Win Her Heart
Eliza stood at the front of the classroom, her sixth grade students quietly waiting for her to continue the lesson. She had been zoning out… again. Not that she didn’t love teaching her class, she did, more than anything. But it seemed as though her life was falling into a never-ending routine, while everyone else’s was overflowing with excitement. One of her friends just got married, another was going on a tour through Europe. Eliza couldn’t help wishing she had just a little bit of adventure in her life as well…
After a long day at the school, Eliza curled up on her couch with her pet Beagle laying next to her. She barely started reading the paper she was grading when the dog jumped off the couch, barking wildly, and scratching at her front door. Looking out the window and seeing no one, she slowly opened the door to find a note rolled up and tied to the handle with a scarlet ribbon.
Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the charity ball hosted at the Barton Estate tomorrow evening
“You look breathtaking,” Rowland said as he offered Eliza his arm.
He was strikingly handsome in his tux, while she felt absolutely ridiculous wearing a gown.
“Thank you,” Eliza said, catching a glimpse of his eyes. She had never seen eyes that color—a brilliant green, glistening with flecks of gold. “Have we met before?”
“Once, briefly. My boss, William Barton III, has made several donations to your school.”
Orchestral music started to play as couples headed to the floor.
“May I have this dance?” He said, with a smile.
Eliza nodded, utterly enchanted by him.
“Hungry?” Rowland said as he and Eliza left the dance floor to sit at one of the tables.
“Yes, very,” she said. Seconds later, servers appeared with their first course.
Eliza took a moment to look around the enormous house. It looked like a palace—beautiful gold moulding, elaborate ceiling, marble floors and columns. It was full of life. Music playing quietly, dishes clinking, and fragments of conversations all blended into a symphony of sound. Eliza had never experienced anything that could compare to this night.
Yet all the busyness of the party seemed to blur into the background, leaving just her and Rowland.
Rowland was alone in his house after driving Eliza home. There was no denying it, he was enthralled with her. Irrevocably.
Did he just made a huge mistake, getting her involved? No one of his kind had ever fallen in love with a human. It was unheard of. He knew the ramifications if he brought Eliza into his world. But he couldn’t stay away from her, even if he tried.
Rowland ran his fingers through his hair, frustrated, not knowing what to do next. Could she accept him, once she knew?
There’s only one thing I can do, he thought.
Win her heart.
The day after her date with Rowland, Eliza spent the afternoon babysitting her niece. Throughout the day of barbies and dress-up, Eliza’s mind kept returning to Rowland. The way his green eyes looked into hers as they danced in that grand house… How he was the perfect gentleman—opening doors for her and offering her his hand when she got out of his car.
As Eliza read to her niece her favorite bedtime story, Peter Pan, a strange sense of familiarity grabbed her. A recognition, deep down, that left Eliza feeling both dazed and puzzled…
Rowland took Eliza’s hand in his as they walked deeper into the woods.
“Almost there,” He said. He had insisted their destination be a surprise.
They stopped walking as the first rays of the setting sun came into view, painting the woods in an extravagant display of pink and orange.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it? This is my favorite spot. The sun peaks through the trees at just the right angle.”
As he was speaking, something speeding past them caught his eye. It was dark… and fast. He knew Eliza’s human eyes wouldn’t see it. It was someone of his kind—except this one was evil.
Chills crept up Rowland’s arms as it whispered one word before disappearing, “Traitor.”
In the days that followed, the same person who had found them in the woods started showing up wherever Rowland and Eliza went. Rowland could tell she was starting to feel uneasy.
“I don’t know what’s going on. I always feel like I’m being watched, even when I’m alone at home.”
Eliza’s face reflected all the anxiety he knew she was feeling inside. Even though Rowland swore he wouldn’t unnaturally influence her, it pained him to see her like this. So he did the only thing he could think of.
Rowland lovingly placed his hand on Eliza’s arm and let the energy flow out of him. Instantly, Eliza’s face softened and her whole body relaxed.
It was a good thing faeries had the ability to affect one’s mood…
“You are at a crossroads,” the dark faery hissed in Rowland’s ear.
He radiated evil like the sun radiated heat. He was not in his human form; Rowland could see his jet black wings, gray skin, and charcoal hair. Everything about the creature went against faery nature. He was the evil counterpart of all that was good in the world— a once pure faery who had crossed over into something sinister.
“Is that so?” Rowland said, crossing his arms.
“Stay away from the human. Our world cannot be polluted with the likes of her.” The creature spat, disgusted. “Your journey with the girl ends here, or I will squash her pathetic little life with my fingers.” It rubbed its index finger and thumb together as sparks crackled between them.
Rage welled inside Rowland, and he knew he would protect Eliza from this beast, no matter what it took.
Rowland walked with Eliza through the school’s hallways. After his encounter with the creature, as he was calling it, he refused to let Eliza out of his sight.
