“Mabel wait up!” Embrae called as she ran for her daughter “yes mom?”
“It’s chilly today. Please wear your jacket” Mabel smiled “alright mom, I’ll head back to my room and get a light one”
“a light one?”
“I love to feel nature. I want to feel her chill” Embrae sighed “what am I going to do with you?”
“Love me” Embrae smiled “enjoy yourself and try to be back for dinner. Your Aunt Keltie and Uncle Kepu are coming for a visit and they are bringing your cousins. Their letter said they should be arriving today”
“Okay mom” Mabel kissed her cheek then ran to her room to grab a light jacket so her mother would feel better. She slipped it on then slid down the railing, leaping off at the end and landing gracefully on her feet. Right away the chill felt amazing as she ran. It stung a bit but she enjoyed every bit of what nature had to offer. She was excited to hear her cousins were coming. She could always get Umiko out here with her and this was even more fun when she had someone to share the experience with.
Zakai sat in the forest, waiting patiently for her, the princess Mabel. She came every day at the same time, her beauty outshining everything around her as she danced and sang. He enjoyed her presence, it was soothing and made him feel light hearted even on his worst day. The crunching of boots on leaves heralded her approach and he got to his feet, staying just out of sight, his heart giving a leap when she came into view. She was as gorgeous as ever, her beautiful eyes alight with wonder that never seemed to diminish no matter how many times she visited his forest. She paused and sat down, unlacing her boots and tugging them off, leaving them on the ground. Her jacket followed and he saw her shiver, knowing it was from excitement rather than the cold.
She walked around at a leisurely pace, her fingers brushing the trees, tracing their leaves. Her melodious voice filled the silence and he felt it resonate throughout his entire being. He had never seen a creature as amazing as Mabel and he knew he never would. His heart cried out for her, begged him to get closer, to speak to her, to get to know her. She danced, her feet moving lightly over the ground, kicking up leaves as she spun. There was something almost wild and untamed about her, something beautifully primal when she moved.
He watched and listened through her first song, wanting to hear just one before he interrupted to finally give in to his hearts need and introduce himself. Her voice was just letting out it’s next harmony when he stepped into view. It confused him when she didn’t startle at his presence. That grogeous smile lit up for him and it took his breath away “hey, it’s nice to meet you. Have I done anything wrong?”
“I know who you are. You’re the guardian of this forest. I can feel it. I’m sorry if you’re appearing because I’ve disturbed somthing here”
“Oh no, it isn’t anything like that. I’m Zakai, I just wanted to introduce myself. I’ve wanted to talk to you for some time”
“why haven’t you? Technically I’m a guest in your home” Zakai chuckled, unsurprised she was this way. she was nothing like what most would expect of a royal. “You are my princess. All the land belongs to you.”
‘we cant own mother nature. We may rule her dwellers but it belongs to her and who she appoints to watch over what she creates” His smile was charming “It has done this country well to be ruled by elves. Thank creation a Nyguyen picked such a good wife. The family was a horror until King Myron married Jessie and produced such a good king. I’m sure you’re proud to be Marvins daughter”
“I am, he and my mother are amazing people”
“May I accompany you princess?”
Her hand went to her chest as her heart fluttered. “You’re asking me? I mean, it would be an honor to have you with me.”
“Please, the honor is all mine. To be in the presence of one who so loves nature brings me true happiness.”
She blushed. “Then please join me every time.”
He smiled warmly at her as they walked through the woods and chatted about the beauty of the world around them. He truly enjoyed her company, felt his heart do a little flip every time she laughed or smiled. It was an amazing feeling. When they grew hungry he took her to a place where berries still grew in abundance and they plucked some off, thanking the plants as they ate their fill.
“gosh these are always so good”
“it’s mainly what I eat”
“Oh, speaking of eating. My Aunt, Uncle and cousins are supposed to be arriving today for a visit. Want to join us for dinner? My parents never mind me bringing someone. They are very open to guests”
“I’d enjoy that a lot. Is it Keltie and Kepu or Emma and Siavash?”
