tab And it was one warm summer’s day about six months later when things did start to hotten up again. The whole first year class were out horse riding in the woods near the Academy. Everything seemed perfectly normal, because everything was perfectly normal. They had been travelling for over an hour. Everyone was sticking in their usual groups, Genevieve with her girls, Ganymede with his gang, the geeks, the lovers, and Jared and Felitia. The pair stuck to the back of the class, but they didn’t talk. Jared was completely bored and would have fallen asleep if it weren’t for the motion of his horse, Jashpar, and the uncomforting saddle. He looked drearily down at the woodland road slowly passing as they went along.
tab My horse is just following everyone else. What is the point of this?
tab Felitia, however, was enjoying herself quite a bit more than Jared. The lush forest drew her mind back to her adventures at her home. She listened to the sound of nature all around her and smiled as she closed her eyes. She breathed in the aromatic air and savoured the essence as if it was the most precious thing in the world. The sweet scented conifers provided her with a divine calm that could be found nowhere else but in an unpolluted haven of nature such as this. It called to her, urging her to stay in the paradise and never return to civilisation.
tab If only everyone felt the same way as I do. It would be so much more peaceful.
tab Jared decided there were better things to look at than the ground. He surveyed his surroundings and his eyes landed on Felitia in her meditative state. Her smile and the flora around her made her look even more beautiful than she did already. The dappled sunlight made patches of her long, silky hair glisten like golden thread and her saintly face was complimented by her sweet smiling lips. To Jared, Felitia was the most gorgeous thing he could ever imagine.
tab Felitia’s eyes fluttered open and Jared averted his eyes so it wouldn’t be so obvious that he had been admiring her. He knew that Felitia didn’t like him any more than just a friend so he tried his best not to make her uncomfortable while she was around him. But when she wasn’t looking, her would often marvel at her features, not just physical, and list in his mind all the things he liked about her, every time not finding a single flaw. He said to himself time and time again that she was perfect, almost too perfect, that is for some stumbling, mumbling fool as himself. He decided right then and there that he was going to get his act together and show her what he was really made of. Sooner or later she would have to fall for him. After all, he was the only person of about her age who had shown her any kindness. He was thinking deeply of ways to win her heart.
tab Obviously not numbskull tricks like showing off or stuff like that. I’ll just be myself without all the stumbling or mumbling. I’ll show her I really care about her. It was then that it dawned on him.
tab I love her. When he saw her at peace in the forest, he witnessed how the change in her composure amplified her already outstanding beauty.
tab Then the thing he most dreaded came back to haunt him. He felt his pulse quicken, then his breathing rate. He was starting to sweat and his vision became blurred. Then he had the uncontrollable urge to kiss her, but she was too far away. He tried to resist it, but then a sharp pain started to pound in his temples with every heartbeat. He squeezed his eyes shut. Maybe not looking at her would help. It didn’t improve the pain or the powerful obsession, only made them worse. He breathed in sharply and clenched his fists trying to wish the painful sensations away.
tab Then suddenly, the agonising sensations diminished and he opened his eyes inhaling deeply as if he had been deprived of oxygen. He felt something warm and soothing on his shoulder. He turned his head and saw Felitia looking directly at him a worried expression on her face. She had her hand on his shoulder.
tab “Oh, thank the gods, Jared,” she exclaimed and let go of his shoulder. “I was calling you but you didn’t answer, then you looked like you were having a fit or something. Are you feeling alright?” she said anxiously.
tab “Yes, I’m okay,” he replied quietly, debating with himself whether he should tell her about the unpleasant experience he had endured for the second time.
tab It was worse this time round. I really hope it doesn’t happen again. I better not tell her, yet. She looks worried enough.
tab “You look dehydrated. Have something to drink,” she said, holding out a skin of water.
tab “Thanks,” he said gratefully, taking the skin from her. The experience had nearly drained him of all energy and the water would really replenish him.
tab “Anyway, I was calling to tell you we had stopped,” she said as Jared skyed some water.
tab He handed back the skin and looked around. They had indeed stopped. Everyone was muttering amongst themselves and looking slightly confused. Remsum spoke out.
tab “Right, students. We seem to have come across a block in the road. Not to worry, we shall simply take a slight detour. Everyone stick together and no fooling. We don’t want anyone getting lost.” He started to head into the woodland growth at the side of the path avoiding a rather large fallen tree. The class slowly followed him.