As they reached her class, Rowland saw a black blur zip down the hall and into the women’s restroom behind Eliza.
“I’m going to stop by the bathroom before I start teaching. See you later,” Eliza said as she turned to leave.
“Wait!” Rowland said, grabbing her arm. “I think I heard the maintenance man say one of the toilettes was out of order. Maybe use the one down the hall?”
“Okay, thanks for the tip.” Eliza walked away as Rowland exhaled with relief. He had successfully saved her life, though he feared it would not be the last time.
Rowland paced through his living room. The realization that Eliza had almost died pounded him in the chest.
“Everyday I’m with her I’m putting her in danger,” he thought out loud. “I can’t be greedy with her anymore.”
Rowland stopped pacing. The thought of leaving her was too much for him to even process. It was not an option. He shouldn’t be with her, but…
“I can’t be without her.”
Rowland was so deep in his thoughts, he almost didn’t hear the knock on his door.
He opened the door; rain was coming down by the bucketful. Eliza stood on his porch, drenched from head to toe.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hi,” Rowland said back. He barely got the word out when they both rushed toward each other. Rowland held his hand against her face and pulled her lips onto his.
“Happy birthday!” A crowd shouted as Rowland walked into Eliza’s house.
Inside, the happy faces of his friends and coworkers greeted him with smiles and applause.
“Rowland, aren’t you going to introduce me to your lovely friend?” A sly voice said behind him.
Rowland turned to see the creature. It was in its human form: no wings, his skin was pale, and his hair was a dark brown. Only his eyes betrayed him; they were as black as Rowland remembered.
Rowland’s heart pounded. Barely able to sputter out a sentence, he said “Eliza, this is…”
“Vick,” the creature interjected, extending his hand to Eliza, who shook it politely.
Inside, Rowland was screaming like a madman as he watched her skin come into contact his.
As soon as Eliza was distracted, Rowland forcefully grabbed the creature by the arm.
“You touch her again, and I swear I’ll kill you myself. Got it?”
“Bit jumpy, aren’t we?” it said with a crafty grin.
A moment later, the creature was gone, leaving Rowland grasping the air where its arm had been.
Eliza slung her backpack over her shoulder as she walked toward the edge of the forest. Rowland was busy working, but she couldn’t get the image of the beautiful sunset out of her mind. So she was determined to find his favorite spot, even though he couldn’t join her. It was better than sitting home alone all night.
“I’ve got to be getting close,” she thought out loud, after an hour of searching.
Two hours into her trek, she still had not found the spot. The sun was gone and now she was lost in the dark.
“Hello, Missy,” a sly voice said behind her. She turned at the sound, but saw nothing.
“You don’t belong with him,” the voice whispered. It sounded familiar, but she couldn’t quite place it. “He doesn’t really love you. Get out while you still can…”
The trees spun as Eliza’s consciousness stared to slip, and she collapsed on the forest floor.
“Where am I?” Eliza said, looking around the room.
“You’re safe, at home,” Rowland’s soothing voice said. He was sitting on the edge of her bed, holding her hand in his.
“I found you passed out in the woods and carried you home. You’ve been out for a whole day.”
“My class!” Eliza shot up, but immediately laid back down.
“The children are fine. I called the school and they got a substitute.”
“In the woods…There was someone there. I heard a voice, but I blacked out before I saw anyone.”
Then it hit Eliza why the voice in the woods sounded so familiar. It belonged to Vick, the man she met at Rowland’s birthday celebration.
“What did the voice say?” Rowland asked.
“I… don’t remember,” she lied.
Eliza wandered along the upper level of her favorite library. She loved this one in particular because it was the only one in the area with a vast selection of old, vintage books. The timeless atmosphere always cleared her head.
Why would Vick follow her into the forest and try to convince her that Rowland didn’t love her? And why did she pass out?
Behind her, a random book thumped on the ground. As she turned to look, multiple books on the shelves above her started to fall, as if some invisible force was pushing them. She started to run, narrowly missing the wave of falling books that followed her.
Reaching the staircase and looking out across the library, every book on every shelf simultaneously flew off, clobbering those unlucky enough to be standing under them.
Eliza rushed to Rowland’s house after the incident at the library. She knew everything was connected somehow, and she was going to find out what that connection was.
Rowland answered the door with a welcoming smile on his face, but his smile turned to confusion when he saw her disheveled hair and crossed arms.
“What happened?” Rowland said.
Eliza explained the whole scenario. “…And on top of all that, I think your friend, Vick, was involved after what he said in the woods, and…”
“Wait, Vick was in the woods?”
“Yeah, he said you didn’t really love me, and I should stay away. I didn’t see him, but I recognized his voice.”
Rowland sighed. “Eliza, I need to tell you something…. I’m not from here.”
