sucked the air between my teeth, whimpering slightly. It stung a little at first, but then the fresh water felt soothing against the wounds. I used my other hand to check them.
Very little blood now, I thought to myself. That meant they were slowly healing themselves.
I stood up from the edge of the pond and turned towards the tree. The tree that Simon and I used to call our tree. I knew I was in no condition to be travelling, so I decided to make my first camp in the tree. I would keep walking in the morning.
After much effort, I managed to get myself up on to one of the lower hanging branches of the tree. I hung my bag on one of the slightly higher, sturdier branches and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible in a tree.
Before I got too comfy though, I noticed something. A small glint was shining through the bundle of leaves collecting near the end of the branch. Curiosity got the best of me, so I carefully inched myself along the branch to retrieve it from its leafy nest. As soon as I saw what it was, my heart skipped a beat.
In my hand was the necklace that Simon had given me earlier… earlier when I was under that spell and turned him down. Tears began to well up in my eyes at the thought of it… but that wasn’t the only thing. Stuck to the back of the necklace with what appeared to be tree sap was a note. I peeled the note off from the back of the pendant, carefully so as not to rip it. Once it was free, I read the letter. That’s when the tears began to fall from my eyes once again.
I know you told me I’m a wanderer. So now I’m wandering. And as I’m wandering, I’m wondering. I’m wondering why you told me goodbye. And my only logical explanation is this: you were not you when you told me goodbye. I don’t know how or by what means, but I know you were not the Seraphine I know and love with all my heart. And deep down, I know you love me too. And I know you are strong enough to get away from your father and get out into the life you deserve. And when you do get out, wander along with me, and wonder where I am. Because one day, with enough wandering and enough wondering, we will find each other again. And no matter how long it takes, I will wait for you, and I will look for you… I love you, Seraphine Reese. I always will.
Yours Forever, Simon Featherglade.
Both sad and happy tears streamed down my face. I hugged the note close to my chest and cried my eyes out. He loves me, I thought to myself. After everything I said to him, he still loves me.
I folded the note gently and placed it into my bag. I picked up the necklace that was sitting in my lap. Without hesitation, I tied it around my neck and held the gemstone tightly in my hand.
“I know you can’t hear me right now Simon, but I promise you, we will be together again one day.”
I took the gemstone in my hand and pressed it gently to my lips.
“I love you too, Simon Featherglade. I always will.”