“Emma and Siavash don’t have children yet”
“ah so Keltie and Kepu.”
“yeah, they are awesome, especially Aunt Keltie”
“I’ve seen how much fun you have with her and Umiko I believe?”
“Yeah, the weird thing about being royalty is the fact a lot of people you meet already know quite a bit about you” He inconspicuously scooted closer to Mabel “I don’t just know about you because of that. I’ve been seeing you for years come out here. I know what makes you smile the brightest, what creatures you most enjoy approaching you. I have to admit you see our favorites so much because I request they come to you. I enjoy making you smile”
Her cheeks reddened and her heart did a little flip. “That’s incredibly sweet of you. You don’t have to trouble yourself though.”
“But it makes me happy when I see your eyes light up. You glow brighter than the sun, so radiant and warm that I can feel it from a distance.”
She smiled and his heart melted. He could spend forever basking in her warmth. Mabel couldn’t help but feel pleased at the attention he was giving her, that he had actually paid attention to the things she loved. The fact that he treated her like a person was a plus. Most men who were interested in her just saw a princess and acted so formal around her. They didn’t understand her love for nature like her family did, they didn’t get her reasons for wanting to sing to the trees and flowers or for thanking the earth for all it had given her. “So, do you eat meat or should I make sure your plate is made without it?” She asked.
“I eat pretty much everything. It’s just easier to get to fruit and I can make it grow with ease. I’m not much for calling an animal to me to kill it. So I eat mostly fruit.”
“Good because we like meat, especially my uncle and cousins.”
“It doesn’t offend me Mabel, I know your family always thanks the earth for her bounty. You don’t kill needlessly.”
do you have any siblings?”
“two sisters and a brother”
“your parents were lucky then. I’m hoping for two boys and two girls when I decide to take a husband”
“I will have to introduce you somtime. I don’t see them much but thats because we are all busy. We grew up very close to one another and we all still feel that bond”
“I’m close to mine too. I get in fights with Ximena somtimes but when it’s over it’s over.”
“I’ve heard two of them. It’s amusing how you two can go from screaming to hugging so quickly”
“Mom and dad have always taught us that family is more important than anything. No matter what we’re sisters and need to forgive and move on when things get bad between us”
“it’s very obvious in how you girls turned out. I believe one time in here you were celebrating the birth of another cousin, Keltie and Kepu?”
“yep, they had another boy”
“How does Umiko like having three brothers now?”
“her words were lets hope he’s not as big of a pain as Zavier” Zakai laughed “Oh my” Mabel laughed “they all pick on eachother a lot but they are close too”
“are they planning on more?”
“yeah, they want another girl so are pretty much going to try until another girl happens”
“well i wish them luck, seems your parents had enough girls.” Mabel laughed at his comment “I know right, I assure you my dads hair is naturally all white” Zakai laughed deeper than he expected and it made Mabel feel incredibly good to have caused it. He wiped his eyes “I found that far too funny”
“I’m sure you dont want girls”
“Oh I’d love any children. When I meet the right woman any kids we have together would be amazing. I like your idea of two and two. If only we could decide huh?”
“I just might get lucky, every once in awhile a couple gets precisely what they were looking for”
“Have you had any proposals?”
“two but I didn’t like either of them.”
“what’re you looking for?”
“I’m not sure, I guess just sombody who loves nature as much as me, someone I look at and just know he’s made for me”
“Hmm, he’d have to be able to keep up with you. He couldn’t be a guy who tired easily, not with as much as you walk and climb.”
“Let me know when you find him.”
He chuckled, taking her hand between his. “You will find him Mabel, I’m giving you my blessing.”