“From where, Oregon?”
“No, I’m from a whole different world, sort of.”
“Like, Mars, or something?”
“No, kind of like a different dimension. I’m not totally human, I’m…”
“Okay, sure. This is ridiculous. I’m out.”
Eliza left his house, letting the door slam behind her.
Rowland’s heart nearly stopped when he heard the door slam. Did he just lose her for good?
No. He couldn’t accept that.
Rowland took a walk outside, heading nowhere in particular. Ten minutes later, he found himself wandering through the nearby graveyard. He read all the names on the headstones as he walked past.
Not only did he need to find a way for Eliza to hear him out, but something needed to be done about the creature. He was obviously the one behind the incident at the library. Thankfully Eliza wasn’t hurt, but she could have been… Or worse. Rowland shuddered. That was attempt number two on her life.
If he couldn’t think of a solution fast, the next headstone in the graveyard might be Eliza’s.
I apologize for springing that information on you the other day. I know you don’t believe what I was saying, and I should have been honest with you from the start. I would like to explain everything to you, if you’d be willing to meet me.
I must tell you, I am wild about you. I love you, Eliza. And even though I’m not from your world, deep in my heart I know there is no one else meant for me—from my world or yours.
Eliza and Rowland sat across from each other on the patio of her favorite coffee shop.
“You probably want to know what I am, to start off.”
“I’m… a faery. I know it sounds crazy. I’m in my human form now, but in my other form, I have wings and shimmering skin. Don’t worry, I’m not two inches tall or anything.”
Eliza cracked a smile as Rowland continued.
“We’re allowed to pass over into your world for periods of time. You were something of a surprise; no faery has ever fallen in love with a human before.”
Eliza spoke for the first time since Rowland started his speech. “Can I see you, you know, as a faery?”
“Not the wings, not here anyway. But…”
Rowland stretched out his arm toward Eliza. As she watched, his tan skin slowly started to shimmer, sparkling in every color imaginable. As the flecks of shimmer caught the sunlight, it was as if his skin was exploding in a beautiful and dazzling fireworks display.
“Wow, that’s incredible!” Eliza said, staring in wonder at Rowland’s dazzling skin.
He returned to his human form to keep other people from noticing.
“So, you’re not freaking out?”
“It’s a lot, don’t get me wrong, but… I do think it’s amazing. I kind of overreacted the other day.”
“That’s okay, it’s understandable. There’s more I need to tell you. At the core, we faeries are inherently good. We stick up for what’s right; that’s our nature. But there’s one who seems to have turned from our ways—Vick. He is intent on keeping us apart. Says a faery falling in love with a human would pollute our world. He was the one behind the attack at the library. Trying to hurt you has become a sport to him.”
“He’s a faery too?”
“Yeah, but he doesn’t exactly look like me. His heart is as dark as his skin and wings, and his eyes are black and cold. I’m working on a way to get rid of him, I just need a little time. However, I fear that’s the one thing we don’t have.”
Eliza laid her head on her pillow, even though she knew sleep was an impossibility. She had far too much to think about.
Rowland was a faery. If faeries existed, what else could be out there?
Chills overtook her body at the thought of Vick’s black eyes watching her, following her wherever she went.
A bright gold light flicked past her dark window. A sense of relief flooded her like a warm bath. No doubt it was Rowland flying outside, keeping watch over her while she slept.
Eliza smiled and closed her eyes, falling into a peaceful sleep.
Eliza charged up the steps of the Barton Estate and marched right to the receptionist’s desk.
“I demand to know where Rowland is,” Eliza said in the most authoritative tone she could muster.
“I’m sorry, he’s not in,” the receptionist said.
Eliza crossed her arms, refusing to accept her fake kindness. Rowland had been missing for a week. No goodbye, no note, just vanished.
Seeing Eliza’s persistence, the receptionist spoke again. “He’s on holiday.”
“What does that even mean? Where did he go? When is he coming back? What aren’t you telling me?”
“I’m sorry. I really must insist you make an appointment and come back at a later time.”
Eliza sighed and stormed out of the mansion, a million expletives running through her mind.
“What the—” Eliza said, ducking to the floor just in time to miss the pot flying directly at her head.
She had been cooking dinner when everything started to go crazy. The water from the sink scalded her hand, the silverware in the drawers would not stop rattling, and now the pots seemed to have a vendetta against her.
“That’s it,” she said, rising to her feet after ducking another blow. This time it was a butcher knife. “This ends now.”
Eliza barely heard the sound of the pots and knives clanging to the floor as she walked out her back door and headed directly toward the woods behind her house.
“I know you’re out here, Vick,” Eliza said.
The woods were cold and dark. Only the glow of the moon lit her path.
“So, we meet again,” the chilling voice said behind her.
Eliza turned to see Vick in his faery form. His whole body was unnaturally dark, and his eyes were back-no irises.
