When I thought no one was looking, I rounded the corner into the alley next to the Italian restaurant on Third Street. I hoped I’d lost her a few miles back, but I could still hear her mocking laugh in the distance. She wasn’t about to let me get away.
“Dammit! What is this lady on? Sunshine and steroids?”
I screamed into the void and bent down, hands to thighs, trying to catch my breath.
I knew she had been following me for some time. I didn’t know how long. A week, maybe. Everywhere I went, there she was, always in my view. The little pixie was definitely stalking me, but she wasn’t being the least bit subtle about it.
She was moving closer. She was just a few feet behind me. I hobbled farther up the dark alley, unintentionally stepping into a puddle. The water was dirty, unreflective.
“Well, that’s just great!”
She giggled. I wanted to slap her.
I tried to pick up my pace, but her shadow continued to move with mine. My hands, locked into fists at my sides, started to tremble. Could I get far before she caught me? I highly doubted it, since I was in no condition for an elaborate chase.
She took another small skip towards me. I stopped and stood motionless, listening to the sounds of the city streets passing through the small abandoned alley. The horrific smells of week old garbage filled my nose.
Quickly, I examined my options. Option one, I could have run like hell, but that was a bad idea. I glanced down to see the blood-soaked denim fabric where my knee had been. Only the striking pain I felt told me it was still intact somehow.
Option two, if I could have somehow managed to get my hands on a large, heavy, metal object, I might have had a chance, but that seemed unlikely. There was nothing around except for a couple of empty pizza boxes and a few sheets of crumpled paper.
There had to be something I could do.
“Lyla! Oh, Lyla,” she taunted.
Her breath on my neck made me shiver.
She was behind me. She was right behind me now and there was no way I could run. I was out of luck and out of time. If she didn’t stop following me, I was going to have to take drastic action. I had to be tough. I’d seen enough movies to know how to punch someone in the face. I hoped I wouldn’t die tonight.
‘I can do this,’ I told myself.
Suddenly, the delectable aroma of vanilla and sugar was everywhere. Her arms laced around my shoulders and her body pressed into my back.
I screamed. I screamed like all those malnourished and under-dressed kids you see in horror movies.
I shifted and shook, but she continued to cling to me, snickering as I tried to escape. Trying to shake her off was proving harder than I thought possible.
“Izzy, please. You’re scaring her.”
Another figure slowly came out of the shadows.
In that moment, it felt like my heart would break free from my chest; my blood pulsed and squeezed. It felt like a high voltage of electricity had gone through me. I’d never felt anything like it. What was happening to me?
I looked up, but it was too dark to see. As the figure came closer, I had to stop myself from moving forward. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Tall, only a little taller than me, but the high-heeled boots she wore helped. She was dressed in dark blue-jeans and a stark, white t-shirt that fell off at one shoulder. I could have gone on and said her hair was a rich golden-brown, so luscious that I longed to run my fingers through it. Or I could have said her eyes were bluer and clearer than the deepest ocean, but even thinking of something so sickeningly sweet made me want to hurl.
Honestly, I knew I should have run and never looked back, but I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to. I couldn’t tear myself away from her gaze.
Also, the stalker was still on my back and I really didn’t want to take her with me as I attempted to escape.
“Sorry,” my attacker mumbled, simultaneously releasing herself from me.
Izzy went to her companion, looking crestfallen.
“Let me introduce myself,” the mystery woman offered.
“I’m Camilla and this is my companion, Izzy.”
Izzy was a tiny, little thing. She couldn’t have been more that five feet, if that. Her elfin features were staggering. Her chin-length hair was colored a cool, blush pink, which was a stark contrast to the tight, all-black ensemble she was sporting. Leather jacket, included.
Camilla reached to shake my hand, but I didn’t want to exchange pleasantries. Whatever I was feeling toward her was messing with my head. I had to keep my cool.
“What in the blazing hell is going on? Who are you people? And why are you following me?”
“Please, forgive Izzy. She gets a little impetuous around humans. She doesn’t get to meet them often.”
I couldn’t comprehend what I was hearing. What was she trying to tell me?
“Izzy. She isn’t used to being around humans.”
“She’s not human?”
“No. She’s your Fairy Godmother,” Camilla declared, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
I laughed. I laughed, hard. Like I literally fell on the floor and laughed so hard I almost peed myself.
“She’s a fairy? Like she can shoot pixie dust out of her ass and grant wishes? That kind of fairy?”
“Well, something like that,” Camilla giggled. It was catching.
Suddenly, Izzy was on me, squeezing me in a hug so tight I found it hard to breathe.
“It’s so nice to finally meet you!”
Izzy’s excitement was amusing, but she was crushing my lungs. I started to ask her to release her stronghold on me, but the ground around us began to quake. There was glitter everywhere. She had spontaneously grew a pair of elaborately designed, iridescent wings.
“We’re going to be the best of friends!” Izzy continued like nothing had happened.