tab Jared and Felitia were just approaching the fallen tree when they were confronted by Ganymede and Genevieve.
tab “Hey, freakazoid!” Ganymede called out to her.
tab Great, that’s all I need.
tab “What!” she replied distastefully.
tab “You seem to think you’re pretty tough. Reckon you can ace this tree?” he dared her.
tab “Leave her alone, Ganymede!” said Jared protectively.
tab “Your boyfriend thinks you can’t. Prove him wrong,” Ganymede jeered. Genevieve snickered.
tab “P-lease. As if he were my boyfriend,” Felitia said turning her nose up.
tab Jared looked down at the ground feeling slightly hurt by the comment.
tab I know it’s true, but she didn’t have to make such a big deal about it. He was beginning see a small impurity in the girl he thought was unflawed, her attitude. But I can’t let her jump the tree. She’ll get hurt, not to mention in trouble.
tab “So are you gonna jump the tree or not?” Ganymede asked, seeming a bit annoyed by not seeing Felitia squirm with anger. Felitia raised one eyebrow and crossed her arms, something she had got into the habit of doing when people bothered her.
tab “Well, it seems like there’s no other way to shut you up…”
tab “Don’t,” Jared whispered to her, looking her straight in the eye and latching his hand around her arm. She glared back, looking angry that he had interrupted her. As far as she was concerned, he was getting a little too close for comfort.
tab “I’m no fool Jared! Do you really think I’d be that stupid?” she almost shouted in his face. “Now, can I please have my arm back!” She pulled her arm away from him.
tab Jared was astonished. Never before had she spoken to him like that.
tab “As I was saying, Ganymede, seems the only way to shut is to answer your question, and the answer is no. I bet even the finest horseman wouldn’t be able to jump that tree. So don’t go expecting me to even dare attempt jumping an obstacle like that.”
tab “I wasn’t expecting you to. Either you would fail epically and break your back when the horse threw you off or you’d chicken out. I was hoping it would be option one. That would’ve been a right laugh riot,” he sniggered.
tab “Well, sorry to disappoint you,” Felitia said sarcastically. They heard the distant bellow of Remsum.
tab “Right is everyone here?”
tab “Oh, it just had to be Felitia and Jared. What?! Ganymede and Genevieve to? Some people are going to be in serious trouble!”
tab They all looked slightly apprehensive. Genevieve whispered something in Ganymede’s ear. Then Ganymede approached Felitia slowly on his horse. Felitia was wary and knew that he wasn’t going to let himself get in trouble that easily. Jared narrowed his eyes, thinking the same.
tab “What are you doing?” Felitia asked.
tab “I’m not about to let myself get in trouble that easily. As far as I’m concerned, none of this happened,” he said as he neared Felitia’s horse.
tab Then, without warning, he slapped the hindquarters of Felitia’s horse. It reared up whinnying loudly. Jared desperately tried to grab the reins and calm the horse, but it was too late; Felitia was already falling through the air. She hit the ground and rolled off her side groaning. She tried to sit up but a spasm of pain twinged in her right arm.
tab “Ow!” she exclaimed. Jared had dismounted as soon as she had hit the ground. He ran to her side and helped her sit up. She breathed in sharply.
tab “What’s hurt?” he asked, gently.
tab “What’s going on here?!” Remsum bellowed, his face cherry red, before Felitia could answer Jared.
tab I can’t let Ganymede talk!
tab “Well, Sir..” Ganymede started.
tab “No! Sir, you can’t…”
tab “Silence, Jared!” Remsum roared. Jared lowered his head in despair.
tab Not again. I’m sorry Felitia.
tab “You came just in time, Sir. Felitia tried to jump the tree. I told her not to, but she wouldn’t listen to me. Then her horse threw her off.” Ganymede lied, putting on his innocent voice, not the best sounding noise in the world.
tab “Felitia! I am very disappointed in you. That was a very dangerous and irresponsible action. What were you thinking! You could have been seriously injured,” he yelled.
tab Oh my days! How stupid are you! It’s so obvious I’m the victim here. You are literally the most gullible person I have ever met.
tab Jared took his hand off Felitia’s right wrist and noticed blood on his hand. Blood was slowly flowing down her arm and dripping onto the ground.
tab “But she is injured, Sir,” he said, showing the blood on his hand.
tab “Ooooh,” Ganymede chuckled. Genevieve looked slightly horrified.
tab “This is no laughing matter Ganymede!” shouted Remsum.
