Soft giggles drifted toward Ianthe, as she snoozed or attempted to, nestled in the branches of her favorite tree. Autumn with its colorful transformation from endless green was her most beloved season, and the meandering stream enticed her with its dappled sunlight reflecting the golden leaves onto the still water. Annoyed, she peered through the leaves to locate the source of the disturbing giggles.
Along the water’s edge, she spied a young man and woman stepping gingerly through the leaves. Ianthe remembered them as they often walked through the forest. Usually, they strolled along the well-worn paths leading from the village, today they had ventured deeper into the thick woods. Flitting down to a lower branch where she could hear them better, Ianthe smothered her own giggle. The young man reached for the girl’s hand, but she scurried a couple of steps in front of him.
“Bella, you should take my hand. You might fall into the stream.”
Facing him, the small dark-haired girl cocked her head, “I know you Gratien Lacroix, and you just want to hold my hand.”
“You wound me. I am a gentleman, and I only wish to keep you safe.”
“Did you tell that to Lorelei when you brought her into the forest?”
“I never brought her here or anywhere.”
Bella wrapped an arm around a thin tree trunk and swung around toward him, her eyes glittering. “Really? That’s not what she says.”
“She’s lying.” He took a step toward the teasing girl, “You know you are the only girl in the village I care about.”
She released the tree and leaned against it. “I seem to remember you visited the city recently. Are there girls there you care about?”
“No…” He took another step and bent down, his face inches from hers, “You are the only lovely creature to capture my heart.”
Ianthe clamped a graceful hand across her lips to keep from laughing aloud. The lovely Bella had apparently pushed her luck, and now the tall black-haired youth was close to kissing her. Wide-eyed, Bella shuffled backward nearly falling into the golden water. She caught herself on a narrow sapling and regained her composure.
“My cousin tells me you are going to study at the university in the city. That means you will leave soon, does it not?”
“Your cousin is correct. I am going to the university next month.”
Bella turned, her silk skirt twirling around her, and leapt across a fallen tree trunk, “Then there will be many lovely ‘creatures’ for you there.”
Gratien jumped across the fallen trunk, “Do not run from me, you know we are destined to be together.”
He took two quick steps toward her, and Bella grinned, “You’ll have to catch me.”
Light on her feet, Bella would have escaped if a partially submerged tree branch hadn’t sprung from the water and blocked her way. Stopping abruptly, she teetered at the edge of the stream. As her momentum pushed her forward, Gratien’s arms encircled her and pulled her to safety.
Breathless, she clung to him, and he whispered, “I told you we were destined to be together.” Lifting her chin, he kissed her gently, then pulled her close, gazing into the stream. His eyes widen as he spotted Ianthe’s reflection.
Gratien’s head snapped up, as he searched for her in the golden leaves, and the wood nymph eased through the leaves revealing herself. Ianthe rarely allowed the normals to see her, but she liked this young man’s style and made an exception. Her waist-long tendrils of blond hair were entwined with flowering vines. Her leaf-green eyes sparkled in the golden light, and her flowing gossamer gown fluttered in the soft breeze.
He pointed to the sodden tree limb, which had sprung from the stream, then settled back where it belonged. Gratien’s eyes questioned her and Ianthe smiled, bobbing her head. The young man mouthed a silent ‘thank you.’
“Bella, we should return to the village. I must speak with your father, and ask him for your hand in marriage.”
Standing on tiptoes, she kissed him, saying, “I thought you’d never ask.”
Ianthe watched them until they disappeared through the golden trees. Settling against a leafy branch, she smiled, being mischievous was fun but taking a nap was better.
Written for Writingeekery writing exercise… 500-word minimum, based on photo prompt.
(Image from free use site)