The sun drifted lazily through the boughs of the trees. Feeling no need to push on such a relaxing day, the rays shimmered and filtered amongst the feathery tendrils. A mixture of evergreens, oak, fir, pine, cedar, and even a few old redwoods. None of them competing for space, all of them working harmoniously together to create a fluid canopy of golden green.
Oak leaves waved back and forth in the sunny warm rays which broke the solid line of subtle yellow orange, making the light flicker along the forest floor.
A few sparrows flitted here and there amongst the branches, catching Anora Love’s attention. She smiled at the happy chittering as they spoke back and forth to one another. Going about their day.
As she grew closer to where they perched, the chitters shifted to a warning sound, more urgent than before, cautious, fear-filled. She reassured them by speaking more to herself than to them, “Don’t worry, I mean you no harm.” They seemed to understand her though and calmed. The woods beyond were silent and the silence unnerving.
A woodpecker brrrdddd against the trunk of a tree in the distance. Soft in the silence, which meant the distance was great. A lone sound that echoed through the peaceful atmosphere. Ahead of her on the nonexistent trail, Anora caught sight of a raven as he landed on the branch of a giant redwood. The deep red trunk burned against the deep brown of the forest floor, and the vibrant green grass she waded through.
The raven reached his thick beak around and under his wing to work an itch. Some mite required attending so as not to distract. As soon as he was done, the raven resumed his watch of Anora as she rose one leg, then another. Higher than normal she stepped, as she picked her way through the thick and taller than normal grass. Almost knee high, she hoped to keep herself from tripping by doing so.
I accept the Earth into my veins.
The male voice acted as lead weight to Anora’s feet and made her stop. So fast she nearly stumbled and fell flat on her face. The voice came from behind. When she checked, there was nobody there. Nobody was following her. Not a single person around the forest, as far as she could tell, to disturb the silence.
Except for Anora.
The voice hadn’t sounded like it came from nearby anyway. It sounded as if it came from inside of her. I must be going insane. Now I hear things that aren’t there.
I embrace all that I am provided.
There! Anora spun to study the floor of the forest. Then she craned her neck to study the canopy, but came up empty. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
No reason for the voice, for what she heard, where it came from. The sun struck her in the face. Blinded, she closed her eyes to regain sight.
Him. It was a him. The voice held a depth of strength. She held an arm up to shield herself and reopened her eyes. The City of Grace was as she left it. The castle far behind the walls to the city loomed large and ever as beautiful. Three towers topped with a soft purple so near as to be silver, casting a glow over the festivities which commenced.
The banners of all families in attendance flew high above the walls, welcoming and celebrating all those who’d gathered. Anora lowered her hand as her feelings went with it. She couldn’t handle it. It had not been long since Spenser pushed for a marriage she was not ready for. And push was what that man had done.
How many times had he asked as if their lives depended on a union. How many times had she said the same, “Marriage does not always have to be a contract, nor about love. If I marry, it will be because we have both decided that whether there is love or not, we can grow into it. It will be a pact between friends who see that it is best for the both of them. Not a decision based on a whim, on emotion.”
Spenser stared at her as if she was a stranger to him. That was her problem. She was. How was she to marry a man when she herself, didn’t know who she was? She did not know truly what it was she wanted. He decided they would be together. He decided what was best was marriage.
“You cannot be alone forever, Anora. Without a husband, you are vulnerable. Let me protect you.”
It wasn’t the right situation, but she laughed. He did not take kind to being laughed at. Spenser frowned from his towering height and slowly shook his head, admonishing her.
“I will not marry you. Stop asking.” Anora never considered it a lifetime answer, but when the words left her mouth, she knew it was. There was love in there for him. She felt it. She was aware of it. It just felt . . . disconnected from her. Did she think there was better? No. Spenser was as good a man as any, she supposed. That right there was her biggest problem.
He didn’t stand out.
He worked as guard for The City of Grace. He patrolled, he saved, he rescued. Spenser was one of the rest. It made her sad when she spoke those words. Spenser simply stood there. He did not try to stop her, did not try to fight. She was there. He was there. In the end the lack of fight in him secured her feelings.
He didn’t stand out.
There was no passion in him and if she wanted a marriage with him for protection, she wondered how truly much he could offer. If a dragon came down in that instance and attacked the city, what would he do? What if it were an army? He would run to the aide of the King and he would leave her. Oh sure, after he made sure she was with the rest of the city in the bunker. But would there be a passion that was unequal to any other, would he swear his life that she would be okay, that he didn’t want to leave?
He made her feel pity more than passion. He made her feel as if she were to take care of him and protect him more than the opposite. He didn’t make her feel safe. He was bound by duty and honor and nothing more. She was not even sure he loved her. Not like that. Not like she wanted. Not to the point that he would risk his life against a dragon to save her alone.
She supposed that was selfish of her. To think he should go outside the rules and do anything for her. She supposed she asked too much. Maybe she didn’t ask enough.
When she looked back, he simply stood there, letting her leave, showing her in more ways than he could ever understand – she simply didn’t matter enough. He wanted her as a wife and that she would only be. A wife. A commodity to introduce to people as no less than a chair. This is my chair, and over there is my wife. This is my house, and over there is my wife. In the same tone he’d do it. And she would die inside. Every day with him she did.
He made her feel as if she was worth nothing more to him or the world than another body. She wanted more, craved more.
She would have more.
The sadness was there when she recalled the way he watched her. The sadness was there when she remembered the conversation. It was there when she attempted to attend the festivities. It was that sadness which let her go. That released the chains which bound her all her life. She saw him earlier in the day while she was there.
Anora stood on the outskirts of the crowd. Spenser patrolled with the others, ensuring the festivities went as planned. She became a stranger in her own land, in her own world. Her spirit disconnected and the wind brushed her cheek and chin, raising her face. A raven swept over The City of Grace and she wondered how it felt. How the air held the bird aloft, the freedom of simply letting go and trusting in what was to come.
Spenser shouted at a man attempting to climb a statue of a horse for a better view of the crowd. The joy around her, Spenser, the raven. She didn’t know where it came from. A lifetime she spent enjoying these days.
But today it wasn’t enough.
Today . . . it suffocated her and made her feel alone.
So she left.
Anora took a deep breath and let it out. Nobody stopped her. She left the festivities and The City of Grace for the first time in her life, knowing there was a chance she may not come back. She didn’t pack anything. Simply walked away from it all.
Nobody would notice.
Nobody would stop her.
Once more she circled and studied the surrounding forest. It was so quiet out here, far from The City of Grace. Full of peace and wonder. As much beauty as one could handle. She smiled again at the way the sparrows went about their business. Anora raised her face to the sun, letting the warmth settle on her skin. Would she come back? She didn’t think she would. There was no interest in doing so in this present moment.
Deciding that maybe the male voice had been her own mind playing tricks on her, she set about her journey once more.
The sparrows chittered angrily next to her, interrupted during their play. A dried leaf crunched under a heavy weight. She sucked in a breath, aware that she was no longer alone and sensing a large presence coming up behind her.
A cloth of black erased her view. Anora went to scream when pain shot through the back of her neck as something struck her.
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Anora is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, stories, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 Kim Iverson
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