The crickets wouldn't stop chirping, and it was getting to James. It was midnight, and he was in a slump. He had a meeting with Laura, his editor, the next day and he still had more than half a chapter to write for her. Not to mention, being in a cabin in the middle of the mountains meant a long drive down to the metropolis. "Maybe I just don't have it anymore" he mused, as he twiddled a small clip with his hand. Laura had even been so kind as to loan out her grandfather's cabin to see if he could concentrate more, but he felt just as helpless as in the chaotic metropolis. He decided a walk was in order, patted the fluff on the right side of the chair, and chuckled slightly as his dog, Natasha, waggled her tail happily as she saw him put his coat on.
Having put his coat on and grabbing the keys, he opened the door, instinctively stepping to the side to avoid the 65 pounds of rushing Golden Retriever from bowling him over. As he stepped out he felt a cool breeze on his face, and the smell of nature was all around him. He was glad, for the city sounds and smells could only remind him of things he didn't want to remember. Couldn't bear to remember - at least not yet.
It really was a beautiful place, and on a full moon night like this one it was all illuminated. He started wandering aimlessly, always keeping an eye on Naty, the ever-curious one. As he kept on trudging through the paths, making mental notes to make sure he find his way home, he saw something glittering in the distance. Taking Naty's approach, he got curious and started moving towards the source of the glitter.
It took him longer than he expected, and he wondered just what it was that could reflect light so much, but after five minutes of scampering through the trees, the task of remembering the path home now forgotten, he found the source of his interest. It was a lake, or rather, a small pond, right there in the middle of the forest. It shone beautifully under the moonlight and he wondered how he'd never come across it during his stay there so far.
"Ah, right, I haven't even gone out other than to walk Naty..." He thought grimly, and promised himself that if he ever got the chance to come up to the cabin again he'd explore more of its mesmerizing surroundings.
He was feeling a bit adventurous, and decided to wet his feet in the pond. Not worrying about Naty - for a dog, she sure was fearful of a lot of things, therefore she'd be nearby - he approached the pond only to find a silhouette, the light reflecting off the surface of the water obscuring his view, exiting the pond and heading straight towards him.
A voice emerged from the obscured silhouette, shocking him silent immediately.
"Who are you?" It was a calm, womanly voice.
It somehow intimidated the stunned James, who realizing she had probably been in the pond - more than likely skinny-dipping, turned around and stammered his answer, almost tripping on a tree branch while doing so. He immediately apologized for his actions, but she reassured him once more in that calm voice of hers. After a couple of minutes of rustling, that felt more like an eternity to James, he felt her slightly touch his shoulders and turned around, but the vision that met him had him both short of breath and confused at the same time.
There, in front of him, in a pale lavender dress, stood what he could only describe as a small nymph, with long flowing auburn hair and piercing hazel eyes. She had a petite yet curvy figure, and she appeared to be in her early twenties, yet her voice indicated a level of maturity far beyond her age, and that unsettled James. Remembering both his manners and to close his mouth, he stopped gaping at the vision in front of him and asked her who she was and why she was at such an isolated place at that time of night.
Once more she replied in her calm, unsettling voice "I own a cabin nearby, and I like to enjoy a dip every once in a while ... So you are the one Laura spoke of? I'm sorry, I forgot you were supposed to be in their cabin or I would've made myself known earlier."
As she spoke, James noticed a few things. Remnants of his High School days, where he sat in one of the corners and watched people, he realized that she stared him directly in the eyes, with hollow eyes; that her voice wasn't calm but rather a monotone and that her features were expressionless. This both intrigued and attracted him, and subconsciously he decided he wanted to get to know this woman and why she showed no emotion.
After their initial introductions conversation flowed freely as she guided them (after confirming with James that he was indeed lost) back to his cabin. Naty had made instant friends with the nymph, and he was a bit miffed (and jealous no doubt) that they already seemed closer friends than he was - with either of them. After close to half hour of walking they arrived at his place, and he, worried about her, asked if she knew her way back. For the first time, and even if only her eyes, she showed reaction, but he was unable to read exactly what. She nodded and after promising a visit turned around to leave.
Remembering that he hadn't found out her name, he asked her as she left. She turned around briefly and answered "I go by Katy." emotionlessly before turning around once more and continuing on.
James had two things in mind as he got ready for bed that night. Firstly, Laura was going to skin him alive for not having his promised chapter ready. Not that he'd never done it before, but he knew just how much she was worried about him - especially after the incident. Secondly, this woman intrigued him. Very much so. And this fact overshadowed by far the preaching he'd catch from Laura the next day.
Passing by his table one more time before heading to bed, he suddenly had the urge to sit down. Sit down and write. And he did.
