Another scene I did just for practice. First of all, I apologize in advance that I can't give any context to what the rose petal means at the end because it will be a plot point in Shadows Rise. The scene itself takes place before Lena and Eldric are introduced to the story, though. So it's not a spoiler. I just can't explain that one detail, sorry, but I just want to say it's there for a reason. :P
What was I practicing? Eeeeh... I wanted to practice writing a younger more vulnerable version of Lena since in the main story she's the 'mentor' character for the most part. I also wanted to try writing more subtle emotional responses with her, because Lena even at this age (she's between 16 and 17 here) is a very guarded person. Not sure to what point I succeeded. You guys tell me.
And not that it matters, but Eldric will be Annie's father, although much later when he's married to someone else and yikes; complicated, can of worms, let's not get into it. >.>
“Do you know how memories work, Eldric?”
Eldric opened his eyes, immediately regretting it when the sunlight attacked his vision. He turned his head and blinked a few times until Lena’s form gained focus. She hadn’t stirred from where she’d been lying on the grass beside him for the past half hour. She wasn’t looking at him, staring up at the sunlit tree branches above, but her silence demanded some form of response from him nonetheless.
“What do you mean by how they ‘work’?” he questioned.
“Do you know how they are formed? How they are stored within a person’s mind? Did you know that the human mind can form memories so quickly, it’s possible to go into a person’s mind and discover things about their lives that not even they are consciously aware of? Did you know that even though it’s possible for the conscious part of your mind to forget something, your subconscious will still hold that memory? Forever. When we forget things, we have this notion that the memory is gone; erased, but it’s not. It’s just... Buried.”
“I didn’t know that,” Eldric answered. He sat up, crossing his legs and resting his hands on them. His brown eyes stared into Lena in silent question, unsure of where this conversation was heading. He knew not to ask questions about her enlightenment; heck most of the time she wasn’t prone to sharing much of anything other than company itself.
“Memories...” She continued, not seeming to note Eldric’s confusion. “...Memories aren’t limited to what your eyes can register either. Your mind registers every little thing you do; what you hear, touch, breathe in, taste... Have you ever smelled something in the air, or heard a sound you thought you didn’t know, and it caused a reaction in you? In the back of your mind, it feels familiar, but you can’t place it?”
“Like deja vu?”
“Mhm, like that.”
“A few times, yes,” he mumbled. “What’s on your mind, really, Lena? You’re not sounding like yourself today.”
“Hm...” Lena mumbled under her breath, sitting up herself, strands of black hair falling over her eyes and hiding her expression. “I was just thinking, understanding all of this, I should know better than most how impossible it is... To live with a mistake, to cope with regret. Because even if you can make yourself forget, the memory’s not gone, not really. It’s still buried in the back of your mind. It’s still a part of you. I should know that every little act is a burden I’m forced to carry with me forever. I shouldn’t...” She trailed off, hiding her face in her hands and exhaling violently into her palms. “I should think things through,” she finished, her tone softer; collected, more like her usual self.
“Just because you’re forced to carry your mistakes, it doesn’t mean they have to burden you.” Eldric pointed out. “The way I see it, you can either punish yourself forever, or you can accept them as a part of you. Own them and go back to being your usual arrogant bratty self...” He told her, an amused smirk playing on his lips when he felt her glaring straight at him. “I’m just saying,” he chuckled, “Twins forbid that tough exterior of yours starts to actually crack.”
Lena let out a soft laugh at his words. She hadn’t been herself, that much was true. Her laughter faded into a soft sigh. “You know, I’m not too arrogant to admit I was wrong about one thing.”
“Oh?” Eldric’s tone was genuinely surprised as he stared at her. Lena’s expression, as usual, didn’t give away much more than just mild amusement. “And what would that be?”
She leaned closer, her left palm pressed against the ground less than an inch from his. “You’re definitely not just a pretty face,” she whispered.
Eldric shook his head and laughed. “I know that’s supposed to be a backhanded compliment, but all I get from it is that you think my face is pretty.”
Lena chuckled, shrugging her shoulders as she pulled away and once again stared up at that tree branches above. “I was being generous. I think you have an acceptable face.”
“Ooow... My pride!” Eldric laughed, playfully clutching his chest and falling on his back in an overdramatic display. “How can you be this cruel?” he whined, staring up at the patches of blue sky visible amongst the dark green leaves above. After a few moments he glanced at her, she was laughing under her breath, but her eyes were still cold with what he could assume to be worry. “Hey,” he called. “What happened on your last assignment?”
It was subtle, very subtle, but Lena’s entire body tensed at the question. The mere memory seeming to rip away any warmth left in her blue eyes. “Nothing happened. I fulfilled the contract. It was a clean kill. A perfect kill. Like all my assignments.”
