Let's end Episode 8 back with Cloe in modern-day Greece... :)


Scene 12: Close

A.D. 2015

It would be hard to leave this place that had begun to feel like home, but she'd be back again before her trip was done. She smiled at that, exchanging heartfelt farewell hugs with all the hostel staff as she gathered her bags, warmed by their sweet goodbyes and by the light that filtered through the courtyard trellis from the bright Athenian sun.

At least she was heading from one breathtaking place to another; if the reviews by previous years' travel-writers were any indication, researching and exploring the Greek islands was going to be amazing.

All the more so because she would be island-hopping with her epic fantasy hero. Cloe was glad that she'd taken her mom's advice to get in touch with him again. Even if her silly heart was hopelessly obsessed with someone else, her mind and her soul or whatever were obviously tied to Eldor's, in one way or another. He meant a lot to her — after all, he was the real-life rendering of her most precious character — and now that she knew he existed on earth, her life had felt empty without him, ever since they'd said goodbye.

So yesterday, she had summoned the guts to call him up and ask if he'd be willing to continue hanging out as friends while she was traveling in Greece, expressing how sincerely she valued his company. The paragon he was, of course, Eldor had happily agreed.

And as she now stepped out of the Scholar & Journeyer's Inn, he greeted her outside with his signature I'm-perfect-but-too-noble-to-admit-it grin.

She smiled back at him, nearly tripping on the doorstep from some awful blend of awe and awkwardness — his presence still had that effect — but managing to catch herself, averting embarrassment at the last possible millisecond. "Hey! It's so nice to see you again."

"You, too. It was really great to hear from you."

He reached to help her with her big unwieldy backpack, which made her worry if her almost-accident had been apparent. But she calmed down a bit after reassuring herself that the guy was chivalry incarnate, so that wasn't necessarily what the gesture meant.

At any rate, Cloe could carry it herself; she tried to insist, but Eldor's chivalry ended up being impossible to resist, especially since he hefted the bulky load as easily as if it were a freaking toothpick.

"Well, thanks," she conceded as she let go of the large turquoise luggage, still holding onto the smaller of her two backpacks, the bright cherry red. He had offered to take it too, but she'd refused. "And thanks so much for... understanding, and for agreeing to be friends."

He shrugged, the toothpick lifting effortlessly on his statuesque shoulders, along with the baggage that he'd brought for himself on the islands. Three toothpicks in total. "What is there not to understand."

Hm, where to begin, Cloe responded in her head — the fact that you exist? That you're too flawless for a girl like me — or anybody, really — to reject? And that after I gracelessly pushed you away, I had the nerve to ask if you might want to reconnect? She cleared her throat. "Well, there's the fact that you're quite literally perfect, and..."

He opened his stupidly beautiful mouth to begin to deny.

She put up a hand to stop him. "...don't even try. Everyone knows it's true, except for you, since modesty has to be one of your million virtues. So I just want to say — and even though this is the most cliché line in the history of ever, please know that I mean it from the bottom of my totally imperfect heart — it's absolutely me, not you."

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