"Lina, I love you. I always have," Doon practiced in front of the mirror in the Pioneer. After his dinner last week with Lina, on the Empty Lands, when they were alone under the stars, he has thought of nothing but her.
A certain feeling like electricity flowed through him whenever she was near or he thought of her. His heart raced like that horse she's always riding. He knew he had always liked her in that special way, and throughout most of his early teens tried to hide his feelings, but his eyes betrayed him. He loved her, and there was nothing he could do about it.
"Doon? Is everything alright?" Kenny asked coming in to hang out.
"Do you think I should tell Lina? I have all these feelings for her and I don't know what to do with myself," Doon says. Kenny has always known that Doon liked Lina for more than a friend, but this was the first time he had seen him this way. He looked thinner, restless, and tired. Kenny wondered if Doon had been sleeping at all.
"I am about to turn 18, I think it's time I had a proper girlfriend," Doon said. He paced the room. Kenny could see a grove being worn into the floor.
As Doon paced Lina's face entered his mind. He thought of her smile, the way her cheeks would redden when she laughed, the sweet flowery smell of her, and the softness of her hair.
It was all too much for him. His legs gave out and he collapsed backwards onto his mattress. A smile was on his face that seemed like it would never fade away. His whole body trembled.
Lina was grooming her mare Fleet, just outside the village. She was preparing to go on a run to a settlement to the west the next day. Doon Harrow, a boy she had grown up with, the boy who had become her best friend, came by that morning.
They made eye contact. Lina felt something in the pit of her stomach. It was a pleasurable sensation somewhere between a tickle and a soft ache, and it only happened when Doon was around. He was handsome, she thought. She liked his dust colored eyes and the shaggy hair in his face.
"Where are you going?" Doon asked, staring at her.
"I am going to deliver some diamonds in that settlement to the west," Lina said.
"How long will you be away?" Doon asked.
"Seven maybe eight days," Lina said.
She could see a look of disappointment on his face. Lina liked that Doon always seemed worried about her. He was such a good friend. She mounted Fleet and stared down at Doon who was no longer looking at her, but he was staring at the ground with his fingers pulling the skin off his bottom lip.
"Was there something you wanted to tell me?" Lina asked. She recognized his look, he seemed puzzled and curious. She liked that he always had questions, but this time he was different. He had something on his mind, she knew that much.
Doon ran into Lina grooming her horse. His insides started dancing, and his head felt like it was light enough to float into the sky. He was overjoyed to be with her.
"Where are you going?" He asked nervously.
She explained that she was going away to make a delivery. His heart thudded against his rib cage. Go? He didn't want her to go. She would be gone eight days. His heart felt heavy like it was about to fall into his stomach.
The painful longing he would succumb too during her absent was already weighing down on him. It isn't the right time to tell her how he feels. How could he? He can barely speak.
"Was there something you wanted to tell me?" Lina asked.
"I'll miss you," He said faintly.
There was more truth in those words than any he had ever spoken to her in his life. Lina touched his hand with hers and rode off on an afternoon run to give Fleet some exercise. Doon sauntered back to the Pioneer sulking.
Kenny saw Doon sitting by himself by the fountain. He seemed far away in his thoughts. Kenny wondered how things went with Lina. He walked over and sat down.
"She is leaving tomorrow for an eight day trip. I couldn't tell her, Kenny. She seemed so happy. Besides she doesn't feel the same way."
"That's not true. Doon, anyone who spends ten minutes with you can see that you two like each other."
Lina felt sad to be leaving without Doon. He was her partner in crime. She felt like a piece of her was missing. The pleasant feeling in her stomach disappeared and was replaced with a hard aching feeling.
She gripped her stomach and kept riding. She knew she would reach the settlement in a day and a half. She decided to ride through the night to shake the feeling of loneliness in her stomach.
She arrived just as the sun was coming up. A young man in a truck pulled by a pair of snow white horses pulled in beside her. Lina had never seen such beautiful horses, and the young man driving it was no more than two or three years older than she is.
He had golden hair that fell to his shoulders in looping tendrils and eyes the color of ice. There was a light pinkness in his cheeks. His rippling biceps bulged against the sleeves of his of thin blue T shirt.
"Hi, you're not from around here are you?" He asked Lina stepping out of his truck to greet a plump woman in the front of the crowd.
"No, I'm from Sparks," Lina said staring into his eyes.
"I've been through there. I think I would have remembered you," He said.
"I'm Lina Mayfleet."
"Ever Pipes," He said shaking her hand.
Ever was handsome and tall and mysterious. Lina had never seen anyone like him before. But there was a hollow feeling in her gut that she couldn't figure out.