tab “Ganymede lied, Sir. She would never…” he started.
tab “Be quiet, Jared!” Remsum bellowed.
tab Jared looked down at the ground, trying to hide his anger.
tab This is so unfair.
tab “Now, I want you to take Miss Rosewood back to the compound, get the horses back in their stables and Felitia to the hospital wing. Ganymede, Genevieve, go join the others. As for you, Miss Rosewood, I’ll deal with you later,” Remsum said. His voice was low but just as intimidating, as if he were shouting.
tab As soon as they were alone, Jared started tending to Felitia’s injury.
tab “Gods! Ganymede is such a bloody prat!” Jared complained as he helped Felitia to her feet. He supported her arm with one hand and reached to get the skin of water from Felitia’s horse. He carefully pulled up her sleeve to inspect the wound.”
tab “I must have cut it on a sharp rock,” she said as he poured the water gently over her hand to wash away the blood.
tab “Any other injuries?” he asked.
tab “My wrist feels like it’s sprained or something,” she said trying not sound too worried.
tab “Yes, it looks swollen. Anything else?”
tab “Nothing much, a few bruises.”
tab “Is everything okay?” he asked, laying a hand on her shoulder and looking her straight in the eye.
tab “Yeah, fine. Stop worrying,” she said optimistically and smiled up at him.
tab “Right then, let’s get you’re hand sorted out.” He led her over to a log; she sat down then he took his knife out and made a small rip in his linen shirt. He ripped off a long strip of material then started to delicately wrap it round the cut in Felitia’s hand.
tab Felitia watched him as he tended to her wound. She felt awful about the way he had spoken to him earlier.
tab I acted like a real jerk. He was only trying to stop me from getting hurt and now look at him. He’s looking after me and what have I done to deserve this? Nothing. I know he really likes me and what I said to Ganymede must have made him feel rejected. I won’t feel any better about this until I’ve apologised.
tab “I’m sorry, for shouting at you, and what I said to Ganymede was, inconsiderate. I know you’re only trying to protect me and, I appreciate that,” she said quietly.
tab “It doesn’t matter now,” he said solemnly. Jared had finished bandaging her hand and now had his head held low, about to stand up. Felitia laid her uninjured hand on his shoulder. He looked up at her.
tab “I mean it Jared,” she said with conviction. “You’re a great friend.” She smiled at him.
tab Jared tried to smile back, but he sensed the dreaded impulses come back to him. He felt his heart beat faster and his breathing quicken. He saw his hand disobediently moving toward Felitia’s face and he unwillingly started to lean in slowly toward her. He closed his eyes trying to concentrate on controlling his defiant body.
tab I’ve got to make it stop! She’ll kill me if I kiss her.
tab Felitia felt Jared’s hand touch her cheek and saw him gradually getting closer and closer. She knew what was about to happen, but she didn’t do anything to stop it. Instead, she found her self leaning in as well, letting him kiss her.
tab What am I doing?! I don’t even love him. If I kiss him now it could get sticky later and it’ll ruin our friendship. Only a couple of centimetres away from him, she drew back.
tab “Jared,” she said quietly and squeezed his shoulder. This woke him from his trance and he opened his eyes and took his hand away from Felitia’s cheek. He stood up and ran a hand through his hair breathing out, relieved. Secretly, he was a little disappointed he didn’t get to kiss her.
tab “I’m really am so sorry,” he apologised.
tab “It doesn’t matter. Lets get back,” she rushed.
tab “Oh, one more thing.” He took a white silk scarf out of his pocket. “A sling. I’m sure you don’t want me supporting your arm all the way back to the Academy.”
tab “That would be very, inconvenient,” she said light-heartedly.
tab “Yeah,” he laughed. Felitia smiled. Through the whole injury incident she had noticed how sweet and caring Jared was and just how lucky she was to have someone like him. He lifted her arm into a bent position and passed the scarf around it, then round her neck. Felitia moved her hair out of the way as he tied the scarf in a double knot. He stepped back and admired his handiwork.
tab “There, that should do it,” he said, crossing his arms. “Give us a twirl,” he joked.
