The Forests of Evenlear, Part Six: Mira
The next morning was spent attending services at the gorgeous Havenwing cathedral, after which we returned home and were joined for lunch by a few of Uncle Oruc and Aunt Monria's friends.
Even that 'casual' gathering made me nervous with its pomp and opulence, but I hoped it might prepare me for my first Havenwing ball, which Aunt Monria had informed me the day before, was taking place in three weeks' time.
I told no one about my accidental wandering too close to the edge of the woods. It had been a silly and dangerous thing to do, but I had learned from the mistake and promised myself no such thing would happen again.
I wasn't giving up my rides into the countryside, though. The next Saturday, I once again packed a book and a lunch Aunt Monria's cook had prepared for me, and rode into the fields east of Havenwing. This time, I made sure to pay attention and to keep a safe distance between myself and the edge of the forest.
As the noon hour neared, I began to search for a place to stop and enjoy my lunch. The fields of stubble were not exactly inviting places to sit and rest, so I rode to the outlying area of a sheep farm I had seen before. There the ground rolled with small, gentle hills, and the grass was soft and lush, even so late into the season.
I dismounted and dropped my horse's reins to let him graze, then found the perfect spot to sit with my lunch and my book. The cook had sent me a box packed with cold roast lamb, sage bread, and cold broiled squash, along with a small bottle of grape juice, fresh from the Havenwing vineyards. Autumn was the only time the fresh jiuce was available, so I savored the refreshing flavor for as long as I could.
After finishing my lunch, I tucked the empty box back into my bag and pulled out my book: The Song of Endison. I found my place and settled quickly into the story where I had left off. With the day so pleasant--the sunlight illuminating the pages, the breeze playing gently with my loose hair, my horse grazing nearby--it was easy to get lost in the story's adventure...
My horse snorted, and I looked up at him. He had jerked his head up and was staring away to the south, ears pointed forward. I stood up on my knees and looked in the same direction.
A girl was walking towards me. She was smiling, occasionally looking around her as if enjoying the scenery, but it was obvious she was heading in my direction deliberately. She wore a full skirt the color of un-dyed linen that touched her feet, and a blouse of the same color, gathered at the neck with a ribbon. Over the blouse she wore a dark brown vest that appeared to be made of leather. Her red hair was loose and came to her waist, and as she came closer I noticed a few thin streaks of blonde running through the red. What could have caused such a peculiar thing?
As the girl approached within a few feet of me, I remembered myself and stood up.
"Hello there," the girl said, still smiling.
"Hello." I wasn't sure what else to say. After all, this perfect stranger had just approached me out of nowhere. What else could I do?
"I hope it's not too bold of me to just march up and introduce myself like this," she said, "but I saw you and you looked friendly so I thought I might as well. I'm Mira. What's your name?"
I pushed my hair back behind my ear nervously. "I'm Lythia Marcoval."
"Can I call you Lythia?"
Though somewhat taken aback by Mira's self-professed boldness, there was nonetheless something winning about her smile. "Well... yes, you can call me Lythia."
"I hope I'm not a bother. You seemed to be enjoying your book."
"Oh no, you're no bother."
"Because--I'd love to..."
I waited for Mira to continue, but she suddenly looked shy. "What?" I coaxed.
"I'd love to meet... someone like you. I mean I'd like to get to know you, and perhaps even become friends. I've never met anyone like you before."
"You've never met anyone from inside the city?" I almost laughed. "How is that possible?"
Mira shrugged. "I've just... never gone there."
I did have some common ground with this girl, I realized. "I'm not from the city either."
"I'm from Castlebrook, the next Clearing over." I pointed east. "It's all farm country, like this. To tell you the truth--" I lowered my voice. "--I don't always feel as at home in the city as I lead everyone to believe."
Mira threw her head back and laughed. "Lythia, I like you. I think you and I will get along very well. Can we be friends?"
I hesitated. This Mira was still a complete stranger, in spite of the unusual introductions we had just shared. But I rather suspected I would come to like her. Perhaps I liked her already. "Well--" I took a deep breath, then thrust out my hand. "Alright, Mira, let's get to be friends!"
She took my hand, laughing. Her laugh was so joyous, so free-spirited, that I found myself laughing with her. Then we sat down and began to talk.
We talked long into the afternoon, and when we finally parted ways it was with the agreement to meet the following Saturday in the same place. I mounted my horse, and she waved to me as she began walking away. I returned the wave, and turned my horse back towards town.
Mira was a delightful girl--unusual, most definitely, but I liked her. She had asked me many questions about the city: what it was like, what sort of things city people did, and if I ever got lost. She had asked about my book, too. When I had handed it to her so she could look at it, she seemed to have difficulty reading it. I guessed that she had not had much schooling.
I did find it rather odd that, when I asked her some of the same questions she had asked me--about her life, where she lived, what sort of things she liked to do--she seemed to be uncomfortable. She always answered the questions, but her answers were usually less than informative. I worried that by mentioning my job as a shcoolteacher in the city I had made her feel inferior or uninteresting, so I made a point of telling her all about my life in the farm country of Castlebrook. She seemed to enjoy hearing about it, but I still couldn't coaxher to tell me more about her own life. Perhaps she would with time, I reasoned. At any rate, I had made my first friend since arriving in Havenwing. An unlikely and unusual friend... just the sort I liked best.