“I’m not asking you to file a report. I’m asking what happened to you during that assassination. Because I think it’s more than clear that something is plaguing your thoughts.”
Lena twitched uncomfortably where she sat, her eyes darted down and to the right, as one does when searching for the right thing to say. Eldric didn’t repeat his question, he didn’t press the issue. He said nothing. He knew she was fighting off the urge to flee and anything he said would do nothing more than coax her into it. Eldric sat up and ruffled loose bits of grass from his hair, scooching closer to where Lena was sitting, eliminating the short distance between them.
“Look, kiddo,” he whispered, “you don’t have to give me any answers. They’re yours to keep. I just want you to know...” His words trailed off into a sigh, she was still pointedly looking away from him. “Hey,” he called, pushing her hair away from her eyes with his fingers and trailing them gently from behind her ear down to her chin. “I’m here,” he concluded, grasping her chin and turning her head in his direction. He lowered his hand, his palm now pressing into the grass on the other side of her, his arm draped over her lap in a loose embrace.
Lena closed her eyes but didn’t pull or turn away. She breathed in slowly and when she exhaled, the tension leaving her body was so heavy Eldric could almost feel it piling on his own shoulders. He still didn’t understand what she was going through, but the actual events, in this case, mattered little compared to the toll they were taking.
“I’m here,” he repeated.
She opened her eyes to look at him now. Eldric always thought he could read people just fine, but Lena had always been a challenge for him. In every known definition of the word.
“I see that,” she whispered to him. When she smiled this time it lit up her eyes and it was glorious.
“So, tell me something,” Eldric started, leaning in and pressing his forehead to the top of her head.
“The way you said memories form, it sounds like every little moment of our lives is permanently etched in our memories. Forever. It can never really be erased, becomes a part of us, correct?” He pulled away at the question, just enough so they were seeing eye to eye.
“In simple terms, yes, that’s correct,” she confirmed. His question brought back a hint of amusement to her eyes. “Why the sudden interest?”
“I was just wondering...” Eldric smiled, it wasn’t the usual teasing smirk or mocking grin they usually exchanged, it was a soft, warm, sincere, kind of smile. “If I can make this last forever too.”
Before Lena had a chance to question his words, the young archer leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. The kiss was both soft and purposeful, Eldric’s arm now wrapped tight around Lena’s waist, pulling her to him. She returned the kiss, her body momentarily tensing and then relaxing into his embrace, fingers sinking into his hair.
It was the middle of the afternoon, neither of them was supposed to be idling in the forest, and soon enough they were both made very aware of that fact by an intruding voice calling in the distance. Eldric’s father had gone looking for him. A bitter chuckle vibrated against Eldric’s lips as Lena began to pull away, breaking the kiss.
“Of course,” she muttered. “Daddy’s calling.”
“He won’t find us here,” Eldric argued.
Lena shook her head. It was a small, closed off, clearing, but it wasn’t impossible to find and the man’s voice was drawing near. “Do you want to take that chance? If he sees you with me, someone’s going to die. And I don’t intend it to be me; fair warning.”
“I wish I could tell myself you’re not serious,” Eldric mumbled. She was right, he knew, it wouldn’t benefit anyone to get caught rule-breaking like this even if he was alone. If his father caught sight of Lena someone was definitely going to get it. Letting out a defeated sigh, he nodded his agreement. “Alright, kiddo, I guess... I’ll see you around camp later then?”
“I’d say the odds of that are pretty decent... Kind of like your face; pretty boy,” she teased.
“And there you go hurting my feelings again,” Eldric laughed. “And here I thought we had a moment.”
Lena’s smile softened from her teasing smirk. “Yes, but... Just the one. Don’t let it go to your head.”
Eldric snorted, stealing one more brief kiss before standing up to leave. “You know me, kiddo, I take what I can get.”
Lena shook her head in amusement while Eldric disappeared into the woods. Her smile slowly faded as she sat there listening to his footsteps moving away and his father’s calls abruptly silencing when, she imagined, Eldric caught up to him. Heaving a lengthy sigh, she reached into an inner pocket of her coat and pulled from it a white, red stained, rose petal. “Forever... Just isn’t enough sometimes...”
I think you accomplished your goal. It's clear that she's upset about something, even if she doesn't want to talk about it directly. Probably Eldric is the person she trusts the most (or one of them), because she was willing to let her guard down for a moment, both in subtle body language, but in the way she was talking about how memories form, which clearly, at least in her mind, has to do with whatever happened. I imagine she was talking about it because whatever happened is something she knows she won't consciously forget, but the idea that even if she somehow does manage to forget, it'll still be there, and it bothers her. Or maybe it comforts her? I don't know. Maybe a bit of both. Just my two cents :)
@typical_demigod It definitely bothers her. >.>
Thanks for the feedback. :)