ENTERING THE WESTERN ELVEN KINGDOM
Aside from the dwarves’ motto of “Don’t Go Near There”, which applied to all Elf settlements, Hauro’s only frame of reference about the Western Elven Kingdom came from Evie. He recalled her experience as a young girl visiting with her parents. “Expansive streets paved in the most elaborate geometrical designs.” Evie had told him she was walking through the streets by the old Red Tower, an ancient monument erected over 5000 years prior to the Common Elven Era. Their legend told of a mythical power held upon the tower. Any elf standing in the tower would be able to see across all the Elven Territories, an unnatural distance to the human eye, and find any person they want.
Evie said she’d neared the tower when another small elf appeared around the corner of the tower. Curious, she ventured to follow the boy. When she got to the other side of the tower, the boy was gone. Evie realized gone also was her line of sight with her father, who had previously threatened a lack of gifts if she’d left it. Turning around and around hurriedly, she tried to find either the boy to satisfy her curiosity or her father to make amends quickly enough to ensure some semblance of a present by the end of the day. Now dizzy, Evie believed she had seen the boy again and halted, almost tipping over with a rush of blood to the head. Her suspicions confirmed, she saw the boy’s hand peeking from around the tower again. “I just thought it was a game,” she told Hauro. She had followed him and prepared to hum and startle him, all the while grinning slyly. But her grin twisted into a grimace as she squealed when she touched the man’s hand. It was no boy who turned around at her touch. Evie saw an adult elf with clearly childish features looking down at her with his own mischievous grin, his hand grabbing and yanking Evie’s hand towards him.
At that exact time, Evie’s father, who, Evie told Hauro, she found out had never let her out of his sight, shouted out to her. Both startled, Evie and the mystery elf looked back at the mature-looking elf magically appearing in Evie’s shadow.
“I just yelled ‘Daddy!’, ripped my hand away from the strange man and grabbed tight to my father’s leg. I never saw anything. I buried my face in his cloak and heard my father threaten the man. I remember worrying the man would retaliate and hurt dad, maybe pulling out a knife or a weapon, but all I heard in response was footsteps running away from us.”
Slumped down in her black, leather desk chair, Emily played the scene out in her mind. This time, she was Evie, Brock turned around at her touch, and Tristan came to her rescue. Emily never saw Tristan enter this scene, but it was not the first time Tristan filled a role in Emily’s head canon casting as she played the book out in her mind for the third read-through.
Trying to decide her favorite passage from this scene to add to her notebook, Emily grabbed her favorite fountain pen and pressed it to the paper. Emily slid her hand up and down against the fresh notebook, forcing the middle binding to stay open as she let go of it. Journaling for as long as she could remember, Emily filled notebooks full of passages and quotes from books she had read as well as her musing on the language and ideas and themes and philosophies. Journaling wasn’t just record-keeping to Emily, it was memory-keeping, memories of both outside ruminations and her own metacognition at the time in her life when she had experienced those stories. But ever since the beginning of the wedding plans, journaling had itself become a memory, just like a handful of other personal freedoms she felt she had to put on the backburner of life to make way for a new life with Brock. Yet ever since opening it up, Tristan’s book jostled loose the old habit. Tristan’s words revived her.
As her eyes focused back into reality, Emily saw the black dot formed from the ink escaping onto her page. She turned back a few pages on her phone, and began writing. But the sudden noise of her door flying open a smacking back against the wall jolted Emily’s whole body, her writing arm sliding across the page, and an ink trail followed behind crashing through her thoughts.
Emily sprung up from her desk and glared at Brock.
“What the hell, Brock?”
“What are you doing in here?”
“Why the hell are you barging in here like that?”
“Well, maybe, if you would have answered me the first time, or even the second time, I wouldn’t have to disrupt you and catch you in here hiding.”
“I didn’t hear you. I’m just reading.”
“You’ve been just reading that book for weeks now. How about focusing a little bit on our wedding?”
“Oh, yea? How are those addresses and labels? I need to look over the invite list too.”
“I’m getting to it.”
“Why don’t you put your phone down and quit reading that stupid book long enough for us to make sure people are going to come to this wedding. I’ve tried to be patient with you. But every second you have free, you’re spending it with that book. It’s just a bunch of stupid dwarves and elves and fantasy crap. And I saw that your ex, erhh, uhh, Tristan, wrote it. What the hell is that about?”