“I’ve been waiting for this,” he said. “Do you really think you could just waltz into our world? I won’t allow it.”
He thrust his hands toward her and a burst of dark light streamed directly at her. Just before it made contact, an explosion of gold light erupted and Rowland materialized right in front of her.
White and gold sparks crackled in Rowland’s hands, and he shot his own burst of light at the creature. Gold flooded the woods as Vick flew backward twenty feet.
“Is he dead?” Eliza said as Rowland wrapped his arms around her.
“Yes. I hit him directly in the heart. Something that evil can’t comprehend the light. He’s gone.”
Eliza truly saw Rowland for the first time. His skin shone more brightly than it did at the coffee shop. His eyes were an even brighter green than she remembered, and his wings…
Eliza’s breath caught in her lungs. His wings were gorgeous—a sheer, intense blue, iridescent like stars shimmering in the night sky.
Eliza gasped. “Wow.”
“I owe you an explanation. I know I took off quite unexpectedly the other day.”
“Yeah, I thought you had decided I wasn’t worth all this trouble with Vick, and took off.”
Rowland kissed her softly and held her face in his hands.”Never. I left because I needed to know how to kill him, and the only place to learn that was in my world. I knew he was planning something big, and I didn’t have a second to waste. I had to search through our historical archives to find the single way someone like him could be killed.”
“There’s more like him?”
“Yes, but that’s a conversation for another day. Let’s get you home, my love.”
“Eliza, there’s more you need to know about faeries,” Rowland said. They were sitting across from each other in Eliza’s living room. Rowland held her hands in his. “Oh, where do I begin?”
“Go on. Whatever it is, I won’t freak out.”
“Okay. As you know, we faeries can cross over into your world at will. We can hide the way we look, and we have supernatural abilities. But we can’t stay in your world forever. I…” Rowland sighed and looked down at the floor. “I want you to see, to truly see, the situation we’re in.”
Tears welled in Eliza’s eyes for fear of what he was about to say.
“My time is up. I have to go back, Eliza.”
“Go back?” Eliza said, standing up from the couch. “And what, just forget all this ever happened? Return to life as usual like I never met you? Or loved you?”
Rowland stood and looked her in the eyes. “There’s another way.”
“I read something else about the faeries’ history while I was gone. Something my kind has tried very hard to keep secret. If a human were to leave their life here behind and cross over to our world, that human would become a faery.” Eliza’s mouth dropped. “I know it’s a lot to ask, and I don’t expect an answer now. But, at least think about it?”
“I think now’s as good a time as any to explain about the others like Vick,” Eliza said.
“Right. Vick. There have been others like him in the past. They are a rare breed, not many have encountered them. They were once faeries, just like me, who believed in what was right. But they turned. Fighting against the very good they swore to uphold. As a result, their skin, wings, eyes, even their light turned dark.
“Most of them hold to a very old-fashioned view that faeries are the superior beings. All else, humans namely, are lesser and unimportant. That is why Vick was so bent on keeping us apart. He knew you had the ability to cross over into our world and turn faery. Drove him mad. We have a name for faeries like him. F.R.O.G.”
“Faeries Relinquishing Our Goodness. Kind of a silly acronym, if you ask me, but that’s what they’re called.”
“Will more try to kill me?”
“In the future, I’m not sure. But Vick acted alone. For now, you’re safe.”
“You look beautiful,” Rowland said, kissing the top of her hand.
“Thanks,” Eliza blushed as they walked up the steps to the Barton Estate.
Mr. Barton was holding another one of his parties–a masquerade this time. Rowland told her this was his last night here. He would be leaving at midnight for his world. But Eliza still hadn’t made up her mind whether or not she would go with him.
Rowland looked dashing, as always. He wore a tux with a black mask covering his face. Eliza had taken her outfit one step further: a sparkling white dress, mask of course, and a pearly pair of fake wings extending from her back.
“They suit you nicely,” he said with a mischievous smile.
Eliza nodded, trying not to look at the clock counting down.
11:45. Decision time.
Rowland and Eliza, having finished the final dance of the evening, headed down to the garden behind the estate. She held his hand, afraid to let him go, even for an instant. Could she really turn her back on what she was? It’s not like there was a master UNDO button she could hit if she changed her mind. But she couldn’t live without him either.
Rowland stopped in a secluded area, behind a towering tree.
Eliza could see tears in his eyes, evidence of his fear that she would say no.
And she almost did.
“Please. Come with me,” he said.
How could she throw away someone so beautiful. Someone who had altered her life in such a drastic way. Of all the men out there, she had been blessed enough to win him. If she let him go now, she would regret it for the rest of her life.
Smiling, she said, “Yes. I’ll come with you.”
Gold sparks swirled around them, and Eliza’s body tingled as the transformation started to take hold.