Doon stayed in bed for long hours while Lina was gone. He had come down with a sickness: cold shakes and aches all over the body. His father couldn't stay home to nurse him; there was work to be done in the fields, so he asked Mrs. Murdo to look in on him.
She fed him hot onion soup for lunch. Doon leaned up in bed and could barely hold his spoon. He hurt too much. Mrs. Murdo was happy to spoon feed the handsome youth. Like everyone in Sparks, she thought Doon and Lina would get married some day. She had her hopes. Doon was a bright, pleasant boy with his head and heart in the right places. He was good at figuring things out. He was almost perfect for Lina.
"Does Lina ever talk about me?" Doon asks.
He'd been trying to drive her from his memory by thinking about electricity and books, but nothing worked. Her face was all he could picture in his mind day and night. She consumed him.
"Yes, she talks about you all the time. She says you're the best friend she's ever had," Mrs. Murdo told him, stroking his hair and shoveling a spoonful of hot soup into his mouth. He swallowed it and felt a hot, dry, scalding pain in the back of his throat.
"Does she ever talk about the future?" Doon asked casually.
"Lina's head is in the clouds I'm afraid. What's going on, Doon?" Mrs. Murdo asked.
He could tell she knew, or if she didn't she at least suspected. She was right of course. Everyone in Sparks knew, except Lina. Doon searched Mrs. Murdo's face for any sign of hope that Lina may reciprocate his feelings, she showed none. His soreness intensified.
"Get some rest, sweetie. I am sure you'll feel better in a couple of days."
When she left Doon closed his eyes, allowed Lina to fill his mind's eye, and went to sleep. He dreamed of what it would be like to be married to her. It was the sweetest dream he had in a long time.
Lina returned to Sparks three days early, but she wasn't alone. She asked her new friend to come back with her. They had bonded over the five days of her trip. She couldn't contain her excitement.
Lina couldn't wait to see her little sister, Mrs. Murdo, and Doon again. She wanted them all to meet Ever. She hoped they would like him as much as she does. She knew he'd get along with Doon; they both have a thirst for knowledge.
But the welcome wasn't as she had hoped. Her sister and Mrs. Murdo seemed to like Ever, they were polite to him. Even Torren who hated everyone seemed to like him, at least a little. But Doon wouldn't give him the time of day.
He was ruder than she had ever seen him. She couldn't explain why her best friend was acting like a child. Lina felt it would be wrong to ask Doon if Ever could stay with him at the Pioneer.
She had to try. She couldn't allow him to sleep in his truck. There was no room at the Doctor's house for him or she would have invited him to stay there, but she knew Doon's room was only him and his father. She figured a third guest wouldn't be too much of a bother.
"Doon, would you let Ever stay with you tonight?" Lina asked.
Doon shot her down immediately.
"Please," Lina said.
He gazed at her for a long time before caving in and agreeing to take him in. She hugged Doon tight, when she let go he was pink the face, she was told he had been ill. She could see he wasn't quite over it.
Doon's illness went away almost instantly when he heard that Lina was back. He was so excited he ran down to the plaza to greet her, but stopped short when he saw she wasn't alone. A very handsome boy was with her. Doon felt like throwing up.
"Ever, I want you to meet someone special," Lina said taking the boy by the arm and dragging him toward Doon. Doon didn't make eye contact or shake Ever's hand. He refused.
"I'm Ever Pipes. Lina's told me a lot about you," said the boy.
"Great then I don't need to introduce myself," Doon said rudely.
"Doon Harrow, what has gotten into you?" Lina asked, confused.
"I'm glad you're back safely, Lina," Doon said, walking away. He pressed his face against the wind, scowling, and stomped back to the Pioneer feeling hopeless. He wanted to crawl under a rock and die there.
He was shocked when Lina approached him in the evening to ask if Ever could stay with him. Doon shot her down. When she stared him with pleading eyes his heart skipped a beat. He gazed at her longingly, the excitement in her voice caused goose bumps to manifest on his arms and legs. He agreed reluctantly.
Lina was excited. Her new friend was in Sparks with everyone she loved in the whole world. Her little sister was in the yard chasing chickens. Lina was in the kitchen helping Mrs. Murdo chop onions for stew, humming to herself.
"You seem happy," Mrs. Murdo said noticing a change in Lina.
Lina turned red.
"Ever seems like a polite young man."
"I'm going to show him around Sparks tomorrow, then after that we're going on a picnic by the lake."
"Is it the lake by the Pioneer where Doon stays?"
"Yes," Lina said.
She felt like she was missing something.
Ever and Doon sat in the hotel room alone for a long time, not speaking or even looking at each other. Finally, when the awkward silence became too much for both of them, Doon offered Ever some supper. They ate stale bread, cheese, fried potatoes, and sliced carrots provided by Clary.