Emily felt an odd but automatic sensation to stand up for Tristan, and in a way, for herself. Her former self. “Excuse me? Yes, Tristan wrote it. He wrote it because I told him I wanted him to finish it. I’ve been waiting years for this book. I just forgot about it. But now that I’m back in it, I can’t pull away. I’ve wanted to know what happens to Hauro ever since he lost his one true love. And excuse me for having separate interests than just sports and dumb action movies. Loud guns, naked girls, and macho grunts. Oh yea, that’s time used wisely. You were just sitting on your lazy butt too. At least I’m enriching my mind by reading. I’ve got a whole notebook filled with passages he wrote; it’s beautiful.”
“Then just marry him, why don’t you?”
With that, Brock turned around and left the room slamming the door behind him. Seconds later, Emily heard the front door to their apartment shut with gusto.
I should have. The thought lingered in Emily’s mind as her blood boiled. Checking the time, Emily saw that she had to leave the apartment as well. Fuming, she snatched her things, slammed the door as she sat in her car, and headed to the bridal shop.
Her foot glued itself to the accelerator. The car almost matched the momentum of the expletives racing through Emily’s mind. She wondered if any of them were the same words Evie heard her father spout at the tower.
Somehow, she’d made it to the bridal shop safely. Meeting her maid of honor and best friend since college, Emily could put Brock behind her while they got her dress altered. After being poked too many times by too many small needles, Emily and Susan decided to get some coffee.
“So, how’s everything else? Are you holding up okay? When I got married, I was a nervous wreck.”
“It’s great. Everything is great. Really. I’m so excited.”
“But you must be questioning everything right about now, right?”
“Because that’s what you do. Hasn’t it hit you yet that you’re about to be spending the rest of your entire life with one person, with Brock?”
“I mean, I guess.”
“Ha. Let me tell you, it hasn’t then. When George and I got engaged, this crazy idea hit me. I am marrying this guy. I am signing over a part of me to this person. Do I really know him? Is this the right guy? All these questions ran through my mind. And it took me until that moment when I saw him standing next to the reverend as I walked down the aisle. Only then did I know for sure that I was marrying the right guy. Hey, no offense, but it’s going to happen to you too. It happens to at least one person in every couple, I think. What about Brock? Has he been acting different lately?”
Emily decided to open-up about that morning. “We did have a fight today, before I met you here.”
“Oh? About what?”
“Well, it was kinda about Tristan.”
“Tristan? Are you kidding me? I thought you hadn’t seen him since you left. What was that? Two years ago?”
“I hadn’t. Until a couple months ago. We ran into each other at the park, and he told me that he finally finished his book. It’s published now. I sort of forgot about it with all the wedding plans, but a few weeks ago, I started reading it. It was dedicated to me.”
“You serious? Is the book about you two?”
“Not really. It’s got dwarves and elves and stuff like that. But I mean, I’m not blind. I make connections between characters in the book and Tristan and me. I’ve been pouring over the book. It’s heartbreaking. Some of the passages just speak to me, like Tristan was writing to me, trying to make up for his mistakes.”
“Are you saying you have feelings again for him?”
“No. No way.”
“Because you’re kinda, sorta just gushing over there.”
“I am not getting feelings for Tristan. It’s just that the book has kicked some memories up in my head. You know. Old stuff.”
“And you said you haven’t questioned your engagement. This is what I was talking about. You latch on to someone or something that’s different from your fiancé because it’s different. And you want to dabble in the taboo one more time before taking the plunge. But, honestly, how could you go back to Tristan after being with Brock?
“It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. I was in love with him once.”
“Yea, but it’s not just about love. You’ve become accustomed to a new and particular way of life now. Brock has security. He dresses well. And he’s just a stud, a guy’s guy.”
“You make it sound like I’m some debutante. You think I’m high maintenance?”
“In a word? Yes. I honestly don’t know how you can go from Tristan to Brock. Well, no, I know how you go to Brock. He’s a catch. But Tristan? He was just so in his head all the time. Don’t you remember how exhausting that was?
“Sure, but it was also enlightening. We had conversations about stuff. And not all of it was so highbrow. Sometimes he would talk incessantly about the most random things. Looking back, I miss that. Brock talks a lot too, but he’s more a salesman. He talks an inch deep and a mile long. That can get exhausting too.”
“But let’s not skip the fact that you left Tristan. He, as you previously deemed, was not the one you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. Right?”
“I’ve been thinking about that exact point as I’ve been reading his book. He’s the one who, so I thought, at the time, who left me. He started ignoring me. I wasn’t the most important thing in his life anymore; his writing was. So, I just took the hint and left. But now that I read the book, I see that he did it for me. He was writing the book for me. I was the most important aspect of his life. Susan, I was wrong to leave him.”