She blushed at his touch. His hands were so warm and gentle. “Thank you.” She felt disappointed when he released her hand and almost reached out to take his back. She was surprised at herself and instead sat her hand in her lap. “I’ve never received a bless from someone like you before.”
“I wish for you to find happiness Mabel, more than anything.” He cleared his throat in embarrassment. “So uh, should we maybe get going? I’m sure your family would like to see you.”
“Sure.” He got to his feet and pulled her up. They walked at a leisurely pace to her boots and jacket and she pulled them back on.
“why do you wear a jacket when you just take it off?”
“To make my mom feel better, she worries.” They kept talking as they approached the castle. They walked right in “anybody!?’ Mabel suddenly screamed, startling Zakai a little but he smiled once the momentary scare was gone. Babette was soon leaning over a railing “they aren’t here yet”
“I know, I wonder what’s taking them”
“well they didn’t say when they’d get here and they are traveling with a two year old”
“Yeah, I can’ wait to see how big he has gotten” Babettes eyes rested on Zakai and she jumped down, landing easily on her feet. “Who is this?”
“Zakai, the guardian of the forest I’ve told you watches me somtimes’
“Oh, nice to meet you.” Babettes offered her hand and he shook it “Nice to meet you too”
“are you two friends now?”
“yes, I finally gathered the courage to approach her” Babette smiled “she hasn’t been running a muck in your protected area right?”
“No, if anything she brings more life and serenity to it.”
“I understand you are the next to rule. Is that why you’re so concerned?”
“Sorta I guess, I want to be already on top of everything when my parents step down”
“when are they going to?”
“When I’m married. They say it’s a two person job”
“You should meet out sisters Ximena and Gail. They are doing their nails in Gails room so you probably wont get a handshake”
‘That’s fine” he stayed right by Mabels side. There was barely any space between them and thats how he wanted it. When they reached Gails room the girls both instantly looked at Zakai who introduced himself. Mabel pointed to each sister and told them which one she was. They asked him a few questions then Mabel said “you need to meet my parents too. Where are they Zimena?”
“No clue honestly”
“thats fine, I’ll introduce you later then”
“So, what should we do then?”
“Want to see the greenhouse?”
She smiled and grabbed his hand, making butterflies dance in his stomach. She excitedly pulled him through the castle to a set of double doors and pushed it open. They led out to a glass tunnel that went straight to a large greenhouse. He was amazed at all the beautiful plants they had cultivated and was happy at how much care had been put into growing them.
“Pretty cool huh?”
“Amazing.” He approached a basket of already gathered fruit. They looked strange yet also familiar. “What are these?”
“Pineapple peaches, we crossbreed some fruits to see how they taste. They’re delicious, try one.”
He picked one up slowly, turning it a few times before finally taking a bite. “wow, delicious”
“I love them”
“I’ll have to grab one of these every time you invite me over” he said then took another bite. “you’re more than welcome. Maybe I can bring out picnics from time to time”
“that sounds really nice.”
“I’m a little surprised you want to” he smiled and moved closer to her, placing a hand on her cheek “Of course” his sentence sounded like a statement being cut off at that point but it had meant to be finished with “I want to, in fact I would prefer these picnics to be dates” but he had been interrupted by Ximena’s loud squealing “They’re here!” Mabel laughed “I guess my Aunt and Uncle have arrived” not thinking he wasn’t done she walked out and he sighed then shrugged. He’d have more opportunities to get closer to the object of his affection. He had come as far as talking to her and wasn’t going to back down now. He just need to wait for another good moment like that.
Mabel was nearly trampled with hugs when she came out with Zakai. There was so much excited talking it was hard to sort the conversation out until they too were asking about Zakai. Since her parents were there this would be the last time she would have to introduce him. They all seemed happy to meet him so Mabel went after her new cousin “so freaking cute” she said as she lifted the outgoing little toddler.
“Look at him Zakai, isn’t he just adorable.” She turned the little boy towards him and he smiled.