When Laura saw James sit down in front of her at their favorite spot in their favorite coffee shop, she almost had a stroke right then and there. He looked haggard, unshaven and tired almost to the point of exhaustion. She even felt a twinge of guilt for having him meet her so early, with the cabin being an hour's drive away from the city. She immediately went off on one of her motherly tirades on taking care of himself and how worried she really was about him.
James knew that once Laura got started, she was unstoppable, so smiling inwardly he just listened and drank his coffee in silence. Finally, the end approaching, her look softened and she ended with an "After all, what would I do if anything happened to both my best friend and the guy that introduced me to the man of my dreams?" James unconsciously glanced down at the wedding band on her finger at this mention and briefly remembered. Their relationship was indeed strange.
They'd started out dating junior year high school, but quickly realized they weren't suited for each other. From then on, they'd become friends - best friends - and it had been James that had introduced her to Mike nearly 5 years ago at his college graduation party. It had been almost like magic, and five years and two kids later they were still living the honeymoon. That thought sobered him and he came back to the present and Laura, sitting across him with a face mixing pain, worry and understanding.
"Was it ... anything you didn't want to remember?" she asked, concern evident in her voice.
James knew better than to unload on Laura though, he knew he'd have time for it later. Finally he flashed her a smile and replied "You goof, I only look like this because I spent all last night writing this." With that he dropped two chapters worth on the table, a silly grin on his face and mirth in his eyes. Laura stared at the pile for a few seconds, then at him, back at the pile again, sputtered for a few more then asked him why he'd let her go off like that.
He rolled his eyes. "I've known you for 12 years, Laura, I know better than to try and stop you when you're on a roll." Unfortunately the resulting kick he could not predict.
"I hate you sometimes" she said, a smile belying her words, then finally curiosity got the best of her and she had to ask how or why he'd managed to get out of his slump. He grinned once more and described his meeting with Katy 'the Nymph' and that perhaps she was some sort of Luck Goddess? Another kick to the shins, but the grin didn't fall from his face.
After returning to the cabin and grabbing a shower, shave, and some rest, he set about putting some order to the house - after all, the Little Nymph had said she would visit sometime soon. Something nagged at him though, something Laura had mentioned during their meeting - she had said she'd known Katy all of her life, but she hadn't been to the cabin in a few years and as far as she could remember, Katy had always been a cheery person, "Almost too happy sometimes" she even pointed out.
He and Laura were 28, so just how old was Katy? And what had happened to the person Laura described? He didn't have to wait long though, as sooner than expected, the very next day actually, she appeared, holding a bag with fruits and some sort of container that from what he deciphered could only be chocolate pudding.
"Laura said you like fruits ... the chocolate pudding was my idea." Ever the monotonous tone, he thought.
In broad daylight she looked even more beautiful and he had to remind himself once more that he was not an open-mouthed statue. While wondering how many flies he'd catch being around this girl, he moved out of her way, grabbed the bag and container and invited her in. Naty came bounding about just then, saying hello to her new friend - loudly, as usual. He brought her gifts to the kitchen and she followed, hands intertwined in front of her and always looking straight ahead. As he set about putting things away he noticed she kept on looking at him, almost as if searching for something, and although a little unnerved he managed to keep his calm. He finally finished, and just as he whirled around to offer to cook for her he saw her wipe at her eyes, and knew this was his opening into her little shell.
"Is something wrong?" came his concerned voice. She looked up at him, frightened and shocked at first, but then once more searching for something in, or about him. She seemed to be having a mental discussion with herself, and after what seemed as an awkwardly long period of time, she affirmed that a best friend of Laura's could only be good people, and asked if he would like to hear her story.
He nodded slowly, realizing that this person had trusted him so easily and the fear of betraying her trust made him panic a bit.
She sat at the kitchen breakfast counter, facing him. He, for lack of any other thing to calm his nerves, served her a glass of water and sat across her, making an effort to keep direct eye contact. "I was a very lucky child. My family loved me, I had a wonderful school life, and even during the summers I spent here in this beautiful place I had Laura and her grandparents. I already had more than I could've asked for, but I was even lucky enough to find a wonderful guy to marry..." Her eyes were misting up now, and James feared something horrible was coming. "I was happy, led the perfect life, I even finished my degree - I'm an architect - but then..." Tears started to roll down her cheeks and James, forgoing modesty and her thoughts, came around and hugged her to supply some kind of comfort. She tensed at first, but then let the tears continue falling.
It took a while for Katy to calm down, and when James finally let her go her red puffy eyes and still quivering lips broke his heart. She took a few breaths to still herself, then with a voice unlike the calm serene one she'd had up until then, almost like a little girl's now, continued on.
"But I lost it all. In one swoop. In front of my eyes. Everything. It was all gone..." James stared shocked, wondering what she might mean, but didn't dare ask, not unless she volunteered more information.