Felitia put her free hand on her hip and pulled a not very convincing annoyed expression, then laughed.
tab “Come on,” she said, walking toward the horses, shoving Jared playfully as she went past him.
tab “Hey!” Jared laughed, jogged over to Felitia and gently tugged her hair. She squirmed and giggled like a little girl. Jared helped her onto his horse then climbed on in front of her, grabbing the reigns of Felitia’s horse Felitia wrapped her free hand around his torso, to make sure she wouldn’t fall off again, as they headed down the forest path.
tab It took them about an hour to get return to the compound. Felitia had nodded off, her head resting on Jared’s back and arm still clinging tightly to his chest. The sun was just about setting when they reached the stables casting long shadows on the grass. The clock in the tower chimed six o’clock and awoke Felitia.
tab “Great, we haven’t missed dinner,” she yawned. Jared dismounted.
tab “Still need to get you to the hospital wing,” he said as he helped her down, then led the horses back into their stalls. He stroked the auburn nose of Jashpar then returned to Felitia. They walked out of the stables toward the main building. Neither of them spoke so Jared decided to break the silence.
tab “Why didn’t you say anything?” he asked.
tab “Hm?” Felitia said, slightly confused as to what he was referring to.
tab “When Ganymede lied, why didn’t you speak up against him?” he rephrased.
tab “It would’ve just made it worse.”
tab Why is he asking me all this? He knows very well why I didn’t speak up; he was in the same situation.
tab “There would’ve been this huge argument over who was telling the truth. Remsum would’ve listened to Ganymede and I would look like a loser and get into even more trouble for defying the teacher. That was what Ganymede wanted,” she explained.
tab “What do you mean?” he asked.
tab “He wanted me to get in even more trouble by retaliating and it would have shown up how much he usually wins.”
tab “You have a point, but I think you should tell Remsum what really happened when he ‘deals with you later’.”
tab “Well you can talk. You never said anything when Ganymede lied about what happened in that fight you had,” she said.
tab “Ah, you see. I was just asking you all that to see if you would remember that about me.”
tab What a joker. Well, he won’t out smart me today.
tab “You’re getting smarter. But did you realise that I was playing along to see how hypocritical you could get.”
tab “Touché,” he laughed. “But you will still think about it, telling Remsum what really happened.”
tab “How can you expect me to do it if you never had the guts to do it yourself?”
tab “I made a big mistake, one that I really regret. And don’t take me as an example. You’re better than me. You stood up to Genevieve on your first day. Now that is an achievement. And you certainly showed Ganymede that you’re not some wimp, like me. I reckon, I he’d of played fair, you would have won. So you go to Remsum and prove that you aren’t a troublemaker and Ganymede set you up.”
tab “Alright! Alright, I’ll do it,” she said, not sounding so sure of herself.
tab “You promise?” Jared asked, making sure.
tab “Only if you come to,” she reasoned.
tab “That’s fine,” he agreed as they neared the main door.
tab They climbed the stairs toward the hospital wing then entered the main ward. They were met by the nurse who, as soon as she saw them, came waddling over.
tab “Dear, dear. What happened to you then,” she quacked.
tab “Horse threw me off,” Felitia sighed.
tab “After Ganymede spooked it,” Jared added. She shot him an annoyed look.
tab Does he have to keep going on about it!
tab “Oh, that Ganymede again. He’s a right troublemaker. Devilishly smart though he is. Bet he fooled the teacher again with those nasty tricks of his,” the nurse babbled.
tab “Yeah,” Felitia and Jared said in unison. Felitia felt rather surprised at the kindness of the nurse.
tab She’s probably got to be the first adult to show me any kindness since I came to the Academy.
tab “Let’s get your injuries sorted out then. Would you like to sit down dearies?” she offered, holding a withered hand out towards a bench against the wall. Jared and Felitia sat down, grateful for a change from sitting on horses all day.
tab “I must say that’s quite some bandaging work there,” the nurse kindly said as she waddled across the ward and to the storage room where she collected various bottles and bandages.
tab “I’m impressed, sonny. You really know how to take care of your lady friend,” she said as she got back to them. She winked at him and he blushed slightly. He turned to Felitia who smiled sweetly back.
tab “Anyhoo, could we please untie the masterpiece of a sling,” the nurse asked.
tab “Sure,” Jared said. Felitia moved her long hair out of the way once more then Jared undid the knot, sending pleasant shivers surging down her spine whenever his slightly cold fingers touched her neck. She closed her eyes for a moment, enjoying the pleasurable feelings.
tab She opened her eyes again staring across the room. A sense of dread overcame her.