Ever kicked off his boots, he finished his supper and lay down on the blanket and stared at a shiny object on his left wrist for a while. Doon tried to see what it was, to no avail. He was about to ask when Ever spoke.
"It's a bracelet. It says 'Peace' I found it on a search last summer," Ever explained.
He could see that Doon wasn't about to warm up to him any time soon.
"I think I will leave before sun up tomorrow. Tell Lina bye for me," Ever said. He tossed his boots off his blanket and took off his shirt.
"Why would you leave without telling her?" Doon asked.
"Because you love her and I am in the way."
"Is it that obvious?" asked Doon, blushing so deep scarlet he was glad the room wasn't very bright. He sat down beside Ever to talk.
"Yes. I don't think she knows though. I see how you look at her."
"I love her so much I can't stand it," Doon confessed, "I was physically ill last week while she was gone. I couldn't move I missed her so much. It's pathetic."
"It's not that pathetic. Doon, you have to tell her how you feel. It's going to eat you alive if you don't. You can't retain feelings that strong."
"She doesn't feel the same way about me," Doon said.
"How do you know?" Ever asked.
Doon didn't answer. Ever was right. Doon didn't know how Lina felt. They never talked about it. They don't discuss those types of things when they're together. Doon wondered if that was appropriate to talk about with girls.
Of all the things he studied in school, how to talk to girls about feelings was not one of them. He was clueless in the world of love. Now he had a companion to talk to who seemed to be an expert, but unfortunately for him, he was leaving. Doon thought he'd make the best of the situation and asked as many questions as he could. A topic like that wasn't something you could learn from a book. Doon had tried many times.
Doon told Lina that Ever left before sun up. He remembered he had something he had to do and set out immediately. Doon hated lying to Lina, but it was part of the scheme that Ever had come up with to help Doon confess to Lina.
Lina was heartbroken. Doon could see it on her face. She was hurt that he didn't say good bye to her. She sulked around all afternoon. Doon followed her trying to change the subject.
He felt terrible. He wanted to hug her, stroke her hair, kiss her, hold her, and tell her everything was going to be okay, but he couldn't.
Lina was happy to have Doon with her. As bad as she felt that Ever left without telling her, she was glad to know that Doon would never do that to her. She felt suddenly dizzy and lightheaded. She stumbled over and nearly collapsed. Doon caught her. They stared into each other's eyes for a long time before either of them spoke.
His eyes sparkled like she had never seen before. She reached up and rubbed his face with her hand. He was real.
For that moment it seemed like they were the only people on the planet. There was a spark between them stronger than electricity. They could both feel it.
Neither of them spoke. No words were needed. Lina understood what the butterflies in her stomach were telling her. Doon was still holding her, smiling. She pressed her body against his. It felt right.
Doon went back to the hotel that afternoon feeling like he could fly. He wanted to. He wanted to soar between the clouds in the sky and never come down. He held Lina for ten minutes. They were ten of the most amazing minutes of his life.
He fell back onto the mattress, grabbed his pillow and squealed into it gleefully. He rolled around kicking ecstatically for a long time. He let out a muffled scream into his pillow. He stood up on weak knees.
"Doon, what's gotten into you?" His father asked.
"I held Lina for ten minutes. She's so small and warm, and I held her," Doon said happily.
His father laughed. He had known for years Doon's feelings for Lina but this was the first time Doon had openly expressed anything toward the girl. His son was growing up before his eyes and would soon start a family of his own.
His father remembered all the wonderful things his son had done. He found the way out of Ember, he helped save Sparks, and he found the diamonds that produced electricity for everyone. But to his son actually nervous about something was different.
"I'm happy for you, son."
"She's so wonderful," Doon said, dreamily.
Doon's father felt a twinge of sadness. All of Doon's projects that he was so devoted to were being neglected because of his feelings for Lina. It was almost as if he were under a spell. Loris watched Doon's giddiness and was glad for him.
Lina was full of emotions when she got back to the doctor's house that night. She washed and went straight up to her room. She lay awake thinking about Doon. He was always there for her and he was handsome, her friend Lizzie had always thought so.
Doon was more than that to Lina. He was the one person she trusted above anyone else and the one person she was always happiest to see when she'd return from one of her trips. She now saw him differently.
It was new to her. She had the grown up talk with Mrs. Murdo when she turned thirteen, about how girls and boys were supposed to feel about each other. It was an embarrassing and uncomfortable talk but she now understood its importance.
She closed her eyes and thought of Doon. With a smile on her face she ventured into dreamland, where Doon was waiting for her.