“Well hello little one.” He poked the little boys nose. “You’re going to be strong and tall and I bet you’ll be ornery.”
“Just like his siblings.” Keltie said with a proud smile.
“I bet, really big, but all elf. May I hold him?”
“Of course.” Mabel handed him over and Alborz rested his head on Zakai’s chest.
A toothy grin appeared on Zakais face. He looked over the moon happy holding him. It made Mabel wondered if he already wanted kids. The thought made her blush and she wasn’t fully sure why. He was an incredibly attractive man but he was an incredibly attractive man she wasn’t dating. They talked happily until Keltie said “aw, he fell asleep” Zakai looked down at the peacful toddler in his arms “wow, you can normally never setlle that boy after a trip” Kepu said before Umiko chimed in “want me to take him to his room here Zakai or do you want me to guide you to it since he’s sleeping in your arms”
“I’ll carry him. Just show me the way” He and Umiko walked off and Keltie hugged her niece again “I sense some sparks there.”
“with Zakai and I?”
“who else. he’s handsome, good with kids and obviously attracted to you” Kepu cleared his throat and Keltie laughed. She gave him a sideways look with a crooked smile then Mabel said “you’ve seen me with him for about a half hour” It was Zavier who spoke now “Okay miss oblivious. I think it speaks volumes that he glances at you every five seconds. It’s a little ridiculous. He’s putty in your hands”
“stop teasing me and be good”
“Okay but dont say we didn’t hit the nail on the head when he asks you out. I mean, he does watch you pretty often. Why would he watch if he didn’t enjoy what he was seeing” Kepu tugged his wife to him ‘Okay babe thats enough” she giggled and he lifted her “I’m not jealous”
“You are too dad. Mom can’t say any man is attractive without you getting all shes mine” Keltie laughed harder. It was always adorable when he got jealous. It may not be if he was an ass about it but when Kepu was jealous he just wanted her closer to him. When Zakai came back with Umiko Mabel was glad nobody made the conversation they had obvious. Soon, with that leaving her mind she was able to notice how proud he looked that little Alborz so easily drifted off to sleep in his arms. If he was putty in her hands she didn’t know what that meant for her. He melted her to her core.
“Anyway, I think I’m about ready for a nap too.” Keltie said and Kepu immediately picked her up.
“You should have said something.”
She smiled warmly at her bear of a husband. “I wanted to see everyone first. Don’t look so worried, I’m not going to collapse or anything.”
“You need your rest, especially when you chase the baby all day.” He kissed her forehead. “We’re going to go lay down.”
“Okay, I love you guys.” Mabel said, trying her best not to laugh at the look on her uncle’s face.
“Love you too sweetie! It’s so nice to see you again and meet your friend” Kepu carried her away and Mabel turned to Zakai “what would you like to do now?”
“what would your cousins like to do? I live nearby and will be spending a lot of time with you now” Ozuru answered “I want to wrestle you.” Umiko rolled her eyes “it’s like his handshake. He must wrestle all the men he meets” Zakai smiled at him “sure” Ozuru looked at his sister “hey, It’s not often I run into a guy who looks so evenly matched to me”
“I guess that’s true. Lets take this outside so we don’t damage any of Uncle Marvins and Aunt Embraes things.” They walked out and everyone sat down to watch aside from Ozuru and Zakai. “count of three?” Ozuru asked and Zakai said “everyone does that, how about four?”
“four it is, I’ll let you count”
“One…two…three..four” Zakai and Ozuru struggled for a long time to even push one of them to the ground. It was Zakai who got Ozuru down first but there were a few times soon after Ozuru almost had him pinned. “wow, this one is intense” Umiko pointed out “I play winner!” Zavier called. Umiko looked over at Mabel “looks like he’s going to fit right in”
“He’s definitely not afraid of anything.”
“You like him a lot don’t you?” Umiko asked quieter and Mabel blushed. “It’s so cute how red your cheeks get. Just tell him.”