Emily heard the words leave her mouth, open for anyone to hear, lingering in the air. Afraid of what Susan might say, she spoke again.
“Plus, it’s not just the dedication. I’m in it. He took a scene from my own life and put it in the book. It was when I was six years old. I was in Wal-Mart looking at toys for my birthday, but I started looking in other aisles ahead of my parents. And I totally could have gotten lost. It was really impactful to my formative years. I mean, what if I had been abducted. And I remember telling him that the toy aisle was so beautiful and humongous all filled with toys. And he put that in the book!”
Unconvinced, Susan replied. “Ok, well, we aren’t going to skip what you just said, but first off, don’t authors take real experiences all the time? Makes it more relatable and realistic.”
“Yeah, okay, but you don’t pick an experience from someone you hate. He was thinking of me.”
“Unless, he wrote that part before the break-up”
“Susan, you’re so negative. Do you want to just hurt me today?”
“Wow. I guess. I mean, Emily. Do you really believe that? And what you said about being wrong to leave him? You’re borderline obsessed here.”
“I think so. I mean, after everything in the book, yes. But that’s only half of the conclusion. That doesn’t mean it’s right for me to go back to him. I am getting married; its right around the corner. What kind of person would I be if I cancelled everything now?”
“If you’re serious, a happy person. And you’ll make Brock much happier too. You don’t want to get into something for the primary benefit of others. If you really, and I mean completely, utterly, whole-damn-heartedly, believe that you’re better off returning to Tristan and leaving what you have with Brock, then I support you. But you best be sure. Don’t just leave it all for some infatuation of a boy who wrote you a love story. It looks like you’ve put a lot of thought in this already. So, a little more thought won’t be hard for you. Perhaps you and Tristan are an intellectual match. But you don’t even know if Tristan still feels the same way about you. Maybe writing that book was cathartic to the point that he’s over you now. Have you even talked to him since that meeting in the park?”
Emily let the doubt seep back into her mind again. High off the idea of new love, or new old love…rekindled love, she said, “No, I guess not. Maybe you’re right. For all my thinking about this, I just assumed that he still loved me. When I read that dedication, I thought it meant forever. It will be forever printed in his books. But, maybe, I don’t know, maybe he’s over me now. Maybe that was his final act of love to me. I guess I’m pretty selfish to think he just kept waiting for me. I mean, as I’m thinking about it, he’s probably with his friend Quinn by now. She never warmed up to me, and I thought she made it obvious that she was jealous of my being with Tristan when moved back to town and wanted to be with him herself.”
As Emily finished the thought, she heard a vibration sound coming from her purse on the floor. She picked up her purse and flipped her phone over to see what the message was. Her phone showed a missed call from Tristan. She stared at the name, wondering how long it had been since that name had appeared on her screen. Knowing it wasn’t a coincidence at this point, Emily smiled. Her smile grew when she saw another notification flash on her phone, a new voicemail.
“Sounds like a lot of vari…Emily? Are you listening?”
“Oh, sorry.” Emily looked up from her phone and saw Susan waiting to continue the conversation, a discussion Emily thought moot until she could hear the voicemail. “What did you say?”
“I said, it sounds like a lot of variables are at play here. Why don’t you just listen to Brock and take a step away from that book for a while. Go have a weekend trip with just Brock, spend some time with him alone, and see where your feelings lie with Tristan when you come back. You can even use our cabin.”
Susan dangled some keys in front of Emily’s face after searching in her purse. She dangled them louder and closer to Emily’s face, a blank stare covering it.
“Yea, thanks.” Emily replied after focusing her eyes on the keys and grabbing them.
“Well, I should go. I should, um, go call Brock. And we can do this. Great. Bye!” Fidgeting with her belongings, Emily sat up from the table and exited the coffee shop. She opened her car door and grabbed her phone from her purse. Sitting in the car, staring at the voicemail notification, thinking about hearing his voice again, Emily pressed play.
“Hi, Emily. It’s, uh, Tristan here. I guess you could see that on your phone. Oh, unless you took my name out of your phone. I…shoot. I am calling because I wanted to invite you to my new book launch. You see, I got picked up by a New York publisher, and they want to have a thing to show off the new edition. I would really like you to be there. I know you’re busy with wedding stuff but it’d be good to see you again. And so, uh, it’s this Saturday at Quinn’s place, do you remember where…oh right, voicemail, ok. It’s at 1:00 p.m. ok-bye.”