By Jason Brown, AKA "VeryGnawty"
For the hopeless romantic in all of us.
Shala sat in front of the mirror, combing her long dark hair. She was proud of her hair. Surely nobody else had hair as beautiful as this. She continued admiring herself when a knock on the window distracted her.
She opened the window to reveal a young man outside. He was slightly younger than her, at about 21 years of age. He wore blue jeans and an old, torn shirt. He smiled, his moustache and short hair giving him a mischievous appearance.
"Jacob!" Shala screamed in delight, pulling him bodily into the room. They fell to the floor, Jacob landing on top of her. She lie there breathing heavily, his chest in front of her face. She could smell his rough scent, intoxicating her senses.
"Shala my love," Jacob exclaimed dramatically, "where shall we go tonight? We can go anywhere we want."
"Really?" Shala hugged him. "Let's get away. Let's go to the forest. I want to get away from all this."
"To the forest it is." Jacob stood up, taking an elegant bow. That's what Shala liked about him. He was such a gentleman.
"Let me change, first." Shala pranced into the bathroom, leaving the door partially cracked.
Jacob glanced through the crack in the door at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. He called out purposefully, "Shala. I think I want to marry you."
Shala voiced her concerns through the bathroom door. "But Jacob, my darling. Your parents won't allow it. My religion…"
He dismissed the thought with a wave of his hand. "Religion smidgen. Who cares what they think? They don't even have to know. We can do it soon. Who's to stop us?"
Shala finished putting her hair up, taking one last look in the mirror to ensure that everything was set. She looked different with jeans and her hair up. More tomboyish. But not in a bad way. She opened the door and grabbed Jacob's shoulders. "But my love, I thought you didn't want to make anything official? I thought we had agreed that it would be better for both of us?"
Jacob fidgeted nervously. "I did say that. But it's just not right, you know? Why should we have to pretend to be someone we are not? I'm tired of these secret visits. I want you always, and forever. I love you that much."
Shala smiled. "I was wondering when you would say that. But first let's finish our night out. Our last night as a secret. It will be fun!"
They ducked out the window, heading into the woods behind Shala's country home. The night was still young, the moon a beacon in the sky. The eerie woods creaked and groaned with the sounds of nature. Trees swayed in the night breeze. Insects chirped and called to one another in endless cadence. Jacob and Shala sat down, resting their heads against an old dead tree.
Shala gazed into the night sky. "Isn't it amazing, Jacob? All the stars are twinkling down on us. The spiders scurry about their webs. When I'm out here I feel like time stands still. I could watch the stars forever."
Jacob put his arms around Shala, cuddling up to her. "Yes. The stars are like a bright light in the darkness. When you think there's nowhere else to go, they light the way."
Shala grabbed her dearest love. "Jacob, that is beautiful. I never knew you were such a philosopher."
Jacob tossed a small pebble into the trees, waiting for the sound of it to rustle the dead leaves. "More hopeless romantic than philosophy, really. I always thought that somehow, there would be some direction or meaning to life. When I'm around you, I feel like I've found my meaning."
"Oh, that's so sweet," Shala swooned.
They lie still for what seemed like eternity, until something could be heard rustling the leaves. Jacob whispered, "Did you hear that?"
Shala whispered even lower, trying not to disturb the silence. "It's probably just a lizard or something."
Jacob stood up, concerned. "I don't think it is a lizard. Listen, there it is again. It sounds like footsteps."
It did sound like footsteps. As the sound grew louder, it sounded like human footsteps. Before they could tell which way it was coming from, someone shined a flashlight on them. A man's stern face could be seen frowning behind the blinding light. He yelled in a disappointing voice, "There you are, Jacob. Your uncles and I have been looking for you all night. Why don't you come along home, now? You have no business being out here in the woods at night with the likes of her."
Jacob snapped. "No, dad. You're the one who doesn't have any business. I don't care if she believes in pagan gods. I love her. I will marry her."
The old man twitched his head to the side. "Nonsense, my boy. Get up, we are going home."
Jacob rose defiantly, grabbing Shala. "We are going alright. We are going away from you." Jacob dashed off into the forest with Shala.
"That fool." The old man cursed. "He'll hurt himself."
Jacob and Shala ran through the trees, guided only by the obscured moonlight. Their adrenaline pumping, they discovered their path more by instinct than sense. Stray branches clawed at their clothes, like malicious fingers trying to hold them back. Jacob's family tailed them, the light creating a disorienting effect as the flashlights jolted erratically.
Suddenly, a bright light appeared in front of them. Jacob tried to stop, but they were moving too fast. They tripped, tumbling into the blinding light, and whatever had caused it. Jacob reached out, unable to feel Shala by his side. "Shala? Shala? Where are you?"
But it was too late. Shala was nowhere to be found. As the bright light engulfed him, he fell unconscious, unable to resist the pulsing pain in his temple.