She watched him as
he passed by, her earth-dark eyes gazing upon him intently as he
strolled through the trees. She did not call out to him, did not make
any movement or sound. She did not wish to draw his attention. She
wanted only to watch him, undisturbed.
Jen, the singular male of her kind.
A bird flitted through the thick canopy of trees overhead, and she saw him lift his face to watch its flight. Her lips curved into a soft smile as she beheld the warm, golden sunlight that filtered through the leaves overhead and kissed his face in dappled patterns.
Jen was beautiful.
His dark hair and tanned skin were offset so marvelously by eyes that were darker than any blue gaze she had ever seen—dark as deep waters. The modest finery of his clothes, originally created by the now-extinct Mystics, offered only the faintest hint of the lean body beneath.
Kira released her breath in an inaudible sigh as he began to pass out of sight. She never tired of watching him. Even now, a full year after their fateful meeting within the forest of the Podlings, her adopted people, she was still as entranced by him. It was hard to believe only one seasonal cycle had passed. So much had happened--to her, to him, to the world--that it might as well have been a lifetime ago.
Watching him now, catching the last of his movements before he passed completely into the shadow of the forest, it was still…strange to see him. It didn't make any difference that she had known him for several months now, that they were living together in the same castle, even. The she-Gelfling had lived the entirety of her life believing that she was the only one to have survived the terrible massacre of her kind. It had been a harsh, lonely truth to accept, but accept it she had…
And then in one day, in that one breathtaking instant all that she had known to be true was proved false. It had been just as much an unsettling revelation for her as it had been marvelous…miraculous.
She still felt it, that amazement. There continued to be moments when she would find herself struck by the knowledge that here before her—walking, talking, breathing—was a Gelfling. One of her own! Not only that…This one was male.
Next to the astonishment of seeing another Gelfling, Kira knew the simple fact of his gender had struck her more profoundly than anything. Here they were, the only two Gelflings left in existence. They had found each other...and they belonged to opposite genders.
It was almost too coincidental to be true. And too phenomenal to be coincidence.
Leaning back more fully against the tree at her back, Kira allowed the memories to embrace her. Having never seen another Gelfling, having only herself as a basis to guess what the others might have looked like…To suddenly have been thrown face-to-face with one had been an overwhelming experience. Words could never accurately express or capture the depth and range of emotions that had grabbed her in that one, powerful instant when her eyes had met his.
In the span of a heartbeat, she had taken in that angular face and slender frame, those pointed ears and bright eyes--all so very similar to her own, and yet so startlingly different. So decidedly male…
And it struck her then--even then, against the powerful feelings of bewilderment and surrealism she had felt at seeing a being that by right should not have existed. Not anymore.
He was beautiful.
This male of the dark hair and deep-sea eyes was unlike anything she had ever seen or known before. And he was beautiful.
It was a basic reason to have been so awestruck, she would admit. Nevertheless, it was true. She hadn't been able to deny it then, just as she couldn't deny it now, a full year later. He was beautiful still, though she did not believe him to fully realize it. Smiling softly, she shook her head at that, ever baffled by the simple fact that he had no idea just how beautiful he was. It was so blatantly obvious, and yet he was completely unaware.
Her Jen, her dearest friend. He continued to be as much of a mystery and puzzlement to her as he was her most intimate confidant. She felt for him deeply.
Kira closed her eyes against the familiar ache of emotions that flooded her. So much she felt for him, yet she was uncertain of everything. For all that she was drawn to Jen, as powerfully as she cared for him, there was one thing she could not answer with certainty.
Did she love him?
It seemed a silly question. He was the last male of their kind, she the last female. Of course she loved him. Nothing could be more sensible...
And yet that was just it. They were the last of their kind. There were no alternative options for either of them. Only each other. It was this absolute lack of choice that troubled the she-Gelfling.
Kira could not help but wonder…If she and Jen had not been the last, if there had been others, even so little as a handful…Would she have chosen Jen? If they had had the benefit of choice in a mate, would Jen have been the one? Would he have chosen her?
These questions were unsettling, for if she was truthful with herself, Kira knew it was because she was afraid of the answer. And that answer was…she simply didn't know.
She didn't know if she would have fallen for Jen. How could she? It was impossible to predict one's feelings or actions based on events that had not happened, and would not. It was senseless, too, wasting time worrying over such things. Kira knew this. Yet each day she and Jen grew closer, and she could see the fondness in his eyes slowly deepening into something more. And she couldn't help the stirring of unease.
Did she love him?
She could not supply even herself with an answer. And it is for this reason that she held back, that she maintained a distance between them despite the fact that they were very close…Despite the fact that they were the last of their kind.
How could she love him, give him her heart, share herself with him when she was not certain of her feelings for him?
