I walk side-by-side with the Warrior of Light on a La Noscean beach. We walk through the tide with shoes in hand, and the wind whips my dress and his tunic around us. I hold my hair in my free hand to keep it out of my face. When he speaks, it’s too quiet to hear above the wind, so I have to lean closer.
“I’m surprised you didn’t sue me for all the distress I caused you.”
I laugh—one of those big laughs, head thrown back and shoulders shaking. When I sober and look at him again, I am met with a look of shock. I just shake my head and look forward again.
“I don’t know anything about the world you live in, but where I’m from we handle our problems with people ourselves. And if you just can’t work it out, you walk away.” I tilt my head to the side, looking over at him. “Besides,” I admit: “Lawsuits are against my religion.”
I nod, eyeing him and wondering what he’s thinking. I learned a long time ago not to discuss religion; it only leads to arguments. But it seems relevant here.
“I was taught that if you have a problem with someone, you confront them directly. If they don’t listen, you confront them again with a witness. If they still don’t listen, you confront them in front of the church. And if they still don’t listen, just move on.”
I hop onto a log that drifted in with the tide and walk along it, keeping pace with him. I let go of my hair so I can hold my arm out for balance. My hair flies in the wind.
“I could only do the first and last parts, of course. No one would believe I’ve been sexually harassed by the Warrior of Light, and it's not like I could get you in front of a congregation of Nymeia.”
I say it lightly, but my cheeks grow hot, and this time I don’t look at him. I hop back off the log and we walk in silence for several minutes. I finally manage to look at him, but I can’t read his expression. I push my hair out of my face, slowing. He probably doesn’t believe me. I’m not sure he ever believes me. I think back on his sullen expression and my heart aches. I stop moving. He follows suit.
I offer him my sincerest smile.
“Don’t worry, Augustine. Really.” On impulse, I reach up and place my palm against his cheek. He leans into my touch and raises his gaze to meet mine. He takes a step closer to me, and I can feel my breath quicken.
“Ugh!” I jump slightly at the sound. His hands clench at his sides and he moves his face away from my hand. “Don’t do that,” he grumbles. “It confuses me. I know you only like women.”
I blink. I eventually lower my hand as I stare at him. I shake my head slowly.
“No, that isn’t true.” The words come out slowly. “I am very much interested in men.”
“Then why do you always dodge my advances?”
I laugh again, but not as heartily as before. I shake my head.
“I’ve told you. I have issues.”
Plus, she'd never met him. Hyleigh set the quill down slowly, her gaze drifting out the window. Gradually, she grew aware of the tap-tap of raindrops on the glass. She propped her elbow on the desk and rested her chin in her palm, staring at the dark gloom and the even darker brush beyond the front yard. This was no good. It was too personal, and there was too much backstory she couldn’t tell. She exhaled in a huff, her shoulders falling. Perhaps she wasn’t capable of writing WoL fanfiction any longer.
She stood, picked up the parchment, and headed to the kitchen. There was a fire on the stove heating a kettle. She slid the corner of the parchment into the flame. She wasn’t going to throw this one away. What if her mother checked the garbage? No. This one needed to disappear. She watched as the flames consumed the words, as the paper’s edges twisted and turned to ash. She opened the door in the bottom of the oven, where the fire crystals were stored, and placed the burning parchment inside.
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