tab Did I actually feel pleasure when he touched my neck? Am I subconsciously falling in love with him? This shouldn’t be happening! I practically swore to myself that I would never be interested in having a relationship with him; that he would remain a good friend and a good friend only. She would have slapped herself if her head wasn’t whirring with so many worrying thoughts. She noticed through the emotional din that her heart was pounding and that she felt a strange breathless feeling in her stomach. She felt quite overwhelmed that she could be thinking so many things, some of which she wasn’t even aware she was thinking. And without knowing, she was rasping barely audible words on her breath.
tab “Oh, my,” Jared thought he heard Felitia say.
tab “Felitia,” No answer. “Is everything alright?” he asked, concerned. She blinked twice and turned to him, trying to avoid eye contact, less this should amplify her confusion.
tab “Yes, I’m fine,” she swallowed. “You should go now, get dinner. I’ll see you later,” she managed, deciding it would be best if she were alone for now.
tab “You sure, ‘cause I don’t mind staying here,” he asked as he stood up.
tab “No really, I’m…fine,” she said trying to sound cheerful.
tab “Bye…then,” Jared said as he headed out the ward.
tab “Bye,” she replied quietly.
tab He’s gone. Thank goodness. She rested her head against the wall behind her; glad she could finally relax and calm her mind down. Cool it Felitia. It wasn’t the worst that could have happened, like in the woods. Now that was crazy. At least I stopped myself though or it could have gotten very sticky. Today was a one off. Tomorrow I’ll be back to my norm.
tab “He’s some lad, that Jared,” came the voice of the nurse from across the room. “You’re a lucky bean, you are. Most young men in the Academy aren’t even half decent.”
tab “Hm,” said Felitia quietly. She had to agree with the nurse on that last sentence.
tab “He really does care about you, y’know,” she said.
tab “Hm,” Felitia said again, deep in thought.
tab Maybe I should cut him a little slack. After all, he is my friend and he’s done a lot for me. I owe him a lot of thanks. I certainly haven’t been acting like a good friend toward him lately. I mean, I apologised for being inconsiderate toward his feelings, but I don’t think that was enough. It’s amazing how he keeps on acting like I’ve done nothing wrong. The nurse is right, I am lucky to have him.
tab Then a wave of guilt crashed against the shores of her mind. She raised her uninjured arm to her slightly trembling mouth, blinking rapidly as tears threatened to fall down her face.
tab I’ve been so selfish. I’ve always been thinking of myself, my reputation, my life, my feelings, never anyone else. I don’t deserve him. He’s always cared for me and thought of me before everything else, which is more than I have ever done. I’m just as bad as everyone else, self-centred, greedy, cruel. Unbearably ashamed, she wished she could hide away in a dark, secret corner where no one could find her for all eternity. I just wish I could take it all back.
tab “You alright, love?” the nurse asked, laying a hand on Felitia’s shoulder; an old, bony hand that felt cold and was withered from decades of caring for scraped knees and broken bones. This offered some comfort to Felitia. She took a long, deep breath to calm herself down and replied.
tab “Yes, fine. It’s just, my arm stings a bit,” she fibbed.
tab “Yes of course. I almost forgot your little injury. Sorry, love. It happens when you get old and batty, it does, forgetfulness.” She started to unwrap Jared’s bandaging. She saw the deep cut in Felitia’s palm. “Ooooh, that’s a nasty one. Still, nothing a little antiseptic won’t help with.” She dabbed some minty green liquid onto a swab and started to wipe the wound. Felitia cringed.
tab “Oh, sorry love. This may sting a bit.”
tab Nurses are supposed to say that before they start to disinfect.
tab “There, all done and dusted.” She grabbed a clean roll of bandaging and wrapped it gently around Felitia’s hand. “You haven’t got any other injuries have you, love?” she asked as she wrapped.
tab “Apart from a sore bum?” Felitia joked. The nurse chuckled whimsically, slapping a hand against her knee.
tab “Oh you are funny, you are,” she said through the chuckles.
tab I didn’t think it was that funny. Hm, that’s old people for you. Got the strangest of habits.
tab “Well, I think I might have sprained my wrist or something,” Felitia said seriously, trying to sober up the nurse out of her laughing fit. She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye and put on her spectacles hanging around her neck.
tab “Well, let’s have a look at it.” She gently took Felitia’s wrist and examined it. “Yes, you have seemed to sprain it. It’s not bad though. It should heal in a couple of days. Now, let’s get you a proper sling then, shall we?” She waddled over to the store room and grabbed a triangle of cloth.
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