I gazed over at Camilla who stood quite smugly with her arms folded, as if to say, ‘I told you so.’
“Before you ask, Lyla. Vampires, demons, and werewolves? They’re real too.”
I must have hit my head when I fell. That was the only explanation I could think of. Was it all just some obnoxious fever-dream I was having from shock and circumstance? I sure as hell hoped so.
“All right, I’m just going to go while you two nut jobs walk it back to the loony bin. Okay?”
I turned to leave, but Camilla clutched my hand.
We both gasped. Her touch was like lightning. I didn’t think I could live without it again.
I was so screwed. I couldn’t let this woman know how much she had affected me.
“Listen, Cupcake. I don’t care who you are, what you are, or who sent you, but I have to go.”
“Nobody sent me. I came here, because I need your help, Lyla. You’re the only one I can trust.”
“I don’t even know you! I’ve never seen you before in my life.”
“In this life, maybe.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
She smirked at me.
Whatever she was keeping from me was life-altering and she knew it. Camilla wanted me to follow the trail of breadcrumbs, to pick up each hint and clue, one by one. But I’m not that kind of girl. I needed a GPS so I could fast-track it to the house made of candy. I wanted to know the secrets she did. I wanted to know everything.
My train of thought was broken.
“What? Oh, yeah. Your friend there was chasing me when I fell down and busted my knee.”
Camilla gave the pixie a disapproving look.
“I apologize. She was only supposed to look after you. She wasn’t supposed to pursue you like she did.”
“Why was she following me, anyway?”
Camilla looked like she wasn’t sure she should answer. She turned to Izzy for guidance, but the weird woman was too busy talking to a rodent in the alleyway. They seemed to be having quite the conversation.
“Lyla, I know you don’t understand what’s going on right now, but I need you to trust me.”
“Why should I?”
None of this made any sense. It was impossible. You don’t wake up and suddenly find yourself smack dab in the middle of a Tolkien novel.
Camilla grinned. “Because I know you can feel the bond between us just as easily as I can.”
There was nothing I could say to that. It was true. I couldn’t explain it, but it was there. There was something between us. I just didn’t know what it was.
“What does it mean? Our bond?”
Camilla still held my hand, but took the opportunity to come closer. We were standing toe to toe, with little space between us. Her beauty was otherworldly, literally.
If I ask, would she kiss me?
Instead, she took her thumb and sweetly rubbed it against my cheek.
“You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.”
I ripped my hand away from hers.
Camilla was taken aback, either from my rude language or harsh act, I didn’t know. She deserved it, though. Lesson number one, I don’t take kindly to liars.
“You know, Camilla! You know and you won’t tell me. Whatever this is. Whatever it is we’re doing…”
Actually, I didn’t know what we were doing.
It all happened so fast. One minute I was being chased by some pink-haired nightmare, the next I had a fairy godmother and this inexplicable relationship with a woman I’d never met before.
I didn’t know what rabbit hole I fell down, but I wanted out.
“What do you want from me, Camilla?”
My patience was wearing thin. I couldn’t take much more.
“Lyla, this will seem unimaginable to you, but I’m not from this world.”
“I kind of figured that. Fairy godmother and all.”
Her laugh was quiet, but palpable. This was wearing on her too.
“Right. Well, in my world, there are those who have the gift of sight.”
“They know all, basically. The past, present, and future.”
“And do you have this sight?”
“No, I do not possess that particular gift.”
“But you are gifted, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am,” she began, but held up her hand to stop any inquiry I might have had.
Believe me, I had a lot of questions.
“Please, do not ask, Lyla. There is little time and you still have so much to learn.”
She scolded me like a child. I was seriously starting to rethink the possibility of a future interstellar romance.
Camilla continued. “They came to me, The Seers, with a vision. They spoke of a woman, strong and wild. We would be made for each other in every single way. Our love would unite our two kingdoms and bring peace back to the realm. We are destined to be together, but some flaw, some disturbance in the timeline has made that outcome impossible.”
How I wished I had paid more attention during Back to the Future.
“What would do that? Why would The Seers tell you about this perfect life you’re going to have and then say, “Actually, nope. Not for you.”
I wiggled my finger back and forth.
“It was a warning. There is evil among my kind and yours, Lyla. We are a threat to them. They will do anything to keep us apart.”
Something in my peripheral vision forced me to look away from Camilla’s intense stare. I glanced over at Izzy. She was chasing a butterfly. I rolled my eyes and wondered why Camilla wasn’t concerned about the fairy’s mental state as much as I was.
“You didn’t ask me who my mate is, Lyla” she remarked, curious.
It was the only way to get my attention. Izzy was now playing leap-frog with an actual frog.
The truth of it was, I already knew. I knew it with every fiber of my being, with every bone in my body. I can’t tell you how I knew. I just did.
I asked, anyway.
“Who is she, Camilla?”
Her face lit up. She was hoping I’d ask.
“You, Lyla. It’s you. You are my soulmate.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. Fate be damned.