There were those who would tell her such things were trivial—almost everyone, in fact. Her race faced extinction with the passing of Jen and herself. How could such a thing as love get in the way of doing what was natural, what was necessary? There was already a bond between the two of them. Perhaps love would come later. And even if it did not, there would be children, and through them hope for their race's future.
A success as far as everyone else was concerned. After all, love was not required to do what was necessary.
Kira understood this, and her duty as the last Gelfling female…But could she do it? Was she strong enough to join not only her body, but her soul with a male for whom she was not positive of how she felt?
She knew what she should do, but she was afraid of doing it. And this fear was causing her to pull away from him. It prevented her from giving him the one thing she knew he wanted above all others. Her heart. She did not know for sure, but she was almost certain that Jen loved her. And while this suspicion made her heart skip a beat, in the same breath it caused her pain. For she could not bear the thought that she might not be able to return his love.
She was far too uncertain of her own feelings to profess otherwise.
Jen was a good man; he meant so much to her. She had always known it would be easy to fall for him. Honest and loyal, kind and brave, and…and so wondrously dark and handsome.
There were times when she was positive she was in love with him. He had a soul unlike anyone she had ever known. So warm and pure, so gentle…He reminded her of the great Mystics he would tell her stories of, the ones who had raised him. She felt safe with Jen, cherished. She was happy to be with him.
But…did she love him?
Kira despised the doubts that plagued her. She wanted to give Jen her love freely, with no uncertainties, for it was what he deserved. If she could have erased her doubts and fears, and turned her heart to him confidently, she would have done so in an instant.
Yet she couldn't help but wonder if she should feel so unsure about someone she loved. There shouldn't be this feeling of...pressure to love. And she knew, deep in heart, that this pressure was the very cause of it all.
It was what everyone wanted, that she and Jen end up together. They were all waiting for it, she knew--she could almost feel their baited breaths as they watched both Jen and herself. They were wondering…wondering when it would happen. For them, that she and Jen would fall in love was an inevitability as natural and unavoidable as the rising of the triple suns. At every turn she felt it, their expectancy that she and Jen would couple.
But love was not something to be forced. It wasn't something one should feel pressured into. Love was powerful, passionate…and wildly unpredictable.
Granted, she was not experienced in romance. Only a year ago she had been resigned to the fact that she was the only one of her kind. Though she loved the Podlings dearly, she had never felt any romantic yearnings for any of them. Before Jen, there had been no one with whom she could have shared her heart; no one with whom she had wanted to share it. She had been adopted into the Podling tribe as one of their own, yet ultimately she had been alone.
And then Jen crashed into her life like a runaway star. Everything changed. Suddenly, there was another like her...And the loneliness vanished. It was understandable that she could misinterpret something like that for love. And easily.
It was this complete inexperience with the emotion that frightened her. What if she turned from him, only to discover sometime later that she did, in fact, love him? What if she misconstrued her intense joy of camaraderie--and yes, helpless infatuation--for something deeper?
Kira knew little of love. She had, however, witnessed enough of it from the Podlings to know that the stirrings of new emotions could cause the superfluous to be mistaken for love. Given time, those exultant joys ended, often with ugly results. Kira would rather spend the rest of her life alone than see what she and Jen shared fall into such decay.
Yet she did not have that option, and neither did Jen. They were duty-bound to think beyond themselves. They did not have the luxury of pursuing their own lives. He was male, she female, and they were the last of their kind. The simple fact remained that they had no other choice. It was a subduing truth.
She didn't want to feel that way—confined, trapped. Yet that was exactly how she felt, as if she was ensnared within a cage. And the walls drew more closely about her with each passing day.
Jen wouldn't want that, she knew. He wouldn't what was not given to him freely, joyously, completely. He would feel no happiness in having her, if he knew she did not wish to be at his side. And Jen was astoundingly intuitive to others' emotions. It was a talent she suspected to have come from upbringing with the Mystics. All he would need to do was look into her eyes…and he would know.
The she-Gelfling knew the others did not share her questions, her fear. It was clear that she and Jen had been brought together by fate. After all, what were the chances that the last male and female of any dying species would meet? This fact had been presented to her more times than she cared to count, and she had personally considered it far more often. She believed the truth of this…But not so completely that it stopped the questions.
If she could only be sure of herself, of him…of the two of them. She wanted nothing more than for she and Jen to be happy together, their children beginning to repair the horrible destruction their kind had suffered at the Skeksis' bidding.
But her uncertainties would not relent. And neither would her resistance. SHe felt pressured from everyone--including herself, especially herself--to do what she knew she should. And that caused her to withdraw even further.
No matter what anyone may have said, what she said to herself…No matter how she looked at it, she kept coming back to the same question.
Did she love him? And what would happen to them, to their race, if she did not?