“Hush.” Zakai rolled Ozuru and pinned him down again, but he managed to throw him off and they rolled around once again making everyone laugh. “At this rate no one’s going to win.” She said with a laugh.
“They do seem to be dragging it out.” Umiko said loud enough for them to hear.
“I am not.” Ozuru said, allowing himself to get distracted so Zakai slammed him onto the ground and pinned him on his stomach. “No fair.”
“Oh hush you big baby, you let yourself get distracted.” Umiko said and tossed a small pebble at him.
“You distracted me.”
“No one told you to talk back or pull your eyes away from your opponent.”
Zakai pushed himself off of Ozuro. “After I wrestle your brother, we’ll have a rematch.”
“Don’t push yourself Zakai, you’ll be too exhausted to even walk to the forest after dinner.” Mabel said and he smiled.
“Then I’ll just have to stay in the castle.” Umiko nudged her with her elbow and Mabel shoved her, making her laugh.
After the men had all wrestled a few times Umiko joined in, easily pinning Zavier but loseing to the other two men. They all then just sat in the grass and enjoyed talking until they were called for dinner. They were all hungry but Ozuru and Zakai felt starved from wrestling so much. Mabel normally sat between her mother and Keltie when Keltie and Kepu would visit but today Keltie had left a space between them so Zakai could sit beside Mabel. After everyone was served Marvin asked Zakai “so you live in the woods?”
“I have a home there. You just can’t see it.”
“Oh, did you make it?”
“My father and I did together. He built a home with each of my siblings. It’s a coming of age bonding thing”
“Thats a nice tradition”
“It was great.”
“does your father live near?”
“Not at all. See, I was chosen before birth to be guardian of this forest. It’s a long story but it required me to move pretty far away from them and my siblings but we visit and I’m of course not bound there or anything. I can leave and travel as I want”
“I’m sure they miss having you close though”
“Yeah but they are proud” Mabel smiled as her father practically started interrogating the man. He had obviously picked up on the attraction. After dinner Zakai cleared his throat “would you mind if I took Mabel on a walk when it gets fully dark outside?’
“she’s an adult, she can do what she wants but thank you for the respect of asking me”
“a father of such well raised daughters deserves respect. I really mean that sir, I’m not trying to suck up. Your girls all have great qualities” Zakai took her hand under the table and held it gently as the table was cleared and everyone kept talking to catch up with one another. If he wasn’t so happy to be holding hands with Mabel it may have sewn seeds of loneliness in his heart for his own family.
When the sun finally set and everyone was heading to bed, Zakai pulled Mabel to her feet and walked with her outside. The cool air sent a shock of excitement through both of them and he smiled, loving her reaction to the natural world. “It’s beautiful out tonight.” Mabel said softly with a warm smile. “Look at that moon.”
“I have seen something far more beautiful than the moon or the stars.”
“Oh really? Some flower I haven’t seen?”
“Kind of.” He pulled her to a stop and brought her hands up to his lips, kissing her knuckles. “Though you are far more beautiful than any flower.”
He smiled and tugged her closer to him. “I’m not joking, everything about you is wonderful and beautiful. Your singing, your dancing, how you radiate love and warmth for all living things. It touches the very core of my being, makes my very soul dance with joy.” He stroked his thumbs over the back of her hands. “You mean more to me than you think.”
She blushed again and he kissed her “earlier, before your Aunt and Uncle got here I wasn’t done speaking. I wanted to say that I hope our picnics are dates’
“I’d like them to be too” he smiled and brought her in for another kiss. This one he held longer, savoring her taste. “lets go on with our walk” he said with that amazing smile. “okay” she answered with irrepressible joy. They walked through the night, talking of the sky, eachother and their families. Mabel may not know Zakai as much as Zakai knew her but she knew what they had was going to be amazing and absolutely adamantine.
~ The End ~