So, this scene (and a few others) came from a time when I was playing around with the idea of adding in a few short chapters with different POVs. I still seriously think it would’ve added to the story, but ultimately, I wanted everyone to experience it the way Valerie would.
This scene occurs right after Cade walks Val home to Aunt Marge’s. Enjoy! ♥
Cade glanced backward to assure his solemnity, then ducked under a branch and entered the woods. The gesture was unnecessary; the vegetation would bow to his every whim.
He cupped his right hand in front of him as he walked, tendrils of smoke forming in his palm. The wisps swirled and quickly took the shape of a flower. Color bled into the smoke until the stem, leaves, and petals took on solid form. He plucked the flower from his hand and rolled it between his fingers as he thought.
He wondered curiously if Val liked tulips, too. Would she mind that he’d nicknamed her ‘Val’ in his mind? That one was laughable, but still, he didn’t actually know.
Trees leaned out of the way as he passed, and grass folded over gently. A mossy trail sprouted steadily just a few feet head of him as he walked, creating a new and continuous path to wherever he desired.
As he concentrated, an interweaving hurricane of smoky wisps appeared in his palm, forming an elaborate bouquet of spring flowers. Yes, it was autumn. But there was something fresh about the springtime that sang to the botanophile within him.
He stretched a free hand out to the woods. An ivy slithered through the undergrowth, then darted into his palm. He used it to tie a bow around the array of flowers, then smiled warmly at his creation.
Would she like any of these flowers?
Frowning, he tossed the bouquet into the air. Individual stems broke free of the ivy and floated innocently toward the earth. He bent down and plucked a peony from the assemblage, eyeing it closely. It was exactly the shade of her cheeks.
Taking an interest in Valerie was technically forbidden. He was raised to master the art of compete faux-conformity. Don’t speak too much, don’t speak too little; don’t be too forthcoming, but don’t be too inverted; don’t be too nice, don’t be too mean; be there, yet be not there. His family was adamant about this approach. But He’d already broken most of those rules when he’d stepped out of the woodwork and befriended Val.
His family would be furious.
Valerie Moore first enrolled in Center Allegheny in sixth grade. They were all young and in the throes of early pubescence, but even then he knew she was stunning. She was his first crush, though true to form, he never uttered a single word to her. She disappeared at the end of the school year, and didn’t reappear until they were freshmen. He couldn’t explain the thrilled rush of hope he felt just knowing he had another opportunity to see her; even if he couldn’t really acknowledge her. As school let out for summer break, she slipped through his grasp, yet again.
People speculated as to why she kept popping in and out of their tiny little town, but it was eventually revealed that her father was military. Every third year was a deployment year, during which time she stayed with her aunt, Marge Prett.
According to Cade’s calculations, that meant she’d be back for senior year. It also meant that he would have one last chance to break code. To actually talk to her before he would never see her again. Thankfully, he’d estimated correctly, and she returned for twelfth grade.
The familiar rush of relief and excitement increased exponentially this time around. She was more beautiful than he remembered, and time was running out faster. It was now or never, do or die. He chose ‘now’, but ‘die’ was also probably an option if his parents ever found out.
Growling in frustration, he wrung his hands. Immediately, as if to further illustrate his exasperation, every single leaf within eyesight broke free of their branches and shimmered as they spiraled down to the forest floor. He ran a hand through his hot mess of blonde hair, and quickly imagined new leaves budding. And they did. He imagined them sprouting, expanding, and developing their seasonal color. And they did. Satisfied that all had gone back to the way it was before his childish bout of vexation, he drug his thoughts back to Val.
She was off-limits. And he should have left it at that.
But he couldn’t.
It was probably the worst decision he’d made in his entire life, but he couldn’t deny the fact that he wanted to know Valerie. He was never allowed to know or be known and he hadn’t realized just how cagey that made him feel until recently.
Yes, there were others like him who had been deemed acceptable to date. Other Elementals, who could manipulate and control one of the four cardinal elements at will. And true, they were all scattered within a very close diameter to where he lived. It wasn’t like he’d have to look far to find one.
There were the Traditionalists, like Cade and his community who lived in the West Woods. Then there were the Modernists, who repressed their very natures in an attempt to fuse seamlessly with humanity. They lived in town, amongst completely normal people, in East End.
If it wasn’t perfectly clear yet, it soon would be. The two groups despised each other. Mainly for their conflicting ways of life, but followed quickly by just about everything else.
But he was running away with himself.
The point was, he already knew all of the local Elementals. And to be fair, there were many gorgeous women who lived deep in the West Woods, only a few yards from his house. Only four in his general age group, but of course, they were all top-notch dating material. It was like some sick genetic mutation, but it seemed all those gifted with Elemental power were also blessed with fitness, intelligence, and extreme beauty. Yes, that included the men. Yes, he knew he was better looking than almost any other guy he’d met.
His shaggy blonde hair was silky by nature, and disheveled intentionally. The vividness of his green eyes was almost electrifying, even in contrast with his golden, all-year-round tan. His shoulders, hands and feet were broad, legs strong, arms thick. Rippling abdominals streamed down his torso, intermingling below the bellybutton with a trail of fuzzy curls that led to… more lucky genetics.
But no, he tried not to be smug about it. It’d been an ingrained part of his subculture and surroundings since birth, and he was mostly used to it by now.
Though, Central Allegany High School had been a rude awakening. That was the first time he realized that not everyone was attractive. In fact, most people were quite subpar. And that made it incredibly easy to keep to himself like a good boy.
He took a deep breath and used the strength of the trees to solidify his resolve. Tomorrow. Tomorrow he would talk to her again. Even if it killed him.
Because he simply couldn’t stay away.