Never had she known what it was to love or to be loved.
Natalie was the introvert, the one who observed and inspected from afar. She stood in the shadows watching the cars pass. She walked down a forest trail, alone save for the untapped energies of the earth surrounding her. She ran in the rain, long hair wet and flying as she laughed and danced. The Earth was her home, her sanctuary.
It was with ease she could watch couples walk down the streets, fingers interlocked. In the quiet of a rainy afternoon, Natalie sat on an abandoned porch bench, soaked but smiling as she watched a child run off the local bus into his mother’s waiting arms. It was moments like these, when couples and families came together, that Natalie wondered…
She shook her head.
There wasn’t time to be thinking of ‘what if.’ Natalie rubbed the bridge of her nose, eyes sore despite the new glasses perched on her face. Her textbook was open in front of her, sentences blurry and hostile as she propped her elbow on her desk with a slight, almost-inaudible groan. Her gaze shifted back to the page, dark bags outlining her eyes much like that of a nocturnal animal lacking too much sleep. She really didn’t have the time to be thinking about anything else other than what was before her.
She reached over, grabbed the quill from the inkwell and started to write.
Cast a Circle Three-Times Round,
What Goes Up Must Come Down,
The Path Before Us Is Unbound.
She eyed the lines. The rhymed, yes, but the count was off on both the second and the third line. Seven-six-eight. Natalie ran her hands through her hair, frustrated as she eyed the three lines resting innocently on the page. She replaced the quill to its resting place that was attached to the inkwell. She turned to the book, eyeing the blurring lines with frustrated, muttered curse.
The instructions were simple: three lines, ending rhymes, same count on each line.
Natalie drummed her fingers across the tabletop, humming under her breath as she ran the lines mentally. Six counts, then eight; it should be an easy fix, really. There were many lessons far harder than this. Theory was difficult, as far as spellcasting went. The practicals were demanding, a constant draw on her energy that often left her tired and wanting to sleep the rest of the day away.
Her gaze shifted back to the three lines she had inked to the paper, her thoughts shifting to her professors. Then Raul came to mind, white smile in a dark face. There was that sharp, knowing smile. A cruel glint in the eyes, mocking laughter and jeering women. It was enough to slap Natalie away from her thoughts, to encourage her to put the quills sharp tip into the inkwell and then to the paper.
She might not be popular, but that was simply one side-effect of being the top witch in the school. Natalie began writing anew, mind whirling as she pushed away thoughts of her peers. Brow furrowed, she rewrote the three lines from before with an ease that had her smiling when she played the quill on the table.
Cast a Circle Three-Times Round,
What Goes Up, It Shall Come Down,
The Path Before Us, Unbound.
She might not have any friends, and she might crave the closeness she sees in others in and out of school, but she wasn’t helpless. She wasn’t weak. Natalie waved her hand over the page, the gems in her ring, located on her middle finger, glowing. The ink was dry, each slanted line perfect in every way. Natalie smiled, content to turn and look out the window to the grounds below.
The castle garden spread out below her small spot in the library. Hundreds of acres of trees, walking trails and floral displays gave the outside of the castle an air of magic it deserved. A few couples walked, hand-in-hand. She spied the queen and her husband, the two walking slowly through the airborne leaves. The queen’s arm was wrapped around her swollen middle, a serene smile on her youthful face.
Natalie didn’t know what it was like to love or to be loved. A grand mystery. Watching the king and his wife, she couldn’t help the sad smile. Natalie knew it was love that brought color to a dull, gray life. Even in the rain, love would nurture the wild. For she knew one thing, despite her innocence on that front.
Even as she turned back to her books and homework, Natalie knew love was something precious and eternal and powerful. It was a choice, to love. It was a conscious decision each person had to make every day. To choose to love, no matter what, was a power without equal. It’s only contestant, hatred. Natalie gathered her books in her arms, her gaze shifting back to the window.
She might know what it meant to love or to be loved…
But she knew hate in its birthplace, the darkness that lurked there.
And that was the one place she would never returned to. For it was better to linger in the middle than to drown in the deeps. It was better to reach out for love than to drown, the soul in constant agony. So she would watch, standing in the rain, as love bloomed.