“What are you saying? We have some cosmically fated love connection?”
POOF! Izzy magically appeared in a soft cloud of pink and glitter.
“Holy crap!” She scared me.
“Sorry. I just wanted to clarify, because you seemed kind of confused by the concept.”
She dematerialized in another cloud of sparkle dust and reappeared in a secluded corner of the alleyway. She was making a flower crown. I don’t know where she got the flowers from.
Camilla fumed with disapproval. She stomped her foot. It was too cute.
Could she really be my soulmate?
It wasn’t a term I was familiar with, exactly. I’d never been in love. My past relationships were usually brief. I thought I was okay with being alone.
“Lyla? Do you believe me?”
This spark Camilla and I had, it was tangible, no matter how impossible it seemed. We didn’t know each other, but I could have seen myself falling for her. It may have been too late.
I closed my eyes. My head was spinning.
“Lyla?” Camilla sounded so broken. Her voice cracked. It hurt knowing I put it there.
“I believe you,” I whispered.
She folded her body around mine.
When was the last time someone hugged me?
I wanted it to last forever. Her embrace calmed me. Her touch soothed me. We fit perfectly together.
I was home.
“Lyla, I have to tell you something.”
‘Bring it,’ I thought. Nothing could have dampened my good mood.
“The Seers, they saw my death.”
Spoke too soon.
“No. No way. That isn’t going to happen, Camilla.”
If what she said was true, if they – whoever they were – wanted to take her away from me? I could have confidently said there was nothing I wouldn’t have done to save her.
“I won’t let that happen. I just found you, Camilla. I don’t want to lose you.”
Her smile was infectious, despite our rather dismal position.
“You’re just like I dreamt.”
Confused, I asked, “What do you mean?”
Camilla stood back to look at me.
“You’re stubborn and strong, and absolutely beautiful.”
I blushed. I would have responded too, but I didn’t want her to get hurt by my mad flirting skills.
“There might be a way for us to be together. Forever.”
I jumped. “What is it? Tell me! I’ll do anything.”
“There is a castle by the edge of the sea. I will be safe there.”
“Okay. I’ll go with you.”
“No, Lyla. You can’t come with me. Those who protect your world are watching every move you make.”
“I don’t understand. You said we could be together.”
“We can be, but the timing isn’t right. When the moon is at its brightest, you will hear my voice in the wind. I will send for you. Only then will it be safe. This map will show you the way.”
Izzy silently emerged – completed flower crown on her head – and took a large, worn canvas from her satchel.
“It is enchanted. Only you can see where the map will take you.”
Izzy handed me the map. It was light, lighter than it should have been from the look of it. I unraveled the piece of leather that held the parchment together and carefully unfolded the paper. I was totally unprepared for what happened. Kingdoms and castles floated up from the pages like a truly realistic pop-up book. I saw dense forests and crystal waters in vivid color. I saw towering cities and well-traveled roads. I saw everything this new world had to offer. It was if I was cradling the entirely too long opening credits of Game of Thrones right in my hand.
My inner fangirl was screaming.
“It’s amazing, Camilla.”
Abruptly, a howl sounded in the distance. Our time was up. For once, reading all those supernatural novels would pay off. I knew werewolves could be killed by a silver bullet. I think I remembered seeing a pawn shop down the street.
“I have to go. They’re coming for me.”
“Camilla, no! We can fight them. I’m sure we can.”
“There is no other way, Lyla.”
A deep purple haze slithered across my eyesight. A portal to another realm began to open.
Izzy stepped back as Camilla embraced me once more.
“I have loved you from the moment I opened my eyes and I will love you even when the stars fade and there is nothing left but darkness.”
She kissed my lips with the softest touch, and in that brief moment, everything just fell away. She was mine and I was hers. Nothing else mattered.
Camilla pressed her forehead to mine and said, “You’re the only one who can save me.”
Then the air crackled around us and my vision blurred.
I tried to keep Camilla in my grasp, but she pulled away.
The wolf’s howl was getting louder. I covered my ears and fell to my knees in pain.
Camilla quickly stepped into the portal. The fog swallowed her whole.
“Find me,” she whispered.
“Are you okay?”
I knew Izzy was trying to help, but I desperately wanted to wallow. I sat my tired body on the concrete curb and held the map to my heart. The space where my heart once resided in was empty, anyhow.
Izzy sat beside me and patted my head.
Who would have thought this would have happened to someone like me? In the matter of minutes I met a fairy, found and then lost my soulmate, and was entrusted with an epic quest by aforementioned mate.
“You’ll be together again, Lyla. I know it. You just have to believe,” Izzy reassured me.
I did, though. I did believe we had a chance, no matter how remote it seemed. I believed it with all my heart. Camilla and I would live happily ever after.
Nothing or no one would stop me. I would walk to the ends of the earth to find her. I would do anything to save her. She was my soulmate. We were made for each other.
Our love is magic.
THANKS FOR READING! 😀